Sunday, February 1, 2015

Winter Climb of Mount Rainier

I successfully climbed Mount Rainier this week with a group of co-workers.  Winter ascents are pretty rare and more challenging, but the weather was unseasonably calm and clear.  It was no easy feat though; frigid temperatures, short daylight hours, and route-finding and breaking trail up the snow-covered slopes made for a true mountaineering experience.  A trip report on from a duo who climbed on the same day gives a pretty good account of the conditions and route - our experience was pretty much the same, minus the crevasse fall.

I would normally take my big camera on a climb like this, but given that we had a couple less-expererienced climbers with us, I opted not to be distracted by photography.  Instead, I clipped my GoPro to my climbing helmet and snapped a few pictures and videos.

 Sunset from Camp Muir looking down towards Paradise.  Hiking up from Paradise felt like a spring day.

 The route up to the Gibraltar Ledges.  Starting down by the guide hut at the bottom left and up to Camp Misery and the base of the Gibraltar Rock at the top right.

 Camp Muir selfie.

We started out at 5am in the dark.  Maybe it's better when you can't see how far it would be to fall.

Taking a break at the base of the Gibraltar Ledges, above Camp Misery.  Out on the horizon, from left to right, are Mount Adams, Mount Hood, and Mount Saint Helens.

Starting up the Gib Ledges around sunrise.  There was surprisingly no rockfall during our traverse.

With the Nisqually Glacier thousands of feet below, this was definitely a "no-fall" zone.

Above the Gib Ledges at Camp Comfort, looking up the upper Nisqaully and Ingraham Glaciers to the summit.  The route was fairly straightforward, but there were a couple crevasses to negotiate.

Nearly at the top with my rope team.

Summit shots:

Looking back down our intended descent route.  A massive icefall avalanche had tore down the Ingraham Glacier in the day or so before our climb, rendering the return a daunting prospect.  With fading daylight we opted to return down the Ledges as opposed to trying to navigate a steep, crevassed, debris-ridden glacier in the dark.

It's hard to tell, from these pics, but the debris field extended past the Ingraham Flats.  I'll be interested to see if this changes the DC route later this season.

We got back well after dark, and after spending another night at Camp Muir, headed back down the Muir Snowfield for home.