Liberty Ridge, Mt. Rainier TR

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Messages 1 - 13 of total 13 in this topic
sjellison

Mountain climber
Range of Light
Topic Author's Original Post - May 22, 2012 - 01:24am PT
These are the trips that I live for. Even though I spend nearly all of my free time climbing, you don't get a trip like this often. The Liberty Ridge on Mt. Rainier was a climb that will last with me forever and keep me dreaming about similar alpine locations for the future. For me this was a huge step towards a dream I've had for 5+ years. Not only was I going to climb Rainier, but in my mind, we chose a fairly serious route that I feel is a legitimate badass alpine climb. I was definitely a little scared, and the unknown was HUGE for me on this trip.

It could not have been a better trip!


The "gearsplosion" in the hotel after the guys picked me up from the Seattle airport.


Since the road to the parking lot was still closed due to the 5 feet of snow covering it, we were lucky enough to add 6 miles of road walking onto the climb. I'm pretty sure we were all more than happy to do this, knowing what was in store for us!



The scale of this place is unlike anything I have yet seen. Rainier is so gigantic that it has mountains on it, and they are large endeavors in and of themselves. Little Tahoma, in the above photo is over 11,000 ft, a full 3,000+ft below the altitude of Rainier. Unbelievable.


The tent had an crazy reflection on the guy lines that made for an interesting photo of Mike and myself in our first camp below the Inter Glacier.


Gorgeous morning heading up to St. Elmo's pass at sunrise!


The clouds are often below you on Rainier. We liked it that way. More about that later...



Matt with the North Face in the background. The Liberty Ridge which we climbed goes up the center of the face angling up from right to left with the dangerous Willis Wall to the left and the Liberty Wall to the right. Both of these walls are topped with an enormous ice field that frequently calves (breaks off) blocks of ice the size of office buildings. Does anyone have any info on recent ascent history on the Willis?? Luckily, we were protected from these extremely dangerous objective hazards as we were on a ridge and not below the ice for long. We did, however get to enjoy the craziest entertainment as we watched the ice break off, sending a thunderous avalanches down the 5,000ft walls, exploding clouds of snow up onto us. Unreal.


An extremely foreshortened view of the Liberty Ridge from the base. Gorgeous.




Definitely one of the coolest places I have spent the night. Perfectly protected, small, and flat at 10,500ft on one of the coolest alpine ridge in the country! Our alpine start of 8:30am didn't set us up well.... embarrassing. We blamed the inches of down muffling the alarm... "Dude, I'm not starting up there at 8:30AM with those calving afternoon icefalls, "Dude Im not staying here just to walk our bitch-asses back over Elmo's in the storm." Consensus: quick poop, pack and climb.



Matt climbing up one of the easier sections of the ridge.


Pretty sure that's the coolest I've ever looked in my entire life.
You can see 10,000 feet of vertical relief in this picture!



It gets collldddddd up there! I climbed the top pitches with all of my layers and huge down jacket on and my water bottles in my down so that they wouldn't freeze. Unscrewing those frozen lids is where sport climbing pays off!


Nearing the technical crux ice below the summit.




The final ice pitches. Beautiful way to end such an already unbelievable route. Unfortunately, the conditions did not stay this perfect during the next few hours as we summited Liberty Cap.


The final ice pitch as the whiteout came in to make our summit experience more fun!


Gorgeous views from the summit. This is why we climb these mountains, right?


Not quite those perfect sunny Sierra summits that you can nap on into the afternoon!

Brilliantly, we all decided to try and descend the mountain in the 150ft visability whiteout. While it was a lot of fun, we ended up down climbing about 1,500 ft of the very WRONG Curtis Ridge. As the sun went down, we set up camp on an incredible, flat, knife edge ridge at around 13,000ft. It was definitely one of those "don't-stumble-while-getting-out-of-the-tent" bivy spots!




Headed down the Emmons Glacier. 5,000ft in two casual hours. Like I said, the scale is unreal!


The ice formations on the glaciers are mesmerizing!


View of the mountain from camp Schuman. Those Rangers have it great! The view out of the hut is unreal and all your poo gets a flight out!


Trying to milk the rest of the glissade with the shovel. Seemed like a 10 minute glissade down the Inter Glacier! Unreal! Matt and I determined that glissading is the number 2 reason we climb mountains. I often joke about giving up climbing to become a full time glissader.


With my feet in this condition from the swampy hard-shell boots I spent the last several days in, I was STOKED to accept the wicked-awesome ranger's offer to give us a ride down the 6 mile road to our car! Especially after consuming the 24ozs of "Corbra" that we had stashed!

All of the park rangers at Rainier NP were fantastic and super helpful! As far as I'm concerned, they run a great opperation up there and I can't wait to get back! I'm sure more shenanigans ensue during the high season on the trade routes. We had the pleasure of having only the mountain and ourselves for 4 days and I can't stop thinking about what is next...

And then there was the 24 hour drive back to Boulder immediately after descending from the summit....




Port

Trad climber
San Diego
May 22, 2012 - 01:45am PT
Congrats! One of the best routes.
sjellison

Mountain climber
Range of Light
Topic Author's Reply - May 22, 2012 - 01:50am PT
Pretty cheap adventure I don't think you can find anywhere else in the lower 48....
the goat

climber
north central WA
May 22, 2012 - 01:55am PT
Great TR, super photos of a classic climb. Thanks for posting.
Sierra Ledge Rat

Social climber
Retired in Appalachia
May 22, 2012 - 02:43am PT
The scale of Rainier is pretty amazing, huh?
ms55401

Trad climber
minneapolis, mn
May 22, 2012 - 09:00am PT
when was this?
sjellison

Mountain climber
Range of Light
Topic Author's Reply - May 22, 2012 - 09:14am PT
we got off last Saturday
ms55401

Trad climber
minneapolis, mn
May 22, 2012 - 09:19am PT
oh, okay. The photos look "vintage"

nice write-up and photos
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
May 22, 2012 - 10:54am PT
Nice!

Didn't look like gettin' on the ridge was too bad? We did it in July a gob of years ago and that was the crux for sure...

Cheers!
sjellison

Mountain climber
Range of Light
Topic Author's Reply - May 22, 2012 - 11:21am PT
Brian - we walked right up to the ridge. I think going a bit earlier like we did made some things easier with filled in glaciers/'shrunds/etc., despite extra hiking and equipment.

Ron - and we didn't see ANYONE for 3 days... different from Everest I think. Fantastic!
Dolomite

climber
Anchorage
May 22, 2012 - 12:24pm PT
Sweet report, thanks! Been on that route twice, in winter, with no summits to show for it. Still on my list. You guys killed it!
KaiPL

Mountain climber
Boulder, Colorado
May 22, 2012 - 02:02pm PT
Did you take/use/need snowshoes?

sjellison

Mountain climber
Range of Light
Topic Author's Reply - May 22, 2012 - 02:50pm PT
We did and it would have been pretty ugly wading through the thigh deep slush down low without em. It's melting FAST tho! Could probably leave em behind pretty soon here, especially if you time it right (ex. low elevation travel early/late - frozen)
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