Trip Report
Alligator Roll on a Soap Canoe - Liberty Ridge (Rainier) and Elliot Headwall (Hood) UNROPED
Friday June 21, 2013 6:44pm
Let me preface this by saying, if you're reading this, you're an idiot.

That being said, it should also be known that I'm into some whisky as I write this, and I may or may not be wearing women's underwear.

Moving on.

We were four-strong, flying in from all different parts of sunny CA, risking a questionable weather window in the PNW on a hope that Rainier would behave long enough for us to sneak up her backside. Spirits were oh-so-high as we gathered in Portland, stopping only to grab some fuel and last minute rations before we turned the rented Dodge north towards Mt. Rainier.

Let's meet the team:

Credit: Burch3y

You can imagine the conversation that spanned the 3.5 hour drive up to White River Campground. We talked of communal lodging with terrible bathrooms housing shared soap that seemed to magically grow over time as more skin cells and dirt were added. We spoke of stashing a small baby (with or without blisters) in your pants pocket to show to women in hopes of impressing them. We touched on this Yoga-pants trend and how it has changed our lives in many different ways. We whispered of weather forecasts, hoping the predicted possible snow and such would find another place while we made our way up. White River Campground was officially closed, so we set tents near the river as the dusk settled in - sunset was fairly late this far north, but we scrounged up some ZZZs nonetheless.

Morning brought shared coffee in the parking lot with a gent from Montana, permits and checklists at the ranger station up the road, and shorts if you brought em. Starting around 4600 feet, temps were a little warm, and the weather was suspect as we headed up the trail towards Glacier Basin. In light of the conditions we were experiencing, we decided to stash some extra clothing and Ted’s approach shoes in the snow at GB; an ancient and fat Marmot watched us bury it, likely plotting to dig it up the instant we were out of sight. Salty leather? Oh yes. We hurried up the exposed dirt ribs to the steep snow leading to St. Elmos Pass. After a sheltered lunch in the rock at the top of the pass, we headed down onto the Winthrop and began the traverse to Curtis Ridge.

Credit: Burch3y


Visibility was a little here and there, clouds and snow would roll in, and then break for some sections of sunny visibility. We got a little too far west in some crevasses on the Winthrop at one point, but found our way without traversing too high to a couple decent sandy/rocky spots for the tents. The carbon glacier looked nasty across and below, but what we could see of Liberty Ridge gave us hope. High-calorie food was consumed, and after several rounds of brewing tea, we hit the sack – dreaming of rockfall and beautiful women. Not long after we zipped up the tents, we heard/felt an enormous slide come off the mountain, most likely from the Liberty Wall. It seemed like the ground shook, and the duration of the slide was pretty long. Pleasant dreams, climbers!

Credit: Burch3y

Credit: Burch3y

Credit: Burch3y

Tents packed and breakfast eaten, we headed down from 7200 to the Carbon a little later than I would have liked. We could see a decent way to the toe of the ridge from the western portion of the glacier, so we climbed over the dirty broken edge of the Carbon and started our traverse, heading toward the obvious weakness in the jumbled mess of seracs and openings in the ice.

Credit: Burch3y

Credit: Burch3y

Credit: Burch3y

Snow was in excellent shape, and even in the very early hours the sun made itself known, bouncing off and up and around, slow-cooking exposed skin. We made great progress, and soon were resting on a large flat area not far from the schrund below the steep snow slopes heading up to Thumb Rock from the west side. Snow bridges had been solid up to this point, but that wasn’t our only concern.

Winding around several more openings in the glacier, we paused for a moment before heading across the last few and starting up the slope. We could see rocks coming down here and there, focused for the most part in one region of the slope. Discussing our plan to move fast and have one set of eyes uphill at all times, we heard an enormous crack as a serac dislodged from high on the Liberty Wall, pounding down the slope thousands of feet above, smashing itself and its path to pieces – river of ice/snow/rock flowing over cliff band towards our position.

“Hey, is that coming our way?”

We watched it come like fools, and when it occurred to us that we were indeed in the line of fire and it wasn’t slowing down, we frantically ran east towards the ridge. I kicked a couple holes in my left calf with the ole crampons, and as we ran we looked back – the cloud of ice particles engulfed us as to say “almost got you, bitches”. Only later would we realize how lucky we were – from above you could see trails of avalanche debris stretching several hundred meters onto the Carbon beyond our position. Had we run into a mass that large coming down, I probably wouldn’t be typing this…or thinking about Beyonce.

We collected our gear and our senses, and hurried across the final couple snow bridges to the slope above, traversing right towards the seracs and away from the rock on the ridge that was releasing bombs intermittently. A few close calls with toaster-sized rocks, and several thousand high-dagger placements later, we were at camp above Thumb Rock, stopping only once in the shade of the overhanging rock higher up to rest.

Credit: Burch3y

Credit: Burch3y

We had plenty of time to rest and get used to the thinner air at 10500, so we prettied up the tent platforms and hydrated. Small slides came down from time to time around us, but nothing big like earlier that morning, or the monster we heard in the night. Alarm set for 1 am, slight ache in the shoulders and back foreshadowed the treats to come the next day.

I woke up at 1 with the beepbeepbeep – Casey announced he hadn’t slept at all (hi five!) and we set about packing up the camp and strapped on the crampons. We headed up the firm snow on the east side of the ridge, the heavy packs weighing on us as we plodded in the dark up toward the Black Pyramid. Conditions were good, and the route was pretty straight forward, weaving slightly through rock bands and around a sketchy traverse over loose rock before we were on the base of the long snow/ice incline above and east of the Black Pyramid.

Credit: Burch3y

Credit: Burch3y

Credit: Burch3y

Credit: Burch3y

We hadn’t had the rope on since the start of the ridge-proper, and were hoping to get as much under us before we had to tie in. There were pitches of alpine ice above us, but we stayed on the firm snow as much as possible to enable us to move more quickly. Even as we tied in farther up, it was all simul except the short berg pitch – 4 guys with heavy packs tied into a 8.5mm rope? Safety first! I found an ice axe on my lead in the lower pitches, the bergschrund was an easy lead with great ice, and Tanner had the spiciest bit on the ice leading us up the steeper center wall just below Liberty Cap.

Credit: Burch3y


Credit: Burch3y

schrund it dawg
schrund it dawg
Credit: Burch3y

Credit: Burch3y

Credit: Burch3y

The true summit was in sight, but we had some issues to deal with that required a decision. We were pretty tired, the wind was knocking us around quite a bit, clouds were building up and rolling in, and the glorious solar halo was perched high above the mountain. We made the call to beeline it for the Emmons glacier and skip going any higher.

Credit: Burch3y

Credit: Burch3y

You could see stacked up lenticular clouds off to the southwest, and our visibility came and went as we quickly descended. I was waiting for it to go away for good, but luckily that point never came. We were loopy and dehydrated, but we made our way down to the big snowfield just above Camp Sherman for some rest and to brew up. We had climbed almost 4000 ft just that day, and had descended almost 5000, with another 5000 to go to the car. Boys were tired for sure.

After a brief chat with a couple/three guys near the ranger hut at 9600, we headed back towards Glacier Basin, chasing a helium balloon along the way and enjoying a nice glissade once we were out of crevasse danger. Our gear stash turned out to be Marmot-damage-free, and we noticed a significant amount of snow had melted since we passed through a couple days ago. Our skin was fried by the sun, and I imagine the lower elevations were getting roasted as well, melting the white and exposing many downed trees that were buried before (avi?) Our energy levels were low and back pain levels were high, but we made it to the parking lot for some chats with local climbers before bailing out. We decided to drive north and found a nice stream to throw the tents down next to, exhausted but satisfied with our efforts. Many ZZZs were had as the water gurgled over the fallen logs near our camp.

***

Readers Digest on Hood:

Tanner and I decided we wanted another route before going home. Casey and Ted decided to be normal human beings and sleep during the night. We finished the LR on Saturday, and Sunday evening we were chugging up the forest road towards the Cloud Cap Inn at 5900 feet to start our hike in. Wait. The gate is locked at 3800 ft…frickin great. We quickly decided the extra miles and 2100 feet of gain would be worth it, so Tanner and I quickly sorted our gear and tanked up with as much water as we thought necessary. The rest would go on our backs. Casey and Ted cleaned up our mess as we headed off into the forest, our tired legs looking forward to schlepping up the 7400 feet to the top. Watches read 930 pm.

We hurried up through the scorched standing trees and white flowers in the moonlight, a hooting owl rooting for us as we sweat due to the pace. As we crested the treeline on the Cooper Spur, we found snow and the way down to the Elliot glacier. Harness and rope was applied, and we made good time up and across the alternating snow and rock to where we though the slog to snow dome began. After an eternity, we were on top of snow dome, and could barely make out the north side of Hood with the Elliot headwall on the western upper portion.

Credit: Burch3y

Credit: Burch3y

Wait, what time is it?
Wait, what time is it?
Credit: Burch3y

Credit: Burch3y

Credit: Burch3y


Sketchy bridge after bridge was crossed, and as our vision improved, I could see the evidence of the rock above all over the ice and snow below. Didn’t look good, but after some brief discussion, I agreed to do it if Tanner lead the pitches through the rockfall zone. I would have turned back if it was up to me, but I’m glad he convinced me to continue. We spaced out the pro as we traversed over to the chute that looked the most promising.

Credit: Burch3y

Credit: Burch3y

Credit: Burch3y

Credit: Burch3y


Watching for rock as we went, the ice proved to be great for tools and screws. After a few pitches, we simuled back across the headwall towards the summit, passing under a nasty gully that spit rocks at me as I rushed past. A beautiful arête of snow lead up past sulfurous fumes to the small summit cornice.

Proud yet, Chief?
Proud yet, Chief?
Credit: Burch3y

Success!

We were tired and elated, the wind blasting us as we packed the rope and screws and made our way down the boot-trench towards the south side in the clouds. The slog down to the lodge was never-ending, and I talked trash to the guys on the ski-lift line for no good reason.

“YOU’RE SOOOOOO LAZY!!!!!”

Later we’d see a blind man crossing the street in Portland while we were enjoying a good beer at Deschutes…reinforces how lucky we are to have all the abilities we currently possess – allowing us to climb such beautiful mountains. Life is good.

[all photos with fisheye distortion by Tanner, otherwise by me]

  Trip Report Views: 4,746
Burch3y
About the Author
Burch3y is a spoiled D-bag from San Diego.

Comments
Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report
WBraun

climber
  Jun 21, 2013 - 06:50pm PT
Hahaha good stuff man.

Yeah .... I'm an idiot.

No doubt on that .....
kaholatingtong

Trad climber
Nevada City
  Jun 21, 2013 - 08:12pm PT
well done.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Jun 21, 2013 - 08:14pm PT
3.5 hours to White R? In what, a Yugo? Or were you dreaming of Beyounce instead of drifting? BwaHaHaHa!

Nice write-up. :-)
saltlick

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
  Jun 21, 2013 - 09:21pm PT
lucky!
also very pretty... thanks for posting!
Timid TopRope

Social climber
the land of Pale Ale
  Jun 21, 2013 - 11:00pm PT
Great photos and good story. Writing is always easier in women's underwear and a tumbler of whisky.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  Jun 21, 2013 - 11:17pm PT
nice one, good effort indeed!
Burch3y

Mountain climber
I offer nothing to the discussion
Author's Reply  Jun 22, 2013 - 12:49am PT
Guise,

I do it for you. And the lulz. Reilly, it might as well have been a Yugo. Dodge Journey for-the-yawn.
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
From Panorama City, CA
  Jun 22, 2013 - 03:43am PT
nice photos
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jun 22, 2013 - 09:43am PT
Amazing sunrise photos!
Glad u survived the avy man!
Awesome TR!!!!!
justthemaid

climber
Jim Henson's Basement
  Jun 22, 2013 - 10:12am PT
Great TR. Out there getting it done. The less said about your underwear the better.
Burch3y

Mountain climber
I offer nothing to the discussion
Author's Reply  Jun 22, 2013 - 11:57am PT
Got it. Less underwear, more avy survival.

I think this TR probably has a lot fewer ring locks and offset mastercams than most of you would prefer. Trust that the majority of the time we were climbing, we were discussing upcoming high Sierra rock.
ms55401

Trad climber
minneapolis, mn
  Jun 22, 2013 - 09:10pm PT
we fetish the wyde here on teh taco

maybe you pulled a way-gnar off-width in crumbly, nasty, PacNo volcano-choss before sinking teh pio-lay?? yeah? no??
snowhazed

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
  Jun 22, 2013 - 09:39pm PT
Awesome "It's Always Sunny" reference

and the climbing :)
Dirka

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Jun 22, 2013 - 09:40pm PT
Awesome!
Burch3y

Mountain climber
I offer nothing to the discussion
Author's Reply  Jun 23, 2013 - 01:02am PT
Dude,

Of course we jumared the gnargnar camhook in the offwidth, bra! Every time!

"Besides, who else would be the troll?"

"I like that!"
westhegimp

Social climber
granada hills
  Jun 23, 2013 - 08:00pm PT
Dumb


TFPU


Wes


PS That was SICK!!!
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Jun 25, 2013 - 11:04am PT
"Almost got you bi#@hes..."

Best TR line ever. You fellas sacked up and gutted the belly of the beast. Proud send in nicely colored outfits for the photos. Yall look like you know what you're doin' up there.

Great writing man. You got a good wit with the pen.

Scott
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Jun 25, 2013 - 11:12am PT
My old climbing buddy and I climbed this route back in 1927 and never had to cross paths with wankers on trail. You never been to lee vining huh?
setnei

Mountain climber
Montana
  Jun 25, 2013 - 02:55pm PT
Nice work. Love the photos, and the words were pretty good too. Love that chunk of ice and rock...
Burch3y

Mountain climber
I offer nothing to the discussion
Author's Reply  Jun 25, 2013 - 03:21pm PT
setnei, which chunk? Big MamaJama, or little Hoodrat?

Micro - bright colors = down pat. Everything else - still learning.

Vitaliy - SHET! I showed a picture of your post to Old Climbing Buddy, he said he'd parade your carcass up the 120 to Lee Vining and break all the fresh ice off!! sHet!
Boulder Ubermensch

Mountain climber
Boulder
  Jun 28, 2013 - 12:39pm PT
It's amazing how similar many experiences are on Liberty Ridge- mine had the same serac calving near miss, same true summit decision making on Liberty Cap, and the same loopy, dehydrated descent. The route has a high pucker factor with the serac and rock fall and doesn't let up with the surprise ice finish.
Seamstress

Trad climber
Yacolt, WA
  Jun 28, 2013 - 01:49pm PT
You caught one of the best weather windows of the year. They have been scarce. Loved the TR. Damn - could have bought you the beer at the Deschuttes Brewery - I work a block away.
Port

Trad climber
San Diego
  Jun 28, 2013 - 01:58pm PT
Great TR! Liberty Ridge can be a dream in good weather or a death trap in poor.
crunch

Social climber
CO
  Jun 28, 2013 - 02:10pm PT
Fun story and great pics. Love the summit shot at the end, BIG smiles!

Nice finish, to mention the blind man after being in such spectacular scenery--we all-senses, full-health climbers are privileged indeed. Easy to forget this. Cheers!
Burch3y

Mountain climber
I offer nothing to the discussion
Author's Reply  Jun 28, 2013 - 04:43pm PT
We were VERY lucky with the weather - to be able to do both routes on one trip is pushing it. We also got lucky with the objective danger, it was hairy on the lower ridge and upper carbon, with the serac and the rockfall coming off the choss below Thumb Rock. I'd imagine this is what most climbers run into there, even on the best days.

That summit shot on Hood is classic, we had been up for 28 hours or so at that point, happy but out of it. Felt like we were on drugs. Suffered and burned in the sun on the long walk off, but it was totally worth the effort.

The blind guy was a very good reminder - life has a way of sending you those. Seamstress, that would have been nice, although I don't know if you could stand sitting with a bunch of mental cases like us.
lucander

Trad climber
Shawangunks, New York
  Jun 28, 2013 - 09:04pm PT
Great job, your guys brought it for sure! Pics were inspiring and well chosen.
johntp

Trad climber
socal
  Jun 30, 2013 - 06:36pm PT
Cool Post
Burch3y

Mountain climber
I offer nothing to the discussion
Author's Reply  Jul 17, 2013 - 02:49pm PT
Needed to fix the title
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Jul 17, 2013 - 03:27pm PT
I SEE ROPES, I SEE ROPES!!!


Beauty pix eh?
Snowmassguy

Trad climber
Calirado
  Jul 17, 2013 - 03:37pm PT
Shop out those ropes and it is a free solo...errr ummm unroped ascent.
Burch3y

Mountain climber
I offer nothing to the discussion
Author's Reply  Jul 17, 2013 - 03:38pm PT
Credit: Burch3y
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
  Jul 17, 2013 - 05:17pm PT
Nice writeup & photos.

My first trip to Liberty Ridge in 1981, ended on Curtis Ridge, after my climbing buddy stayed awake all night listening to big stuff coming off The Willis Wall. He absolutely refused to go on the next morning.

I went back the next year with two more-gungho friends and didn't have an epic. The only thing that bothered me, was the bivy under Thumb-rock was crowded and we ended up with our tent right under the rock and a huge flake that was attached at one corner. It stayed put for the night.

Steve & Kevin feeling very small & fragile below Liberty Ridge.
Steve & Kevin feeling very small & fragile below Liberty Ridge.
Credit: Fritz
Burch3y

Mountain climber
I offer nothing to the discussion
Author's Reply  Jul 22, 2013 - 12:05pm PT
Fritz,

Love the picture. What year was that from? We got lucky and had Thumb Rock to ourselves - seemed relatively safe compared to the surroundings, but it's alllll relative.

Couple/three videos



mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Mar 6, 2014 - 05:34am PT
Hey, there, hay-head...

I gotta revise my opinion about mountaineers who tool ice and screw glaciers like you crazies who think you're having fun.

"YOU'RE ALL SOOOOOOOO LAZY!!!!"

And you are, indeed, 'hill-arious.'

Live long and fvk a buncha rope, it's for normal peeps.

Altitude added to attitude = ^^^^, or sumpthin.
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Mar 6, 2014 - 11:26am PT
One of the baddest TRs of all time. Just made my day scrollin' thru the slick photos again. Way to get out there and suck in the rare air of the big snowy peaks. Well written and full of adventure, moxy and laughs.

Scott
skcreidc

Social climber
SD, CA
  Mar 6, 2014 - 12:29pm PT
Sick as hell! How did I miss this one the first time around...


We got the "good" burch3y, and we got the "bad" burch3y. Obviously for "good" burch3y to show, dude needs his alpine lust satisfied. Great TR. Thanks for pulling me along for the ride.
RyanD

climber
Squamish
  Mar 6, 2014 - 12:33pm PT
Hey I never saw this before?!?!


Who the hell is Burch3y & why doesn't he work here anymore??


Solid content, great pics- tfpu!
Big Mike

Trad climber
BC
  Mar 6, 2014 - 04:01pm PT
Seriously wicked tr. Beauty photos and well written. Was the comment about idiots a dig at the sadistic nature of mountaineering in general?

I have always climbed mountains for the sake of sliding down them. I just can't get past bringing my board.

Thanks for the stoke,

Can we see more of this Burchey please?
WML

climber
Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
  Mar 6, 2014 - 04:51pm PT
Awesome content....that is....wait for it, wait for it, climbing related! Woohoo!
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Mar 6, 2014 - 04:57pm PT
I'll stand in for the bad Burchey. Wazzup with all the tilted pics? ;-)
John Duffield

Mountain climber
New York
  Mar 6, 2014 - 05:06pm PT
Nice TR and Photos!
Funk 29

Trad climber
Wallowa, OR
  Mar 6, 2014 - 06:24pm PT
Great Photos!
Ted is one of the best I have climbed with.
He was so solid climbing RNWF of Half Dome in 14 hours. I lookforward to our next adventure.
couchmaster

climber
  Mar 6, 2014 - 07:03pm PT

That's some badass climbing right there Burchley. I don't think most of these Rock Monkeys know how much so.

Right on man, great TR.
treez

Trad climber
99827
  Mar 6, 2014 - 07:06pm PT
I like this
The Hawk

climber
Politard
  May 5, 2014 - 05:01pm PT
Burch3y gonna Burch3y, guys. That is, until the mods get tired of him again.

Thanks for the kind words, I wish I was back on Rainier right now instead of listening to this moron in my office compare his coworker to Edgar Allen Poe.

Funk, Ted is solid indeed - guy moves fast on the rock.

moacman

Trad climber
Montuckyian Via Canada Eh!
  May 5, 2014 - 05:38pm PT
Good job lads.....Thanx for sharing..........

Stevo
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