Mt. Rainier - Liberty Ridge
Friday, June 30
My trip started on June 30, 2006. After 12 hours driving from Salt Lake CityI have arrived at White River ranger station at 2 p.m. and obtained my climbing permits. The Liberty Ridge is not climbed very often and so it is not a problem the get the permit on site even just before the July 4 holiday weekend. For a solo permit must be applied at least 10 days before the trip. Climbers climbing higher then 10,000 feet need to get a climbing permit for $ 30, which is valid for the whole year. The solo permit is for free.
At 3 p.m. I have started hiking from White River campground towards Glacier Basin where I planned to stay over night. When I got there two hours later I decided to keep going, it was a nice sunny day and getting further guaranteed solitude and quiet a night. I went over St. Elmo Pass down on Winthrop Glacier, which is heavily crevassed, and finally stopped around 8 p.m. and made me comfortable for the night.
Saturday, July 1
On Saturday morning I started hiking around 8 a.m. and kept going over Winthrop Glacier towards Willis Wall. The glacier has many crevasses and sometimes it is hard to find the right way forward but because somebody was hiking there the day before, I just followed the footprints. Every day makes a difference because it is so hot and people going the same route a few days later might get in troubles to follow the same path. Snow bridges are melting fast. As I got on Willis Wall I met two other climbers, which appeared later as my lucky coincidence, because without them, I would not be able to climb the Liberty Ridge solo. As we got down from the Willis Wall on the Carbon glacier, there were some snow bridges so thin, that crossing them without a rope would be a big risk. Maybe it would have been the point, where I would have had to turn around being a solo climber. Getting a company of two other climbers changed my situation completely to my advantage. As a team of three people we could easily cross all crevasses and finally we got to Liberty Ridge.Getting on the ridge was not straight forward, it was July 1 and snow from that side was already gone. We had to climb a steep wall with loose rocks, falling rocks, and a traverse in that wall, which appeared to be a job of full concentration. Once on the ridge the way up to Thumb Rock was pretty easy. It is a steep terrain but that is what should be expected all the way up to the summit. We stayed at Thumb Rock over night. It is a good save place to stay. You can watch falling rocks and ice blocks left and right, but the ridge itself is very safe. The whole way from the parking lot up to Thumb Rock is pretty much the same experience as hiking in the Wasatch Mountains in spring. Of course it all depends on weather and snow conditions but getting there is not difficult. The Winthrop and Carbon Glaciers are heavily crevassed.
Sunday, July 2
On Sunday we got up at 3 a.m. and around 3:30 a.m. we were on the way to Black Pyramid. The terrain is steep and in certain sections very icy. Two technical ice axes are much recommended. Snow was hard but not really frozen, the temperature over night was about 35 degrees and so it was easy to kick steps. I have to say that the trail conditions were very good maybe even the best you can ever have. Weather was really good, we made a fast progress and I did not even noticed that we already past Black Pyramid. We kept climbing until we got to the steepest section. Surprisingly for me there were big open crevasses and so we decide to start using the rope. We needed about eight rope lengths to get over the steep sections until we could walk up to the summit. Weather changed as we were approaching Liberty Cap and so we experienced the well known Mt. Rainier weather, strong wind and low visibility. Our summit picture is not a very typical summit picture, nobody at that time really cared about taking pictures.
We kept going and two hours later we have reached the summit of Mt. Rainier. Weather was the same and so we have quickly decided what to do next. My two climbing partners descended over the Emmons glacier down to White River parking lot and my plan was to stay at the Mt. Rainier crater over night and enjoy the views. But because of the weather conditions I decided to descend via Disappointment Cleaver down to Ingraham flats where I stayed over night.
Monday, July 3
On Monday early morning, around 1 a.m. I was watching all the guided groups going up Disappointment Cleaver and Ingraham Glacier. There were so many people that the mountain looked like a Christmas tree. After all the guided tours past my bivy spot I went down via Camp Muir to Paradise parking lot, which I reached around 6:30 a.m. Then I hitchhiked back to White River campground.