Foreboding North Face Classic [24 years gone]
"On Rainier, it was the last big unclimbed face. And everybody knew it had a
lot of risk associated with it because of avalanche conditions that prevailed
much of the year," said Jim Wickwire, a Seattle climber who made several
pioneering climbs on Willis Wall. "If it hasn't been climbed in 10 or 11
years," Wickwire said, "it means the reputation is relatively intact."
Anyone who sees Willis Wall hardly needs to be convinced of its danger.
The wall encompasses the avalanche-scarred stretch of Rainier's north face
between Curtis Ridge and Liberty Ridge. It rises from the Carbon Glacier
some 4,000 feet to meet ice cliffs spilling from 14,112-foot Liberty Cap,
the lowest of the three prominent nobs on the mountain's broad summit.
Chunks of ice and rock frequently careen down the wall in warm weather and
scatted debris down its 50-degree sides. In 1999, the body of a climber
who tumbled onto the wall from Liberty Ridge was pushed 50 feet downhill and
buried beneath several feet of avalanche debris in just one night.
"There's no way to effectively manage the rock fall, the risk. You're always
under it, no matter where you are on Willis Wall," said John Krambrink,
former chief ranger at Mount Rainier.
"You are exposed all the time until you get to the top."
(Tacoma News Tribune - February 27, 2001)
The north face of Mount Rainier, looking across the Carbon Glacier atop
Point 6342, just west of 6,500' Mineral Mountain.
(Photo taken in June of 1985; scanned from 35mm picture.)