From the White River Entrance of Mount Rainier National Park, drive in 5 miles to Fryingpan Creek. Immediately past the creek is a parking area (3800 feet). Park here and walk across the road to join up with the Wonderland Trail.
Follow the Wonderland trail along Fryingpan Creek 4 miles to Summerland (5800 feet). From Summerland, climb up to the Meany Crest (7500 feet) and set up camp. The best route to Meany Crest is to bear almost directly toward Meany Crest from Summerland and bear slightly right (North) as you approach the cliff band. Then bear back left and climb up a steep ramp to a small bowl. Climb up the bowl and end up directly on top of the Meany Crest.
From Meany Crest, climb west onto the Fryingpan Glacier. Head directly at Little Tahoma and aim for a low spot in the Whitman Crest right at the base of Little T. The Whitman Crest is a large ridge of rock seperating the Fryinpan and Whitman glaciers. There is an obvious low spot in the Whitman crest near the base of Little T at about 9000 feet. This is the best place to cross the ridge and get onto the Whitman glacier.
If the Fryingpan glacier is in good shape, it is easier to walk right down the middle of the glacier where it is flat rather than try to contour around below the Whitman Crest. You might give up a hundred feet elevation by staying in the middle, but it is way easier to regain the elevation as you near the saddle than to try to traverse the whole way.
Crossing the Whitman crest at this saddle should be easy and shouldn’t require much (if any) rock scrambling. After crossing the Whitman crest, you will descend slightly onto the Whitman glacier. Head out across the Whitman glacier aiming for the far ridge of Little T. Before long, you will round a rock outcropping and turn right heading straight at the top of Little T. This is where rockfall can really become a hazard so keep a sharp eye out and pick your rest stops very carefully.
The Whitman glacier should extend to almost 11,000 feet where it ends at a cliff/headwall. Climb the glacier aiming for the topmost point. Choose your line carefully to avoid rockfall. Exit the glacier on the left side once you reach the top and scramble up a rocky runnel until you crest the south ridge of Little Tahoma.
From here, its only about 200 feet of scrambling to the summit so you may want to ditch your packs (but not the rope) here. Depending on the time of year, there will probably be another snowfield here on the south side of the summit. Either climb up this snowfield, or traverse around it and up along the right side next to the cliff. Before long, the snowfield ends and you continue scrambling straight up 50 feet or so until you reach the summit ridge. From the summit ridge, you can see straight down the north side thousands of feet to the Emmons glacier. The scramble up to this point is 3rd or 4th class with just a little exposure so experienced parties will probably not bother to rope up.
From the summit ridge, you can call it quits or continue another 20 feet or so to the true summit. The climb to the true summit is the only 5th class climbing on the route and has extreme exposure to the north (right) side and moderate exposure to the south (left) side. You will probably want to belay this section, as a fall in either direction would certainly be fatal. The actual scramble is to climb down about 6 feet to a small saddle, 10 feet across the saddle, and 10 feet of 5.easy climbing on crumbly rock to the true summit.
The true summit is only large enough to hold a couple of people so keep that in mind when deciding on your method of protecting the climbers. It is probably best to downclimb from the summit rather than rappel.
Descend exactly the same way you came up. Move quickly down the Whitman glacier back to the Whitman Crest, as rock fall will likely be heavier on your way down.
This is a glacier climb so bring the standard glacier kit:
- ice axe
- anchor system (pickets or screws)
- prussiks, pulleys, extra biners, BRD, etc
Crampons are probably necessary most of the year
Rock scramble to the summit:
The rock climbing is simple so don't bother bringing shoes; just climb in your boots. A couple 15-foot lengths of tubular webbing to sling rocks for anchoring the summit pitch. May want to bring a couple of pieces of rock pro just in case.
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