Little Tahoma - Mt. Rainier NP - Fryingpan/Whitman Glaciers
My partner and I got up to the Fryingpan trailhead at around 6AM on Sunday morning, got our gear together and were on the trail at 6:15. We planned for a car to car trip. This was our first time up to Little T and the last time we were up climbing was up Rainier via DC a few weeks prior...it was nice to get out especially with something new. The most recent TR we found was on July 16th by the climbing rangers. They said everything was great so we anticipated pretty good conditions. We were expecting a 12-13 hour day from reading past reports. The weather on Sunday was excellent.
Little T from Summerland.
After we arrived at Summerland, we took some time to figure out the best way up to Meany Crest. There is a long patch of snow just to the right (northside) of Meany Crest. We ended up heading directly at Meany Crest, then moving to the north side on all the rocks before getting to the base of the snow. Luckily someone plunge stepped down that snowfield some time ago so we used their steps as an easy way to the top of Meany Crest.
Here is a view of Meany Crest from Summerland. I marked the approximate route we took.
The snowfield on the way up to Meany Crest.
On the way up the snow, we could see tracks down to the right of us from a group that made more of a traverse underneath the glacier before climbing up onto the Fryingpan. This looked like an easier route from what we saw but we couldn't see where it came up onto the glacier at.
Once onto the Fryingpan, we got our bearings and headed directly toward the appropriate spot on Whitman Crest where we could cross. The Fryingpan looked great. A couple big crevasses opening up running east to west, but they were very visible and didn't pose any navigation problems on the way to the crossing. We chose to go up higher on the glacier and traverse the Whitman Crest, but you could certainly go down the middle of the glacier (which we did on our decent). There was some evidence of rockfall onto the Fryingpan from the Whitman Crest but none while we were there.
This is on our way across Fryingpan to the gap in Whitman Crest.
Another shot heading across the glacier.
After crossing the ridge, we came out onto the Whitman Glacier and traversed over to the base of Little T to start out ascent. We came across a group of 4 heading back to the crossing. They just traversed past the crossing then turned back...they told us it wasn't in their plans to climb Little T today.
We strapped our crampons on and headed up the slope. There were some cravasses opening up on the lower part, but we split between them and started up. There were no signs of any tracks from any climbers once we started up, so kickstepping all the way up the steep slopes ate up some time. We were keeping an eye out for rockfall because you definitely wouldn't be able to hear anything release off the cliffs higher up above the glacier. We had one close call...luckily my partner behind me saw the softball size rock tumbling down the snow above us. Shot past us about 15 feet in front of me. We didn't see or hear any rockfall after that.
Here is a view of the glacier leading up to Little T. Notice the crevasses opening up.
About halfway up, the slope levelled out some and more crevasses were visible. No problems though and we moved right along. We ran out of snow right up to the rocks. We removed our crampons and dropped them right there along with our ice axes and started the scramble up the rocks.
Here is our route up to the top of the snow.
It was an easy scramble up, just watch out for loose and rotten rocks. There were a couple different ways to get up from what we could see. Once you get up almost to the top, the last 20 or so feet there is only one way up. You are on a ridge and you must climb across it and up. There is A LOT of exposure. To the right (north) you have the thousand foot drop onto the Emmons, and to the left (south) you have a pretty good drop down onto the rocks. You may survive a fall to the south, but a fall to the north will definitely be fatal. We brought everything we needed in case we wanted to set some anchors around rock and belay up to the summit, but we took it slow and made sure of our holds and everything was fine.
Here is what your looking at to the north...just a little exposure.
Nice clear shot of Rainier.
The summit was great! Small but great. Enough room for 3 or 4 guys...could fit more but be careful. Had a great view of the mountain and the route up DC. Still looks to be in good shape, compared to how it was last year this time. We signed the summit book and had a quick snack. The last entry in the book was July 20th, so it had been a while since someone was up there (unless other climbers didn't sign it).
View of Ingraham and Cowlitz glaciers down below.
Myself on the summit.
My uncle on the summit.
Here is my favorite picture from the trip. Looking back at Little T as we moved across the Fryingpan.
We took it easy down the rocks, especially on the exposed section. After that we were back in our crampons and on the snow. It was difficult to follow our tracks down the steep slope, even with crampons on. The snow softened up a little bit so it was possible to glissade down, but I never attempted it on anything that steep so I was a little hesitant. It was easy to self arrest in though, as my uncle proved when he slipped and fell, sliding a short distance before arresting. I opted to take my crampons off and descend down the rocks. This worked okay. Once I got down a ways and onto the lower slope I tried glissading (remembering where the cravasses were) and that made for an easy descent.
After the long trek across the two glaciers, we glissaded down the snow slope below Meany Crest (what a blast!) and arrived at Summerland. We situated our packs and then started the 4 miles hike back to the car....we were both zombies by that time. Halfway down though, we ran up on a bear right off the trail, about 100 feet in front of us. That woke us up! After a little hollering, "Hey bear!", it barely awknowledged us then moved slowly out of our way.
Took us 14hr and 40min car to car! What a long day! Well worth it though and I'll definitely do it again. We packed more gear then we needed, but we didn't know what to expect. As long as the weather looks good, pack light and you'll be fine. Going with just a daypack and only our essential gear would have lightened our loads quite a bit.
All in all, the glaciers and the route are still in good shape. Cravasses are opening up on the Whitman at the base of Little T but there is plenty of room to avoid them right now. Signs of rockfall was barely noticeable on the way up too.
Below is a topo of our actual route from Summerland. I didn't have my GPS set correctly when plotting points so the route up on top of Little T didn't turn out like I hoped.
Here is a detailed log of times and locations:
6:15AM - 3,800' - Start at Fryingpan Creek trailhead
8:00AM - 5,900' - Arrive at Summerland
9:40AM - 7,600' - Arrive at the top of Meany Crest
11:30AM - 9,000' - Crossed Whitman Crest
2:20PM -10,600' - Beginning of scramble to summit
3:15PM -11,138' - Summit!
4:15PM - Begin descent
5:30PM - Whitman Crest
6:15PM - Meany Crest
7:00PM - Summerland
8:55PM - Trailhead - End
Total time of 14hr 40min car to car. After looking at the GPS data, the total trip was 14.8 miles car to car.