Little Tahoma - Fryingpan/Whitman Glaciers

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Trip Report
Washington, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Aug 3, 2008
Mountaineering, Scrambling
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Little Tahoma - Fryingpan/Whitman Glaciers
Created On: Feb 17, 2009
Last Edited On: Feb 18, 2009

Trip Report

Trip: Little Tahoma - Mt. Rainier NP - Fryingpan/Whitman Glaciers

Date: 8/3/2008

Trip Report:
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 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 Tahoma From SummerlandLittle 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.

Meany Crest From SummerlandHere is a view of Meany Crest from Summerland. I marked the approximate route we took.

Up to Meany CrestThe 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.

Fryingpan Glacier to Whitman Crest CrossingThis is on our way across Fryingpan to the gap in Whitman Crest.

Fryingpan GlacierAnother 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.

Whitman GlacierHere 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.

Upper Snowfield, Below Little THere 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.

Exposure - Drop to EmmonsHere is what your looking at to the north...just a little exposure.

Rainier from Little Tahoma SummitNice 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).

Ingraham and Cowlitz GlaciersView of Ingraham and Cowlitz glaciers down below.

Summit! Little TahomaMyself on the summit.

Summit ShotMy uncle on the summit.

Little TahomaHere 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.

Summerland to Little Tahoma

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.



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Viewing: 1-8 of 8

lcarreau - Feb 18, 2009 4:43 pm - Voted 10/10

From your indications...

Would it be possible to complete a winter or early season climb
of Little T from Summerland, or would route-finding be difficult
if there were no footprints to follow?

A major advantage of ascending in summer would be the amount of
daylight you're provided with. Outstanding achievement!!!


jstluise - Feb 18, 2009 9:59 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: From your indications...

You'd have to check with someone about a winter climb...I'm not quite sure. But an early season would be no problem. I don't quite remember, but the first entry on the summit log was around March..? I could be wrong.

We were pretty much on our own for routefinding. Before the climb, I just had the basic idea of the route from looking at some of the topos on SP. We didn't see any tracks whatsoever that would have helped us. The toughest part (with routefinding) was getting up to the top of Meany Crest, since I'd never been there before. I read about going up to the right side so we went with it and it worked out. That's why I wanted to get some pictures posted up with routes for other people to see. Once we go up onto the Fryingpan, it was easy to see Whitman Crest and the gap where you cross close to Little T. From there is was pretty straight forward. One good thing about an earlier climb is that you'd be able to glissade ALL the way down from Little T to Whitman Glacier (or bring your skis!). As late in the season as it was, the cravasses posed obstacles for a straight glissade down.

Another approach would be from Paradise. Going up to Anvil Rock (or Camp Muir), one can traverse across to Little T. That looks like a fun route also...I may think about that this year. OR take a little side trip from camping at Muir, go climb Little T, and then go for the summit of Rainier the next day! There's a good weekend!


lcarreau - Feb 18, 2009 11:09 pm - Voted 10/10

Yeah ...

Love the way you compiled this information, and best of luck to you!

Just wondering - are you familiar with Fred Beckey's books?
Here's what it states for the route you chose:
"From Summerland skirt rocky cliffs to the right and ascend
south up a rounded slope to Meany Crest (7,000') and then southwest (heading at 235 degrees onto the Fryingpan Glacier.")

Geez, he makes it sound so easy! Seems to me that the "West Ridge" route from Camp Muir would put you in a higher position,
the major obstacle being to cross both the Cowlitz and Ingraham glaciers, then somehow cross over and up to the Whitman.

I suppose any weekend spent in mountains is considered GOOD! Please let me know how it goes - and thanks!


jstluise - Feb 19, 2009 2:43 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Yeah ...

I'm not familiar with Beckey's books. I did a quick search and they look to have some good info. That quote you have there is exactly what you want to do. Pretty much anywhere to the right (west) of Meany Crest that you can get up is good...farther west we saw more cliffs but we did see some tracks leading that way so there may have been an area to get up on the Fryingpan. I have also seen two different crossings for the Whitman Crest...the one we used, and another farther below on the crest. From looking at the maps, the crossing we used looks like a straighter shot.

If you go up from the Paradise side, you'll be gaining more elevation that you need. If you go all the way up to Muir, you'll have to drop around 1500' to cross Cathedral Rocks, then its a straight traverse across the Ingraham and onto the Whitman.

A more direct approach would be to get onto the Cowlitz Glacier at Moon Rocks (9000') or Anvil Rock (9584'), and then start the traverse. You won't have to drop down as much. There is an excellent picture of the routes in "Mount Rainier: A Climbing Guide"...from the Mountaineers Books. It also says "Winter or early season via Paradise, early season through July via White River". Also, take note that if you start at Paradise, you would already be about 1600' higher than if you started from Fryingpan Creek like we did. So there is a tradeoff.

Thanks for the comment about my TR...I had this posted up on the CascadeClimbers forum right after I did the climb and I've been meaning to get it posted up on SP. I finally got around to it!


lcarreau - Feb 19, 2009 2:30 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Yeah ...

Thanks for posting this valuable information.

However, there are two additional questions (points) I have regarding routes:

(1) What does the NPS feel about climbers spending the night atop
(7,000') Meany Crest? It's okay to do with a permit, right?
I was under the impression that climbers were staying
overnight at Summerland. There used to be a shelter there
back in the 1980s, but it probably has since been dismantled.
It was built for hikers circumventing Rainier along the
95-mile long Wonderland Trail.

(2) How does this scenario sound? One of your climbing members
parks their car at the "Fryingpan Creek" parking space.
Then, everybody drives to the Paradise side, and takes the
route beginning at Moon Rocks (9,000'.) Somehow, you manage
to cross the divide between the Ingraham and Whitman
glaciers. After surmounting Little T's summit, you then take
the GLISSADE or the normal route over the (9,000' gap) of
Whitman Crest back down the Fryingpan Glacier to Meany Crest
and Summerland. Then, everybody could be "shuttled" back to
their cars at Paradise.

How about storing some food & equipment atop Meany Crest??
Then, it would be cached there if you needed it?

I promise I'll check on the book you mentioned. I was a
Tacoma Mountaineers member back in the 1980s, but I'm sure
a lot of things have changed since then!

Best of luck to you in your mountaineering endeavors!!!

Larry of Arizona


jstluise - Feb 19, 2009 10:15 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Yeah ...

A climbing permit is not required for camping anywhere under 10,000'. From everything I read it there shouldn't be any problems...same rules apply for camping anywhere in the park. That book I mentioned lists a few different camping possibilities: Meany Crest, the gap in Whitman Crest where you cross if you go the Fryingpan approach, and the crossing b/w Ingraham and Whitman Glaciers if you come from Paradise. I did see a few (small) spots on the Whitman Crest...I'd probably only bivy there in case of an emergency. Meany Crest is a big area and flat...perfect for a camp.

The shack is still there at Summerland...still used by the Wonderlanders. I believe you do have to register to camp at any of the camps along the WT, so camping at Summerland is a possibility but you'd have to talk to the Rangers about that. As late in the season as we went, there wouldn't have been a problem staying there because WT traffic was low.

That scenario you planned out was one I was actually thinking of after our climb last year. My climbing buddy also thought it was a good idea and we might do that this year. I think it would be a good time!

If you are planning on camping at Meany Crest (and plan on returning there after the summit), I'd say leave all the gear you can there and go lite for the summit. But, if all you are climbing is Little T in a one day shot, I don't think you'll need to worry about storing extra food/gear somewhere.

Sounds like you got the right idea. Little T was an awesome climb and I'm surprised it's not a popular peak. Of course, if it was by itself and wasn't shadowed by Rainier, it would be. I've lived 30 miles from Rainier my entire life and I didn't even hear about Little T until my first time up Rainier a few years ago!


jstluise - Feb 19, 2009 2:57 am - Hasn't voted


We did pack WAY more than we needed to for this trip. We pretty much brought everything with the anticipation of possibly staying overnight at Meany Crest...we didn't know what kind of time frame to expect since I've read people doing it both ways. If you do want a more leasurely climb, staying the night at Meany Crest or Muir would be a be good, depending on your approach.

If I were to do it over again, and the weather (and forecast) was stellar like it was for us, I'd go lite and fast. Day pack...probably take my sleeping bag and emergency bivy just in case, but other than that, a lunch, water, and glacier gear. We didn't rope up at all, but I wouldn't go without one. That last little section that I mentioned in my TR is pretty sketchy...depending on how comfortable you are with exposure, you may want to get on a belay to get up to the summit.

Cutting our pack weights would have reduced our time on the mountain dramatically. Luckily the weather was good all day and we weren't in a hurry.


lcarreau - Feb 19, 2009 2:58 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Also...

I'm sure that WEIGHT is (or should be) a major consideration for
all mountaineers. I recall one time I hiked from Box Canyon to
Indian Bar along the Wonderland Trail. I took a stove and small
pair of binoculars, but in my haste had left my camera at home.

I ended up seeing 20 elk, 15 mountain goats and two black bears!

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Little Tahoma - Fryingpan/Whitman Glaciers

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