Up one level Climbing/Mountaineering Trips » Mount Rainier - Disappointment Cleaver / Ingraham Direct

Mount Rainier - Disappointment Cleaver / Ingraham Direct

Paul, Steph, and I climbed Mount Rainier on June 17 and 18, ascending via Disappointment Cleaver and descending via Ingraham Direct. Paul and I drove up from Stanford and met Steph at the Paradise parking lot in the evening on June 16. The next morning, we woke to miserable weather --- windy and light rain. Conditions didn't look great, which is why we initially planned for a 4 day trip, potentially waiting out bad weather at Camp Muir. Fortunately at 8000 ft or so, we broke through the clouds and enjoyed bright sunny weather all the way to Camp Muir (10080 ft). Camp Muir is a pretty nice set up, with clean pit toilets and a public bunk shelter. Since we arrived around noon, we had plenty of time to set up the tent, lounge around, melt snow, and prepare our packs for the next day. Based on the excellent weather so far, we decided to try for the summit that night.

We left Camp Muir at 0245 hrs, the last group to leave camp by about 45 mins or so, and headed over Cathedral Gap towards Disappointment Cleaver. The cleaver was the steepest part of the climb, only about 40 degrees or so. Paul and I had done steeper climbs and the snow was perfect for cramponing so we didn't feel the need to use the fixed lines that were set up along the cleaver. By the time we reached the top of the cleaver at 12200 ft, we'd caught up with the guided groups that left a couple of hours before us. Paul was feeling the altitude and Steph was itching to move faster so she unroped here and shot off to the summit in 55 mins (She's a machine!); we later met her when she was descending and agreed to meet back in camp.

The summit was cold, 15 F with 30 mph winds (I checked the data from the weather station on the summit after we got back), which is effectively -5 F (It was quite amusing that just a week before this climb, I was in Cambodia sweating profusely in the 100 F and 100% humidity heat and I was now freezing in -5 F weather. This Cambodia trip was also why I had to take anti-malaria medication (has to be taken continuously for 4 weeks after leaving the country) on Mount Rainier, which obviously has no malaria problems.) We didn't stay long at the summit and headed down after taking some photos. I chatted with some RMI guides on the way up and discovered they were descending the Ingraham Direct route (runs next to Disappointment Cleaver) because it was less steep and hence easier. The only problem was that the crevasses were starting to open up this time of the year but there were still supposedly solid snow bridges across. So at the top of the cleaver, Paul and I decided to go down Ingraham Direct. We ran across some serac fall debris and out of the way of more potential serac fall areas before reaching a group of people milling around an open crevasse. I talked to a guide and discovered that they had just rescued someone who had fallen 20 feet into a crevasse when the snowbridge collapsed. Up to then, I had treated crevasses as a threat that happened to other people and had casually crossed them during the ascent; I definitely treated crossing crevasses more seriously after this. The same guide promptly handed me a picket and said, "You guys go first, feel free to use this picket to get across." Gulp. After Paul anchored into a picket and got set up to belay me, I gingerly tip-toed to the crevasse lip and nervously leaped across to safety. The other four crevasse crossings on the way down were just as nerve wracking but we made it down safely. This descent turned out be the most interesting part of the climb since it was the only part that involved some route finding and planning instead of following a well beaten trail.

We met up with Steph at camp, rested for a few hours while deciding whether to descend, and finally decided to descend at 1700 hrs. Packed up our stuff, including the now redundant 3 extra days of food and fuel, and left at 1800 hrs, enjoying very slippery and slushy snow with heavy packs on the way down; I was unexpectedly creative in finding new ways of falling over; the silver lining on this cloud was that at least we got to use the snowshoes we lugged all the way up to Camp Muir. We reached the parking lot at 2030 hrs, unloaded our stuff, and drove off.

From what I'd read and heard from my friends, I expected the climb to be a lot more physically and technically difficult than the snow walk that we experienced; on the other hand, we had fantastic weather, which makes the most difference. I didn't take many photos because 1) having just returned from an amazing trip to Cambodia, I didn't feel as motivated as I normally do about photography, and 2) my hands got very cold after taking them out of my mittens for a few seconds; I used 3 pairs of handwarmers on summit day, attempting to warm them up enough to make taking photos bearable but it wasn't enough. In all, a fun trip with great people plus we summited so I can't ask for more.

crw_7315 Paul and Steph in the miserable weather on the way up to Camp Muir. crw_7319 Steph drinking water straight from the creek. crw_7326 Climbers approaching Camp Muir (10080 ft) with Mount Adams in the background. crw_7330 Mount Adams behind a worker clearing the pit toilet in Camp Muir. crw_7333 RMI group practising self arrest in Camp Muir. crw_7336 Mount Adams floating above the clouds. crw_7338 Paul and Steph setting up camp. We used my Golite Hex, which is pitched in the background. crw_7347 Top of Disappointment Cleaver at sunrise. crw_7348 The horde winding their way around seracs and crevasses just past the top of Disappointment Cleaver. crw_7351 Paul taking a breather above 13000 ft. crw_7358 Paul approaching the summit at Columbia Crest. crw_7361 Obligatory summit poses. crw_7363 Obligatory summit poses. crw_7368 Climbers wandering around the summit crater. crw_7373 Teams descending the Ingraham Direct route. Everyone was more careful after witnessing a climber falling 20 feet into a crevasse when a snow bridge broke under him. crw_7376 Big crevasses near Ingraham Flat.