Ptarmigan Ridge, Mount Rainier

This next picture is looking a bit to the right from the previous one. We have to traverse the heavily crevassed Carbon Glacier to the ridge at the extreme right of the picture. Our “base camp” is still a couple of miles and over 3,000 feet elevation gain away, and we have to be home tomorrow!

While climbing Rainier from Seattle and returning in under 48 hours might seem “better than average,” note that we had to hike extra miles between the car and trailhead, then traverse almost ¼ of the way around the mountain on glaciers at about 7,000 feet. Most climbers avoid this long glacier traverse by approaching from Mowich Lake directly up the Carbon Glacier, but the road for that approach was snowed in.

Once we attained the base of the ridge we headed up to about 10,300 feet to make camp at 6:30PM Saturday. We were beat! We each prepared and ate our individual dinners while studying the route we would climb in the wee hours of the next day. We were above the clouds, so laid out our bags on top of our cagoules and slept well.

We were so tired we overslept, waking at 3AM and leaving at 4AM. The first 1,000 feet suggested to me what Willis Wall might be like: steep snow slopes alternating with near-vertical rotten rock cliffs and an ice cliff hanging over us far above. Because of the late start, we agreed there was no time to use protection or belay; we went unroped because without these precautions the rope was a suicide pact.

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