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| | |-+  May 30-31, Little Tahoma, MRNP
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Author Topic: May 30-31, Little Tahoma, MRNP  (Read 3146 times)
iluka
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Posts: 201


May 30-31, Little Tahoma, MRNP
« on: 05/31/09, 09:33 PM »

Scottk, Brad, Nick, Jason (his first backcountry outing!) and I headed up to Little Tahoma this weekend.

Saturday was spent skiing up to the Frying Pan glacier where we camped for the night. Snow is present on the trail almost all the way to the trailhead but there were plenty of gaps before the waterfalls so we kept the skis on our packs and booted in the firm snow. About 1/4 mile after the waterfalls, we hit continuous snow and put on our skis. There is good coverage all the way into Summerland. We climbed up to Meany Crest following a skin track laid in by a group doing the climb as a day trip on Saturday and found generally good skinning all the way to camp. After setting up camp, we got in some nice turns in corn on a firm base coming off Whitman Crest back to camp.

Sunday we were up at 5:15 and on our way at 6:30, which in retrospect was probably too late given the snow conditions we found later in the day. We traversed the upper Frying Pan to the saddle that you use to access the Whitman. Finding firm snow on the Whitman, we donned our crampons and started booting up. Within a short time, the sun came out of the clouds and the snow softened up. Some of us went to skis while the others continued to boot up the upper Whitman. Overall, an uneventful climb except for the softball sized rock that fell off from above and whizzed down between us. The snow currently extends all the way to the upper part of the glacier and the exit onto the upper slopes of the mountain. It was possible to skin the entire way except near the very top where it was hard to get purchase on the softening snow. Once at the top of the glacier, we dropped our skis and booted up the short couloir where found another snowfield that extends to about 100 feet below the summit. Yesterday's skiers and two groups of climbers earlier today had laid a track in the snow but we were still punching deep in spots. Huge postholes at points. From the top of the snow, we scrambled to the summit, finding easy going except for the last 15 feet up to the summit where we found Class 3-4 rock with lots of loose handholds. It took 3.75 hours from our camp on the Frying Pan below Whitman Crest. The summit register needs to be replaced.

We belayed each other down from there then headed back to our skis. Skis were on and we were coming down by noon.  Despite the boot track and the tracks from yesterday's group, the upper Whitman skied great with several inches of soft snow on a firm base. The same could not be said for the  steeper lower portion of the Whitman which had already turned to mush. Conditions were probably optimal around 9-10AM. Nick decided to pop over the crest at the upper saddle while Scott and I decided we would try to eek out some more turns on the lower Whitman and cross the crest at a lower point then head back to camp. That was an exercise in futility as we found lots of mush and ended up too far down the crest to get any good turns back into camp. Instead of turns, we earned ourselves lots of unwanted traversing!

We left camp and skied down the Frying Pan at 2PM. The upper, lower angled slopes up high on the glacier were pretty soft but skied well while the steeper portions of the lower glacier were a mess. Overall, things were just cooked by that point.  Very soft, pin wheels everywhere and exceptionally easy to trigger sloughs. The slopes were a mess when we got off and hopefully the group we saw going up to Whitman Crest as we left camp found some good aspects to ski.  Once down, we headed out of Summerland, keeping our skis on almost all the way to the waterfalls and then a bit afterwards before putting the skis on our packs and walking the rest of the way out. Less than 2 hours to get down.

Thanks to those groups that preceded us for the skin track and the boot paths!


* ScottClimbsTheWhitman.jpg (50.64 KB, 480x640 - viewed 973 times.)

* NickArrivesNearthesummit.jpg (51.35 KB, 640x480 - viewed 976 times.)

* ScottSkistheUpperWhitman.jpg (90.25 KB, 640x480 - viewed 970 times.)
« Last Edit: 05/31/09, 09:53 PM by iluka » Logged

Yet another trip I've skied up something I can't ski down!
NickD
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Posts: 161


Re: May 30-31, Little Tahoma, MRNP
« Reply #1 on: 05/31/09, 09:58 PM »

Nice choice doing this as two day.
Many folks are doing Little T as one day in last few years. Physical endurance aside this is considered by many a DEATH CLIMB due to rockfall danger. Helmets are mandatory please.
The grandfather of this website led a climb many years ago here and one of the party was coldcocked even though had helmet.  BH had to descend to Sunrise RS and ranger would not call heil until he saw victim in person so climb all the way back then finally heli victim out. This was all on foot. Victim survived fortunately.
I was lucky to accompany BH back about 14 years ago to do this ski trip. We descended and were off the Whitman before 1100a. Seeing all the rocks on the snow I realized his insistence of early start.
Hopefully others will consider this for Little T---it is a great trip.

Logged

Looking forward to the next ski trip.
iluka
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Posts: 201


Re: May 30-31, Little Tahoma, MRNP
« Reply #2 on: 06/02/09, 05:51 PM »

There are certainly rock fall issues on this route, but I'm not sure I would use the term "DEATH CLIMB" early in the season when there's adequate snow coverage.

An early start and descent helps from the rock fall standpoint and, as we found, a snow quality standpoint as well. We found lots of mush by 12:30PM.
« Last Edit: 06/02/09, 09:50 PM by iluka » Logged

Yet another trip I've skied up something I can't ski down!
Scottk
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Posts: 155


Re: May 30-31, Little Tahoma, MRNP
« Reply #3 on: 06/02/09, 09:07 PM »

... this is considered by many a DEATH CLIMB due to rockfall danger. Helmets are mandatory please.
Hopefully others will consider this for Little T---it is a great trip.

NickD's kindly reminder to wear helmets and go early is good advice.  However, I don't think this climb deserves the "death climb" label this time of year.  Although we saw one small rock zip down the snowfield it was more of a bad bruiser than a killer.  The number of rocks on the snow was pretty minimal, so I wouldn't categorize this as a bowling alley climb.  I've seen a lot more falling rock on Leuthold couloir (Hood) and Pinnacle glacier headwall on Adams.   I can't speak for later in the summer but Little T appears to be a relatively safe climb this time of year.  We did find that a belay across the last few feet to the summit removed some of the stress, but it's certainly not required for climbers comfortable with fragile handholds.

Although the decent corn window was from about 8-10 am and we missed it, it was a great ski and mostly continuous from 11K to 4K.
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SteveS
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Posts: 32


Re: May 30-31, Little Tahoma, MRNP
« Reply #4 on: 06/06/09, 01:51 PM »

Hi !
I was part of the party of 6 you saw coming up. Like you found a variety of conditions from guck to enjoyable corn chowder. Considered following your tracks dropping into the Summerland  basin, but opted right by the "helmet", down, and around a small cliff band. Very messy with numerous sloughs.
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-- SteveS
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