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Author Topic: July 6-7, 2013, Rainier via Emmons  (Read 4851 times)
bfree32
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July 6-7, 2013, Rainier via Emmons
« on: 07/10/13, 12:46 PM »

Given the large number of skiers on the mountain, I was surprised not to see a report, so I'll throw one up. There were ~15 ski summits on Sunday and perhaps even more on Saturday from what I heard/saw.

Grant and I made the decision on Friday to go for it, given the great weather forecast. I was a bit worried about getting a camping permit, so we left Seattle early and arrived at the White River Ranger Station around 7. No space left at Schurman, but we were issued a spot for Emmons Flats, just a couple hundred feet up the mountain. Getting up to Glacier Basin was a bit of a slog with the heavy packs, so we were happy to jump rocks across the river, find the first ribbon of snow, and get the ski gear on our feet.

The skin up the Interglacier was straightforward and we elected to leave the rope in our packs for the short bit on the Emmons.  There's one carry across rocks on the crossover for ~200ft, but it's still easy and direct without losing much elevation. We arrived at camp fairly early and had plenty of time to lounge around and build a nice snow windblock for the tent, though it wouldn't end up being needed.

After a nice sunset, decently comfortable night, and an even better sunrise, we were roped up and skinning with ski pons just before 6am. We eventually switched to booting with crampons around 11k when it got steeper and a skinning fall would be riskier. Up up up. The crevasse bridge crossings were all easy and/or avoidable. Summited just before noon on snow, though the surrounding area was generally rocky. Maybe 20-30 mph wind on the summit itself, but the rest of the route was <5mph, calm and comfortable in a t-shirt.

Skiing down around 1pm was icy until 13k, then progressively better. Most of the Emmons was fantastic, all the way into camp. The Interglacier is starting to get bumpy and dirty, but still skis quite well overall. Take out the time to pack out camp and we dropped ~8600' on skis in about an hour! Fantastic trip overall in ideal summer conditions.

Up the White River trail


Nice sunset from camp


Not a bad sunrise either


Skiing down on the icy snow at 13,800


Getting back near the crevasse zone


Cool cloud formations back at camp


The only wildlife spotted on the trip, despite warnings of foxes and goats.
« Last Edit: 07/10/13, 12:52 PM by bfree32 » Logged
r1de
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Re: July 6-7, 2013, Rainier via Emmons
« Reply #1 on: 07/10/13, 01:21 PM »

Superb.
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-bp
knitvt
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Re: July 6-7, 2013, Rainier via Emmons
« Reply #2 on: 07/10/13, 06:28 PM »

What great photos!  (Sounds like a great trip too.)  The sunset, those interesting clouds, and the frog/toad are all neat  - but the sunrise, WOW!  Nice job capturing that.
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Jake the Brit
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Re: July 6-7, 2013, Rainier via Emmons
« Reply #3 on: 07/11/13, 10:10 AM »

Great photos (& write up) The colour palate in that sunrise photo is wicked.
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all mtn
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Re: July 6-7, 2013, Rainier via Emmons
« Reply #4 on: 07/13/13, 03:47 PM »

you know how to be free-  clouds at camp, and the line of cumulus are very nice.    were those frogs pretty loud, peace
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georg klein
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Re: July 6-7, 2013, Rainier via Emmons
« Reply #5 on: 07/15/13, 06:12 PM »

Conditions update for 7/14: Not so great. Wind kept the snow hard all the way down to ~10500', making for really unpleasant skiing, especially on the refrozen bumpy sections when forced onto the bootpack in the chokes. Inter glacier was soft but bumpy with old raised ski tracks.

We heard from two rangers that there had been a bad skiing accident the weekend before, involving a fall from above the top bergschrund. It may have been this incident:

http://www.theprovince.com/news/Rainier+rescue+Injured+climber+recovering+Vancouver+hospital/8637850/story.html
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bfree32
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Re: July 6-7, 2013, Rainier via Emmons
« Reply #6 on: 07/16/13, 12:14 PM »

Conditions update for 7/14: Not so great. Wind kept the snow hard all the way down to ~10500', making for really unpleasant skiing, especially on the refrozen bumpy sections when forced onto the bootpack in the chokes. Inter glacier was soft but bumpy with old raised ski tracks.

We heard from two rangers that there had been a bad skiing accident the weekend before, involving a fall from above the top bergschrund. It may have been this incident:

http://www.theprovince.com/news/Rainier+rescue+Injured+climber+recovering+Vancouver+hospital/8637850/story.html


Thanks for the conditions update and the link. Hope Peter is doing okay, we met that group up there. They were having some group dynamics issues and were arguing over safety and garbage during a rest stop...I guess that happens when on a big route with 9 of your best friends. It's too bad that someone got hurt though. I'm surprised we never saw/heard the Chinook, but I guess we were down on the Interglacier around 2:30.
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Jonathan_S.
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Re: July 6-7, 2013, Rainier via Emmons
« Reply #7 on: 07/30/13, 04:39 AM »

They were having some group dynamics issues and were arguing over safety and garbage during a rest stop...I guess that happens when on a big route with 9 of your best friends.
In the interest of potentially learning something from this tragedy, anything to elaborate on here?  (e.g., just safety for the ascent, or thinking of turning around because of firm conditions, and "garbage" as in other safety-related issues as opposed to LNT)

Any death in the mountains is a tragedy, but this one I can identify with so closely, given that I've skied the same route at the same time of year, along with looking-in-the-mirror aspects like:  "His professional background shined through in his preparation: "he was [...] a numbers and logic guy and I noticed how this translated into his preparation for the trip (meticulous gear packing).""
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AlpineRose
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Re: July 6-7, 2013, Rainier via Emmons
« Reply #8 on: 07/30/13, 12:56 PM »

For me, the obvious takeaway is how serious an endevour descending Rainier is, especially on skis.  It can be practically impossible to stop a fall once you have gotten going.  And there are many no fall zones.
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ron j
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Re: July 6-7, 2013, Rainier via Emmons
« Reply #9 on: 07/30/13, 09:47 PM »

This direction this thread brings me back to a discussion I had years ago with 'gator (then Chief Climbing Ranger on Rainier):

It was one year around late June/early July and ‘gator was asking why I didn't do a summit ski of the upper Emmons since much of the lines that me and my compadres skied we every bit as steep if not steeper.
I responded that I had little affinity for skiing "fall and you die boilerplate", mainly because I still fell a fair amount and much of the time it was when I’d prefer not to. Roll Eyes And the upper part of that line is "fall you die boilerplate" more than it is not.

He agreed, but pointed out "you can read the weather and the mountain on your way up well enough to determine where it is most likely to be good edging snow when you come back down. When you get the point above where you think the snow will not be carvable, fun skiing on your way back down, drop your skis right there, go ahead and summit (if you want to) and come back to your skis on foot. Then enjoy the ski down from there.
There's no rule that says that just because you left Sherman carrying skis you have to carry them to the summit regardless of the snow conditions, and then scare the shit out yourself (or worse) on the way back down. Just ski the part that's fun to ski and crampon the rest."

I think that was one of the best bits mountain wisdom I've received in the going on 20 or so years of my bumming around on Rainier. And I’ve used that tip a lot over the years since then.

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"When I stop having fun I'm turnin' around"
"Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." - Niels Bohr
"If a given person makes it a priority not to die in an avalanche, he or she stands a very good chance of living a long, happy life in the mountains." - Jill Fredston
bfree32
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Re: July 6-7, 2013, Rainier via Emmons
« Reply #10 on: 07/31/13, 12:03 AM »

In the interest of potentially learning something from this tragedy, anything to elaborate on here?  (e.g., just safety for the ascent, or thinking of turning around because of firm conditions, and "garbage" as in other safety-related issues as opposed to LNT)

Any death in the mountains is a tragedy, but this one I can identify with so closely, given that I've skied the same route at the same time of year, along with looking-in-the-mirror aspects like:  "His professional background shined through in his preparation: "he was [...] a numbers and logic guy and I noticed how this translated into his preparation for the trip (meticulous gear packing).""

It was a large group, some of which were friends, some were friends of friends and acquantainces. Surely people were tired when we met them taking a break just below the shrund on the way up. Someone dropped an energy bar on the icy surface and it slid away into the abyss. Then comes a water bottle, gone. Littering on the mountain isn't cool, so now this is starting to get a bit annoying. Another energy bar is dropped, though this one stops ~100 feet down. Nobody owns up to it, but I and a couple others encourage the owner to go retrieve it. Despite not dropping it, a woman offers to retrieve it. She slowly made her way downhill, frustrated that the rope is strewn and tangled around various people and gear at the rest stop. She became quite angry when people on her rope were resting and/or getting caught up in the rope instead of grabbing their axes and getting ready to hold a fall on the gradual slope we were on. "That's it, I'm not going to be on a rope team with you anymore!" We quickly left, as that's not the kind of atmosphere I like to be around in the mountains. On our way down we briefly encounter them again, one mentioning "I know a couple people that I don't need to climb with again in the future."

That's about all I know of the group. I can't speculate if the fallen was involved in the anger and frustration or if he was off to the side. Perhaps when tempers are high, we need to evaluate if we are in the proper mental state for high committing lines. Again, it could be completely unrelated and incidental, I don't know. It was indeed very icy at that point, including a short ~50 degree pitch over the shrund's bridge. I am not positive, but I did not recall seeing people in the group using whippets, something I find extremely valuable in such situations. Without a whippet, I would personally downclimb those upper sections. I hope that everybody in a large group is able to make that decision for themselves too and not be pressured into one method of travel or the other by the group. Personally I am against groups of that size for various reasons, but perhaps that's for another thread.

Also to note, I later read that the chopper rescue didn't come until later in the evening, thus explaining why we never saw or heard of the accident.
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Jonathan_S.
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Re: July 6-7, 2013, Rainier via Emmons
« Reply #11 on: 08/01/13, 09:23 AM »

Whoah, sobering account into the group dynamics...must have been some major disputes earlier in their ascent to prompt those kinds of remarks...granted, could have been unrelated to the fall, and any tragedy like that is grim no matter what, but the shock must have been even worse if many of them were already at odds with other...plus what in hindsight was the horrible foreshadowing of the bars and bottle sliding down...

Ron’s comments remind me of what Joe Stock said to me at the top of our first descent four years ago, something like:
“Now I know you probably already know all this, but just wanted to make sure, since so many people get to Alaska and think of all this TGR and Valdez stuff, so anyway, my approach is that backcountry skiing is all about [pause for dramatic effect] . . . *NOT* falling!”

Makes me appreciate all those years I spent alpine racing, not because I was especially fast, but b/c I was especially conservative...which is exactly wrong for ski racing.  (Kind of like hitting 100% of your first serves in for competitive tennis.)  Then many years as a race coach, all those teaching drills for sideslipping, “elephant” hops, falling leaf, etc. – great skills to build, but also some of those drills are exactly the kind of necessary maneuvers in tricky ski mountaineering situations.
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Griff
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Re: July 6-7, 2013, Rainier via Emmons
« Reply #12 on: 08/01/13, 12:29 PM »

Just wanted to say thank you for sharing the great photos!!! I know it seems trivial at times to post TRs and pics since there so many, yet one never knows when a sentence, or in this case, a picture will have a meaningful affect on another.

For some reason today that sunrise pic really hit me deep and hard. It's just so beautiful and made me stop, pause, reflect and be thankful.

So again, thank you for sharing and making my day brighter!
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