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| | |-+  April 9-10 Little Tahoma Whitman Glacier
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Author Topic: April 9-10 Little Tahoma Whitman Glacier  (Read 2405 times)
kamtron
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April 9-10 Little Tahoma Whitman Glacier
« on: 04/11/16, 09:31 AM »

We camped at Cowlitz rocks saddle, a beautiful spot with little traffic to set ourselves up for the long slog of the Whitman.

Good uphill travel conditions in the morning Sunday, but most of our party ended up turning around early and chilling back at camp. Grant and I were able to ascend all snow to the upper snowfield, but opted for a short downclimb to ski the steeper, more direct line down the upper Whitman. We found surprisingly excellent corn descending at 1 pm. The good snow continued from the highest skiable snow almost all the way to the Cowlitz valley crossing. It probably started to get sticky at 7000'. We were joined by a party of 4 climbers who took the route described in the Volken book. I think next time I would try that route for the ascent to avoid losing vert crossing the valley.


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kamtron
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Re: April 9-10 Little Tahoma Whitman Glacier
« Reply #1 on: 04/11/16, 09:32 AM »

Some more shots


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kamtron
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Re: April 9-10 Little Tahoma Whitman Glacier
« Reply #2 on: 04/11/16, 09:44 AM »

Last one


* P4100036_edit.JPG_nS0Flo2EHZLyOA4x2vxxmLGGRBY4ilow_tay.jpg (194.32 KB, 800x600 - viewed 826 times.)
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powersa
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Re: April 9-10 Little Tahoma Whitman Glacier
« Reply #3 on: 04/11/16, 11:02 AM »

Nice! Looks like some great turns off the top.
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Robie
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Re: April 9-10 Little Tahoma Whitman Glacier
« Reply #4 on: 04/11/16, 11:16 AM »

Good job and such a lovely spot!
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tabski
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Re: April 9-10 Little Tahoma Whitman Glacier
« Reply #5 on: 04/11/16, 11:51 AM »

That summit is like a hot cousin it feels wrong but damn.
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Amar Andalkar
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Re: April 9-10 Little Tahoma Whitman Glacier
« Reply #6 on: 04/12/16, 12:23 AM »

We were joined by a party of 4 climbers who took the route described in the Volken book. I think next time I would try that route for the ascent to avoid losing vert crossing the valley.

Unfortunately, that route (the "high route") involves gaining and losing just as much extra vert as the way you went via Cowlitz saddle (the "low route"). The problem is that the Cowlitz Glacier is impossible (or at least impractical and unsafe) to cross on a flat traverse at 8400 ft due to heavy crevassing, so you end up ascending to 9000 and descending to 8400 to get to the Cowlitz-Ingraham cleaver crossing (lower part of Cathedral Rocks). Then a similar but less severe issue occurs while crossing the Ingraham Glacier, with a flat traverse impractical and another few hundred feet of gain-loss needed. So the total extra gain-loss on the high route (about 600 + 200-300) is in the same range as the 900 ft gain-loss on the low route, so it has no advantage in that regard at all. Climbers on foot hardly care about that up-down, but it's a huge detriment on skis to have to transition to/from skins several extra times.

This overlay of USGS topo map showing contours and satellite view showing crevasses makes it clear what the problem is on the 2 glacier crossings:
http://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=46.83253,-121.71157&z=15&b=hyb&o=t&n=0.3

Plus the high route has the added complication of extensive glacier travel with glacier gear well-advised (to be carried at least), and 2 rock scrambles at the Cowlitz-Ingraham and Ingraham-Whitman cleavers which by spring are often bare for over 50-200 ft of loose scree, as those 2 ridges just don't hold snow well at all on their SW sides. In contrast, the low route never requires glacier gear, and in proper season (until the east Cowlitz moraine melts out), involves zero scree scrambling and is 100% on skis on snow.

Overall, the high route is so stunningly inferior to the low route that I'll probably never attempt it again from Paradise. I was quite shocked to discover its severe flaws the first time I tried it (years before the Volken book was published, and after doing the excellent low route a couple times), especially since it's the standard route listed in various climbing guidebooks, so I expected it to be good. Not!! However, if you happen to be camped at Camp Muir and want to climb or ski Little Tahoma, the high route is the only practical way to get there, and in fact its most severe flaw (the 600 ft gain-loss crossing the Cowlitz) disappears entirely if you start from Camp Muir. So it's a fine route from Muir, and I'd like to do the high route from Muir to Little T someday, when I happen to be camped up there with an extra day to spend.

« Last Edit: 04/12/16, 12:51 AM by Amar Andalkar » Logged

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