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Mount Rainier Muir Route / Disappointment Cleaver Climbing Conditions / Route Report

Posted Monday, June 6, 2011
North CascadesAlpine ClimbingRoute Reports


Thanks to the hard work of several guides from the various companies operating on Rainier, as of 6/4/11 there is an excellent route going up Disappointment Cleaver and over onto the Emmons Shoulder. The Ingraham Headwall is no longer passable. Some notes and details about the route are included below. Basically, head up to Ingraham Flats per the normal route to 11,400', then drop in and traverse the Ingraham then onto the DC. Go up the DC, then up to ~13,000', traverse until crossing a small crevasse opening, then ascend/traverse generally southwest to ~13,700' where a series of switchbacks begin toward Guide Rocks. Connect with me if you'd like a GPS file with the route (can't be attached on WordPress). Additional important info:

  • The route is very well wanded, the problem in low visibility would be that all the rest of the mountain is pretty well wanded at this point too from earlier route variations. Pay attention to double wanding (indicating hard turns), "X"ed wands (indicating don't go that way) and use your mountain sense. Make sure you are up to speed on your navigation skills and don’t just rely on “connecting the dots.”
  • If you choose to use the fixed lines, PLEASE make sure you are familiar with systems for doing so efficiently--there is only one line and all parties must use the same line going up and down, so the potential for log-jamming is HUGE if you don’t. Use an ascender or Tibloc, not a friction hitch, and make sure your team has “gone short” (shortened intervals between climbers) before getting on the lines. If you don't do this, you will slow many other parties down and jeopardize everyone's attempt at a safe summit. Also, remember it is your responsibility to assess the condition of the ropes and anchors before committing to them—there are no guarantees.
  • Also be aware that in the event of a log-jam getting on the fixed lines, you may end up sitting below the loose rock above the DC "backboard" area. If the freezing level rises above 11,000' you would be very wise to stay aware of rockfall even early in the morning.
  • On 6/4 we conducted a "compression test" of the snowpack at 12,200' on the DC. There was a 6cm wind crust at the surface and w received a result of CT-NR on layers below that. These conditions may change rapidly, so use your own judgement regarding snow stability. Also, be particularly aware of crampons balling with snow on the descent in this area.
  • As a side note, I witnessed over 10 people climbing unroped on the upper mountain on 6/6. Not clear why there were so many on that day and not at all clear what they were thinking. Apparently though, they expected to be rescued if they fell in, since they all had on harnesses. Unless you feel yourself to be extremely skilled at spotting and avoiding crevasses and/or magical, going solo increvasse terrain at this point in the season is foolish to say the least. If you choose to do so, please take responsibility for your actions and don’t call for, expect, or accept a rescue.
  • I've also attached a few photos. Three are taken from the top of the cleaver, showing the route trending north/right, the other shows the switchbacks on the Cleaver, taken from the Flats.

You can find more pictures of the current route at the Adventure Spirit Rock + Ice + Alpine Experiences Facebook site: -- including shots of The Fox's paw prints, which ran up to Guide Rocks then CROSSED THE CRATER to Columbia Crest. Incredible summit by Mr. Fox!

This will be my last Rainier Route Conditions / Climbing Report until mid-July, as I am back in the Northeast for a bit of climbing then off to Denali. Wishing everyone a great climb up high and a return safe and sound back to level ground.

Mountain conditions are subject to quick changes--particularly this year!--so use the info above as only one piece of your overall decision-making process. Some other helpful links to aid you in making the best decision for you and your party can be found at: