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Cascades in September
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Feb 22, 2013
My friend and I will be heading to Washington to climb for 2-3 weeks in early September. I have been to Rainier twice but never that late in the year. Supposedly the glacier climbing can be quite nice and firm in late summer/early this generally true? Any tidbits of info from those wise Northwestern climbers would be greatly appreciated.
-What can we expect(in general) for snow and glacier conditions this time of year?
-Are North faces a viable option?
-Any route suggestions? We're mostly looking to climb rock but do any ice routes form up in September?
-Should we include any extra gear in the rack?(pitons, tri-cams, etc.)

I have Classic Climbs of the Northwest by Alan Kearney so my route selection is rather limited but these are some of the routes we've been talking about:
-Mt Rainier(any route)
-Forbidden, West Ridge
-Inspiration, South Face
-Burgundy Spire, North Face
-Mount Stuart, North Ridge
-Prusik, West Ridge
Simon Thompson
From New Paltz, NY
Joined Apr 7, 2011
941 points
Feb 22, 2013
Rock Climbing Photo: preparing to rap over a crevasse; Mt. Waddington, ...

The glaciers will be very firm in september. Unless you get an early season storm, all the snow should be in the form of compact firn, which does make for very nice cramponing. However, the big glaciers also break up a lot, and route finding can be difficult or impossible. Routes on Rainier get troublesome for this reason. Still probably possible, but you'll be doing a lot of wandering in a maze of cravasses. I've only climbed it in July.

Most of the icy north faces in the cascades have suffered from glacial recession, and climbing them in September would be quite burly (Spider, Buckner, Shuksan, etc.). Expect big burgschrunds and LOTS of rockfall. Most would consider them out of condition.

There is no water ice to be found in the fall, except perhaps for the odd rock band high on the volcanos. It's a good idea to have an ice screw or two for the glacier travel, however.

All of the rock climbing objectives you list would be feasible, but you might have a hard time getting to the west ridge of Forbidden due to the access couloir melting out, and I might skip Prussik as it's not that impressive compared with the many, many other routes, particularly within North Cascades National Park.

Routes you should consider:
Mt. Shuksan - Fisher Chimneys*
Forbidden Peak - North Ridge*
Torment-Forbidden Traverse*
Dorado Needle - SW buttress*
Goode Mountain - NE Buttress*
Mt. Slesse - NE buttress**
Bear Mountain - Direct N. Buttress**
Mount Baker - North Ridge**

(*) Great routes I have completed
(**) Routes of high repute that I have not climbed.

You'd do well to checkout the guides by Jim Nelson and Peter Potterfiled. There is some overlap between them and the Kearny book, but between those three you should have plenty to keep you busy. The Beckey guides offer more complete information, but might be overwhelming.

I love my tricams, but I've never placed a piton in the summer, in the cascades or anywhere else.

Here's a shot of Forbidden from Labor Day weekend 2012:
From Denver, CO
Joined Nov 23, 2010
41 points
Feb 23, 2013
Thanks for the great info! I've only had to place one piton ever but someone mentioned something about taking them for the Cascades so I wasn't sure. Can't wait to get out there! Simon Thompson
From New Paltz, NY
Joined Apr 7, 2011
941 points
Feb 23, 2013
I have climbed on Rainier in May and July. I'm assuming there is little chance of Liberty Ridge being in that late in the summer due to rockfall? Can anyone recommend some good routes on rainier that may be fun during typical late summer/early fall conditions?

Previous Rainier experience:
-Attempted Liberty Ridge in early July 2009- bailed near the top of the Carbon glacier due to extreme rockfall and serac danger on the approach to Thumb Rock. Summitted via Emmons/WInthrop glacier with ideal weather and cramponing.
-Attempted the Ingrahm Direct in late May 2010. After 2 days of waiting out some unstable snowpack conditions, we got within a few hundred ft. of the crest but had to turn around due to extreme winds and worsening avalanche conditions. Exactly a week later 11 people were buried on the same route.
Simon Thompson
From New Paltz, NY
Joined Apr 7, 2011
941 points
Feb 23, 2013
Rock Climbing Photo: About half way up the East Arete on Illumination R...
Lib Ridge is a piece of shit at that time of year, unfortunately. The technical routes on all the volcanoes, for the most part, are well beyond the safety threshold of most in September.

September can be really hit or miss for other steep glacier routes.. I climbed Mazama Headwall on Adams, Kautz Headwall on Rainier, and several lines on Hood in September of last year, with only Kautz being a shutout. I'd gotten way too late a start on day 1, otherwise conditions actually would have been pretty acceptable. NOT "good," but doable.

Other years, September is just a melted out chossfall mess on these peaks.. This September will probably be not nearly as good as the last two years. Not enough snow, and last I saw, they're calling for a warm, dry summer.

I'd plan to stick to the alpine rock peaks for now, and see how things shape up by go time. The list above is a great start, and you won't feel like you wasted your trip, knocking a couple-few of those over.
Ben Beckerich
From saint helens, oregon
Joined Jun 24, 2011
272 points
Feb 25, 2013
Thanks! Sounds like we'll probably end up climbing a ton of rock which will be awesome! Simon Thompson
From New Paltz, NY
Joined Apr 7, 2011
941 points
Mar 1, 2013
As mentioned above, don't plan on any glacier/snow/ice routes in sept. Not worth it. If I were you , don't bring any snow/ice travel gear and just alpine rock climb in september.

Stuart: Do the complete North ridge and you will not need anything more than tennis shoes. Great route, just be comfy simul climbing.

Prusik West ridge: Fun easy climb, but if you can do the north ridge of stuart i'd suggest one of the south face routes on Prusik instead.

Inspiration: Unless you're familiar with the approach to the pickets, i'd not do this. Don't get me wrong, beautiful area and suppose to be a good route.

Burgandy spire/WA pass: lots of good routes with short approaches. Hell, you could spend a whole week up there 'alpine cragging' and free camping.

Forbidden: The easy access couloir melts out by mid-summer and you're left with chossy approach. I'd recommend doing the Torment-forbidden traverse, but that'll require bringing ice axe/crampons.

General ideas: You could spend many days in the leavenworth area, cragging, doing long multi-pitch climbs (snow creek wall) and alpine climbing (stuart, colchuck, dragontrail, prusik, sherpa, etc). When you get sick of that area and German bear, head north to WA pass. Stake out your free camping spot and do as many routes as your heart desires. Then finishing the drive over hwy 20 to index/darrington to check out some great granite cragging. Then you're back in SEA for your flight out (assuming you're flying).
Joined Sep 12, 2008
0 points
Mar 8, 2013
The Leavenworth Area sounds awesome. Thanks for all the great pointers! Simon Thompson
From New Paltz, NY
Joined Apr 7, 2011
941 points
Jun 14, 2013
I'm looking for map recommendations so we can start to get a lay of the land. What are the preferable maps for WA Pass, Cascades National Park, Leavenworth area, etc? Simon Thompson
From New Paltz, NY
Joined Apr 7, 2011
941 points
Jun 14, 2013
There is a new Washington Pass Supertopo:
From Atascadero, CA
Joined Nov 19, 2009
274 points

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