Approach via the White River Campground/Glacier Basin Trail and hike into the base of the ridge on the Carbon Glacier via St. Elmos Pass and across Curtis Ridge (most parties camp on Curtis Ridge). After negotiating the cracks on the Carbon Glacier, start scouting your access onto the ridge (either side can be accessed around 8000 ft). Climb 30-40 degree snow slopes and traverse scree and rocks up to Thumb Rock at 10,500 ft. From Thumb Rock, either go straight up a short ice pitch (70-80 degrees) in the center of a rock band, or traverse up and left/right around the cliff. From 11,000 to 12,000, stay on or near the crest of the ridge and climb increasingly steeper slopes and maybe a few icy sections up to 50 degrees. At 12k (Black Pyramid) go east (left) out onto the Willis Wall on exposed snow/ice faces up to 60 degrees. Climb several pitches of 50-60 degree ice and negotiate steep glacier travel until gaining the Liberty Cap Glacier around 13,500 ft. Seasonal bridges and icy ledges provide passage up onto the glacier - be prepared to climb a few short (5-8 ft) vertical ice sections to surpass the bergschrund and other cracks. Once through, the slope angle decreases until the Liberty Cap summit is reached at 14,112 ft. Either head down from here or go across the broad plateau to a col (13,600 ft) and then on to Columbia Crest at 14,411 ft. Many parties descend the well-traveled Emmons-Winthrop route down to Camp Shurman.
Beware of loose rock on the lower part of the ridge, especially after the snow cover melts later in the season. We were almost taken out by rockfall when crossing from the Carbon Glacier onto the ridge.
Otherwise it's a great route, although some of the slope angles in the above description may be exaggerated. I don't remember anything in excess of 60 degrees except for a short section at the bergscrund near the top.
By Curt Nelson From: Fort Collins, CO Jul 8, 2011 rating: AI2-3 Steep Snow
20 hours? Car to car! That's friggin awesome Phil.
Warm conditions can make the lower portion of the ridge very difficult to navigate. You should be able to gain Thumb Rock with minimal rock/scree traverses. If climbing sustained choss, back off or find another gully (best entry is on the West side).
After mounting Liberty Cap with high winds, blowing snow and/or poor visibility it may be difficult to see entry point on to the Emmons glacier. Do not go too low towards the Winthrop glacier. Stay around 13,500 feet until you find a moderate entry point onto Emmons.