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Questions about Emmons Glacier route on Rainier

Original Post
Ethan Ayer · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Mar 2018 · Points: 0

I have a permit for Emmons-Winthrop route at the end of June and I have some questions about Rainier

We have a party of 7 and will likely split teams up into teams of 2, 2, and 3 to be nimble and fast. We have a 2-day permit.  We all have significant mountaineering experience, some multi-pitch climbing and rigging experience but very little glacier travel experience. We are based in Southern California so we plan to train rope travel in the Sierras or even on San Gorgonio.  2 people in our group attempted Rainier on the DC route but turned back because of weather.

During the end of June, how crowded is the Emmons route, and will there likely be other parties at camp Sherman?  Will there be likely a route laid out from previous parties?  I'm curious because I assumed not many people would be on the route and much of our energy would be focused on route finding. However, I feel I might be overestimating the difficulty of Emmons-Winthrop route. Many of us summited Shasta via Casaval Ridge last year during some terrible winds, and there was hardly anyone on the ridge. We all have done a significant amount of peak bagging in the Sierras.

Ryan Marsters · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 1,181

I've been up or down that route only a couple times, but from my experience -

There will be several other parties up there and easily double that if the weather forecast is good or it is a weekend.

The route is usually pretty packed out and obvious that time of year, pending weather. The climb is pretty mellow with the exception of one or two crevasse crossings that can change by the week.

I'm not sure how strict the 2-day permit is, but I tend to think that's the toughest way to do it physically. Definitely want some back to back heavy pack vert days prior.

Scott and Sara · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

Following.  

Ethan Ayer · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Mar 2018 · Points: 0
Ryan Marsters wrote: I've been up or down that route only a couple times, but from my experience -

There will be several other parties up there and easily double that if the weather forecast is good or it is a weekend.

The route is usually pretty packed out and obvious that time of year, pending weather. The climb is pretty mellow with the exception of one or two crevasse crossings that can change by the week.

I'm not sure how strict the 2-day permit is, but I tend to think that's the toughest way to do it physically. Definitely want some back to back heavy pack vert days prior.

I'm confident about getting to camp Sherman in one push.  The campsite sounds really plush with likely platforms already dug out from other parties and a bathroom, which although not as backcountry, pretty convenient.  We would then summit with lighter packs. If the weather window isn't good, we won't take any risks.

Allen Sanderson · · On the road to perdition · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 1,188

At the end of June there can be a dozen or more parties at Sherman. You will find tent platforms (drop your tent when you leave for the summit). Your energy will not be focused on route finding unless there is a storm or there is significant snow fall. There will be a continuous boot track with wands marking the cracks often done by the rangers who are there for much of the summer. Coming from S. Cal your biggest issue will be the altitude. Best to spend a few days before hand acclimating. 

Andy Novak · · Bailey, CO · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 370
Ethan Ayer wrote: 
During the end of June, how crowded is the Emmons route, and will there likely be other parties at camp Sherman?  Will there be likely a route laid out from previous parties?  I'm curious because I assumed not many people would be on the route and much of our energy would be focused on route finding. However, I feel I might be overestimating the difficulty of Emmons-Winthrop route. Many of us summited Shasta via Casaval Ridge last year during some terrible winds, and there was hardly anyone on the ridge. We all have done a significant amount of peak bagging in the Sierras.

Wondering why you would assume not many people?  Its the second most popular route on a very popular mountain. That being said, all it takes is a little snow and wind (common in June) to make the boot pack out out of Sherman disappear, so everyone in your group should be well-versed in glacier navigation and crevasse rescue if you veer off-route.    

Jonathan S · · Golden, CO · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 100

I recommend giving yourself two nights on the mountain, given your experience. It will give you some slack for unexpected delays (slower going, gear problems, off-route, whatever). 10,000 feet is a lot to go up and down in two days, especially when 75% of it is on snow.

We did not find the route overly crowded in late July, 2016. We had a near perfect weather window. We camped at Camp Curtis and had it to ourselves. We also found a water source to filter near camp, but it may not be running in June. Camp Sherman was busy, but it looked like there were still some open spots.

Greg Miller · · Westminster, CO · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 30

There will definitely be other parties at Camp Schurman. For reference in mid-July 4 years ago, the camp was full on the weekend we were there, so we were pushed on to the camp on the glacier just above Schurman. Also note - Schurman is on rock, so you might want to pack your tent footprint.
When we went up the route was obvious enough (bootpack and wands every now and then), but there were clearly areas where it had recently been re-routed, so you can't just blindly follow it (and as said above, all bets are off with new snow).
If you're determined on doing teams of two, I'd spend a lot of time practicing catching crevasse falls, and fine tuning your system, since it's harder for one person to catch a fall, set an anchor, rig the 3:1, etc. than it is for two people.

greggrylls · · Salt Lake City · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 237

Don't do rope teams of two if you can avoid it.  Sure, lots of people do it. (My partner and I climbed the Kautz and Liberty in this manner)
But it kind of freaks me out.  Even with knots in the system I worry about catching a real crevasse fall.  Let alone the difficulties of arresting then setting up a haul system etc.  

2 person rope teams is an advanced skill.  I'd do 3 person rope teams or 4 for a route like the Emmons.  

Or whatever iteration.  In my experience people get cold feet before the big gal.  May have less people than expected :)

Ethan Ayer · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Mar 2018 · Points: 0

Personally, I'm going to spend all my time practicing and training until June.  I have experience with prusiks from climbing, but I'm determined the details of every crevasse fall situation.  I'm pushing for a 4, 3 team split and at the very least I'm on the 3-person team.  I have spoken up about the difficulty of a 2 person team rescue.

Scott Becker · · Medford, OR · Joined Dec 2008 · Points: 575

IME: the crux of doing this climb in 2 days is the last several hours of downhill trail hiking that takes you back to the car. Certainly doable for most fit people, just don’t underestimate how big of a day you’re signing up for. Have fun! 

Sarah Meiser · · Boulder, CO · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 3,732
greggrylls wrote: Don't do rope teams of two if you can avoid it.  Sure, lots of people do it. (My partner and I climbed the Kautz and Liberty in this manner)
But it kind of freaks me out.  Even with knots in the system I worry about catching a real crevasse fall.  Let alone the difficulties of arresting then setting up a haul system etc.  

2 person rope teams is an advanced skill.  I'd do 3 person rope teams or 4 for a route like the Emmons.  
Good advice here. When I did the route we were 5 and split into teams of 2 and 3. I was on the 2 person team. My partner (who was in front) slipped, lost control of his axe, and rocketed down the slope. I arrested the fall just before he went into a crevasse and it was pretty intense. If I hadn't been successful we might both be dead.


Ethan Ayer · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Mar 2018 · Points: 0
Scott Becker wrote: IME: the crux of doing this climb in 2 days is the last several hours of downhill trail hiking that takes you back to the car. Certainly doable for most fit people, just don’t underestimate how big of a day you’re signing up for. Have fun! 

I've done that before.  It's no fun, but you just have to keep thinking about that cold beer waiting for you at the bottom!

Porter M · · Bellingham, WA · Joined Jun 2017 · Points: 65

FWIW: summit day on the emmons is a big day. Guiding this route we take clients from camp to the summit and sleep back at that same camp that night. That being said, 2 days is totally doable if you’re fit, but I’ve been with a lot of clients who consider themselves “fit” and can’t get to schurman in 2 days. In the end, you know what you can do and there will be wands and a boot pack up the whole mountain and weather is typically perfect then (but not always, got snowed on on July 2nd last year). Good luck, maybe I’ll see you up there. 

Jordan W · · NC · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 55

If you don't have a ton of glacier experience, you shouldn't be travelling in two man rope teams..... unless you're climbing right next to each other. One person isn't going to be able to pull a person out of a crack in a real world situation 99% of the time.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Pacific Northwest
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