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Curtis Ridge 

YDS: 4th French: 1 Ewbanks: 2 UIAA: I ZA: 2 British: M 1b AI2

   
Type:  Trad, Ice, Alpine, 7000', Grade IV
Original:  YDS: 4th French: 1 Ewbanks: 2 UIAA: I ZA: 2 British: M 1b AI2 Steep Snow [details]
FA: Gene Prater and Marcel Schuster
Page Views: 2,651
Submitted By: Marlin Thorman on Feb 5, 2015

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Joe climbing Curtis ridge near the 1st Cliff Band....

Description 

Overview
Curtis Ridge is one of the large ridge routes on Mount Rainier's north side. It is technically harder, more confusing, and more committing than either Liberty Ridge or Ptarmigan Ridge. Many have considered it to be a rockfall death route, but in good cold conditions it is an excellent hard route for fast, competent parties.

Route
The technical portion of the route begins at point 10,300 ft on Curtis Ridge. To reach this location see the approach section below. Once you reach this high point, hike down a hundred feet towards the right to find a rappel station around a large boulder. Rappel about 70 feet down to snow slopes. This is a point of no return. Once you have rappelled down and pulled your rope there is no easy way back. The bail option after this point is to down climb the ridge to the right all the way to the Carbon Glacier. After the rappel follow the ridge crest up towards the prominent rock gendarme. At rock steps in the ridge traverse either the right side or left side to bypass. During our ascent we traversed left around the first one and then right around the 2nd big step. Soon you will arrive at the rock gendarme. There is an excellent place to bivy a couple hundred feet before you reach the rock gendarme.

From the gendarme get a really good look at rest of the ridge. Try to connect the lines to find you route because from up close it is hard to tell which cliff band is which. I added a couple of beta photos with some approximate route lines on them. They help to show the back and forth weaving between snowfields and rock bands.

There are a few different variations to the route starting with the 1st cliff band including some steep rock and old aid lines. I will be describing what we found as the easiest line. Keep following the ridge crest up towards the 1st steep rock band. You may have to pass a few more rock steps on the right side. Once you reach the 1st prominent cliff band contour right underneath it for about 200 yards. Keep going until it is possible to turn up and cut back towards the left staying on steep snow/ice. Follow this snowfield back towards the left then go up through a snow chute into another small snowfield. From here traverse left following the bottom of the prominent cliff band. You are looking for a ledge/ramp system that runs up the cliff ending with a couple moves of 4th class.

Once you pass this rock band you have reached the snowfield above the 1st rock band. Follow the snowfield (more like a wide gully) continue up through a constriction to the base of the 2nd rock band. Again traverse out right on the snowfield looking for a weakness through the cliff band. It is an easy but exposed scramble through this rock. This will bring you into yet another large snow field. Head up and to the left towards the ridge crest. At the top follow the exit gullies up. There are several small rock steps that will have to be passed. We found a short section of ice as well. The final gully will deposit you on top of the entire cliff section at 12,500 feet. From here continue up easy snow to the top of Curtis Ridge at 13,800 feet.

Descent
The normal descent for this route is down the Emmons Glacier. From the top of Curtis ridge either continue to the summit of Rainier at Columbia Crest or traverse the contour lines left until you hit the Emmons descent trail. Follow this route down the Emmons Glacier to Camp Schurman.

Approach 

Curtis Ridge is on the North side of Mount Rainer. The typical approach is from the White River Campground. Follow the normal trail in to Glacier Basin. Then instead of turning left onto the Inner Glacier go straight up to St. Elmo's Pass. Many times there will be a trail as this is also the way most people climb Liberty Ridge and Ptarmigan Ridge routes. From the top of St. Elmo's Pass drop down onto the Winthrop Glacier and contour across it. Once across you need to turn off from the normal trail to Liberty Ridge. This is about the 7,200 foot level. Turn left and keep following snow slopes up Curtis ridge generally trending up and left until the ridge narrows to a point at 10,300 feet. From here the technical climbing begins.

Protection 

A light alpine rack should be plenty. We encountered a short ice step but were able to protect with rock gear. We took a couple of pitons, a few nuts, and 4 cams. Take some cord to leave at the rappel station in case the stuff there looks bad. This route isn't climbed very often.


Photos of Curtis Ridge Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Joe traversing sun cupped snow slopes to pass the ...
Joe traversing sun cupped snow slopes to pass the ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Our bivy spot. We chose to bivy before the rappel ...
Our bivy spot. We chose to bivy before the rappel ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Climbing up the final exit gully on Curtis Ridge. ...
Climbing up the final exit gully on Curtis Ridge. ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Typical conditions on the upper section of Curtis ...
Typical conditions on the upper section of Curtis ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Ascending slopes of Curtis ridge around 9,000 feet...
Ascending slopes of Curtis ridge around 9,000 feet...
Rock Climbing Photo: Crossing the Winthrop Glacier with Curtis Ridge be...
Crossing the Winthrop Glacier with Curtis Ridge be...
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking at the upper portion of Curtis Ridge.  The...
Looking at the upper portion of Curtis Ridge. The...
Rock Climbing Photo: This is looking down Curtis Ridge from the start o...
BETA PHOTO: This is looking down Curtis Ridge from the start o...
Rock Climbing Photo: This shows what we felt was the easiest line throu...
BETA PHOTO: This shows what we felt was the easiest line throu...

Comments on Curtis Ridge Add Comment
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By Allen Sanderson
From: Oootah
Jun 16, 2016

The above is a good description. However, to gain the first snow field one may not need to traverse far right to gain the steps. With a good snow year there may be enough snow to gain the steps directly. In the beta photo this direct approach is under the word "cliff" in the "1st Cliff Band." Each of these steps are 20-25 feet high.

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