I recently had the pleasure of climbing Liberty Ridge, one of Mt Rainier’s more challenging routes, for International Mountain Guides. The following is a brief synopsis of our trip and the current route conditions.
Liberty Ridge, located on the north side of Mt Rainier, is not particularly easy to access. We approached the route from White River campground via St Elmo’s Pass. There is a photo below of one of the locals we saw on the trail. After about 4 hours of travel to reach the pass we dropped down to cross the Winthrop glacier and finally crossed the broad Curtis Ridge to reach camp (7350') on the edge of ridge just before the Carbon Glacier. It took us another 3 hours of travel without gaining any altitude to complete this long traverse.
No sooner than we had set up our tents at this first camp it began to hail and then rain. This pattern of the group’s timing being impeccable would continue throughout the climb.
On June 2nd we moved from camp on Curtis Ridge to our high camp at Thumb Rock (10,350’). We were up and climbing at first light in order to minimize our exposure to rockfall. We accessed Liberty ridge by climbing one of the first gullies on the west side of the ridge. Once on the ridge the snow was once again very conducive to post-holing much to the group’s dismay. Skip claims he will be naming the next beer he brews after this unpleasant form of travel but I cannot repeat the name here. Everyone stuck with it and we were in camp by 12:30 leaving lots of time to relax and prepare for tomorrow’s summit climb.
On June 3rd we were up early and climbing by 4am. Other than a light wind the weather was perfect and everyone was excited to climb. The snow directly above camp was still somewhat soft but began to firm up as we got a little higher. Throughout the day we did a mixture of climbing together and pitching it out.
Once we reached the Black Pyramid we hit the ice, which makes this route more challenging. Everyone pulled out their second ice tool and up we went. After several pitches of low angle ice we were able to walk together again to the base of the Bergschrund. If you talk to anyone about Liberty Ridge you are sure to hear about “the Bergschrund.” This is the steepest portion of the route. Above the Bergschrund there are another 4 pitches of climbing to reach the gentler summit slopes.
The group stood together on Liberty Cap at 4:30 PM after 12 .5 hours of climbing. We took a few photos and then headed down the Emmons route to Camp Schurman. After sleeping in the next morning we descended from camp, as a lenticular cloud formed over the summit.