All Washington state expedition dispatches

Climbing the summit pyramid on Mt. Shuksan

A perfect Shuksan summit with weather and conditions providing a beautiful climb as reported by climb leader, Garrett Madison:

Hello, this is Garrett calling in for the Mt. Shuksan climb in the North Cascades. We had a wonderful summit day today on Mt. Shuksan. Steve and I left our high camp about 4 AM and climbed up the Sulphide Glacier in the dark, watched the sunrise over the North Cascades and illuminate the summit pyramid as we approached the base of it.

We got up to the base of the summit pyramid and started climbing the rock. It was about four pitches of rock scrambling up to the summit. Great view from the top of Mt. Shuksan over Mt. Baker, Baker Lake, and the North Cascades. A little bit of smoke to the south which actually accentuated the ridgelines between all of the peaks.

So, a wonderful day! We made it back down and a very, very successful climb. All’s well! Heading back home from Mt. Shuksan.

Smoke accentuating the North Cascades ridgelines

Smoke accentuating the North Cascades ridgelines

Climber on the rock pyramid of Mt. Shuksan

Climbing the rock pyramid of Mt. Shuksan

Joyful climbers on the summit of Mt. Shuksan

Steve M. and Garrett Madison on the summit of Mt. Shuksan

Garrett Madison on the summit of Mt. Shuksan

Garrett Madison enjoying the view from the summit of Mt. Shuksan


In addition to these expedition dispatches, you can also follow our teams as they make their attempts on the world’s most formidable mountains on:

Amazon Alexa devices with the Madison Mountaineering Flash Briefing skill:

  • Enable the skill and add to your flash briefing to hear Garrett Madison’s daily audio expedition updates

Instagram:

Triumphant climber at Mt. Shuksan high camp

Under great conditions, expedition leader Garrett Madison calls in this audio dispatch from the slopes of Washington State’s Mount Shuksan:

Hello, this is Garrett calling in for the Mt. Shuksan climb with Steve!  We are up here at high camp.  It is a beautiful day!  We just feel like we are spoiled rotten because the views are as-far-as-the-eye-can-see, there are no clouds, no smoke in the sky… Just a perfect evening temperature here as we have diner and get ready to go to bed early in preparation for an alpine start, pre-dawn start to our summit climb tomorrow.

Our plan is to climb the summit pyramid on Mt. Shuksan – some 5th class rock scrambling.  Then make our way all the way back down.

Having a good time up here, looking to the climb tomorrow!


In addition to these expedition dispatches, you can also follow our teams as they make their attempts on the world’s most formidable mountains on:

Amazon Alexa devices with the Madison Mountaineering Flash Briefing skill:

  • Enable the skill and add to your flash briefing to hear Garrett Madison’s daily audio expedition updates

Instagram:

Garrett and Don on the summit of Mt. Baker!

We closed out August with a great one-on-one private climb with awesome conditions on Mt. Baker.

Mt. Baker is the most heavily glaciated peak in the lower 48 contiguous United States and the second most active volcano in the Cascade Range after Mt. Saint Helens.  Its location near the Canadain border and the Puget Sound of the Pacific Ocean combine to make it one of snowiest places on Earth – in 1999 it set the world record for recorded snowfall in a single season, a remarkable 29 m or 95 ft.!

This year’s snowfall and cooler than normal spring and summer have created excellent later climbing season conditions.  Over the weekend, Garrett led a private client on glacier travel and expedition camping skills reinforcement culminating in a perfect summit on this 3,286 m / 10,781 ft. jewel of the Pacific Northwest.

There is still time to book your Mt. Baker climb for this month of September while the awesome conditions continue!  Please contact our office to join a group climb or arrange your own private climb with one of our excellent guides that specialize in Cascade climbs.

For more inspiration, here’s Garrett’s recap of the weekend’s climb and stunning photos.  Enjoy!

Hello, this is Garrett calling in for the Mt. Baker climb!  We got back yesterday from Mt. Baker.  We climbed the Easton Glacier route and it was in fantastic shape.  Great snow conditions for this time of year, not too many crevasses, and really good weather we had on our summit day.  We had views of the North Cascades, of Mt. Rainier, and of the San Juan Islands.  So a fantastic time up on Mt. Baker, great shape for this time of year and looking forward to more Mt. Baker climbs in September!

Mt. Baker approach hike in

Mt. Baker approach hike in

Beautiful sunset on Mt. Baker

Beautiful sunset on Mt. Baker

View from high camp of the awesome conditions on Mt. Baker

Gorgeous view of Mt. Baker from high camp

View from the tent of a Mt. Baker sunset

View from the tent of a Mt. Baker sunset

Excellent Mt. Baker climbing conditions

Excellent Mt. Baker climbing conditions

Climbing above the clouds on awesome conditions of Mt. Baker's glaciated slopes

Climbing above the clouds on Mt. Baker’s glaciated slopes


In addition to these expedition dispatches, you can also follow our teams as they make their attempts on the world’s most formidable mountains on:

Amazon Alexa devices with the Madison Mountaineering Flash Briefing skill:

  • Enable the skill and add to your flash briefing to hear Garrett Madison’s daily audio expedition updates

Instagram:

Climbers on the summit of Mt. Rainier for the sunset!

We have returned to the mountains in style with 100% Sunset Summit Success on Mt. Rainier!  Here’s climb leader Garrett Madison with the details from Camp Muir as the team makes it’s way back down to Paradise:

Hello! This is Garrett calling in for the Madison Mountaineering Mt. Rainier climb! Today is July 29th, and we are heading down from high camp at the Ingraham Flats on Mt. Rainier.

Yesterday we had a wonderful sunset summit at 8:30 pm. We stood on top of Columbia Crest and watched the sunset over western Washington. The whole team made it – 100% success. Beautiful evening weather and great route conditions all around. We made it back to camp late last night, had dinner, and went to bed around midnight.

Today we are just savoring the summit and the views as we head down Mt. Rainier. We are all very fortunate to have had a safe and successful climb, and we’re looking forward to getting down for a nice celebratory meal.

Terray and team approaching the crater rim near the summit

Terray and team approaching the crater rim near the summit

View from Columbia Crest, 14,411 ft.

View from Columbia Crest, 14,411 ft.

Shadow of the mountain at sunset

Shadow of the mountain at sunset

View from Camp Muir looking up at the route

View from Camp Muir looking up at the route

It’s official:  we are finally back in the mountains, Rainier 2020 is underway!

Following all of the protocols of Washington State’s Safe Start and the CDC guidelines, our first climb since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has begun.  Climb leader, Garrett Madison, and the team excitedly began the hike up to Camp Muir (3105m / 10,188ft) on Mount Rainier yesterday morning.

The group hiked in style up to Camp Muir and captured this photo just before sunset with the peaks of Mt. Adams and Mt. Saint Helens in the distance.  Today the team will review and practice climbing skills including crampon techniques, ice axe use, self-arrest techniques and rope-team travel.  In the afternoon they will ascend up to Ingraham Flats (3383m / 11,100 ft) and hit the sack early to catch some sleep before the very early morning alpine start of the summit attempt.

Stay tuned!!

Team pose while climbing the Blue Glacier route on Mount Olympus in Olympic National Park

Nice end-of-season climb on Washington state’s Mt. Olympus last week.  Lead guide, Terray Sylvester, provided this report:

We made the most of challenging conditions last week on Mount Olympus’ Blue Glacier Route.

The trail to the route follows the milky Hoh River through the massive trees of the Hoh Rainforest for about 17 miles to Glacier Meadows campground, just below the foot of the Blue Glacier. It’s a uniquely beautiful approach, but since the Hoh Rainforest gets 12 to 14 feet of rain each year, it can also be a bit wet. We had rainy weather both days of our hike in, and for that, we all carried golf umbrellas. Maxfli isn’t a brand you often see on a mountaineering rack, but those umbrellas kept us dry each day until we climbed into our tents. For backcountry comfort, they were some of the most important gear we brought.

After all that rain, I was relieved to see stars in the sky when I stuck my head out of the tent at 1:30 a.m. We ate a quick breakfast of oatmeal and hot coffee, and then hiked out of camp, over the lateral moraine on the east side of the Blue Glacier and down to the glacier at about 5,000 feet of elevation. By the time the sun was up, we had crossed the lower arm of the glacier and were climbing toward the top of the Snow Dome, a plateau at about 7,000 feet. But late-season conditions were slowing our pace. Lack of snow on the lower glacier forced us to pick our way carefully across the glacier’s deep, icy furrows. Higher up, I built a series of anchors to protect the final, steep slopes near the top of the Snow Dome. Earlier in the season, those slopes would have been covered in snow and we could have simply walked up them as a rope team. But with glacier ice exposed, it was too dangerous to ascend without belaying.

By the time we approached Crystal Pass at 7,200 feet, we were running out of time to make it to the summit. We would still have to climb and descend the final 5th class rock pitch below the summit pinnacle, but we also faced a more immediate problem – a wide bergschrund that spanned the glacier below Crystal Pass. Having climbed down into and back out of the bergschrund a week earlier, I knew we could do it safely, but I also knew it would cost us quite a bit of time. Ascending higher would have pushed us into a long summit day when nightfall and fatigue might conspire to make an accident more likely. With clouds coming in, we returned to camp, taking off our packs at our tents just before dusk.

On many climbs, the most difficult choice is when to turn around. It was disappointing not to stand on the summit of Olympus on this climb, but that was the price we paid for a lesson in decision-making, and for the experience of climbing on this remote, beautiful peak in late-season conditions when the dramatic crevasses and seracs of the Blue Glacier are most visible. We also got to practice some teamwork and rope skills as we moved through the belays on the Snow Dome. All in all, it was a valuable trip to one of Washington’s most remote and beautiful peaks.

Team with golf umbrellas hiking to Mt. Olympus high camp

You don’t always see gear branded Maxfli (golf umbrella) on mountaineering trips!

Sean hikes from the Hoh River to Glacier Meadows at the base of Mount Olympus in Olympic National Park

Climbing the Blue Glacier route on Mount Olympus in Olympic National Park

Climbing the Blue Glacier route on Mount Olympus in Olympic National Park

Team pose while climbing the Blue Glacier route on Mount Olympus in Olympic National Park

Guide Jayar Storms provided this trip report on our recent 1:1 skill building and training outing to the Boston Basin area of the North Cascades National Park:

We began our trip early Tuesday (9/3) morning on the Boston Basin climbers trail. By that afternoon, we had reached Boston Basin and set up camp. We had just enough time to set our tent and square our equipment away when a freak hail storm struck. We took shelter from marble-sized hailstones in our tent for about 20 minutes before it turned to rain and then died away. We ate dinner and got to bed early for an early start at Sahale Peak the next day.

In the morning, we left around 6:30 AM and hiked up and right of the normal route which goes up the moraine, left of the Quien Sabe Glacier. About 500 feet below the glacier we noticed that we could traverse below the glacier and access it at a point closer to our objective instead of getting on the glacier itself and traversing across. We chose this lower traverse so we could avoid navigating most of the crevasses with this route. We cut across the talus and low angle slab to the other side and gained the glacier from there. After a few hundred feet of travel, we did not like the steepness of the terrain and turned back for camp.

The next day we tried Sahale again but from the normal route instead. After a walk up the same moraine from yesterday and a scramble up some low angle slab and loose rock, we gained the glacier once again, this time all the way on the left side of the glacier. With snow condition on our side and crevasses in manageable condition, we topped out at about 8,200 feet. We descended safely and enjoyed the rest of the day in Boston Basin.

We had the remaining day to pack up camp and descend back down the Boston Basin climbers trail and back to the car. We had a very enjoyable trip with Patrick and were thrilled to provide an excellent experience to advance his climbing skills and techniques. We can’t wait for our next adventure!


 

We are excited to report that our Climb for Conservation charity climb of Mt. Rainier enjoyed a 100% team success in reaching the summit this week.  The group had a beautiful sunset climb with perfect conditions.  Way to go team!

Our 2019 Mt. Rainier climb supporting the Climb for Conservation fundraiser kicked off yesterday with the initial hike up to Camp Muir (10,188 ft).  Here are some shots of the day.  The team is likely now headed up for a sunset summit attempt.  We will post an update on their progress tomorrow!  Stay tuned!!


Our guides, Billy and Sid led our 2019 Mt. Rainier team of climbers of Aaron, Scott, Nate, and Tom to the top of Mount Rainier with 100% success on September 12th! At the base of the mountain the weather was rainy but as they climbed above the clouds they were met with challenging but nice conditions with cold temps and low wind.

The Mt. Rainier NPS climbing rangers described shape of the our Disappointment Cleaver route as:

…significant rerouted recently to reduce the number of ladder crossings and widening crevasses. The new trail is poorly defined due to a combination of fewer climbers and large snow penitentes. These massive penitentes and complex route-finding are contributing to long days on summit attempts with many groups taking 12-16 hours round-trip from high camp. In particular, many climbing parties are having difficulties finding the new route where it trends left from the top of the Cleaver toward Camp Comfort above Gibraltar Rock. Eventually, around 13,300′, the new route regains the old track and a better defined bootpack (until it becomes obscured by new snowfall with incoming autumn storms).

It was a great way to cap off our Cascades climbing season! Congratulations to the team for persevering and successfully and safely making what is typically described as the most difficult endurance climb in the lower 48 states!

Washington state high point: Check!!

Rest break en route to the summit

Rest break en route to the summit


Late season suncups and penitentes cover the upper mountain

Late season suncups cover the upper mountain


Stunning views above the clouds!

Stunning views above the clouds!


The sweet taste of success!

The sweet taste of success!