Owen flew up to Seattle from San Francisco on Friday night since he couldn’t join for the next international adventure with Dale to follow our recent success on New Zealand’s Aoraki Mount Cook together. We spent a very long time on Friday night trying to decide what to do. The venn diagram of routes I haven’t yet done, open access roads, things that would be safe with hot temperatures, and desire for something moderately technical proved to be too challenging. We gave up close to midnight and decided in the morning to head down to Rainier. With the White River and Spray Park access points still closed, we headed to Paradise with options to do the Wilson Headwall, Fuhrer Thumb, or Kautz Glacier.
After packing, provisioning, hitting some serious traffic to enter the park, and registering, we left the car at 2pm. It was hot and we decided to go in shorts. Post holing was pretty frustrating at times, but not as painful as we thought it might be. Owen hadn’t brought skis as he needed to head straight to a conference on Sunday night from Seattle, so we watched skiers in envy as they floated on top of the slush.
The approach went smoothly, without ever feeling like we needed to rope up, and we got to camp on the Wapowety Cleaver at about 6:30pm. It was a party up there, with tents and people everywhere. We found the last flat camp spot and set up shop, enjoying some freeze-dried dinners and whiskey before heading to bed around 9pm. We had scoped out the routes before going to bed and felt like there was likely too much objective hazard on the Wilson Headwall—the hanging seracs had recently shed some pretty large chunks down the Wilson. We decided to have a look in the morning, with the Fuhrer Thumb as our likely route choice. Regardless, we were excited to leave camping gear down low and descend the Fuhrer Finger rather than carrying over.
We woke up at 2:15am and left the tent by 3am. We got into the middle of the Wilson Glacier and headed up to the base of the Wilson Headwall. There was debris everywhere and we quickly decided to head for the Thumb. With a big crevasse guarding the entrance, we were able to cut through at the far left and then traverse in. The couloir went smoothly with no rockfall that early in the morning and we reached the convergence of the Thumb and Finger at 5:15am or so when the sun started rising.
The rest of the route went quite smoothly in a cool ambiance surrounded by crevasses and seracs, but with a clear passage right through the middle of them all. We slogged our way up, reaching the summit crater at 9:30am. The wind was ripping up there, so we took a break in a steam vent for a few minutes. Sitting down felt awesome.
The way down went. Thankfully, the snow was soft enough in many places to plunge step rather than edge in crampons. Regardless, it was very sad to watch skiers fly by us. I’m sure they felt some serious pity, especially lower down where the snow had corned up perfectly. Oh well. I’d skied the Finger before.
We arrived back at our tent just shy of 1pm and took an hour nap. Dale had appropriately dubbed this camp spot the “Napowety Cleaver” during our prior jaunt up the Finger and the name still held. I felt much better afterwards. We packed up and headed down by 2:30pm or so and made it to the car after signing out by 4:30pm.
Great adventure with Owen and my 8th time up “the big one.”