Forum Index > Trip Reports > Little Tahoma, Feb 24, 2024
 Reply to topic
Previous :: Next Topic
Author Message
Eric Gilbertson
Member
Member


Joined: 04 Jul 2018
Posts: 188 | TRs | Pics
Location: Seattle
Eric Gilbertson
Member
PostThu Feb 29, 2024 6:36 pm 
Little Tahoma (11,136 ft) Winter Ascent Feb 24, 2024 12:30am Ė 6pm 20 miles snowmobiling, 15 miles skiing Eric and Nick
On the summit (photo by Nick)
On the summit (photo by Nick)
The route
The route
At the entrance gate
At the entrance gate
A storm was coming in from the north over the weekend and it looked like the southern zones would be the best place to climb above treeline peaks. There was a slight risk of wind slabs on aspects between NE to W, so we wanted to target a peak that avoided these aspects at high elevation and stuck to SE slopes that were more wind scoured. Iím working on climbing winter bulger peaks and I only had two left in the southern zones Ė Little Tahoma and Adams. Either would have worked, but Little Tahoma is a bit more difficult so we decided to prioritize it for the trip. There are two main routes up Little Tahoma Ė the approach traversing from Paradise to gain the SE face, and a route from White River that ascends the Frying Pan glacier to gain the SE face. Both routes then climb the SE face on the upper Whitman Glacier to gain the summit. Iíve done both routes previously (Paradise route in April 2016 and White River route in May 2018). In winter the White River approach makes the most sense for several reasons. First, there are no gate open/closing times to contend with. On the Paradise side the gate is generally open in the winter from 9 or 10 am to 5pm. This makes a car to car trip challenging. On the north side the gate is just always closed, but you are allowed beyond it when it is closed. On the Paradise side when the gate is closed the road is closed (for plowing). Second, permits must be picked up in person on the Paradise side but are self-issue on the north sides. Permits are needed for travel above 10,000ft or on glaciers, so Little Tahoma requires a permit. Third, the Paradise approach generally requires travelling long stretches parallel to crevasses, which is sketchy. The White River approach avoids this problem. Finally, the White River approach is basically all up on the way in and all down on the way out, making a ski ascent/descent very efficient. The Paradise approach has more traversing and rolling terrain. We planned to do a car to car trip from the north side to fit the peak in the tight weather window that would close Saturday afternoon. Iíve previously snowmobiled in this approach in early April to access Rainier. The road is gated on highway 410 at the turnoff for the Crystal Mountain ski resort. Next to the gate is the Silver Springs sno park. There is a short trail through the woods to access highway 410 from the snowpark by snowmobile. The road is generally plowed in one lane to the park gate, and the other lane is left unplowed for snowmobile access. For this trip NOHRSC was predicting snow starting just at the sno park and increasing in depth to several feet within a mile. The most recent satellite image from the Monday before the weekend (Feb 19) showed continuous snow coverage on the road. So we were optimistic we could make a quick snowmobile approach to the start of the skiing. We planned to start up early Saturday morning to hopefully beat the weather coming in.
Closeup of the deployable wheels
Closeup of the deployable wheels
Finally a patch of snow
Finally a patch of snow
Starting up the trail
Starting up the trail
Friday evening we drove down to the sno park. There was partial snow coverage at the sno park, which was a good sign. I jogged over to the road, and it looked like continuous snow a few hundred feet beyond the gate. The trail from the park to the road was melted out, though. So I unloaded the sled, rode it to the road, and parked it at the Mount Rainier National Park sign. We then tried to go to sleep around 7pm. Saturday we got up at midnight and soon carried the gear over to the snowmobile. I deployed my retractable wheels on the skis, which save the carbides from wearing down on the pavement and allow for steering. We rode through the thin stretch of icy snow, but then around the corner it all disappeared! This is not good for a snowmobile, because the engine is cooled from snow hitting the tail. If there is no snow, the engine will eventually overheat. Iíve been unsure whether it is best practice to go quickly through pavement sections to try to reach snow, or to go slowly. This time I tried to go quickly, and we cruised up at 20mph. But by 2 miles in the high temperature sensor went off and I turned off the engine. This is not a sensor you want to ignore, becuase it can catastrophically damage the engine. But as long as you turn the engine off immediately and let it cool down it wonít hurt anything. Luckily there was a stream on the side of the road. We filled up our nalgenes and dumped it on the tail. After 10 minutes the tail was back to air temperature and we proceeded. The road was still bare pavement, and the NOHRSC model must have been way off. But the satellite image had showed good coverage on Monday. I guess it had been thin, and the road faces due south. So, with no shade in the heat of the day, then a few warm sunny days were enough to melt it out. This time the road started climbing steeply, and we made it another 1.5 miles before overheating. Again we filled nalgenes from a stream on the side and dumped it on the engine. After 10 minutes it was cool enough and we proceeded. Aftern anothe 1.5 miles we finally hit patchy snow, and I pre-emptively stopped before the sensor went off. We packed snow on the tail for it to cool. From there I rode on the shoulder with patchy snow while Nick walked beside, then we both got on at the turnoff to the park. In this place the road turned west and was more shaded by trees, so the snow got more continuous. Soon after the turnoff I was able to retract the wheels and we finally hit continuous snow. We saw some truck tracks that turned around well before the park entrance gate, and it looked like it hadnít been plowed to there for a while. We cruised past the gate and decided to fill out our paperwork on our way back to save time. There was a set of fat bike tracks that went a bit beyond the gate, but they soon turned around. Finally the snow was deep and the motor was cooled down. We made fast progress, hitting 40mph occasionally. There were two big blowdowns but we were able to squeeze under them. I had brought the little chainsaw and axe just in case, but they were unneccessary. Finally, by 2:30am we reached the Wonderland/Summerland trail turnoff and pulled over to stop. I did some laps up and down gunning the engine to clear the spark plugs, then we unpacked and headed up. The snow was nice and firm down low, the trail was easy to follow, and we made fast time. There were only a few melted out stream crossings but they were not a problem. At 5200 when the trail crossed Fryingpan Creek we stayed on the north side and skinned parallel to the creek.
Nearing treeline
Nearing treeline
Crossing Fryingpan Creek
Crossing Fryingpan Creek
First views of Little T
First views of Little T
Eventually up higher we found a good crossing, then hooked up and left to gain the standard Frying Pan approach. We zig zagged up steepening slopes towards Meany Crest, keeping the angle below 35 degrees until the last 100ft. There we found a shallow wind slab but it was unreactive. Above that layer the terrain leveled out around 7100ft. We gained the ridgecrest SW of Meany Crest, then followed the ridge all the way to the Frying Pan Glacier. By then the sun finally rose, but low clouds reduced visibility. We roped up and made a rising traverse to a gap at 9100ft. We took a short food break and the clouds gradually started clearing. It looked like it might go blue! We continued a rising traverse up the Whitman Glacier until we gained the SE face of Little Tahoma. There we encountered week-old avy debris with an 1.5ft crown above.
Approaching the 9100ft gap
Approaching the 9100ft gap
Ascent plates on the upper SE face
Ascent plates on the upper SE face
Nice undercast views
Nice undercast views
We started zig zagging up until the slope steepened, then switched to crampons. Shortly above that the snow got softer, but was still stable. One East aspect had some windslab that was unreactive, and the SE aspects did not have slab problems. We switched to ascent plates and then our speed improved considerably. By 10,000ft on the south aspect it got icy with a sun crust and we ditched our skis there. By then we were treated to a great undercast, with views of Gibralter Rock and Camp Muir around to the south just above the clouds. We made it up to around 11,000ft, to the base of the rocky summit pyramid, then switched to crampons. We made a short scramble to the crest and the false summit, then stopped to regroup. In April I had belayed this section since it was a bit snowy, and in May Iíd felt ok scrambling it unroped. This time the final 100ft to the summit were plastered in rime ice and we appreciated our 30m rope. We slung a horn with the rope, then I belayed Nick across. He downclimbed to a small notch, then traversed below the summit and climbed up. He even managed to get two cams in some cracks along the way.
On the false summit
On the false summit
Nick leading the steep bit
Nick leading the steep bit
On the summit
On the summit
I followed, and we topped out around 2pm. The wind had been calm all morning, but it blasted us on the summit from the west. We had great views of Rainier, which was thinly covered in a cloud layer. Around in all directions was an amazing undercast, with the cloud level around 10,000ft. We dug around for the register, but werenít able to find it. After 15 minutes we called it quits. We slung the rope around the summit horn then took turns rapping down. From the false summit we downclimbed the ridge and plunge stepped the snow down to our skis.
Rapping off the summit
Rapping off the summit
From there it was an amazing ski down. The snow was fun and stable, and we made turns down the steep SE face, then traversed back across the Whitman Glacier to the notch. There we dropped back into the clouds, and it was a bit challenging following our tracks in the whiteout. At one point I had to verify our course with my GPS watch, but we soon made it safely down off the glacier. There we dropped back below the clouds and visibility improved. We made slight detours to bag Peak 7573 and Meany Crest, then made more fun turns back down to treeline. This time we crossed the Fryingpan Creek up high and skied back down the north side through the trees.
Skiing out
Skiing out
Skiing out
Skiing out
Sledding out
Sledding out
There were a few tricky stream crossings getting back, but we managed to reach the road by 5pm. Unsurprisingly, there were no other tracks getting in there. The snow was nice and slushy now, which would be great for cooling of the engine. Just in case, we packed a bunch of snow in my rack on the tail. We made fast time back to the park entrance, and stopped briefly to officially fill out the permit form. We then cruised back to the pavement, and I deployed the wheels. At the end of the patchy snow we packed a bit more onto the tail, let the engine cool a bit, then headed down. This time, Nick suggested going really slow, since thatís what snowmobilers in eastern Canada do when riding through town. It was worth a shot, since maybe the engine would never get too hot. I cruised down at 10mph, and, amazingly, the engine never overheated! We made it back to the sno park by 6pm, and I got the sled back into the truck no problem. Thatís now a personal best for me, snowmobiling 5 miles on pavement without overheating issues. By then it was starting to rain, and we were happy to have beaten the storm. We made it back to Seattle not much later, successfully leaving the park after the rush from the Crystal resort letting out. Link to more pictures: https://www.countryhighpoints.com/little-tahoma-winter-ascent/ 71/100 Winter Bulgers

silence, zeldathewelder, ALW Hiker, SeanSullivan86, RichP, day_hike_mike, mbravenboer, Josh Journey, JasonK806, wallorcrawl, Pef, zimmertr, The Ghost of Bear 380, Bronco, John Mac, awilsondc, Route Loser, dave allyn, Now I Fly, GeoTom  KascadeFlat
Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
Stefan
Member
Member


Joined: 17 Dec 2001
Posts: 5093 | TRs | Pics
Stefan
Member
PostThu Feb 29, 2024 6:48 pm 
More engine problems. More perseverance!

Art is an adventure.

Eric Gilbertson
Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
Eric Gilbertson
Member
Member


Joined: 04 Jul 2018
Posts: 188 | TRs | Pics
Location: Seattle
Eric Gilbertson
Member
PostThu Feb 29, 2024 7:00 pm 
It's amazing how many engineering skills can be put to use when climbing winter bulgers! At least I was able to solve this problem, unlike the boat motor.

Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
Route Loser
Member
Member


Joined: 24 Jul 2012
Posts: 199 | TRs | Pics
Location: Whidbey Island
Route Loser
Member
PostThu Feb 29, 2024 7:42 pm 
You're on an absolute tear, man. I thought you were collecting winter bulgers out of convenience, but I see the game is on now.

wallorcrawl, Eric Gilbertson
Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
kamtron
Member
Member


Joined: 07 Apr 2024
Posts: 2 | TRs | Pics
kamtron
Member
PostSun Apr 07, 2024 2:40 pm 
Pro tip: The low route from Paradise (see Amar Andalkar's trip reports on TAY) has very little crevasse danger, making for a much less difficult trip. Also, you can winter camp right behind the Paradise Inn, making for what's essentially car camping. But looks like a hell of an adventure! Sledding that much road, yikes!

Back to top Reply to topic Reply with quote Send private message
   All times are GMT - 8 Hours
 Reply to topic
Forum Index > Trip Reports > Little Tahoma, Feb 24, 2024
  Happy Birthday Lead Dog, dzane, The Lead Dog, Krummholz!
Jump to:   
Search this topic:

You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum