Liberty Ridge on Mt. Rainier is the classic hard ascent route on one of the most well known and recognizable mountains in the world.
Day 1 — The team meets at 2:00 p.m. the afternoon prior to the climb at IMG's Ashford headquarters where our training curriculum begins with the pre-climb meeting of 4 hours and is instrumental in getting the team outfitted, informed, packed and educated prior to departure the following morning. Topics to be covered include an introduction of the entire team, an introduction to Mt. Rainier National Park, its mission and ecology; a safety briefing; issue and fitting of gear; personal gear checks and issue of group gear; instruction in the proper use of safety equipment including helmets, harnesses and avalanche beacons; review of essential knots, safety techniques and additional critical climbing skills. It is important that each member limit their personal clothing and gear to a total of 30 pounds for this climb. A specific and detailed equipment list will be provided in advance to participants. You are on your own for lodging this night, but IMG offers a convenient and economical option with onsite onsite tent camping.
Day 2 — Our climb begins with an early morning meeting in Ashford. We load up the IMG van and are shuttled around the mountain to the White River trail head on the eastern side of the Park, the start of our climb. Our training continues with the skills needed for efficient travel with an expedition pack. From here we hike through lush forest before emerging into the alpine environment of the Inter Glacier. We ascend steepening snow to St. Elmo's Pass followed by a traverse of the Winthrop Glacier to Lower Curtis Ridge at 7,000 feet. We'll use this crossing of the Winthrop to fine tune rope travel, review safety skills and practice route finding strategies. This is a long day, 6-8 hours of steady hiking with full packs.
Day 3 — The next morning we pack up camp and cross the impressive Carbon Glacier, requiring some savvy route finding to reach the base of Liberty Ridge. The guides' instruction from the previous day will be key to a successful navigation of the glacier. Crossing the bergshrund to gain the ridge proper can be challenging. We climb directly up the ridge, either on the crest or more commonly traversing along its west flank. Continuous attention to rope safety is key here, and the guides will focus on educating the team in efficient management of the rope, short roping and pitched out belayed climbing as necessary. We put in camp on our second night at Thumb Rock (10,800ft). This wildly exposed camp is perched on the crest of the ridge half-way up the route.
Day 4 — From here we get an early start on our third climbing day and ascend sustained steep snow and ice slopes to the top of the route, Liberty Cap. Depending on conditions the guides will coach the team as they employ running belays and lead the steeper sections to belay the climbers up after. This is a big day, with continuous steep climbing throughout and continuous coaching and direction from the guides. The bergshrund just below Liberty Cap is often the crux of the climb with possible steep to vertical climbing to surmount the bergshrund and possible water ice just below the false summit. We finish up with a long slog (up to 3 hours) from Liberty Cap to Columbia Crest and then descend another route to camp either at Camp Schurman on the Emmons Glacier route or Camp Muir on the Disappointment Cleaver route, depending upon the weather and conditions.
Day 5 — This day is scheduled to accommodate any weather delays the team may encounter. Weather must be good and winds reasonable for us to leave camp at Thumb Rock and head for the summit. An extra day on the route allows us to wait out marginal weather for a better summit day. After investing so much time and effort in a climb of this magnitude, it only makes sense to factor in an additional day for the climb.
Day 6 — The fifth climbing day we finish our descent to the White River trailhead where our shuttle returns us to Ashford to celebrate our climb. The guides will award the team certificates of achievement.