American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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North America, United States, Washington, Cascades, Mt. Rainier, Fickle Finger of Success

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 1998

Mt. Rainier, Fickle Finger of Success. From July 21 through July 25, Alex Van Steen and Richard Alpert led a Rainier Mountaineering party of four (David Branton, Mark Kelly, Steve Northern, and Pete Laird) to a summit camp via the westernmost couloir of the Success Glacier Headwall. There is mention in Jeff Smoot’s Adventure Guide to Mount Rainier (1991 edition) of a descent in 1946, but there are no recorded ascents. From Van Trump Park, traverse beneath the lower Kautz Glacier Icefall at 7,500 feet to the Success/Pyramid Divide at 8,400 feet, then ascend to an unobvious “balcony” camp at 9,800 feet (i.e., the base of the Success Glacier Headwall). This camp is somewhat protected from possible rock fall by the bergschrunds that separate the glacier from the snow couloirs above. We ascended the westernmost (left) couloir of the three parallel couloirs that lead up from the head of the Success Glacier. From ca.10,000 feet (at the bergschrund) to the confluence with the standard Success Cleaver Route at 11,700 feet (where Success Cleaver traverses east toward the Kautz Cleaver), the couloir remained consistently moderate (40°). Owing to the heavy snow year, the rock bands on the upper mountain, which normally are exposed at this time of the year, simply presented steep snow climbing (no steeper than 50°). Camp was made on the summit, and we descended via the standard Disappointment Cleaver Route.

Alex Van Steen, Raineer Mountaineering

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