Little Tahoma
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Climbing is dangerous! Every year many climbers are broken, maimed, and killed. Don't be so foolish as to trust your life to what you see here. I'm not a guide and neither is this web site. If you don't know what you are doing or where you are going, please take a course or hire a guide!

Little Tahoma, Frying Pan and Whitman Glaciers

June 15, 2002

This TR was written in May, 2003, so the details are a little fuzzy. I'm certain about the times because they were recorded with the pictures.

This was another chapter in the continuing saga of "leave the house at O-dark-30 and start hiking at quarter to stupid early". It was about 4:30 AM when we pulled into the small parking area at the Frying Pan creek hairpin. We didn't see the point of driving another mile up the road to the trailhead and then walking back down the trail, ten yards off the road. It was going to be a long day- we didn't need an extra two miles added to it.

 


Quarter to Stupid Early: Jens getting ready at the car.

At 5:15 we leave the car, following wet muddy trail, and footsteps in the snow. Thanks to the long days in June we only used headlamps for the first 30 minutes or so, through the dense forest. Before long the snow is continuous and we're paying close attention to the faint boot track, as neither of has been this way before.

Just after 6:00 we're treated to a glimpse of the morning alpenglow high on the Emmons, and by 6:50 we've crossed the bridge and are enjoying the views from Summerland on a bluebird morning.


Morning Alpenglow on Rainier.


Jens near Summerland. Rainier and Little Tahoma in the background.

Now we can see Little Tahoma, and have some sense of where to go. We head up an inviting looking gully to our left, traverse west to a ridge, and take a break in the rocks.


Little Tahoma and our route to the Frying Pan glacier.

We're both wearing tennis shoes and carrying our ski gear. Here I switch to my randonee boots and crampons, while Jens simply puts crampons on his tennis shoes. We plod up the ridge and gain the Frying Pan Glacier just west of Meany Crest.


Jens on the Frying Pan Glacier. The arrow indicates the exit to the Whitman Glacier.

I'm holding up the show now, both tired and wearing heavy randonee boots, while Jens scoots along in his lightweight shoes. Eventually we reach the 9000' notch that separates the Frying Pan Glacier and the Whitman Glacier, at about 11:00 AM. It's warm now, and the snow has softened. I put on my skis, and shortly after we depart, Jens decides to do the same. We make a rising traverse across the Whitman, which steepens until skinning becomes inefficient. We can see the top of the Whitman now, but it's a long, slow slog to get to the exit gully just left of the highest point.


The Whitman Glacier. We contoured under the rock band (blue arrow) and climbed up, exiting at the snow notch (red arrow).


The Upper Whitman Glacier.


Jens at the top of the Whitman Glacier.

We ditch our skis and scrog up amidst the biggest choss-heap I've ever seen. This mountain deserves it's nickname, "Little Chosshoma". Now were looking up and a myriad of towers, and not sure which is the summit. From our vantage it looks like the farthest, and most difficult looking one, is the summit. But we agree to climb to the top of a nearer point to make sure.


Adrift in a sea of choss. We thought the summit was the far point, but it was actually obscured by the intermediate tower.

We have a tiny bit of rock gear and a ten meter section of rope along, but in the end we don't need it. We climb the final fifty feet to the summit directly, on low fifth class rock. I believe the usual route gains the summit crest a bit farther east and traverses the crest to the summit. It's 2:30 PM. We've gained 7340' feet in a less-than-speedy eight hours, fifteen minutes, but we are at the summit and with ski the descent will be faster.


Jens on the summit.


Rainier.

 


Contemplating life, the Universe and Everything on the summit. Photo by Jens.

One of the reasons I wanted to climb Little Tahoma is for the view of Rainier from the summit. And I'm not disappointed: We watch skiers on the Emmons, and climbers on the DC. We can see Camps Muir, Schurman, and Curtis. Gibraltar Rock, Disappointment Cleaver, Curtis Ridge, the massive Emmons Glacier, and the crater rim. This is truly a spectacular place.


Climbers descending the Ingraham Direct route.

We laze about on the summit, taking pictures, soaking up the view, eating, and napping. Then we downclimb, scrog across the choss, and pick up our skis. We climb back down the gully to the top of the Whitman Glacier and put the skis on. It's a sunny, spectacular day, and I'm ready to lose some easy elevation. I'm fatigued, so I can't link very many turns, but it's still easier than walking. We're careful of the wet sluffs on the Whitman, and have to take our skis off for a few yards to drop onto the Frying Pan. From there to Summerland is a joy, despite my wailing thighs. Jens rips off some nice turns before traversing back to the bridge. It's 5:00 PM and we pump some water and lose some clothes, but continue on skis.


Jens at the Frying Pan creek bridge.

The patchy snow eventually forces us to give up on the skis, but not until we've made half the distance back through the woods. I'm exhausted and thoroughly satisfied when we reach the car, about 7:00 PM (if memory serves).

Don't expect classic climbing on Little T, but if you catch it in the spring, there are great turns to be had. And the view from the top is superb.

Route Stats:

Round Trip Distance: 13 miles
Elevation Gain:  7338'
Time: 14 hours (approx)
Map (click for large version):

              

This page was last edited on Wednesday, May 26, 2004
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