Monday, March 23, 2009

Climbing Route

Update.--With the help of some climbers and backcountry rangers I think I located the last unknown camp. And now I have the date and place timeline from July 15 to 31 except the place to and from the NP at the beginning and end of the expedition. I'm not sure I'll be able to document their actual route but can locate some waypoints, rock sample locations and some of the route from the documents.

I'm researching the 1896 expedition around Mt. Rainier, becoming a National Park in 1899, where a team of USGS geologist spent two weeks hiking around the mountain's north side before doing a summit climb and overnight stay before descending to Paradise Park and returning along the east and north side back out to Carbonrado where they started. From the published material and other documents I have put together a time line of their trip and camps, but not their exact routes.

Except one location. I'm not a mountain climber. I'm a lower elevation hiker, meaning treeline and below, due to the reality and experience of altitude sickness in Colorado. I'm fine below 7-8,000 feet and not so above. So I'm not familar with translating climbing descriptions to a map, and this is where I need help.

I have the description from the original published 1898 USGS report (yes, from an original print), which is as follows, and sorry it's long paragraphs.

"Bidding our friends in Paradise Park good-by, we resumed our journey early on the morning of July 26 (1896). Ascending toward Gibraltar until an elevation of about 10,000 feet was reached, we turned eastward for the purpose of traversing the eastern slope of the mountain and regain our camp at Winthrop Glacier. After crossing the upper portion of Pradise Glacier, we traversed broad and but little broken snow fields to the brink of the valley down which the Cowlitz Glacier flows. Beyond the Cowlitz Glacier, at about the same level we had reached, we could see the bold, cathedral-like crags of Little Tahoma, the upward-pointing angel of a scondary mountain mass which divides the Cowlitz and Emmons glaciers. Not wishing to descend into the deep valley before us and climb out again on the farthest side, we chose to cross the neve fields to our left and endeavor to pass over the a rugged and much broken region where the main current of the Cowlitz Glacier descends a rocky slope about a thousand feet high. In following the route chosen we became involved in a succession of crevasses and ice precipices, which caused much delay. Slowly working our way upward, we reached the base of the highest ice wall, but a vertical cliff of ice about 50 feet high barred any further progress in that direction. Reluctantly we turned back and, losing all the advantage we had gained by three or four hours of excessively hard climbing, went down the central portion of the Cowlitz Glacier until we reached the level of the highest grove of trees on its left bank, and crossing to the land chose a delightful and well-sheltered spot beneath low pine trees at which to rest for the night."

And they go on to write.

"Our camp was perhaps half a mile below where the ice stream flowing southward from Little Tahoma, and name Ingraham Glacier on the map, forming Pl. LXVI, joins the main Cowlitz Glacier. Our bivouac was in a delightful locality, and would have furnished a pleasant camping place if we had been provided with the necessary blankets and rations with which to make life comfortable..."

And so my problem is determining where the camp was located. I suspect on Cathedral Rocks somewhere around 10,000 feet elevation. But I would like a better location for the map of the expedition, and as such I'm open to learning and understanding from experienced climbers who have climbed the Paradise to Camp Muir route.

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