Mount Rainier Attempt-Fuhrer Finger Route

Still on vacation, I will fill in the details later. These photos are from an attempt that Andy Johnson and I made to climb Mt. Rainier's Fuhrer Finger Route. The route is usually climbable into August according to the Mike Gauthier climbing guide, but we were unable to find safe passage across a wide crevasse spanning the entire width of the Nisqually Glacier between the Wilson Glacier Headwall and the Nisqually Cleaver at c.12,100'. It appeared that a party may have outflanked the crevasse on the eastern margin of the Wilson Glacier Headwall. The line would seem to have been on steep loose rock and steep snow directly above the crevasse. We passed on that option.

 Aerial views of the Fuhrer Finger Route taken by Andy Johnson on July 14, 2002

Andy took these photos while doing an aerial recon of a different route on the mountain. The recon seemed to confirm what the park rangers have been stating in their reports. While the lower slopes have a deeper snowpack than usual at this time of year, the upper slopes are at best average. There is a significant amount of rock melted out and hard ice on many routes. Note the debris field from the Kautz ice cliff extending well down the Wilson Glacier 



A distraction from camp chores: Andy scrambling on the "Camp Crag"

We camped at c.9100 feet on Wapowety Cleaver, just below the Turtle Snowfield and above a gendarme. We had barely gotten our packs off before making some half-hearted attempts to climb the gendarme. We both thought we could get on top off it, but neither of us was sure just how we would get down.


A view from the Nisqually Glacier near sunrise

We left camp around 2:30am and crossed the Wilson Glacier. A few crevasses had to be negotiated by end running or by snow bridge. The crossing is threatened by icefall from the Kautz Ice Cliff more than 2000 feet above. The evening we arrived, a large section cleaved and tumbled down onto the Wilson Glacier, some debris reaching a wide crevasse that we traversed below then crossed on our way to Fuhrer Finger. Fuhrer  Finger is a couloir that ascends 30 to 35 degree snow slopes to the "Hourglass". Above the "Hourglass the route veers left and the angle increases to 40 to 45 degrees, finally reaching the Nisqually Glacier above 11,000 feet. An icefall forced us rightward to the middle of the Nisqually where we were stopped short at c.12,100' by a wide crevasse. 


A view from near 12,000 Feet on the Nisqually Glacier


The western side of the impassable crevasse

In two locations we could see tracks going up to the crevasse and continuing on the upper side but the bridges where no longer there. After trying to find a bridge across the crevasse on our right and finding nothing (the crevasse is visible in the sunrise photo above), we began looking to the icefall on our left. The crevasse entered the icefall, appeared to turn sharply downward then turned and continued all the way to the Wilson Glacier Headwall. It was difficult to tell just what was going on in the icefall, so we went in for a closer look.


Andy belaying me into the icefall with the summit lenticular cloud behind him


The Tatoosh Range, the Goat Rocks and Mount Adams from the icefall

After crossing some easy ice blocks we found that getting across the crevasse in the icefall was not an option. We called it quits and descended the route back to camp. It was about 7:00 as we exited the couloir and rocks were already beginning to fall.


Cascade Alpine Guide, Volume 1, Second Edition; Fred Beckey; Pages 95, 96, 97 
Mount Rainier, A Climbing Guide; Mike Gauthier; Pages 92, 93-99, 100