Liberty Cap of Mount Rainier / 瑞尼爾山的自由帽

I had my first close encounter with Liberty Cap from Columbia Crest in 2013. Then this time, it became my final 400P peak on the Washington State Top 100 Peaks list. After last week’s outing, I enjoyed another sunny weekend in solitude.

Liberty Cap at Dawn
Liberty Cap at Dawn

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Liberty Cap at a Glance

Access: Glacier Basin Trailhead
Round Trip: 19.5 miles

Elevation Range: 4280′-14112′
Gear: helmet, ice ax, crampons
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no pets

Wilderness Permit for Liberty Cap

The national park approved a solo climbing permit at the end of June. But because of COVID-19, walk-up permits for overnight camping were not available. Then it took three tries to get one during the second week in July. Persistence paid off after all!

But ironically, I was the only person at Camp Schurman on the night of my climb. So perhaps everyone had canceled their climbing plans. A couple I met on my way out mentioned that they couldn’t get a permit for the same night. Go figure!

Glacier Basin Trail
Glacier Basin Trail

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Glacier Basin Trail

Hard to believe seven years had passed since I last set foot on this trail. Back then, I teamed up with friends from the Seattle Mountaineers and had a successful climb. But I never thought I would come back after my second visit to the mountain.

Many campers were at the Glacier Basin Camp as I hiked past. Nice to see people enjoying their weekend despite the pandemic. Soon, I reached the head of the basin below Inter Glacier. I took a water break there and enjoyed the view of Mount Rainier.

Inter Glacier
Inter Glacier

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Camp Schurman

Soon, a hiker showed up. Then we leapfrogged as we made our way up on the Inter Glacier. Later we saw each other again at the top of the snow. Then we chatted about our climbing plans over a quick lunch. The climbers’ path crossed over onto Emmons Glacier here.

A couple of groups came up right before I continued. Later I went over some crevasses on the lower glacier below Camp Schurman. Then I met another party as they made their way down. Soon, I reached camp and took a break by the helicopter landing zone.

Camp Schurman below Steamboat Prow
Camp Schurman below Steamboat Prow

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Preparing for Liberty Cap

Two more climbing groups exited in the late afternoon. Then I went up and scouted the high camp for a spot. Sweet! There were two big sites at 300′ above Camp Schurman. So I went back to get my things from the landing zone and enjoyed a quiet afternoon.

I had become sick at 10k elevation before. So last year, I got a Diamox prescription for the same climb. But I ended up postponing the plan without a partner. My doctor assured me that the medication was still valid. So I took a dosage 24 hours before the trip.

Preparing for Liberty Cap
Preparing for Liberty Cap

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Liberty Cap Climb

I couldn’t get a good night’s sleep before starting my walk at 11:30 PM. It was exciting to climb this sub-peak of Mount Rainier finally. Though, part of me was nervous about not being on a rope team. But I enjoyed stopping as little or as much as needed.

The first 2000′ up to the bergschrund detour at 11800′ went by fast. But then I became suspicious when the path went downhill. So I thought it had come from below. So I backtracked and went up a steep slope. Then I poked my head over the edge and saw a big gap. Noop!

One of the many crevasses
One of the many crevasses

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Altitude Sickness

The standard route dropped 100′. Then it went around the northern edge of the bergschrund. Soon, it rose sharply through the steep terrain above the gap. As luck would have it, I felt the onset of the altitude sickness at 12,000′. But without the headaches and nausea this time.

Soon, I felt the fatigue and shortness of breath. So I knew the medication had to have lost its effectiveness over the past year. Though, I was glad I didn’t begin to feel sick at 10k like I usually would. The walking became slower as I tried hard to stay awake.

Dawning below Liberty Cap
Dawning below Liberty Cap

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Liberty Cap-Columbia Crest Saddle

Later I made it up to the 13600′ saddle after going through several areas with heavy crevasses. I had to be extra mindful because some of the snow bridges had thinned out significantly. But it was more nerve-racking seeing that the previous climbers had stepped right through them.

I knelt on the windy saddle and lay down on my pack. I knew I wasn’t hungry. But I had forced an entire turkey bacon sandwich down my throat so that the sickness wouldn’t worsen. Then I drank some water as I watched the southern horizon showing some light.

Sunrise
Sunrise

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Liberty Cap Summit

I felt much better after getting in some food and rest. But the half a mile walk over to the base of the peak went by super slow. I navigated through a couple of small gaps with the help of some old tracks. Then I followed the east ridge and went up one step at a time.

Just below the summit, the terrain steepened with a final crevasse. But I easily bypassed it from the south. Whew, finally! The sun rose half an hour earlier. So I walked around the flat top and soaked in some of the much-needed warmth.

Mount Rainier (Columbia Crest) panoramic view
Mount Rainier (Columbia Crest) panoramic view

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Outro

Views were a little hazy to the northwest. So I suspected that there were wildfires somewhere. But I could still make out Mount Baker and the Stuart Range in the distance. Then I looked over to the Columbia Crest and saw some people on top.

A 45-minute break was enough to feel anew. But I continued to eat and drink throughout to keep my body feeling sound. As I walked back toward the saddle, I noticed the group of three who came up after me. They had just returned from the main summit.

The significant reroute
The significant reroute

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Back to Schurman Camp and Out

The descent back to camp was uneventful. The views had improved. But I focused more on staying on the route and avoided stepping on thinning snow bridges. Some of the side paths I saw in the dark ended up going nowhere. I even noticed that parts of the main trail went in and out of giant seracs.

I got back to camp earlier than expected. Then I chatted with the team of there as they walked past my campsite half an hour later. But instead of napping, I decided to pack up and head down. So I could get home at a decent hour to see the pups!

Thanks for another safe outing
Thanks for another safe outing

See more trip photos here.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Vivian Hauer

    I love the summit! Who is so heavy that left such dented footprints on the snow?

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