Liberty Cap of Mount Rainier + Camp Schurman + Emmons Glacier / 自由帽

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Liberty Cap, sub-peak of Mount Rainier, stands 300′ lower than the world-renown Columbia Crest. Mountaineers often associate the high point with the Liberty Ridge route. Though, Emmons Glacier by Camp Schurman is the more common way to the peak.

Liberty Cap of Mount Rainier at dawn
Liberty Cap of Mount Rainier at dawn

See more trip photos here.

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

The Preface

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

See more trip photos here.

Wilderness Permit for Liberty Cap

The national park approved my solo climbing permit at the end of June. But because of COVID-19, walk-ups 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!

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

Glacier Basin Trail
Glacier Basin Trail

See more trip photos here.

Glacier Basin Trail

Hard to believe seven years had passed since I first set foot on this trail. I teamed up with friends from the Seattle Mountaineers to climb Mount Rainier back then. But I never thought I would return after my second time on the mountain.

Many campers were at the Glacier Basin Camp as I hiked past. Nice to see people enjoying the weekend despite the pandemic. Soon, I reached the top of the basin below Inter Glacier and took a water break to enjoy the views.

Inter Glacier
Inter Glacier

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Camp Schurman

Another hiker showed up shortly as we leapfrogged our way up the glacier. We saw each other again atop the snow and chatted over a quick lunch. Then I crossed over the ridge down to Emmons Glacier afterward.

Two groups came up right before I continued. Then I went over crevasses on the glacier below Camp Schurman before meeting another party as they came down. Soon, I reached the helicopter landing zone and rested.

Camp Schurman below Steamboat Prow
Camp Schurman below Steamboat Prow

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Preparing for Liberty Cap

Two more groups exited in the late afternoon before I went up to scout the high camp for a spot. Sweet! There were two big sites at 300′ above Camp Schurman. So I brought my things up and enjoyed a quiet afternoon.

In the past, I’d become sick at 10k+ elevation. So I got Diamox for this climb last year before delaying the trip. 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 didn’t sleep well before I started walking at 11:30 PM. Part of me was anxious about climbing alone but enjoyed stopping as little or as much as needed. At last, it was exciting to go up this sub-peak of Mount Rainier.

The first 2000′ up to the 11800′ bergschrund detour went by fast. Then I became suspicious when the path went downhill, thinking it’d come from below. So I went up a steep slope and poked my head over the edge by 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′ and bypassed the north edge of the bergschrund. Then it rose sharply through the steep terrain above the gap. Afterward, I felt the onset of the sickness at 12000′, minus the headaches and nausea.

The fatigue and shortness of breath soon followed, and I knew the medication had lost efficacy. Though, I was glad not to have felt sick at 10k like I usually would. My speed slowed as I tried hard to stay awake.

Dawning below Liberty Cap
Dawning below Liberty Cap

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Liberty Cap-Columbia Crest Saddle

After going over several places with heavy crevasses, I reached the 13600′ saddle above Winthrop Glacier. I was extra mindful of the few thin snow bridges. But it was more nerve-racking seeing that the old tracks had gone through them.

I knelt on the windy saddle and then lay on my pack. I wasn’t hungry, but I forced an entire turkey bacon sandwich down my throat to lessen the sickness. Then I drank water as I watched the south horizon showing some light.

Sunrise
Sunrise

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Liberty Cap Summit Views

I felt much better after some food and rest. But the half-a-mile walk to the base of the peak went super slow. I steered through a few small gaps using the old tracks and went up the east ridge slowly.

The terrain steepened below the summit as I bypassed the final crevasse from the south. Whew, finally! The sun rose half an hour earlier. Then I paced around the flat top to soak in the much-needed warmth.

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

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Leaving Liberty Gap

The hazy views to the northwest had me suspect 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 with a few people on top.

I felt anew after the 45-minute break but continued eating and drinking to keep my body sound. Back at the saddle, the three climbers coming up after me in the dark were coming off the main summit.

The significant reroute
The significant reroute

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Back to Schurman Camp and Out

The descent to camp was uneventful. Most side paths I saw in the dark ended nowhere. Parts of the main trail even went through giant seracs. But I focused on the route and avoided the thinning snow bridges when possible.

I reached camp earlier than expected. I chatted with the three men as they walked past my campsite half an hour later. Then instead of napping, I packed up and left to be 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 3 Comments

  1. Vivian Hauer

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

  2. Jim Morrison

    I did that exact route with my nephew many years ago. Looking back I wonder if it was brave or foolish for just the two of us alone on the mountain. Solo even increases the risk. I guess it is a personal decision based on how you evaluate the risk and the reward. I usually avoid saying “awesome” but I thought your pictures and videos were no less than awesome.

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