Suncupenitente Season

  Suncups are bowl-shaped open depressions into a snow surface, normally wider than they are deep. They form closely packed, honeycomb, often hexagonal patterns with sharp narrow ridges separating smoothly concave hollows.

  Penitentes, or nieves penitentes (Spanish for "penitent-shaped snows"), are snow formations found at high altitudes. They take the form of elongated, thin blades of hardened snow or ice, closely spaced and pointing towards the general direction of the sun.

  The combination of the two, “Suncupenitentes” accurately represents the current conditions on the Muir Snowfield, particularly as one approaches Camp Muir. Are they suncups? Or are the penitentes? Only a credentialed snow scientist would know for sure. In any event, skiing is no longer recommended on the snowfield from the standpoint of sliding quality.

  DC Conditions July 16, 2020

  Presently, conditions up to Ingraham Flats and across to the Cleaver are largely unchanged from the July 7th conditions. The current boot pack ascends from Camp Muir across the Cowlitz Glacier to Cathedral Gap, which is snow-free. From the gap, ascend past Ingraham Flats and climb to "High Crack". This crevasse runs in line with the flow of the glacier, and with the recent warm weather, this "trap-door" crossing is melting out and is thinly bridged. Spend time examining this crevasse crossing. With forecasted 15,000 foot freezing levels this weekend, thin snow bridges may remain soft overnight.

  The namesake Disappointment Cleaver has two primary options presently. The Cleaver proper can be climbed directly on rock following the path of least resistance and obvious travel impact. Alternatively, a route has been wanded in the snow on the west side of the ridge. This starts approximately 1/3 the way up the ridge. This terrain is highly suncupenitente’d. Approach this section with caution as any rockfall will funnel directly onto the climbing route below.

  Once above the Cleaver, the route is now taking a more direct line than the Camp Comfort variation that has been taken in weeks past. While the Camp Comfort variation still goes, the crevasse hazards are growing and the terrain between the primary crevasses at 12,800ft and 13,500ft is steep and firm. A fall without running protection could result in catastrophic consequences. Both routes were wanded at the time of this writing so it is still possible to accidentally wander onto the Camp Comfort route. A map with a recent track of the direct route can be found below.

  Ultimately, the DC is still a remote and rugged route with very little traffic compared to a typical year. Teams should not rely on another party’s wands for navigation. Fe prepared and self-sufficient with GPS navigation and an emergency kit to survive 24 hours in a storm at high altitude.

Maryan Barbara
Maryan Barbara

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