Liberty Ridge to Emmons Glacier Ski Descent on Mt. Rainier

Mount Rainier National Park

A classic ascent and pleasant ski descent!

Ski Touring Severe

Distance
30 km
Ascent
3.7 km
Descent
3.7 km
Duration
1 day +
Low Point
1.3 km
High Point
4.4 km
Gradient
43˚
Liberty Ridge to Emmons Glacier Ski Descent on Mt. Rainier Map

Liberty Ridge on Mt. Rainier is one of the classic climbs of North America and combining it with a ski descent of the Emmons (or better yet skiing the route!) is much more pleasant than the traditional slog back down!

Description

Start at the White River Campground on the east side of the park. Timing is the crux as you want as much snow as possible on the route but you also want the White River Road open. An alternative if the road is not yet open to the campground is riding bikes from the gate at the start of the road.

Start up the Glacier Basin trail and at the base of the Inter Glacier, turn up and right to reach St. Elmo’s Pass. A downwards traverse across the Winthrop should minimize lost elevation and it’s possible to gain the Carbon Glacier around ~2100m. If you’re too high, it’s a cliff and you need to descend!

Continue up the Carbon Glacier avoiding crevasses towards the obvious ridge. Gaining the ridge directly is more challenging depending on snow coverage and the bergshrund but safer from overhead hazard. Heading to the right of the ridge below Liberty Wall puts you on easy snow slopes but exposes you to some risk of serac fall (marked on map).

Climb up towards the black pyramid and then step left of the ridge crest onto steep snow or ice for a pitch or two. This gives way to lower angle terrain and a final bergshrund that is usually climbed at the middle or right side. From here it should be smooth sailing to Liberty Cap, then a long traverse to the true summit.

There’s generally a well beaten track on the Emmons but be cautious of crevasses, especially if it’s late in the day! Descend to Camp Schurman and then a drop to the right below Steamboat Prow gives access back to the Inter Glacier and a shot back down to White River and the trail!

Note:

  • The ski grade is for the Emmons Glacier descent. Descending Liberty Ridge is much more serious.
  • Two ice tools and good crampons plus ice screws and potentially pickets are recommended.
  • Camps are possible on St. Elmo’s Pass, before dropping onto the Carbon Glacier, at Thumb Rock, and Camp Schurman.

Difficulty

Severe

Steep skiing at 38-45 degrees. This requires very good technique and the risk of falling has serious consequences.

High Exposure (E3)

3 out of 4

In case of a fall, death is highly likely.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

April, May, June

Features

  • Face
  • Alpine
  • Ski Mountaineering

Equipment required

  • Rope
  • Skins
  • Ice axe
  • Crampons
  • Glacier kit