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Foo’ball bags Liberty Cap!

Mike Bromberg identifies 14,112' Liberty Cap on Mt. Rainier

Perhaps the highlight of the 2015 tour was Mike Bromberg (aka Foo’ball) finally reaching 14,112' Liberty Cap on Mt. Rainier with Mark Porter, which completed Foo’ball’s 14ers, 13,8ers and Hundred Highest of the contiguous United States (detailed trip report can be found below).

Kaweahs Video

After bagging Liberty Cap, Foo'ball drove down to California to celebrate in the Kaweahs of Sequoia National Park (including a climb of 13,737' Red Kaweah) with Chris Schneider, Randy Schweickart, Ken Krugler and his daughter Jenna. Foo’ball’s detailed trip report can be found below, but please also see Ken’s blog post for a description of the trans-Sierra adventure he and his daughter enjoyed (survived?) in order to meet up with the rest of us. I posted a video on YouTube containing short video clips and stills with annotations.

Note: It’s definitely worth choosing full-screen and leaving it in 1080p if you’ve got the bandwidth.

Many thanks to Ken Krugler for providing some of the best pictures!

- Chris Schneider (aka Schmed)

Foo’ball’s Trip Report (somewhat abridged)

I headed out to Denver in the Prius on Sunday June 14 with a night at Don Fenton's place in Bellefonte, and reached Denver on Wednesday. Porter flew in Thursday, and we rode the Jeep up to a high camp near the trailhead to 14,267' Torreys Peak and 14,270' Grays Peak. We needed crampons for the climb (I had to go back to the Jeep to get mine) but otherwise had no problem on these two popular peaks near Denver, and we finished up with a fine glissade.

We then Jeeped to Winfield, passing our fine riverside campsite from last year, and snagged the much-higher campsite right at the end of the Jeep road and Wilderness boundary. We climbed 14,003' Huron Peak, but decided there was too much snow on the ridge to cross over to neighboring 13,523' Browns Peak. Snowshoes would have helped; conditions aren't often like that in Colorado, but at least we had another great glissade.

Next, we headed to Ashcroft to another 4WD campsite, and took the Jeep up to 12,350' on the Castle road (where the previous Jeep tracks stopped). From there we climbed 14,265' Castle Peak via the northeast ridge with some bits of trail, punted nearby no-counter 14,060' Conundrum Peak, then took yet another fine glissade and spent a second night in the same camp. We had none of the typical afternoon thunderstorms the entire time in Colorado.

On Thursday 6/25 we met the rest of the Alpine Ascents Inc. team in downtown Seattle, two leaders and five other clients. We followed their van to the western side of Rainier and hiked up with heavy packs to Glacier Camp for the night.

On Friday we moved camp up to the Winthrop Glacier where we camped for three days. We covered snow camping skills, knot tying, glacier travel, and crevasse rescue. Everyone got a chance to intentionally fall in a crevasse and get hauled out, and to set up the Z-pulley system and haul someone else out. Porter and I were on the same rope team with one guide for the entire trip.

It's worth pointing out that our guides were excellent in every respect; I wouldn't hesitate to recommend AAI guides. We also had a great team of clients, including three Texas firemen and two tall Northern dudes, and everyone worked really hard and learned a lot, as well as getting along really well (considering that the Texans had probably never met an openly gay guy before).

On Monday we broke camp and moved up to familiar Camp Schurman at 9,500 feet. Weather from here on was warm, dry, and spectacular, certainly unusual for Rainier. Our plan was to climb Rainier with the group and leave our tent at Schurman, hike out with the group (their insurance demanded it), then hike back up with a separate permit to do an assault on Liberty Cap. But it became evident during Tuesday's belay and rappel practice and after conversations with climbers returning from the summit that our two-man team couldn't safely go up the route on our own. Mark and I tried everything we could including asking an independent guide who happened to be there to accompany us, but it looked like our chances of getting to Liberty Cap this year were essentially zero.

Wednesday was summit day. We were out of camp shortly after midnight. When we got above the bergschrund and the crevasse danger was markedly reduced, I was astounded when our guide gave us the choice of going to the 14,410' Rainier main summit or... 14,112' Liberty Cap! Naturally we chose Liberty Cap (many thanks to Mark for giving up his summit attempt this time, but see below). The climb over to Liberty Cap and back to the route was as easy as I had expected, and I triumphantly bagged the last of the Contiguous USA 100 Highest.

On Thursday we packed up and headed out, again with a long glissade. After an aborted attempt on 8,453' Argonaut, Porter flew back late Sunday night. I spent one more night at Gary and Deb's, then headed south towards California with a couple of nights camping. I reached the Mineral King Ranger Station seven minutes before they closed and picked up our permits, which was a good thing since Chris "Schmed" Schneider '83 was unable to pick them up at the other ranger station.

We spent Wednesday night at the car campground, and were joined in the morning by Randy "Randu" Schweickart '83 for first day of the hike into the base of 13,720' Red Kaweah. We spent two days getting there, cutting our previous attempt's time by a day and avoiding camping in the Bug Arroyo (in fact, bugs were never a problem this time around). The price was two long, difficult hiking days with lots of elevation gain and loss in generally lousy wet weather. This included a mile-long bushwack to intercept another trail that climbed over Black Rock Pass and down to Little Five Lakes, where we finally camped in what turned out to be an excellent spot.

Friday started out warm and nice, but the weather again deteriorated as we bushwhacked up to a high lake at the base of Red Kaweah. I lost my glacier glasses on the way up, didn't notice it in the rain, and had to squint once the sun came back out the next day. We were unable to find the campsite we had cleared last time, so we cleared out an excellent site high above the lake and by a large windbreak boulder.

Randu left in the morning to meet up with Ken and Jenna Krugler, who had come in from the east. Schmed and I climbed up to Red Kaweah by the initially very icy guidebook route, placing a couple of cairns near the 3rd class crux of the route. Although the weather improved, the summit was still pretty airy and scary, and Schmed and I were glad to head back down, where we had no trouble retracing our route.

After an evening of celebration and another night in the same camp, Schmed and I headed back to our campsite by Little Five Lakes. Enroute, on the bushwhack down from our campsite at Red Kaweah, Schmed miraculously stopped right next to the glacier glasses I had lost! In camp, we met Randu, Krugler, and Jenna after their adventure. They left early in the morning. Schmed and I took our time and hiked the long distance out, reducing but not eliminating that damned bushwhack in the middle.

After that, I headed back to Colorado just in time to hit lousy weather. I made halfhearted attempts at a few 13,5ers, but ended up making no progress at all on my list. At least I had good Jeep campsites in the forest.

- Mike Bromberg