Starting at an elevation of over , the Emmons glacier flows down eastward. Near the Disappointment Cleaver at , the Emmons is joined by the Ingraham Glacier flowing to the south. The glaciers flow together and remain connected until they split up upon reaching the wedge of Little Tahoma Peak. As the Emmons flows northeast, the massive glacier descends until it reaches its rocky lower terminus at about in elevation.
In the 1930s, the glacier was found to be receding quickly. However, in 1963, a rock fall from Little Tahoma Peak covered the lower glacier with rock debris. The debris cover insulated the ice from melting. As a result of decreased melting, the glacier advanced rapidly in the early 1980s. That advance was continuing as of 1992, but at a slower rate; ice beneath the rock debris was melting irregularly and forming a vast hummocky area. By 2003, the glacier was again retreating.
Emmons Glacier is often used as a route (the Columbia Crest route) to climb to the summit of Mount Rainier.
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