Monday, July 15, 2019

Disappointment Cleaver Update 7/16/2019

Dynamic weather has impacted the mountain this week making for colder, windy, and sometimes low visibility climbing conditions. While clouds have been hanging over the lowlands the last few days, Camp Muir and the upper mountain have seen a mix between sunny and cloudy weather.

The snow remaining on Disappointment Cleaver continues to melt and snow bridges on the upper mountain continue to sag and slowly collapse into the bigger crevasses up high. Generally, though, the route remains in typical mid-July condition.

Another busy July morning above Disappointment Cleaver

The major changes to the route have occurred on The Cleaver and above. On the lower half of The Cleaver, climbers can expect to travel on rock. Halfway up, two options exist. Climbers can either stay on the spine (ridge crest), or travel a little climber's left onto the shoulder. The shoulder is a mix of snow and rock, while the spine is all rock. Climbers will find wands on both paths up the cleaver.

The route above Ingraham Flatts (Green), the spine of the cleaver (Red), and the shoulder of the cleaver (Blue)

Above The Cleaver, the route heads through a heavily crevassed section of glacier. At 12,800' a hand line has been placed along a steeper section of the route. While it may not be of much use on the ascent, the hand line may provide greater security for teams descending this section.

The hand line at 12,800 feet

At 13,000 feet climbers will encounter a large crevasse bridged by two different ladders. The ladder to climber's left has been in place for a couple weeks. It is anchored with pickets and has a hand line to aid in crossing it.

Another ladder.

To climber's right, a new ladder was placed by guides recently. This ladder is oriented vertically and climbs the steep uphill wall of the crevasse. The vertical ladder has a hand line near the top to aid in negotiating the top of the crevasse wall. The hand line extends to the right above the ladder for 30 feet and is anchored with a few pickets. This line allows climbing teams to perform running belays to protect a fall while traveling up or down this ladder.

The ladder to climber's right at 13,000 feet.

Both ladders are viable options for negotiating this crevasse. Naturally, climbers stack up at these ladder crossings because they take extra time to negotiate. Always check the stability of ladders on the upper mountain and use the anchors for a belay, or running belay if your team wants to up your level of security. Ladders can add fall potential and consequence to crevasse crossings, so they should be negotiated carefully.

The DC route on 7/16/2019

Above 13,000 feet the route continues up before traversing to the Emmons shoulder. At 13,700 feet, the route traverses back to the south before continuing up to the crater rim.

Snow showers at Camp Muir Monday morning 7/15

Weather Outlook:

Showery weather will continue this week. Winds ramp up on Wednesday to 40-55 mph on the summit as a large low pressure system moves closer to Mt. Rainier from the NW. Winds will continue to be severe on the upper mountain Thursday as the low stalls out north of Mt. Rainier before exiting the area Friday night. Expect wet, windy conditions with little visibility on the mountain through Friday. Sunny and warm weather is forecast for Saturday and Sunday. Check the Mt. Rainier Recreational Forecast for updates.

Emmons-Winthrop Route Update 7/14/2019

With the recent mild weather conditions the Emmons-Winthrop route has stabilized and remains largely unchanged from recent reports. It is in 'classic' configuration much as described in guidebooks and the Route Brief published by the NPS.

A recent track of the Emmons-Winthrop. Note that small route variations are possible.
The route climbs out of Camp Schurman, ascends through Emmons Flats and traverses onto the Corridor at roughly 10,000'. There are several large crevasses that must be negotiated right out of camp and caution must be observed from the start.

Climbing the Corridor is fairly straightforward, however there are more crevasses opening there as well. At the top of the Corridor the route traverses to the Alpine Meadow and then switchbacks up to the start of the bergschrund at 13,100'. Along the traverse and through the switchbacks many more crevasses must be negotiated by either stepping across or end-running.

The theme of the route is lots of crevasses.

At 13,100' there are two options for overcoming the bergschrund. The main path (pictured below) traverses blow a jumble of seracs and crosses several large crevasses. There is an alternate solution that involves climbing another 100' uphill over the seracs before traversing to rejoin the other route.

Either variation is viable at this point. The lower is the most heavily used at this point but is slightly more risky.

Climbers utilizing running belays below the jumble of seracs.

Once the two variations join back together the route climbs to the northwest and after several steep false-summits gains the west crater. from there it is less than ten minutes to the true summit at Columbia Crest.

All in all it is an enjoyable route and with the forecast cool July weather it should continue to climb well for several weeks.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Emmons-Winthrop Route Update July 8th, 2019

The Emmons-Winthrop route is in similar condition to the last post.  That being said, with the warm sunny weather as well as rain, the crevasses are opening up.

When departing Camp Schurman on your climb, there are two routes that leave camp.  The climber's right route takes climbers through a zone which has hollow bridges over crevasses, where the climber's left route avoids this hazard and maneuvers through a relatively benign crossing over a  small crevasse.

Climbers will have to manage a number of large, hollow crevasses when crossing from the football field to the base of the Corridor.  Move through this area with caution and spend adequate time assessing the condition of these crevasse bridges.

Once climbers reach 13,000', they are faced with a right hand route and a left hand route.  The left  hand route takes climbers directly under the burgshrund, then traverses to liberty saddle.  The left hand route also avoids weaving through hollow crevasses.

A few points for people planning on camping at Camp Schurman:

  • Spend time assessing tent sites around camp.  There are a couple large crevasses that are opening up very close to existing tent platforms.  
  • Please avoid camping on the rocks directly uphill from the ranger hut.  The National Park Service is trying to keep this area clear due to the proximity of the helipad.
Safe climbing!

Current route taking both Climber's left options.
Overview of current route

Looking up the Inter Glacier near Glacier Basin
Looking down at the approach to Camp Schurman from Camp Curtis
Moving through a crevassed area just uphill from Camp Schurman.
Thin bridge spanning a crevasse above 13k.
Route traveling parallel and directly over a crevasse above 13k. Note: this is taken from the climber's right track (notated in green on the photo.)  We recommend taking the climbers left route to avoid this and features similar.
Assessing to safely maneuver a crevasse bridge above 13k

Kautz Glacier Photos July 9th 2019

The Turtle Snowfield
On July 9th, while en route to Camp Muir, the park helicopter staff snapped some photos of the Kautz Glacier Route. Parties have been successful in reaching the summit via this route recently. The rock step to get onto the ice pitches is reported to be approximately 15ft tall.

View of the Kautz Glacier’s ice pitches
The upper Kautz Glacier

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

DC Route Update

Sunrise from Muir Rocks 
The trail from Muir is punched in and well defined with all the holiday traffic and beautiful weather. Expect delays in bottleneck areas during the weekends and clear weather forecasts. As the crevasses open more, the trail continues to traverse them - avoiding large steps across where evidence of the old boot pack still exists. Follow the wands and newest boot pack away from the widest part of the crevasse. X'd wands mark old paths. 

Route view from Ingraham Flats
Heading up from Ingram Flats, the trail gains elevation to 11,400’ above a vertical crack before traversing down under the "Ice Box" onto the Cleaver. As you switch back up the Cleaver remember to shorten your ropes and tread lightly to prevent knocking rocks on climbers below.

Trail cut through penitents leading onto the cleaver

There are still some snow patches where the trail narrows considerably due to solar melt and foot traffic. At the top of the cleaver breath taking views are observed as the horizon extends far into eastern Washington. The top of the Cleaver is a great place to take a break. 

View towards Eastern Washington
From the Cleaver follow the trail alongside a 40’ tall overhanging ice wall leading into a short "stair case" chopped into the glacier. 

Traversing snow wall
At 12,900’ a snow bridge crosses a long traversing crevasse. This plug is above a long horizontal crack, where the trail crosses a flat ledge with snow steps on the far side. Use caution as this feature is thin. 

Snow Bridge at 12,900'
From 13,000’ up, there are several snow bridges, but these crevasses have fairly comfortable crossings. The rocky rim identifies the summit. A reminder that this is only half way, ensure there are still reserves for the trip down!

Route above DC

On your decent from one of the most spectacular views in Washington, remember to give crevasses the respect they deserve. Tread lightly on the cleaver and keep a smile on your face.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Muir Snowfield Update

Looking down the Snowfield from Camp Muir. Note the surface conditions.
It's been a slow start to the summer season, the stellar high pressure has yet to arrive and temperatures have fluctuated all over the place. Sadly, the unusually cool temperatures for the last couple weeks were not enough to help the lower mountain recover from the record high temperatures in spring. The snow pack at Paradise is sitting at about 3% of normal for July 5th (about 1 inch instead of the normal 38 inches).

The trails at Paradise are mostly clear until shortly before Glacier Vista. Then the snow gets patchy--and continues to be so until just past Pebble Creek, where it becomes all snow. Please be careful to step off the snow onto trail. Our beautiful alpine meadows easily get trampled during this transition period and Panorama Face is seeing severe erosion from people cutting corners.

And in terms of the skiing...well, don't come with high expectations and maybe consider leaving the skis at home. The sun cups are growing and there is a nice, thin, consistent dirt layer from Camp Muir down to Pebble Creek that will sandpaper the wax off your base. However, boot glissading is in its prime season now. It sure is nice to cut that extra weight off your feet this time of year and go light up to Muir. Don't forget to enjoy the view on your breaks.

Please remember, that weather changes fast up here on Rainier and the snowfield can quickly become socked in. Despite the boot track and things melting out, it is easy to become disoriented and lost on the snowfield when you are in a cloud. Please come with at least a GPS to navigate these conditions.