Sunday, June 25, 2017

Disappointment Cleaver 6/25/2017

Climbing rangers were able to summit on 6/24 and 6/25.  With the recent warmup, climbing conditions on the upper mountain have improved dramatically.  The guide services put in a lot of work Friday and Saturday resetting the route above the cleaver and there is a nice path all the way to the top.  Thanks to their hard work there are currently few difficulties on the route and it is in fantastic shape for this time of year.

 Ascending toward Ingraham Flats.  The Disappointment Cleaver and the upper mountain are visible.

The cleaver itself is still mostly snow covered, however it's melting rapidly with these warm temperatures.  There are several fixed lines lower on the cleaver. These are installed by the guide services and are meant to be used as hand-lines. There is no need to clip in or prusik in to these lines - this will just slow everyone down.  Feel free to use them for balance, but as with any fixed gear on the mountain, it is prudent to inspect them critically before relying on them. Currently there are no ladders and very few open crevasses that need to be crossed directly.

Fixed lines lower on the Disappointment Cleaver route.  In the background you can see the route crosses under 'the icebox'.  This is a hazardous area as it lies directly below an active icefall.  Move quickly through this area and don't stop!

As the cleaver melts out and more rock is exposed, rock fall will become more of a hazard. Climbing rangers observed many climbers without helmets this weekend.  Helmets should be considered essential gear for a climb of Mt. Rainier and should be donned at Camp Muir for the duration of the climb to the summit. Rock and icefall is a hazard on all Rainier climbing routes. Protect your head!

Track log from 6/25/2017 - DC route.  
Once above the cleaver the route traverses north towards the Emmons shoulder and then makes a long traverse back to the southwest toward the upper Nisqually before cutting up to the crater rim. Midway through the traverse to the Emmons there is a large corniced serac that looms ominously over the route.  Watch out for it and avoid lingering under the overhang - eventually it will collapse.  The route may change soon to avoid this feature, but in the meantime treat it as a hazard and mitigate your exposure.

Rangers wait to descend lower on the cleaver to avoid knocking rocks loose on those below.  As the cleaver melts out, rockfall will increase.  Pay attention to where your team is in relation to others and keep your rope short while on the cleaver.  
As we move into July, the number of climbers attempting the DC will increase substantially. Overcrowding on the route can lead to dangerous bottlenecks and a longer time spent on the route. Teams attempting to climb Rainier will do well to prepare in advance by being in good shape physically and by being dialed in their rope transitions.  Be familiar with techniques to switch from glaciated terrain to moving over rock and adjust your rope intervals accordingly. Dragging your rope through the rock sections of the route is dangerous and bad form.  Shorten your rope while on the cleaver so that it is not touching the ground.

Be patient and communicate with other parties while on the route. Communicating with those around you while at camp may also help to alleviate congestion on the route by staggering the time at which parties start climbing, thereby spacing teams out.  And you might make some friends!


Lastly, the snowfield is currently skiing well, but the snow is quickly disappearing around Pebble Creek and Panorama Point.  Remember to stay on snow or on the trails as the fragile alpine meadows reveal themselves and be careful not to trample on the vegetation.  Respect the rope lines and don't duck under them - they are there to prevent erosion!

Let's all have a safe summer climbing season.

-686

Saturday, June 24, 2017

High Camps FULL !!!

Hey everyone,

We figured this was going to be a busy weekend!

The high camps have filled up for Friday and Saturday nights already.  Here's how it breaks down:

There are 110 people allowed at Camp Muir each night.  There are 48 people allowed at Camp Schurman.

Camp Muir & the Muir Corridor

Currently, Camp Muir is FULL Friday, June 23rd, and Saturday night, June 24th.  Even for walk-up permits.  The only chance of getting a permit is if someone comes down early from their climb and checks out at the desk so that we can avail the numbers in the system.  Don't count on it.

Common overflow areas for Camp Muir are the Muir Snowfield and Ingraham Flats.  There are 36 people allowed at each of those spots.  Right now the system show number between 10 and 25 for those areas.  You could conceivably walk up today or tomorrow and get one of those spots, however, this does make the climb longer from the Muir Snowfield (below 9,700').  And it is more difficult to go all the way from Paradise to Ingraham Flats in a day.  That's a long way.

Camp Schurman, the Inter Glacier, and Emmons Flats

Camp Schurman still has 15 or so spaces for Friday, but Saturday night is completely full.  Sunday looks better at this point.  Emmons Flats already has 15-20 folks both Saturday and Sunday night.

If you really want to climb Mt. Rainier this weekend, Camp Schurman is going to be your best bet, and you want to get to White River to register first thing.  There are only 30 more people today who can register and only about 20 more for tomorrow.

I'm sure that will change by the end of 6/23 (today).

Resource Protection and Visitor Safety

The current limits on campers at each camp each night has been in place for a few decades.  These numbers represent the maximum limit of people that each area can handle with regards to resource protection and visitor safety.  For example at Camp Muir, when we have more than 110 people camping, the number of climbers on the route gets so large that it becomes unsafe.  Rockfall from climbers above, long wait times at pinch points or technical crossings or ascents become untenable, as well as lines for the bathrooms (and managing the human waste collection systems) can all reach emergent conditions.

To ensure and satiate your desire to plan, we recommend that you submit a reservation.  Roughly 60% of the total of each zone or camp can be reserved.  40% are reserved for walk-up permits.

Reservations

To make a reservation for the coming weeks, please visit the following site.  We recommend this every weekend from here on out.

Google Form for Climbing Reservations

Friday, June 23, 2017

Emmons-Winthrop Route Update

Climbing rangers ascended the Emmons-Winthop route this morning out of Camp Schurman and found a mix of climbing conditions.  Very few climbers have made the summit after the storm cycle that began June 15th.  Winds were high during this period, resulting in very firm conditions on the upper mountain.

The Emmons route has changed little in the last month, though climbing conditions have varied greatly.  Today, rangers found a well defined trail from Camp Schurman to about 12,800 ft.  Above 12,800, the snow becomes very firm and there is no boot pack to follow.  Confident and precise cramponing technique is required for safe climbing and descending this section of the mountain.  Climbers should evaluate their ability objectively, and make decisions as a group about whether they feel confident with the conditions.  The firm, smooth conditions observed today are similar to conditions in the past that resulted in climber injuries and fatalities on this route.  Please be cautious and climb within your ability.

Track Log, Emmons-Winthrop route 6/23/17
With that being said; how does it look for the next few days? Freezing levels are forcasted to increase slightly to 15,000 feet, but the wind remains moderate near the summit at 20-25 mph through Sunday. Winds in the 30's today kept the upper mountain from softening up at all.  We expect this to be the case through the weekend unless the upper mountain winds abate and allow warmer temps to soften the firm snow.

The route from Camp Schurman

This will be a very busy weekend on Mt. Rainier.  The popular high camps are at or near full capacity already (see previous blog post).  Please be courteous to other climbers at camp and on the route.  Congestion will be an issue on the upper mountain, so allow faster parties to pass and be respectful.  Manage your group to minimize time spent in bottlenecks and crevasse crossings.  Enjoy the sunshine and have a fun climb!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Disappointment Cleaver June 22nd

Ranger hut fully iced over after last weekends storm cleared. Notice all the
wind effected snow in the background.
The past week of weather on Mount Rainier has presented a bit of everything for climbers taking a shot at the upper mountain. 60 mph winds, rapidly rising freezing levels and  2-3 inches of water falling in the form of both snow and rain last weekend have created exciting climbing conditions to say the least. Despite the lull in low pressure the last few days, no guided parties have made the summit in the last 8 days due to insecure upper mountain conditions. High winds, coupled with icy surface conditions above 12,000 ft. have been enough turn around guided groups the last few days. At this time, there is no formal "trail" above roughly 12,500 ft. The guide services have been working tirelessly to shovel in the route but haven't been able to punch it to the top as of yet. That being said, any parties planning to summit need to be fully dialed on their glacial navigation skills, crevasse rescue techniques, route finding abilities and be comfortable sidestepping or front pointing on firm upper mountain snow/ice crusts.

Now that it's been nearly a week since most of the precipitation fell on the upper mountain, it would seem that the snow pack has had time to settle out and consolidate. Despite this, rising freezing levels will undoubtedly increase icefall/rockfall hazard along the route in addition to loose wet avalanches. With so many climbers turning out to enjoy  the high pressure, it will be imperative for groups to move quickly and efficiently through hazard zones on the route. Traversing the Ingraham glacier under the "Ice Box" and the rock gullies on the cleaver itself are repeat offenders. Pictured on the left is a photo taken this week of 17 people parked underneath the rock gullies below the cleaver. With such high temperatures predicted for the weekend, be sure to move quickly through these areas and DO NOT stop below steep snow slopes, ice seracs or rock bands and gullies.

Lastly, crowd management is going to be an issue this weekend with so many parties on route and slow, icy conditions on the mountain. Handlines are meant to be used as handlines and teams should not attach any devices or prussiks to these lines along the route. Running protection is in place along a few of the steeper sections along the route and should be used efficiently if needed at all. This may not be the weekend to climb Mt. Rainier if all members of your party aren't comfortable with rope management skills and using running protection. Ensuring your team is comfortable in possibly icy conditions will help prevent bottle necks and keep climbers moving safely up/down the route.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Climbing Conditions on the Emmons/Winthrop and The Inter Glacier (6/19)



Glacier Basin, looking towards St. Elmo's Pass
Starting out from the White River Campground, expect to be walking on dirt for about two miles or so, but still a fair amount of snow in Glacier Basin.  With all the warm weather, be super cautious about traveling on snow over rivers and streams.  If you can hear water running below, assume its a fairly thin bridge that may or may not support your weight, and think about an alternate route.  This is especially true right out of Glacier Basin crossing the Inter Fork of the White River.



Crevasses on the Inter Glacier are beginning to open up so keep an eye out for them on your way up and down.  The traverse/descent from Camp Curtis to the Emmons still has a fair amount of snow, just keep an eye out crevasses once on the Emmons Glacier and make sure to rope up.

Wet Slab release on the Winthrop Glacier
We spotted quite a few point releases in steeper terrain above Camp Schurman.  Mainly new storm snow that was just beginning to see the sun.  Keep an eye out for these wet/loose avalanches.  Though they are small, they pack a lot of energy, and have the potential to carry you through consequential terrain.  We did spot a small wet slab avalanche on the Winthrop Glacier around the elevation of Camp Schurman, so the potential for wet slab activity exists, especially with the warm temps and recent new snow.  Remember, the best indication that there is potential for avalanches in the area is if you see recent signs of natural activity.

View of the route from Steamboat Prow
Track of current route
Currently, the route heads up from Camp Schurman and past the Emmons Flats and climbs the Football Field for a couple hundred feet.  Be sure not to cut over to the Corridor too early, otherwise you will be forced to navigate through an area where very thin bridges are present.  Once on the Corridor, ascend up to the Alpine Meadows and begin a mellow ascending traverse towards the Winthrop shoulder.  You can then keep a fairly direct line up to Columbia Crest.  Traversing the shrund to Liberty Saddle is unnecessary at this point in time and adds time to your ascent as well as puts you in a zone with more objective hazard
than you would be in otherwise.





Looking up the Inter Glacier towards
Steamboat Prow

Monday, June 19, 2017

Weather Update

Greetings Climbers:  As many of you already know the mountain was hit by a significant amount of precipitation and wind over the past five days.  From early Thursday afternoon through Friday afternoon the lower mountain received from 2.0 to 2.5 inches of rain.  Meanwhile the upper mountain was hit with a substantial amount of snow...due to the high winds the distribution of that snow varied from zero to several feet.  After the precipitation event the freezing level shot up to 15,000 and wind speeds remained high, resulting in less then ideal climbing conditions. 

As a result of all of the above few parties have summited since last Wednesday.  The good news is that snowpack on the upper mountain is starting to stabilize and more summer-like conditions should be returning this week.  As regards to the weather...we have a brief disturbance moving through on Tuesday which should produce some clouds and a slight chance of showers, after that all indications are for generally clear skies on the upper mountain.  The main issue mid-week will be continued moderate to strong winds.  It looks as if these winds will diminish during the day on Thursday.  Friday and Saturday are looking like prime weather days on the old mountain, Sunday is looking a little questionable this far out, but may turn out to be ideal as well.

If your planning on climbing the DC route this weekend and you do not have a reservation (which are full) we have 30 spots available as walk-ins for each night.  The Climbing Info. Center opens at 7 AM each morning.  Pay for your climbing passes before you leave home, just show us proof of payment when you get your permit.

There has been a lot on inquires regarding the amount of snow we have in the Paradise area and above.  The Snotel site is located just below Paradise and is running 147% of the long-term mean for this date!  We are at 230% compared to June 19, 2016...so yes there is still a lot of snow.