Monday, October 02, 2017

Crisp Air and Fall Colors


The colors of fall have arrived at Mount Rainier.  With the change in color on the lower slopes comes change up high.  All of the climbing guide services on Mount Rainier have finished their summer operations and high camps are closed for the season with only occasional visits by the rangers.  Winter storms have blanketed the mountain with a thin layer of snow covering large crevasses and drifts forming hazardous cornices.  Climbers can expect very challenging, if not impossible, route conditions on the standard routes with the potential for dangerously cold and stormy weather.  Even day hikers and backcountry riders need to use extra caution.  Endeavors into the Mount Rainier Wilderness this time of year are much more serious adventures.  Always carry extra warm clothes, technology to navigate in a storm, and have a contingency plan.  

Check the Mount Rainier Recreational Forecast before leaving for your trip.  Remember that there's no gate that closes when the weather gets too rowdy - you have to make that decision for yourself and your team.  

Both the Longmire and White River Ranger Stations are open through October 9th.  Check out the park's Operating Hours Page for more info on seasonal closures.  Also, as the snow line continues to fall, the passes in the park will begin to close for the winter.  The park's twitter feed announces all the latest news regarding roads in the park and there's a Road Status Page that catalogues all of the changes throughout the year.  

Thursday, September 28, 2017

End of September Update, Caution for Skiers

 The season is rapidly changing here at Mount Rainier National Park. The guide services are winding down their season on the DC with operations running until about October 2nd. The guides have been able to re-establish the route to the summit but the forecast for the weekend is looking rather stormy.

UW MM5 model showing significant precip for the October 1st weekend.


A couple of the Rangers went up to Camp Schurman this past week to check on the hut and to check conditions. The first coating of snow seems to be sticking to the upper mountain but not below 10,000'.



Traces of new snow on the Emmons Glacier.

With the recent snowfall skiers have been chomping at the bit to get their turns in but we'd like to caution folks from striking out unroped on the glaciers when a fresh skin of snow has covered the crevasses. This summer was remarkably free of precipitation and that means lot's of open crevasses. Add a couple feet of fresh snow to hide them and a person travelling rapidly on skis or snowboard and you have a good recipe for a crevasse fall.

Tracks around thinly covered crevasses on the Inter Glacer.
We did have a near miss last week when a snowboarder fell unroped into a crevasse. That person was able to self extracate and evacuate, fortunately. The best bet for skiing this time of year on Rainier is to stick to the Muir snowfield but even that can have hidden hazards. Look forward to a long ski season by easing into it and wait for a few more storms to roll throuugh.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Climbing Information Center (CIC) - Closed for the season

The Climbing Information Center closed for the season on September 10, 2017.

Climbing Information
You can continue looking at this blog for the latest climbing information.

Registration
To register for your climb at Paradise, please go to the self-registration kiosk at the Paradise Old Station, the small A-frame building at the upper Paradise Parking Lot.

Climbing Cost Recovery Fee
Please pay your climbing fee on line at home before you come to the park!
https://pay.gov/public/form/start/79997374

Saturday, September 16, 2017

DC Conditions and the End of Summer

Winter conditions have returned to Mount Rainier without much of a Fall transition. There has been snow as low as Paradise in the last 24 hours and the National Weather Service has issued the first winter storm watch for the season.

...WINTER STORM WATCH IN EFFECT FOR ABOVE THE 5000 FOOT LEVEL FROM
THIS EVENING THROUGH TUESDAY MORNING...

.TODAY...Showers. Snow accumulation at Paradise near 3 inches. 
Snow level near 5500 feet. 
.MONDAY NIGHT...Showers. Snow accumulation at Paradise near 9
inches. Snow level near 5500 feet. 
.TUESDAY...Showers. Snow accumulation at Paradise near 8 inches. 
Snow level near 5000 feet. 
.TUESDAY NIGHT...Rain or snow. Snow accumulation at Paradise near
5 inches. Snow level near 5500 feet.
.WEDNESDAY...Showers. Snow accumulation at Paradise near 4 inches.
Snow level near 5000 feet.
 
A snow level near 5000 feet is typical for Winter here in the Cascades. BRRRRRR.
 
The guided climbs from Sunday didn't even leave Camp Muir to attempt a summit bid due to the stormy conditions. The route requires a large degree of independence and technical proficiency as well and would be very difficult to navigate in white-out conditions. We strongly discourage climbing it in a storm. Above the Cleaver there is several hundred vertical feet of heavily crevassed terrain. The guides have been sending teams up to repair and reroute the path through this area every day for the past several weeks. There have been large collapses with climbers on route and parties without sufficient skill have become stranded on the mountain for short periods of time.
 
Climbing teams navigating a heavily crevassed area.
 
There are a few more storms in the forecast before things dry out again. For this reason and the complexity of the route we would advise against attempting a summit bid in the next few days. Consider changing your objective to focus on learning skills instead of going to the summit or even let the winter pass and climb when conditions are more favorable in the Spring. Remember that even a trip to Camp Muir can be extremely hazardous in low visibility.

Friday, September 15, 2017

In Depth Route Descriptions

Hey, everyone!

We wanted to take a moment and orient everyone to two documents we worked on this winter.  These two 20-30 page documents detail what we want you to know about climbing the Disappointment Cleaver and the Emmons-Winthrop Glacier.

Each route guide contains details on:

  • Route History
  • Route Use and Statistics
  • Case Studies in Rescues
  • SAR Occurrences and Statistics
  • Weather Statistics, Forecasting and Resources
  • Guiding
  • Assessing and Managing Risk
  • How to Train
  • What to Bring
  • Search and Rescue Program
  • Explanation of Climbing Fees
  • Leave No Trace and Wilderness Protection
  • Navigation & Bearing Sheet
  • Permitting and Reservations
  • Ski Mountaineering
  • PreClimb Briefing
  • Physical Route Descriptions
  • Checking Out
  • Further Reading



Please use these route briefs.  They are in PDF format and meant to be used digitally.  However, there are useful pieces here and there to print.

Enjoy!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Climbing Rangers End of Season

The Climbing Ranger's six month season is about to come to a close. We started our season in mid-March and other than a few maintenance folks and full time rangers the majority of the crew is done working until next season. Climber numbers typically drop to near zero by mid-October as well since winter like conditions typically return to the upper mountain by late September.

The permanent rangers will start preparing for next season almost immediately. Part of that process is analyzing the current summer and preparing an annual report. An archive of previous years can be found here.



Average Climber Numbers on Mt Rainier drop to near zero by the end of September.


Our record low precipitation this summer seems to be nearing an end as well. There are a series of storms forecast to begin hitting the Cascades starting early Sunday and continuing through next week. The storms look like they will be fairly cold as with snow levels dropping to near 5000 feet. That's down right cold!

This is great news for the firefighters working near the Park boundary on the Norse Peak and American River fires.

The UW WRF model showing significant precipitation for the Cascades over the weekend.


The guide services are shifting to their late season schedules and will be wrapping up all operations by the beginning of October. They have been doing work on the ladders above the Cleaver daily trying to keep the route viable, but climbing conditions have been very difficult as of late. Last weekend a party was stranded for a short time at 12,800' when a portion of the trail was wiped out by ice fall. The team was not prepared for a technical descent nor were they equipped to navigate to an alternate descent route.

It is tempting to view the DC as a benign route since it is maintained extremely well by the guides but do not underestimate the skill required to climb the mountain when the guides' route is not available to you. Climbing on Rainier in late September should be considered a highly independent endeavor.  For most of the people who are interested in climbing the Disappointment Cleaver this time of year, we recommend one of the guide services.