Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Snow and guiding opportunities in the air

After months of rather reliable weather, things finally cooled off. Paradise had a low of 34 degrees today, and Camp Muir dipped to a frigid 20 degrees... and it snowed some (only a light dusting) too. Suprisingly, more sunny and warm weather is forecast for Labor Day weekend. The main routes are holding up nicely. Climbers are reporting well established boot tracks on the DC and Emmons.

You may have missed this recent press release... But if you're a mountain guide who would like to lead trips on Mount Rainier (but don't work for a concession) listen up! Mt Rainier National Park is accepting applications for "Single Trip Guides." As it stands now, the program is limited in scope, but for many, the opening on Mt. Rainier to such guiding represents more of the European model of small guided programs, with personally selected guides. There is information in the press release about who to contact and how the process works.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

It sure is smoky up here...

Visitors have been commenting on the haze and smoke in the air; climbers have noticed it too. The Seattle PI and Seattle Times commented on the wildfires in Washington State and in particular, the one near the NW corner of the park that is 150 acres. For climbers, the smoky haze at lower elevations will continue as the forecast calls for continued warm and dry weather throughout the next week. See the Mt. Rainier weather page for updated information and links.

Having spent 8 summers at Camp Schurman, this story caught my eye. The Seattle PI admired the artwork of Clark Schurman this week. If you don't know, Clark is the namesake for Camp Schurman. In addition to his artwork, Clark was an avid Rainier mountaineer and wilderness trip leader back in the day. Dee Molenaar (local legend and author of Challenge of Rainier) met Clark in 1939.(!) Dee said of him, "He was a natural-born artist and he loved mountains."

Things are looking good for the weekend. If you're at Camp Muir this Thursday, expect some helicopter action. It's time to prepare for September, i.e black barrels being flown downhill...

Today's image of the Emmons is provided by Jonathan Hedstrom.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Declining numbers visit National Parks

The Boston Globe picked up on something I've been noticing... That fewer people are visiting our national parks, despite a growing population in the U.S.

As always, we do our best to update the current route and climbing conditions. Climbers on Mt Rainier are focusing on the Emmons, DC, Kautz and Tahoma Glacier these days. If you're hiking to Camp Muir, check out the latest Muir Snowfield conditions,and if you are headed to Schurman, watch for ice on the Inter Glacier.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Close calls...

A guided team took a significant crevasse fall near 13,600 feet on the Emmons last week. No one was "seriously injured." however, one climber reportedly fell 50 feet and broke a few teeth (ouch!) The team self rescued and descended the mountain under their own power. The crevasse opened up somewhat out of nowhere. One climber commented that "Of all the crevasse crossings on the route, this one seemed more solid than others."

And today, another climber struck his head while successfully dodging rockfall on the Disappointment Cleaver. He too was able to walk off the mountain with some help from other climbers. A few close calls, yes, but the fact remains that there have been no major rescues or injuries this year. Some would prefer that I "whisper" this fact, or "knock on wood" when stating it... but I'd prefer to remind everyone how well the season is going, and to thank those who have climbed for making this year safe "so far."

It reached 74 degrees at Paradise today. We've had close to 7,800 climbers attempt the summit this year; the success rate is hovering around 64%.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Summit

Yet another weekend of great weather! We've updated the Tahoma, DC and Emmons conditions. The routes are holding together nicely, which should make for great climbing in Sept.

On Sunday, the summit was AMAZINGLY warm and calm. We spent a good 4 hours on top, and there was NO wind to speak of.

There is an interesting change on Columbia Crest, however... Has anyone noticed that big crevasse forming on the actual summit??? There is a large crack that is getting wider each week. I wonder if Mt Rainier will hold onto its 14,410/11' status if this keeps up... There seems to be a LOT of rock exposed too... The crater, however, is filled w/ snow. More images soon.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Watch the crevasse crossings...

The weather looks promising for the weekend. There is very little news to report in what is most thankfully becoming a very, very quiet summer.

On the safety side of things, climbers should be prepared for dangerous crevasse crossings. We have reports of dicey bridges on the Emmons, DC, and Kautz routes. Avoiding a catastrophic crevasse fall could mean finding an alternative route around the hazard, or using protection and belays. Most teams simply follow the established boot path, which doesn't always offer the safest or best climbing line. We often find that the glaciers and crevasses change rapidly after weeks of sun and heat. So be prepared to deviate from the boot track if you want to safely reach the summit...and return!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Seafair and the Perseid Meteor Shower

It was Seafair in Seattle last weekend (AKA MASSIVE boat party on Lake Washington.) For some, "Seafair" means "Let's get out of town." And if you were in that clique, Mt Rainier provided a pretty good place to avoid: 1. the heat, 2. the traffic, and 3. the hydroplane chaos... but not 4. the Blue Angels, who managed to buzz around the mountain a few times. By comparison to the scene around Lake Washington, The Mountain wasn't such a bad place to be. The freezing level topped 14k and there was little wind!

It's getting to be that time of year when many of the non-standard routes really start to fall out of shape. Most climbers turn their attention to routes like the DC, Emmons, Kautz and Tahoma Glacier...

On the astronomy front, the upcoming weekend marks the height of the Perseid Meteor Shower. The annual light show peaks around August 12th, but you can view an increased number of meteors throughout the week. If the weather is clear (and the moon or city lights aren't too invasive) observers can often view 30-60 meteors per hour! The best part for climbers? You don't need a scope or binocs! If you've the extra time, it's worth spending a night at high camp just to check it out.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Edmunds Headwall and Romance

A pair of climbers took on the Edmunds Headwall last week. They opted for the climbing line after witnessing a fair amount of rockfall off Ptarmigan Ridge and Mowich Face... It seems that the west face of Mt Rainier is melting rather quickly.

On the fun side of things, I found this. It seems that romance for the broken hearted is alive and well on Mt. Rainier. According to Seattle author and dating maven "Breakup Babe" (AKA Rebecca Agiewich,) climbing could be good for your personal life (or not)! Of course, you’d have to read the book to find out how and why. But one fan was compelled enough to carry his copy to the summit. Maybe Ms. Agiewich will send us her Rainier trip reports for public consumption???

The weather looks quite good this weekend; the standard routes seem to be in good climbing shape.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

August Climbing

Things have cooled off substantially over the past few days (I saw spitting snow at Camp Schurman this weekend) which was great news for those folks who were climbing the standard routes. The high freezing levels and sun over the past few weeks, however, have had intense effects on diminishing the mountain snowpack. Cleavers like Tahoma, Success, and Kautz are mostly melted out... So are Liberty and Curtis Ridge.

That said, climbers are enjoying good climbing conditions on the Kautz Glacier, Disappointment Cleaver, Emmons Glacier AND Little Tahoma. For the most part, the success rate has been high. Also of note is a traverse of the Tatoosh Range, and a trip report on Sluiskin Peak (over on cc.com).

As a curiosity, there have been over 6,000 registered climbers (total) for Mt Rainier in 2006. The success rate is hovering at 62%. What's most amazing is the fact that we have not seen one significant injury or rescue!! What an accomplishment!