Sunday, October 22, 2006

The snow is flying

The temperatures plummeted today, and along came precipitation in the form of quite a bit of snow! Camp Muir saw a 29 degree drop in the temperature during the night. Paradise didn't drop that far, but there is some fresh stuff on the ground as the temp hovers near 31... which should help w/ that Muir Snowfield dilemma. A reader contributed this July 29 image taken in 1896! Check out the amount of snow.

It seems that the Camp Muir telemetry has been spotty. It's up and running now, but is occasionally down. I've been told they're going to fix the problem.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Sarah Heitman, a 21 year-old student attending UPS in Tacoma, was found safely today by ground and aviation teams after two days of searching. Sarah failed to return from a planned 4 day backpack trip around the Northern Loop trail; she departed from Ipsut Creek Campground last Saturday and was scheduled to return on Tuesday. By Wednesday night, her friends at UPS became concerned and notified campus security who then called the park service.

Numerous SAR (Search and Rescue) resources from around the state took part in the response: Tacoma, Seattle, and Olympic mountain rescue units, as well as the WA State Department of Emergency Management, German shepherd search dogs, King County Guardian Helicopter, and Olympic and North Cascade National Park personnel. I know I speak for Sarah's family, as well as for myself, in expressing thanks to everyone for their efforts in successfully completing this mission!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Change of plans

Unfortunately for me, the stars realigned today and I had to cancel my trip to good ol' Louisiana. More on those circumstances later. There is one small upside: I'll be in the park over the weekend and may have a chance to get some aerial shots of the mountain. If so, I'll post them.

The News Tribune covered our successful summer of no rescues. They also took some time to discuss the new guiding operations.

As for climbing, the weather looks good for the weekend, but that wasn't the case this week. It seemingly rained almost every day, and there wasn't much snow to show for it (as it stayed quite warm). Camp Muir reached a high of 40 degrees Thursday! If you're on the mountain, watch for hard ice, as it seems to appear after those warm rain storms.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Yup, the rain/snow is here for the season (though the weekend does look nice.) There was some fresh snow on the Muir Snowfield earlier this week, but the freezing level jumped back up to over 10,000' today, so the wintery white goodness is probably suffering under the burden of the Pineapple Express (note: temps at Muir reached 37 degrees).

As an observation, climbing visitation has dropped quite a bit over the past few weeks. I wish that I had more to share about things on Rainier. Work, however, has detailed me to Olympic National Park because of a tragic employee accident. Therefore, my ability to be on the mountain has been nil.

And with that said, I'll be visiting New Orleans next week... With a nickname like "Gator," you have to visit the relatives on occasion. Since Hurricane Katrina, I've been MIA, so it's time to reconnect w/ my bayou blood. BTW, a number of folks say I look (and sometimes act) like James Carville...
Is that true?

As always, if you've any (and I mean ANY) field reports, please send them along, as they are greatly appreciated. I hope the fall is treating you all well.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Earth Shaking News...

The much anticipated news about the guiding contracts is gaining traction in the local press. The News Tribune and the Seattle P-I both did stories (the Seattle Times ran an AP piece). In addition, the PI discussed some other interesting facts about the 2006 climbing season (which technically ends on Dec 31st)... Those being that the success rate is up and that there were no cries for rescue on the upper mountain. I jokingly wondered if the blog could share in some of the credit?! :)

Oh, and for some real earth shaking news, Mt Rainier had a small quake a few days ago.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Mount Rainier Guiding Concessions

Here is some worthy Mount Rainier climbing news... Today, the NPS released the names of the companies that successfully competed for the future guiding contracts on the mountain. You may recall, the NPS went through an extensive commercial services planning (CSP) process over the past 4 years. The finalized plan, published in the spring of 2005, called for three guide service concessions to operate on Mount Rainier (as opposed to one, RMI). The CSP set a number of parameters for the next 10 years, including commercial use levels and commercial free zones, yet it also opened up the possibility for varied forms of guiding and training to occur. Many felt the plan was a historic step forward for the NPS, resource protection and for the mountaineering industry.

SOOO, who recieved the contract awards???... Rainier Mountaineering Inc., International Mountain Guides, and Alpine Ascents International.
We'll provide the official press release later, but the word is out and we thought you should know.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Fall - Rock-tober

There isn't a whole lot to say about specific climbing conditions on Mt Rainier these days. It's mid fall, it's beautiful, it's quiet. For climbers, the issue revolves around dry glaciers and lots of exposed bare rock (volcanic rock that is). A few of the steeper routes (Mowich/Ptarmigan) may come back into shape, but those are a gamble. Most of the fresh snow is now 4 months past and the new stuff doesn't seem to really accumulate till November (sometimes later).

All that said, if you'd like the mountain mostly to yourself, some of the finest days to climb are happening right now. That's because the weather has been quite good overall (it's predicted to remain so for another week) and the DC remains climable.

The reponses to the
Muir Snowfield question are stilll coming in. As of yet, no one has desented from the general observation: the snow and ice on the Muir Snowfield seem to be visibly shrinking! To those who wrote, thank you. To those who didn't... :)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Muir Snowfield and the Disappointment Cleaver Route

Check out this 2x6 style of crevasse crossing. The image was snapped over the weekend (thankfully the board didn't)... The lumber has since been pulled, so now climbers must find another way around the crevasse. Here's more on the DC...

I received a few comments about the ice mass on the Muir Snowfield. Avid Rainier skier Ron Jarvis had this to say,
"When I started playing on Rainier in 1991 there were no dismounts required while skiing from Muir to Pebble in late summer/fall and as I recall that seemed to be the case right up until the last 2 or 3 years (dementia notwithstanding :-) ).

I would also add that similar conditions (volume/snow-ice depth) also seem to be the case on the contiguous neighbor to the east, the Paradise Glacier."

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Muir Snowfield

Camp Muir was quiet this weekend, but a few teams made the summit via the Disappointment Cleaver. We'll post our report soon. In the meantime, I've updated the conditions on the Muir Snowfield.

And about that Muir Snowfield... I had a good conversation with a senior RMI guide about the level of the snowpack on the snowfield. We both felt that there was a noticeable drop in how it measured against the rocks. That is, the surface of the snow seems to have lowered, thus exposing more bare ground. It appears to my untrained scientific eyes that the ice mass underneath is melting and diminishing, leaving less ice-volume throughout the snowfield. The surface appearance seems normal for this time of year with ice, some fresh snow, and a few crevasses, but the overall snow level seems to have decreased. In essence, we noticed more exposed mounds of sand, pumice and volcanic rock. I'd be curious to hear if anyone who hikes the snowfield a lot is left with a similar impression.