Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mountain Snowpack Begins to Build Again

The recent storms have brought almost 40" of fresh snow to the mountain and more is expected in the near future. While this bodes well for the upcoming climbing season, the inclement weather does nothing to help with the road reconstruction effort underway. Still, the forecasted reopen dates remain in effect: April 1st for the opening to Longmire and May 1st for the opening of the road to Paradise. Unfortunately, with road reconstruction in full swing, there really isn't public access to Paradise... Even if you have the energy and determination to ski or hike the road. More on Access

Over the weekend rangers climbed to Camp Muir to inspect conditions and dig out facilities. I've included several photos here from this trip to whet your appetite.
While things are quiet here at the Park, this might be a good time to get a jump on things and purchase your 2007 climbing pass and cut down on the time you will spend during registration. Complete the Climbing Pass Purchase Form and fax it to 360.569.3131.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Increased Funding for the NPS and Safety

Mount Rainier's 15 minutes of fame has been greatly extended over the past few months. It seems that every week there are more stories about the park. These days, those stories are positive and involve funding. The San Fransisco Chronicle diverged momentarily from the affairs of Mayor Gavin Newsom to discuss the proposed increases to the National Park Service's budget. The News Tribune honed in on Mt. Rainier's own version of the good news. Along the way, one newspaper reporter inquired if the climbing program would be getting more climbing rangers...

The last few weeks have brought very little snowfall and considerably warmer temps to the mountain. Recently, I have noted a number of "roof-a-lanches" around Longmire. What's a roof-a-lanche, you ask? That's when the 2-3 feet of snow sitting on your roof finally decides to give way. If you're in the building, it feels and sounds as though the earth is giving out below you. If you're outside the building and under the slide, you're probably in a considerable amount of trouble. I've heard that people have been seriously injured from these slides, which is easy to believe.

So there you have it! Here is some favorable information about your national parks, a safety tip, and a few more posts to the
Flood Photos blog.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Access, Openings, and the U.S. Army

Opportunity knocks with the park virtually closed. Over the past three weeks, I attended an emergency medical course with the U.S. Army at Ft. Lewis. Beyond the obvious benefit of training, it was a privilege to spend time with our soldiers. The training also explains why there have been few updates to the blog...

I continue to get questions about the best way to access the mountain (i.e. Paradise). For all practical purposes, getting to Paradise is almost impossible. Why? Because there is NO public access allowed along the road corridor above Longmire. That means if you have a trip to Paradise planned for later this winter or early spring, scale back your access expectations and consider other locations.

Access to White River isn't that bad, if you have a snow machine. One party rode into the campground, parked, and then snowshoed up to the Inter Glacier. To the right, a snowboarder breaks trail through Glacier Basin (image by Don Boutry). Perhaps some climbers will follow suit? And while we're discussing access to White River and Sunrise... the current thought is that the projected road openings will go as planned next spring. This is welcome news considering the delayed openings on HWY 123; it was totally severed and may not be fully repaired and re-opened until next fall!

Last week, NPS rangers discovered more facility damage to a few of the fire lookouts. Here is Fremont Lookout from the air. Note that the roof is missing. Similar damage was found at Gobblers Knob (the roof blew off and a wall collasped) but Tolmie and Shriner (the other lookouts in the park) survived OK.

The current talk points to an April 1st road re-opening to Longmire. That would make access to the Westside Road easier and more reliable. As for Paradise, they are cautiously predicting May 1st...

As for repairs, they just paved the road at Sunshine Point. Meanwhile, the road crew is installing more culverts at Kautz Creek. Another engineering obstacle remains at milepost 5, where the uphill lane is slumping towards the river. It may not look like much in this photo, but the embankment below is severely eroded by the Nisqually River.

You may have noticed that I am now managing the photos on Flickr and have finally started posting images in the flood folder. But using blogger for this purpose isn't that easy, so we'll see how much I can do with it...