Sunday, August 19, 2007

It's about time

Slush Cup did pass, but things became very busy (administratively) for me...

The Perseid meteor shower slipped by, signaling a season shift. For those above 8K, this means that fall is in the air and one should be prepared for ice on the mountain. Of course, that shouldn't indicate that the climbing is over... However, NPS stats indicate that climbing registration drops off once mid-August comes around. That trend seems true this year too. This is especially the case on the Emmons Route where there have already been nights without any climbers at Camp Schurman. If you're curious, check out the route condition updates on the DC, Emmons and Muir Snowfield. Things still seem OK.

Other NPS news includes the re-opening of HWY 123 to the public, possibly as early as Sept. 14th. Stay tuned.

Otherwise, the weather turned for the worse today... That is, rain, lower freezing levels, more cold weather. What happened to summer? It seems that we've had a rough one in 2007.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Slush Cup

Well, it seems that "Slush Cup" went big time this year. While we climbers were trudging up the Emmons variation of the DC, the folks from TAY were skimming across a pond on skis and snowboards, courting NPR radio reporter Tom Banse. Was it perhaps the slick video that attracted the attention of the rangers and media? Somehow, they turned a damp gray day below Pinnacle Peak into radio propaganda for those who pursue "turns all year." That is, turns all year, year after year after year after year...

Which begs the questions, what constitutes "turns"? It seems that strapping on your boards for "sand dune" turns in eastern Washington could actually qualify you for the honor; however carving Mt. Hood's salty slush in August may not. There are rules and qualifiers for everything. Go figure! Photo provided by Ron Jarvis, who frequently haunts Rainier's slopes in pursuit of skiable snow (what a surprise.)

And regarding mountain climbing... there is little "new" news to share. Climbers are successfully ascending the primary routes, so things must be holding together. There are ranger patrols on the Kautz and Emmons glaciers. Look for those reports later this week.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Super Summit

Recent news begins with Dave Uberauga's and Randy King's successful ascent of the mountain last Saturday. If you don't know, Dave is Superintendent and Randy is the Deputy Superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park. Perhaps you haven't seen them much on the mountain because they have been rather busy with the flood recovery, Paradise construction projects, new guide services and routine "day to day" business of the park since their last attempt in 2006.

We're all smiles in this summit photo, taken after a 6 - 1/2 hour ascent from Camp Muir up the DC-Emmons variation. On Saturday, we found excellent conditions: firm snow, light winds, great boot-track (though LONG). Somehow, a rather sizable rock wedged into Dave's crampons (he's on the left in the photo) at Cathedral Gap and he carried it to 12,300ft before discovering the handicap! Randy (right in photo) wasn't interested in extra weight, and stayed focused on technique since his last 3 summit attempts were thwarted by rescues and/or bad weather.

Aside from climbing, they spent the better part of Thursday and Friday talking to the public, guides, climbing rangers and Ted (guru of all things "essential" at Camp Muir) to get a sense of the mountain action. The main points of attention were the Camp Muir plan (which addresses facility and toilet deficiencies) and the new guide service operations.

CLIMBING AND ROUTES: This is that time of year when some of Mt Rainier's climbing routes begin to really loose their fancy with climbers and skiers. It's not that they are "closed" or "unclimbable," it's just that experienced climbers generally get nervous when too much of the route is threatened by rockfall or blocked by gaping crevasses. As an example, a few teams attempted Liberty and Ptarmigan last week; neither were able to get "on route" due to the hazards/obstacles.

SAFETY: And speaking of crevasses - go to the Muir Snowfield. Look for a thin gash in the ice near 9,200 feet (top of Moon Rocks). I'm sure it will grow, and I'm sure there will be more. And how about another safety reminder? Wear your helmet when climbing to the summit! Also, the weather has been quite warm. When it is, expect soft snow by late morning and early afternoon. This could be welcome news to some (b/c it's easier on the knees) however others may find it difficult to descend when the snow and slush "ball up" in their crampons. Crampons "balling up" can sometimes lead to a serious fall (esp. when left unchecked)...