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)...