Monday, November 19, 2007

Visiting Mount Rainier this winter?

The snow has finally started to fall in Longmire, triggering a serious tilt towards winter-related activities and operations. During a normal season, 200-300 climbers attempt Rainier's summit between Dec. 21 and Mar. 21. Though the success rate is quite low (sometimes 10%), many climbers use this mountain as a training ground for other peaks, particularly Denali. And after last year's flood closure, many folks are already making upper mountain plans for this winter. If you're one those people, HEADS UP because things have changed.

If you plan to be in the Paradise area between now and next April, the NPS has changed a few winter regulations that will likely affect you. The changes are because of the ongoing construction project in the upper parking lot. The primary difference is that self registration has been eliminated and that ALL overnight parking will require a parking pass.

Permits: All climbers, backpackers, skiers and any other overnight visitors must obtain a wilderness permit from either the Longmire Museum (9-4 daily) or the Jackson Visitor Center (open 10-5 on Sat/Sun). SELF REGISTRATION (out of Paradise) is NO LONGER available during the winter 2007/2008 season.

Parking: There are only 18-20 OVERNIGHT parking spots available at Paradise. Nine of those spots are designated for campers who are staying in the immediate Paradise area (think Boy Scouts, large groups, etc). The remaining 9-11 are available for other overnight visitors (think skiers, climbers and those who venture beyond the immediate Paradise area). ALL vehicles MUST have a parking pass or risk being ticketed and "booted" ("boots" are designed to lock your wheel requiring you to talk with a ranger before you can get the "boot" removed). Parking passes are free and issued when registering for a permit. Visitors will not be able to get an overnight permit unless there is a parking spot available! Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you carpool AND arrive early for your permit, particularly on busy/nice weekends and holidays.

If you're a "mid-week" type person, it is unlikely that these new regulations will adversely affect you as there is more than enough parking available. Generally speaking, visitation to to Paradise between Sunday evening and Saturday morning is low (i.e. dead). Also, keep in mind that the gate at Longmire is locked nightly. So if you're stuck in Longmire waiting for the snowplows to clear the road in the morning, get your permit at the Longmire Museum.