Tuesday, November 11, 2008

First Ascent of Kang Nachugo by Climbing Rangers

In mid-September, one of our lead climbing rangers, David Gottlieb, took off for Kathmandu on a climbing trip through the Himalayas. David's climbing partner, Joe Puryear, is a previous Mt. Rainier climbing ranger and friend. Their goal was a first ascent of Kang Nachugo (6,735 meters), found within the Himalayan Valley of Rolwaling. Joe set up a climbing blog, so that friends, fellow climbers, and family can stay up-to-date on their progress. We all waited patiently for news of their climb and verification of their safety. Thankfully, a post on October 25th stated simply that they were successful and were safe. Their blog now has a full trip report, complemented by some amazing pictures - definitely worth a full read-through. We just want to say "Congratulations" to both Joe and David, while wishing them safe travels home. We hope to see you on the Mountain soon!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Winter Registration Information

Fall is officially here and winter is not far on its tail. Mother nature has already brought rain, snow and high winds to the Mountain -Paradise received about 4 inches of snow over the past 24 hours and we're expecting both significant rain and snow over the next few days. The National Weather System has put out a winter weather advisory for the next few days; we're expecting 6" - 10" of snow from this evening through Wednesday and then the freezing level is rising to between 8000' - 9000' and we could receive potentially 6" - 14" of rain. Sound eeriely familiar...? Check out some of the photos from blogs on the flood of 2006 to refresh your memory. Let's hope no such catastraphe befalls us this year.

Currently, the road to Paradise closes at Longmire only when the freezing level drops to below 4000 ft and precipitation is expected. The gate at Longmire will begin closing nightly at 5:00 pm once the weather turns toward consistent freezing and snow (usually around Thanksgiving or shortly thereafter). The road re-opens in the morning only after our road crew has come through and cleared the road of snow and then deemed it safe enough to drive. There is a sign on the gate, which states the estimated time of opening that day. During the winter, traction tires are needed for travel in the Park at all times and drivers should always carry tire chains in case of road restrictions during inclement weather. For weather forecasts and/or road updates call the Park's information line at (360) 569-2211 and select #1.

Climbing registration processes also change in the winter. While you wait for the gate to open to Paradise, climbers can register and get updated weather and avalanche forecasts at the Longmire Museum - open daily from 9 am until 4 pm. On weekends and holidays, climbers can go to the JVC II, which is open from 10 am until 5 pm. Self-registration is also available up at Paradise (NOT Longmire), located outside on the porch of the old ranger station. However, it is still preferable that climbers register in person to ensure the park has all necessary information about a climbing party and their itinerary, which allows park staff to respond more effectively in the case of an emergency.

Overnight parking this winter up at Paradise is not yet solidified, but most likely there will two locations - one in the upper lot across from the Paradise Inn by the old station and the second overflow lot will likely be in the lower part of the lower parking lot, facing the center island snowbank (same location as last winter). Check back to the Overnight Parking blog in the Access and Roads section for winter parking updates; and if you still have questions, feel free to ask a friendly ranger at the Entrance Station or Longmire Museum for details on where to park at the time of your visit.

Rangers staffing the Museum at Longmire and the JVC are helpful, informative and eager to assist with your needs, but they may not be a climber. Unfortunately, climbing rangers are not on staff regularly this time of year either, so before you come to the park, be sure to check this blog for updated climbing information and route conditions. For questions and/or issues regarding this blog or related to climbing at Mount Rainier, call the Climbing Program at (360) 569-6009 or contact Mike Gauthier at the email provided at the bottom of this page. Any general inquiries or questions specifically related to park policy or procedures can be directed to the Longmire Museum at (360) 569-2211, extension 3314 or by email at MORAinfo@nps.gov.

Enjoy the Fall while it lasts and since sunset is now MUCH sooner, be sure to start those hikes and climbs earlier to take advantage our limited daylight. See you on the Mountain!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center II

On Friday, October 10th, the second reincarnation of the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center was opened to the public and dedicated to the highly regarded and revered Washington State Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson. Funding for the original saucer-shaped visitor center (check out the image to the right - a distinct likeness of the old JVC and a flying saucer taking off into space) was guaranteed much to his hard-work and dedication, so it was only fitting that the new visitor center also carry his name. Peter Jackson (the son of Henry Jackson, not the director) spoke at the ceremony, highlighting his father's love of wilderness, his desire to protect our country's most precious spaces, and to create enjoyable ways for people to learn from and enjoy these amazing places throughout our country and this state. The ceremony drew big-wigs from Washington (D.C. that is), including the Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne, Representative Norm Dicks of Washington's Sixth Congressional District, and the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Parks. Other distinguished guests included local Nisqually tribal elder Zelma McCloud, National Park Service Pacific West Regional Director Jon Jarvis, the aforementioned Peter Jackson of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, Mount Rainier National Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga, an elder representative from the Consolidated tribes and bands of the Yakama Nation; yours truly of course and another famed NPS persona, Mike (Gator) Gauthier, dressed to the nine's in his class "A" uniform, and several hundred other attendees at the ceremony.

The new 'green', energy efficient JVC II is architecturally designed to match its surroundings and the historical park style, referred to as 'Park Service Rustic'. The feeling of the building when you first enter is dictated mostly by the space, due to the height of the ceiling and massive windows that line the entirety of the wall, naturally lighting the surroundings. However, it could also have something to do with the weird climber want-to-be mannequin placed high atop the climbing display. A feeling of comfort is there too. Above you are post and beam rafters, held together with cast iron fixtures and signs made from a menagerie of dark metal and wood. Overall, I was impressed and I think the sentiment was shared by most.

If you missed the grand opening, fret not, as you will have ample opportunity to view the building on weekends and most holidays, including the winter/holiday break from December 20th through January 4th. And as has been the tradition up at Paradise for many years, Ranger-led snowshoe walks will begin at the new JVC (snow permitting) on December 20th. The two public walks (12:30, 2:30) are approximately 1.5 miles in duration and last less than two hours and are moderate to strenuous. The walks are an amazing opportunity to experience the Park and Mountain in the wintertime. The adjacent photo was taken this past winter as I was returning from one of my group snowshoe walks - a beautiful view of the old JVC at sunset.

The opening of the JVC II means one more VERY important thing....re-opening our beloved Climbing Information Center (CIC) up at Paradise next summer. The CIC will function as it did before; climbing rangers staffing the desk will issue climbing permits and sell climbing passes, provide up-to-date route and snow conditions, weather forecasts, advice and as can only be expected from climbers (and NO ONE else) when they are awake and moving at 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday - perhaps some witty banter as well. See you all on the Mountain!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Autumn in Paradise

I'm going to reveal a little about myself to you all in this here blogpost. . . . I Love Fall!

There are so many things about this season that I cherish. I love the changing colors of leaves, the smell of cinnamon baking together with apples in a pie, the smooth, creaminess of butternut squash soup (one of my favorite fall dishes).... and what better time to go for a hike then on a chilly day in October - wrapped in a fleece, wool hat and gloves, with few people around, it's hard to not enjoy these types of days. The latter is how I spent last Sunday, walking among fall foliage, listening to the birds overhead retreating south for the winter (they don't know what they're missing!) and the occasional rustle of branches as the deer grazed the final savory green bits before they too head down hill into the depths of the forests, protected for a while from the incoming nordic weather. My goal was simple - scout out the first half of the hike to Muir for the blog and report back to all our adoring fans (that's you) and be done. But my hike offered so many beautiful views and such a dynamic experience I couldn't leave it at a simple "Snowfield & Camp Muir Update".

So much is happening this Autumn at Paradise, it's hard to keep up -- every week is something new. Last week the old Jackson Visitor Center was closed, after almost 40 years in service to the public. Now this Friday is the "Grand Opening" of the NEW Visitor Center, also dedicated to Henry M. Jackson, the famed Washington state Senator. The dedication ceremony is open to the public and begins at 3:00 pm. Everyone is welcome to join us, along with some distinguished guests that include the Secretary of the Interior, our Regional Director and representatives from several local tribes, in celebrating this momentous occasion. The doors of the visitor center open to the public at 10 am on Friday. Building tours will be held at noon, 1:00 and 2:00 pm, leading up to the dedication ceremony, which starts off with the cutting of ribbon and finishes with the cutting of cake. If you have to miss the festivities, no worries, the new JVC will be operational on weekends from 10 am until 5 pm. Check the Park's most up to date Tahoma News for events and additional operational hours during the holiday season.

On Sunday, though, I cared little for the built infrastructure, being more interested in my natural surroundings. I have been away for several weeks and am amazed at the dramatic changes on the Mountain. I found it difficult to put my camera away; clicking away at the flora adorned in yellow, gold and fire-engine reds; the lush green of grasses and fluorescent moss sticking to small snow-melt falls; and surprisingly, an active amount of fauna foraging for food, also enjoying the beautiful day. Bears have been a common sight up at Paradise, but they usually are easy to scare and often flee once spotted. However, on my way down I noticed a group of visitors and several rangers eyeing a young cub that was fearlessly gorging himself within view of the Paradise Inn (And many spectators!). The cub's multi-colored hair was fitting, giving off a retro look, as though this capricious young cub had purposely highlighted his hair blond and spiked it up in defiance. The presence of law enforcement was a sign that the National Park takes their policy on NOT feeding wildlife very seriously, which is a ticketable offense at Mount Rainier and carries a fine of up to $100. View animals from a distance and please DO NOT feed them.
~ Keep Wildlife Wild! ~

Not only was I able to enjoy the splendors of Autumn, but I also received a glimpse of Winter - not far away it seems. Recent precipitation brought snow above tree line, creating a stark contrast on the hillsides; a white band above and green below. Within a mile or so of Paradise you can walk from Fall into Winter, it's quite an amazing experience really. Snow coated the ground from well below Panorama Point and then up, covering the recently turned red leaves of shrubs and lingering flowers that managed to keep their petals this long.

On my descent, several folks inquired as to the 'views'. Hikers may not have seen Mount Rainier on Sunday, but there was plenty more out there to enjoy, you just need to take the time and look. I only wish I had been going further along up the trail to Camp Muir. Conditions there this weekend were snowy and windy, but many times the clouds parted above, exposing a starlit sky and tranquil surroundings. With few climbers going up this time of year, anyone in search of some peace and quiet and a way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, will enjoy the solace at 10,000 feet. Just be prepared for some cooler weather and snow. Check out recent conditions posted about the Disappointment Cleaver route.

Enjoy the photos posted in the blog, better yet, come on out to see it all for yourself.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Jackson Visitor Center finally closes its doors

Without too much fanfare, the Jackson Visitor Center closed its doors to the public today, September 28th, 2008. The NPS is replacing the facility with a new Jackson Visitor Center, scheduled to open (with much fanfare) on October 10th.

For curiosity and fun, I hung out near the main doorway as the final visitors exited and walked away. Over the past two weeks, a public reader board noted today’s significance by counting down the days. Next to it was a hand drawn picture of the space saucer shaped visitor center blasting off into orbit above Mount Rainier. As the front doors were finally locked, you could see rangers and concession employees giggling and smiling inside.
Before the doors closed, I spoke with about one dozen visitors. Interestingly, most didn’t know before arriving in the park that today was the Jackson Visitor Center’s “last day.” Those who did primarily lamented the loss of the 360 degree view from the observation deck, and why wouldn’t they? Today was perfect and the sun was showing off as it slowly slipped behind the mountains and down the Nisqually Valley. The day had been clear and surprisingly warm for late September.


A small crowd cheered as the family (above and left) was informally proclaimed “the last visitors to the JVC.” By the way, there is nothing official about this distinction. It’s just that the doors were promptly locked behind them as they left. Turns out, they were from Puyallup and cruised up in a restored 1969 Cougar to say goodbye. Here is TNT reporter Jeff Mayor talking with them. Note the smiles.

Anyway, now we're just wondering: what sort of welcoming will the new JVC get? More after October 10th.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Jackson Visitor Center - Final Weekend to Visit!

Yup, the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center (JVC), whose design has been loved, hated, and debated since its opening in 1966, will welcome its last visitor on Sunday, September 28. It is closing to prepare for the demolition and move to the new JVC, which will open at 10:00 a.m. on October 10th. Between September 29th and October 9th, the Paradise Ranger Station (in the upper lot) will serve as the main NPS contact point at Paradise.

Here's some background on the now infamous "space saucer" of Paradise. The NPS commissioned its construction as part of a 10-year effort called MISSION 66. MISSION 66 set out to improve infrastructure and visitor services for NPS in time for its 50th anniversary in, guess what, 1966. The Paradise visitor center was originally known as the "Paradise Day Use Facility" until 1987, when it was re-named in honor of Washington Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson. "Scoop" had originally secured congressional funding for the project and personally selected the architects.

The future of the oldJVC is significantly less promising. With the initiative to build a new visitor center came the $880,000 contract to demolish the JVC and rehabilitate the lower parking lot. Sometime late next year, you should be able to park your vehicle near the current information desk or bookstore. If the weather holds, this fall the contractor intends to start salvage operations of reusable materials and also carry out removal of fuel tank and hazardous materials. Final demolition will begin in the late spring of 2009 and will be completed by the end of the summer.

NOTE: If you're visiting the park this weekend, September 27 and 28, there are no entrance fees. The NPS is waiving fees on Saturday in celebration of National Public Lands Day and on Sunday in honor of newly naturalized United States citizens. The JVC at Paradise will be open from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. through Sunday the 28th. Come on by, because it's your last chance to lounge in those creamy orange couches and chairs.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The need for more speed!

For those anxious readers interested in yet another story of a climber who has set yet another new 'unofficial' round trip summit speed record, please read on. For the rest of you who are tired of hearing of such drivel, we suggest you continue reading anyway and perhaps you still may find the story interesting. Besides, how can you ignore such an amazing feat? A person climbs to the summit of Mount Rainier in under 3 1/2 hours, and then descends to Paradise in just over an hour, resetting the speed record to 4 hours, 40 minutes and 59 seconds.

For comparison, it takes most folks 5 hours just to make it UP to Camp Muir, never mind to the summit and back to Paradise again in less time! Can you imagine the feeling of being lapped on a day hike by someone who has summitted? Then again, the person running past you on the Muir Snowfield is Guillermo (Willie) Benegas, an international guide, sponsored member of the North Face team, and highly accredited guide with the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA). Benegas' climbing portfolio is impressive. Among other credentials, he has been a guide with Mountain Madness for 10 years and is the previous speed record holder on Aconcagua... Oh yeah, he's climbed Everest seven times and leads expeditions up numerous peaks over 26,000 ft.

For more information and an account of the ascent by Benegas, check out his interview in The News Tribune.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

How will climate change affect our National Parks?

The topic of climate change took exceptional relevance here at Mount Rainier after the floods and wind in November of 2006 caused significant damage throughout the park(check out the Mt. Rainier N.P. report documenting the flood's damage), forcing our gates to close. This was not the first storm that hit this park hard, nor will it be the last. There is a high likelihood that future storms will cause similar damage (if not worse) and climate change will have as-of-yet even greater undetermined impacts on the park's resources. The result of this event and uncertainty brings into question the ability of the federal government to sustain long term access to places such as Mount Rainier from an economic and ecological standpoint. Obviously, this issue has implications for us all - recreationalists, admirers, climbers, skiiers, and just anyone living in a town near the park.

How will climate change affect Mount Rainier National Park? Well, this is the question that many are beginning to ask. You can be a part of this discussion on Wednesday, September 3, along with a panel of experts in climate change, outdoor recreation, economics, wildlife and roads and trail construction (among others). The evening's event, co-hosted by the Washington Parks and Forests Coalition, is titled, "The Way In: The Future of Access to Northwest National Parks". Panelists will focus on global climate change and how it will affect our national parks, especially Olympic, Mount Rainier, and North Cascades National Parks. This panel discussion is free and open to the public.

This event is co-hosted by the organizations from the Washington Parks and Forests Coalition, which include National Parks Conservation Association, Washington Trails Association, and the Student Conservation Association. For more information, contact David Graves at dgraves@npca.org or 206.903.1444 x25.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Labor Day Weekend and Beyond...

I swear summer just arrived in the park about a month or so ago and now it already feels like fall. Sure, it isn't fall YET, as the equinox isn't until Sept. 22, but those folks who have spent a day or two up on the mountain recently may argue that fall is in full effect. A quick check of telemetry up at Camp Muir over the past few days shows below average temperatures this week. In fact, the thermometer didn't go above 50 degrees and in addition to the cold, the wind speeds have steadily averaged 30-40 mph, with spikes reaching 63, 66 and 71. Brrr...

Average high and low temperatures for the month of August at Paradise are generally 63 and and 43 degrees respectively. These days, however, visitors on Rainier are donning fleece jackets, wool hats and even a scarf or two - one doesn’t need a thermometer to guess that the temperatures have been closer to our average lows than highs. With Labor Day Weekend ahead, let’s hope this trend doesn’t extend much longer. A look at the extended forecast provides some hope, but we'll see... Perhaps next week will be different?

Speaking of next week...The public shelter up at Camp Muir will be closed from Tuesday, September 2 thru September 9th. The closure is to complete historic renovations and repairs to the buildings. Therefore, all climbers should be prepared to camp - all parties will need to bring their own shelter. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Some pros and cons to this colder and also wetter weather:

Pros: There is new snow on the mountain, so things are looking beautiful with the fresh coat of snow. The DC is still in great shape (check out the new conditions report), unlike last year (check out our
archived 2007 DC fall route reports). Remember that climbers had to veer way out onto the Emmons Shoulder and descend below the Cleaver to climb back to Ingraham Flats.

Cons: Alpine Ascent International (AAI) guides reported that it snowed over a foot on the mountain last Tuesday and Wednesday. The drifts were as high as 3 feet too! Fresh snow on the route meant that climbers will once again have to be cautious of avalanches. AAI kicked off a small slab on their descent through Cathedral Gap BUT it wasn't large enough to wipe out a person... Still, we have concern and want you to know.

So everyone, be prepared for cooler temps, rain at lower elevations and snow on the upper mountain. This shouldn't be a problem for those Pacific Northwest souls accustom to this sort of climate, but those visiting from other places (that actually still enjoy summer temps well into September) should be prepared for the wintry conditions.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Summer Snowfall and Slush Cup

What do you get when you combine an unsatiable hunger for ski and snowboard "turns all year" (TAY), a slushy snow slope, a pond and some folks dressed up to the nines in costumes resembling some of Stan Lee's worst superhero nightmares? Give up?...You get the 6th annual Snow Cup! Last Sunday, skiers and boarders gathered on Pinnacle Peak to enjoy some of the last remainders of the summer snow atop Pinnacle Peak, then skiing or boarding down the slope into the waiting pond below (Brrr...)

The TAY enthusiasts will be excited to know that this week's stormy weather (though a disappointment for those climbers stuck on the mountain) brought plenty of fresh snow to the upper mountain, coating the routes and improving conditions for more summer climbing and turns. We heard that it snowed about 6 inches up at Camp Muir, and the wind created snowdrifts almost a foot high in spots! Rangers climbing up Disappointment Cleaver on Friday morning report that climbing the cleaver was much easier than it has been over the past few weeks, and the DC remains in great condition.

Slush Cup was a lively event once again - those folks throw quite a party! Participants almost equaled their spectators, and even the climbers perched atop Castle Peak enjoyed the entertainment, as the costumed skiers and boarders skimmed across the tarn at the base of Pinnacle. Afterwards, the crowd gathered at Reflection Lakes for a tailgate party, feeding skiers and hungry tourists alike.

The TAY crew searches out the best that Mount Rainier has to offer, hitting its creamy white slopes every month of the year. The best part of the whole event - they leave nary a trace of being there. They display love and appreciation for the Mountain and respect for the Park...well done! We look forward to the 7th annual event and will keep our eyes open for the invite next time.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Speed climbing and the Super Sherpa

This summer has seen a flurry of interest in climbing Mount Rainier FAST... Justin Merle set the pace by breaking Chad Kellogg's record (4 hours 59 minutes) by 10 minutes on July 11th. His friend and colleague, Liam O'Sullivan, raised the bar a few weeks later by sprinting up and down the mountain (Paradise to summit and back) in 4 hours 46 minutes, besting Merle by 3 minutes... Last week, Lhaka Gelu Sherpa threw the gauntlet down in hopes of smashing that record. With 13 Everest summits under his belt and a previous Everest speed record (the current record is held by Pemba Dorje Sherpa), Lhakpa certainly had the credentials to do it. But his well-publicized attempt was thwarted by nasty leg cramps on the descent (something that Liam also met with on a prior and unsuccessful ascent) and so our "Super Sherpa" will have to try again another day. I suppose that we'll see him again, and other speed climbers too... But any takers better move fast, as the route is beginning to change in ways that make rapid movement harder and more challenging (but it's still great for the masses that take 2-5 days, so don't worry).

We've also been getting questions about timed ascents to Camp Muir. So for your information, here are a few facts. In 1994, Climbing Ranger Scott Wanek ran from Paradise to the high camp in 51 minutes! Not bad, eh? Most people can't even ski DOWN that fast. But don't feel bad if your normal one way time is something like 4-6 hours, because Scott also had run a personal best 4:11 mile. Of course, Wanek's record had to be broken too, and it was done last year by Climbing Ranger Andy Anderson. Andy quietly posted a 46 minute one way ascent to Camp Muir! Yup, 4,500 feet of gain in 4.5 miles. So what did you do in the last 46 minutes? Michael Phelps might be smashing Olympic records, but it seems the Rainier records are meeting a similar fate this summer too.

Post by Monica and Mike

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Maria Cantwell

Did you realize that there is a phone number any U.S. Senator can call to get public information on the fly? We plebs have 411, but they have something better. Something tailored. Something that addresses their senatorial needs. U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell mentioned this number to me, and shared a cool story about another "famed" senator using it to locate his favorite authors after reading their books. So the story goes, Senator XY would finish a novel and then call the author to say how much he liked their work. Now wouldn't that be cool? Who wouldn't appreciate a phone call from a U.S. senator saying, "Hey, I dug your _____(insert book,record, video, speech, etc.) and thought I'd just tell you." Of course, Maria (or Patty Murray for that matter) hasn't called me yet (nudge, hint, wink) about my book on Mount Rainier. But then again, I'm still waiting for that conciliatory call from John McCain since I aced him out of the 4th place spot on the Men's Journal Tough Guy list (scroll to #5 where he resides)!

Silliness aside, bumping around Camp Muir with Maria Cantwell last summer was definitely a memorable experience. Perhaps because she is such a power broker in the federal government? Or maybe it's because she is rich (by NPS ranger standards - not by Bill Gates standards)? Or maybe it's because she has blue eyes and feminine charm? Who really knows (probably the latter of those three), but I do know that we climbing rangers were quite impressed with her acerbic wit and extremely cool, down to earth demeanor...

This adventure started with a chance encounter at Camp Muir and a few weeks later, I was having breakfast in Seattle with "Maria." There were a number of telling moments that day. For instance, I knew we were off to a good start when she declared, "Just make sure that we have GOOD coffee." In climbing ranger world, "Good coffee," IS an important standard that should be seriously respected! Clearly, Maria was exhibiting good taste and stature.

And since she didn't have a closet full of climbing gear for her upcoming climb, I soon found myself cruising through REI with Maria in tow. While at the rental encounter, another telling moment presented itself. As soon as she tried on a pair of plastic boots, Maria stated, "No way." I mean really, "NO WAY!" Then I realized, who REALLY wants to wear some clunky oversized marshmallow-colored double-liner boots anyway? They were awkward, uncomfortable and terribly unstylish. Soon enough, Maria was modeling a light blue pair of La Sportiva boots that, incidentally, matched her jacket (and eyes) perfectly. Tres chic...

Panache aside, we didn't discuss politics or the National Park Service (that much). We did discuss ways to improve those stinky toilets at Camp Muir (something anyone could agree upon) and the construction debris from the ongoing (and terribly slow) Camp Muir rehabilitation. Otherwise, most of the talk centered on how long and arduous it would be to reach the summit... practical stuff any smart and stylish politician would note!

Speaking of smarts, Maria remained practical throughout the trip. Many of her comments, thoughts, and questions were often unvarnished, and in some regards, innocent and raw. When discussing what it took to climb mountains, I detected some uncertainty surrounding the entire logic behind "pursuing summits." Perhaps in her thinking, why would anyone really want to do this? And if you take away the personal and emotional justifications we climbers craft for ourselves, it is easy to wonder why someone would spend so much money to suffer in the cold, while potentially risking death. Especially since along the way, you're not going to get good coffee, and you'll surely endure little sleep and hard exercise, while working towards something that probably doesn't "really" matter...

But "matter", climbing does, and there were a number of moving moments during those three days with Maria Cantwell on Mount Rainier that told me she clearly "got it." For one, Maria definitely enjoyed being an anonymous citizen helping visitors at Camp Muir. A few folks stopped by and probably didn't even realize who they were talking to. But she also took the time to check out (i.e. nap on) the roof of the ranger station and read magazines. There we were at 10,000 feet on Mount Rainier, with a U.S. senator comfortably letting her hair down with climbers, skiers, day hikers, and coffee-swilling rangers....pretty cool, huh?

And as Rainier often does, its magnificence spoke through her voice. When our party left Ingraham Flats towards the summit, I could hear Maria open up with enthusiasm as her eyes scanned the glacial landscape, "I can't believe such a wild place exists so close. Thank you so much for taking me here; it's REALLY beautiful." Her tone told the story: she was awesomely struck by the raw beauty of Mount Rainier's landscape; I had heard the reverence before and understood its impact.

And for reasons beyond reason, a U.S. senator was completely thankful to be "rest-stepping" up the Emmons Glacier towards a cold windy knoll called "Columbia Crest," moved by the same simplicity and desire that motivates others in the mountains: the land, the people, the beauty, the challenge, the solace.

As for Maria the politician... A little search engine sleuthing revealed many stories, including this piece in the Seattle Times that seemed to capture some of her personal qualities, including a knack for hard work and a "can do" attitude. Maria would quip that there is more to her that anyone could glean on a three day mountain trip. True, but her unending energy and sensible logic were apparent to the rest of the climbing rope.

And when another rope mate started having difficulty with the pace, Maria understood that our team would need to turn around... But that was ok, because she could come back. And though we didn't reach Columbia Crest, I suspect she'll have few problems reaching it this year. That is, if she sets her mind to it and takes a chance. So Maria... How about it... Do we get to see you again on Mount Rainier?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A month of records: Liam O'Sullivan claims new speed record

Less than a month after Justin Merle broke the speed summit record of Mount Rainier from Paradise to Columbia Crest and back, Liam O'Sullivan, a mountain guide employed by International Mountain Guides (IMG), raised the bar once again, beating Merle's time by 3 minutes with a new record of 4 hours, 46 minutes and 29 seconds (FYI: Both Merle and O'Sullivan had small amounts of supplies cached at Camp Muir and dropped crampons on the descent). O'Sullivan left the upper Paradise parking lot at 4:20:08 a.m. and arrived at Camp Muir 1 hr 24 minutes later, putting him well on the way to a new record. O'Sullivan then beat his own personal time to Columbia Crest by 5 minutes, with a one way time of 3:11:22. On a previous attempt this month, O'Sullivan had been on pace to beat the record, but then faced fierce cramps on the descent which prevented him from setting a new record. This was almost the case again, but he was able to pull through this time.

"Any long or awkward step (which the Cleaver has plenty of by now) would cause me to cramp, so I descended cautiously to Muir, by which time I had lost all but 1 minute of the lead I had gained on Justin Merle's pace. I descended the (unfortunately) still firm Muir Snowfield, reaching Pebble neck-and-neck with Justin's time. Then battling the rocky, stepped trail, I commenced. Below Glacier Vista I kicked, breaking away from the pace, opted for the more direct east side of Alta Vista (complete with skin-shredding steep asphalt descent), and reached the trailhead in 4:46:29!"

Climbing conditions on Disappoinment Cleaver (DC) are some of the best conditions seen in years, which could account for the recent trend of speed ascents this month, including record attempts by O'Sullivan and Alpine Ascents International (AAI) Guide Michael Horst, and an amazing combination bicycle ride and speed ascent by Randall Nordfors. Despite the phenomenal conditions on the DC all summer, the season is moving along and things are beginning to break up, so future speed ascent attempts may be more difficult due to less direct route and slower climbing conditions. However, this may not stop would-be record breakers like Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa, a guide with Alpine Ascents International (AAI) and previous Everest record holder. Check out a recent article by The Seattle Times, covering this new competition for the "Rainier Speed Summit".

In addition to his record breaking climb, O'Sullivan has had a pretty good month - he made his 100th summit of Rainier on a tough Kautz route in less than ideal conditions, he guided Nordfors' Puget Sound to Summit trip and now begins a new path: medical school. After 10 years of mountain guiding on Mount Rainier and around the globe, we wish Liam the best and look forward to hearing more great things from him in the future.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Fort Lewis Chinook Pilots Climb to Summit

Pilots Richard Bovey, Bryan Campbell and Scott Salkovics from the 159th alpha Company Army Reserve, accompanied by two climbing rangers, spent four days at Mount Rainier training and climbing to the summit via the Emmons Winthrop Route. All three men have trained at Mount Rainier in high altitude rescue and provided critical support in Search and Rescue. In addition to their assistance with SARs, Bovey, Campbell and Salkovics are also huge supporters and fans of Mount Rainier. Bovey and Campbell have done volunteer work to help restore two of the lookout towers and all are avid outdoorsmen. Although they have all hiked in the Park extensively (Campbell completed the Wonderland Trail in a seven day period) none had summitted Mount Rainier.

This trip afforded the pilots the opportunity to look at many of the training and rescue locations on the ground, as well as train in crevasse rescue, glacier travel and route finding on the upper mountain. The conditions for the climb where ideal - great weather, excellent food and lodging (the hut and barbecue at Camp Schurman). This is a special thanks to them and to the U.S. Army unit that supports climbers and search and rescue operations on Mount Rainier. There is more information about the unit and its work from previous trainings and missions.

Photo and post by David Gottlieb

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

2008 Camp Patriot Climb

The motto for Camp Patriot, “giving back to those that have given” effectively states their mission: to provide disabled veterans opportunities to continue enjoying outdoor adventures. In this spirit, three disabled veterans were chosen to join professional climbing guides on a summit climb of Mount Rainier, a challenge that many climbers without any physical obstacles find difficult.

The three participating climbers, Ryan Job, Chad Jukes and Joey Martinez, all served in the military and are disabled as a result of injuries sustained during a tour of duty oversees defending our country. Each was chosen because of their unwavering commitment to service, their strength, courage, and dedication to continue living active and fulfilling lives despite past injury. Camp Patriot commemorates these exceptional men and in the process provides this experience of a lifetime.

The attached photo was taken on the last day of Camp, Sunday July 10th, when two F15's from the 173rdFW out of Klamath Falls, OR, flew overhead Camp Muir at precisely 8:00 a.m. to celebrate this extraordinary climb. For more information about Camp Patriot and the 2008 Mount Rainier climb, see a recent front page article posted in the Seattle Times
or check their website.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Another record - Puget Sound to Columbia Crest and back in one day

Climbers strive to push the boundary of their sport to new limits every day – faster ascent times (see the recent post about Justin Merle’s new unofficial speed summit record), more difficult routes, and even multi-sport athletic events. In the case of Randall Nordfors, he turned a simple guided summit climb with International Mountain Guides (IMG) into a full-on endurance race. Not only did he set out to bicycle a total of 162 miles from Puget Sound to Paradise and back, but he threw in a single push speed summit. If this trip wasn’t challenging enough, Nordfors set himself two personal goals: #1 Summit in under 12 hours and #2 Complete the entire trip in less than 20 hours.

The starting point for Nordfors trek was Tolmie State Park, located just a few miles from the end of the Nisqually River, whose source is glaciers up on Rainier. Despite problems that caused a slower than expected start and impossible to control time delays due to traffic and stop lights, Nordsfor still made the trip to Paradise in well under 5 hours. After successfully achieving his first goal in 11 hours and 40 minutes, Nordfors was back on his bike and headed downhill at speeds of about 40 mph. Although the final stage of his trip was mostly downhill, staying alert after such sustained physical exertion is a huge challenge. The final stretch of road was for sure the defining point of the trip. Behind in his time, Nordfors left nothing on the road, peddling hard and fast to make up for lost time and pulling in to Tolmie Park like a madman, finishing just under his goal of 20 hours at 19 hours 57 minutes and 30 seconds. Not bad for a day’s work...

Randall's To Do List:
Summit Mount Rainier under 12 hours – CHECK!
Finish crazy long bike ride and climb in under 20 hours – CHECK!


According to Nordfors, other than the actual physical conditioning required to complete this sort of endurance event, the two most important aspects of his training was eating when your body didn’t want to, and staying focused and mentally alert while your body is completely exhausted. As a retired competitive bicycle racer, Nordsfors is not new to intense training and challenges. Although only a novice climber, Nordfors, 45, decided that after his retirement from racing a few years ago, he wanted to try new things and test the ability of his body to new limits. His trip from Puget Sound to Summit certainly proved to be a worthy challenge, and although Nordfors achieved both of his lofty goals, he is not completely satisfied with his bicycle ride from Tolmie Park to Paradise and will attempt to improve his time in a another epic tour. Best of luck on your next adventure Randall!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Route Updates - Don't be caught with old reports

The mid-season is upon Mount Rainier and the condition updates are flying in fast and furiously. FYI, updating a specific route condition report doesn't necessarily mean that the "update" will bounce to the top the "Updated Route Conditions" page. Hope that makes sense.

Anyway, in the past week, we've posted some great reports on: Little Tahoma, Fuhrer Finger, Kautz Glacier, Disappointment Cleaver, Tahoma Glacier, Emmons, and Muir Snowfield. Don't be caught on the mountain with old reports.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Researching Mount Rainier's Glaciers

Everyday, climbers inquire about thinly covered crevasses, glacier conditions, or that “bergschrund” on top of the Emmons. And we’re here to share what we know about the Emmons, Kautz, Tahoma and other major glaciers on Mount Rainier. But we also wanted to let you know that the NPS is actively monitoring these glaciers in an effort to better understand how the climate is affecting them and how these glaciers are affecting the mountain and the surrounding areas. This is important stuff when you consider that Mount Rainier’s glaciers are a primary water source for many Washingtonians, while at the same time a potential geological threat to communities in the floodplains downstream.

Basic Science Recap:
Glaciers are permanent sheets of flowing ice that erode mountain slopes, carve valleys, and affect the geography of the park. Rainier’s glaciers have an “accumulation zone” (where more snow gathers than melts) and an “ablation zone” (where more snow melts than accumulates). The most recent detailed measurements (1913 to 1994) on Mount Rainier indicate that the combined glacial area has receded by a 1/5th, and that the total volume of glacier mass has decreased by 25%.

The Nisqually and Emmons are part of a long-term monitoring program making them the most scientifically prodded glaciers in the park. The current study is a cooperative venture between Mount Rainier and North Cascades National Parks and includes field measurements of snow depth, snow density, and snow/ice melt. It includes an annual series of terrestrial, aerial and satellite images. To better understand what's going on, researchers place “ablation sticks” (PVC poles) at various elevations and locations on the Emmons, Ingraham and Nisqually Glaciers. In the spring, researchers us a steam drill to sink these stakes into the winter snowpack until they reach the glacier ice. Then throughout the season, researchers measure the snow accumulation and more importantly, the rate of snow melt. This allows them to calculate the net balance of the overall snow and icepack. The graph below shows the results gathered since 2003. As you can see, the overall mass balance of the ice is decreasing.

So why are we sharing this geeky science information? Well, we like it, but also because climbers have been noting the PVC poles buried on the glacier and have asked, “What’s the plastic pipe all about?” Those PVC poles are the measuring sticks. If you keep your eyes peeled on your next summit attempt, you may note one or two of them on the Muir Snowfield, Nisqually, Emmons, or Ingraham Glaciers. If you do see them, please do not disturb or remove them.


For more information on the glacier monitoring being conducted by North Cascades National Park, check their website. And if you’re interested in the historical Mount Rainier glacier studies referenced above, check out the “Glacier and Glacier Changes” homepage on the Mount Rainier website.

Photo contributed and graph by North Cascades researcher Jeanne Wenger.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

New "Unoffical" Speed Record Set

On Wednesday morning, July 11, Justin Merle, an avid climber, international mountaineer and current employee as a guide with International Mountain Guides (IMG), broke the Mount Rainier summit speed record with a time of 4 hours, 49 minutes and 35 seconds. Here is a link to a recent article on his climb in The News Tribune.

The previous record holder, climbing ranger alum Chad Kellogg, set the record in 2004 with a time of 4 hours, 59 minutes and 1 second. Like Merle's time, it too was not officially recorded; there was no time keeper available at Paradise, Camp Muir or the summit to confirm the event. However, we do have pictures taken by Merle of his watch before and after the climb and climbers up at Camp Muir also confirmed seeing Merle on his descent. This obviously leaves room for disagreement for all those non-believers, but this level of athletic achievement, in such a challenging sport as it is, and a dangerous location as Mount Rainier can be, deserves a nice tip of the hat and a hearty "congratulations". There is no doubt Merle has raised the bar, and the level of anticipation for those other hopeful climbers looking for a new challenge. So, a lingering question remains, “Who's next?”.

Below is Merle’s account of the trip:

Times 6:00:05 -- left the upper Paradise parking lot
7:33ish -- climbed through Muir
8:30ish -- top of Cleaver
9:27 -- Columbia Crest
9:30 -- left register after signing the book
9:35 -- descended from crater rim
10ish -- Ingraham Flats
10:10 -- Muir
10:30 -- Pebble Creek
10:49:40 -- back in the parking lot
Roundtrip -- 4:49:35

I wore light boots (Sportiva Trango S) and Kahtoola

aluminum crampons, lightweight pants and a lightweight longsleeve top. I carried a BD Bullet pack with 2 liters of Cytomax in a hydration bladder, a light Goretex top, warm hat, and gloves. For fuel I carried 6 Gu packages and a pack of Shot Blocks. Overall, the route conditions and weather were almost perfect. The route was direct above the Cleaver and there wasn't much for traffic aside from the guided parties, who were all quite nice in letting me pass. I went to the tippy top and took the time to sign in at the register. It was quite windy on the crater rim and on the summit; aside from that the breeze was pleasant and I did not have to add any layers except a pair of gloves during the ascent. The descent went well--good snow for plunge-stepping and striding out pretty much all the way down. I did fall once on moderate terrain near 13000' as I was cutting some switchbacks--slid a couple meters before regaining my feet. On the descent, I left my pack at Muir and my crampons at Pebble Creek--thanks to the guides for carrying them down. I timed myself on my Suunto watch, and also used the logbook funtion to record the ascent/descent. The only "proof" I have of the times are a couple of before and after photos of the watch, and video taken with the same camera, before and after (I left the camera in a stuffsack at the trailhead). I did sign the register, and saw a lone climber on Columbia Crest, but did not speak with him.

This was my 106th summit of Rainier, by my best count.

~Justin Merle

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Crevasse fall - Climber Injured on Kautz Glacier

Kautz Glacier, Mount Rainier

On the afternoon of Tuesday, July 1, a climber fell approximately 15 feet into a crevasse at around 11,400 feet on the Kautz Glacier of Mount Rainier while descending the Mountain. The injured climber, Mitchell Bell, was rescued from the crevasse by his four teammates. Bell had injured ribs and visible lacerations to his head and face, but he was conscious and in stable condition. A doctor in the team quickly determined that due to his known and potential injuries, Bell could not continue the descent without assistance. Two members of the party climbed down in search of help, leaving the doctor, another teammate, and the patient at the scene. Back at Camp Hazard about 1,000 feet below, they found Alpine Ascents International (AAI). Several AAI guides responded to the request for assistance and contacted the National Park Service. A plan was put in place for two AAI guides to travel to the accident scene that evening to assess the injured climber’s condition and bring with them materials for an overnight stay on the Mountain. Based on their assessment, the Incident Commander, David Gottlieb called for air-lift/hoist extraction the following morning.

Within an hour of take-off on Wednesday morning at approximately 6:45 a.m., a US Army Reserve Chinook helicopter from Fort Lewis successfully extracted the injured climber from the Kautz Glacier. The patient was transported to Madigan Hospital for further medical evaluation. He was released later that day.


You can find more in the ST and PI.

~ Monica Magari

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hot Time to Climb

For the first time this season the freezing level is rising above 14,500 feet. This means earlier starts for summit attempts. Get up and out of high camp so you're back before the mid-afternoon heat. The high pressure should be around all weekend and into the early part of next week. Groups of excited climbers were out enjoying their first tan of the season Saturday morning. Here is a photo of the sun rising over the Cowlitz. Notice the sun cups starting to form in the bottom of the photo. If you look closely you can see Camp Muir to the left of the climber's head lamp (Photo by Brian Scheele). Come take advantage of this great early summer weather.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Route Updates

There are a number of route condition updates. Particularly, Disappointment Cleaver, Muir Snowfield, Gibraltar Ledges, Emmons Glacier, Fuhrer Finger, and a really fantastic and detailed report on Liberty Ridge.

As far as other major Rainier news, their isn't a ton to share. But if you're climbing the mountain soon, we'd love to get your trip report.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Camp Patriot

The LA Times interviewed Incident Commander, David Gottlieb, regarding the most recent tragedy on the Muir Snowfield. The details are heart wrenching.

On a much more positive note, wounded veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are aiming for Rainier's summit. Backpacker Magazine did a story (Shock and Awe) about last year's achievement. That extraordinary effort put a blinded Army Captain on the summit. Look for the team from Camp Patriot on the Disappointment Cleaver later this July.

Speaking of routes, folks are climbing them. We've updated the route conditions page, and posted information about successful attempts on the Emmons and Gibraltar Ledges. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Injured hikers airlifted from Camp Muir with help of Army Reserve team

Here is the NPS press release about the recent incident on the Muir Snowfield. We'll attempt to put more information online when we can.

Injured hikers airlifted from Camp Muir with help of Army Reserve team


Two hikers suffering from hypothermia and frostbite were airlifted from Camp Muir on Mount Rainier at 6:15 this morning, with the help of a Chinook helicopter operated by members of the Army Reserve’s 159th Aviation Regiment at Fort Lewis. They were taken to Madigan Hospital and from there by ground transportation to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

The injured hikers were Mrs.Mariana Burceag and Mr. Daniel Vlad of Bellevue, Washington. A third hiker, Mr. Eduard Burceag, the husband of Mrs. Burceag, died of injuries sustained in the incident. His body is being removed off the mountain this afternoon.

The three individuals are experienced mountaineers who had visited Camp Muir in the past and have enjoyed hiking and climbing on Mount Rainier for many years. Two had previously reached the summit. On Monday afternoon, they became trapped on the Muir Snowfield by a sudden blizzard while descending from a day hike to Camp Muir. Early Tuesday morning a 911 emergency call came through to park rangers advising them of overdue hikers on the Muir snowfield. Due to heavy, drifting snow, seventy miles per hour winds, and near zero visibility, a rescue team was unable to safely initiate a search at that time. At about 7:15am, one member of the party found his way to Camp Muir and was able to direct a search team, made up of climbing guides and park rangers stationed at Camp Muir, to the party’s location near Anvil Rock. All three of the stranded hikers were under shelter by 8:30am. Three doctors, who were at Camp Muir as clients of one of the park’s guide services, provided immediate medical care. Mr. Burceag was unconscious and unresponsive upon arrival. Rescuers were unable to revive him.

The shelter at Camp Muir is warm, dry, and well-stocked with food and water. A carry-out rescue could have been initiated following the rescue, however, rangers and doctors determined it would be in the best interest of the patients to spend the night and wait for a break in the weather to safely fly the next day. This morning dawned clear above Camp Muir, with heavy clouds below. The Chinook helicopter arrived at 6am and, in approximately 15 minutes, lifted Mrs. Burceag and Mr. Vlad, along with one of the park’s climbing rangers, into the helicopter by hoist and cable. Those on scene report that the cloud ceiling had risen somewhat by the time the helicopter arrived, and that the rescue occurred amid swirling clouds that threatened to engulf the mountain in fog.

The Chinook helicopter was operated by members of the U.S. Army Reserve, “A” Company, 5th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment at Fort Lewis, Washington. [Note: Yesterday’s press release attributing the helicopter to the 101st Airborne Division was incorrect.] This reserve unit has worked with park officials at Mount Rainier on numerous rescues over the years, and has been invaluable as a backup resource when private vendors are unavailable or lack the capabilities required by the mission. In this case, for instance, the Chinook was able to fly out of Fort Lewis by instruments, despite the low clouds and poor visibility that grounded commercial helicopters. Over the years, the Reserve unit’s helicopter has been modified in several ways to accommodate the needs of Mount Rainier’s climbers: with a fixed line inside the aircraft for climbers to clip into; with removable plywood flooring to accommodate climbers’ crampons; with a special hoist for lifting individuals into the helicopter; and with flight helmets for use by park rangers, outfitted with avionics for communicating with the helicopter team.

Every year, roughly 9,000 people climb Mount Rainier and only about half of them reach the summit. Thousands more take day hikes or overnight camping trips to Camp Muir (48 were registered there on Tuesday night). These individuals are attracted by the majesty of the mountain, the wilderness experience, and the breathtaking beauty of mornings like this one, high above the clouds on the side of the volcano. Like many things in life, there are inherent risks in the wilderness. Sudden storms like Monday’s blizzard can catch even the most experienced and prepared hikers off guard. Visitors should check in with park rangers for the latest information about conditions on the mountain, and should always be prepared for an emergency.

~ NPS

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

June Winterland!

Although we may be moving into mid-June, and despite many parts of the country experiencing summer-like conditions, here at Mount Rainier mother nature has once again thrown us a curve-ball, dumping more than 3 feet of snow on The Mountain in the last 7 days. Last night winds were high enough to carry snow into drifts with depths of 3, 4 and even 5 feet in spots. Visibility on the Muir snowfield has been poor, although breaks in the weather have been found and parties are continuing to travel up to Camp Muir, albeit with CAUTION. Experience in route finding is necessary as whiteout conditions have also been reported.

REMINDER: Keep up to date on changing weather forecasts. Although the forecast may improve through the week, AS ALWAYS, be prepared for winter-like conditions on the upper mountain, variable weather enroute, and have alternative plans in the case your party gets turned around due to inclement conditions.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Almost Summer...

The mountain was busy this last week with climbers. The guided groups are in their summer routine on the Muir Corridor, the trip from Muir back to Paradise can still be made on skis, and most of the routes haven't even started melting out. If only the weather this early-season would cooperate. Check out new route condition reports on the Emmons, DC, and Liberty Ridge. Enjoy yourselves and climb safely!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Into the weekend

Memorial Day weekend is here and so far, there hasn't been any chaos on the mountain. Surprisingly, the weather was quite pleasant today (Saturday) so getting to a high camp was actually reasonable. There is an update on the Muir Snowfield conditions, a new post on the Emmons Route, as well as a few recent aerial images that have been added to the Kautz, Mowich and Success routes. Photos by Stefan Lofgren.

We are also doing our part to keep you up to date about the changes to the road conditions, access and road openings.

If you've climbed this weekend, send us a report.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Getting ready for Memorial Day weekend

The weather this week was ugly. What was supposed to be a chance of rain, turned into 20 plus inches of new snow at Paradise! That's doing little to help with the road opening operations. We've updated the road access information, but please be forewarned, it's a moving target, particularly with regard to avalanche issues and other obstacles that continually arise.

Climbing rangers will be lurking on the Emmons and Muir routes this weekend. If you're bored, stop in and visit them at high camp. Otherwise, those on the Emmons should prepare for a longer march into White River Campground. It doesn't look as though that road will open by Memorial Day weekend. Therefore, be prepared to park your vehicle at the "Mather Wye" on HWY 410 (extra 6 miles each way, unless you get lucky enough to hitch a ride with a passing NPS rig). Things are relatively normal on the Camp Muir/Paradise side. Though it is worth noting that the Ingraham Direct is already out of shape and most climbers are hitting the Disappointment Cleaver. Remember, the Jackson Visitor Center opens at 6 a.m. on Saturday.

There was a substantial increase in the number of climbers and skiers visiting the upper mountain this past weekend. To keep you up to speed, we've added a number of new reports in the Updated Route Conditions. If you've some images or narratives about your climbing experience, we want them (and so does everyone else!). Photo by Jason Hummel.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Heatwave Climbing

Longmire may still be a snowy icebox (3-4 feet of snow in some places and cool down-valley...katabatic... winds) but the upper mountain hasn't been. On Thursday and Friday nights, the low at Camp Muir "dipped" (!) to a balmy 50 degrees. Former climbing ranger and famed speed climber Chad Kellogg found a sea of slush on his way to Camp Muir. Chad left Paradise around midnight (60 degrees) using (needing) snowshoes to plow through snow on the Muir Snowfield. I've posted a photo and an upated description of the Disappointment Cleaver on the Updated Route Conditions page.

Under bright sunny skies, the newly remodeled Paradise Inn reopened without a hitch (TNT) last Friday. The only complaint that I heard was that somehow, they forgot to reinstall the historically significant "Glacier Lounge". What, no bar?! Other than that, the new floors look pretty darn good and everyone was happy.