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