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!