Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend

With the great weather and long weekend lots of climbers have been summitting. We've had successful summits via the following routes: Kautz Glacier, Tahoma Glacier, Liberty Ridge, Fuhrer Finger, Ingraham Direct, Emmons Glacier, and Gibraltar Ledges. The daytime sunshine has also been turning icy glaciers into good corn snow for great riding/skiing. The snow in Paradise still reaches the parking lot making for fun descents.

Climbing ranger David Gottlieb has just returned to Mount Rainier after another successful first ascent in Nepal. He and former climbing ranger Joe Puryear climbed Jobo Rinjang (6,778 meters). Check out for more information and some rad photos.

The weather continues to look clear and sunny for later this week. Come on up and enjoy the routes while they're still in great condition.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Putting in the Glacier Stakes

Good news for climbing this year at Mt. Rainier!

Many of you may have seen the white schedule-40 PVC pipes in various locations on the mountain. These stakes are installed using a steam drill and a big frothing wand to put an 8-9 meter long stake into the snow down past the layer of glacier ice.

When we put the stakes in, the snow depth is measured from last year's late fall layer. This year, all of the way up the Nisqually and even at 11,100' on the Ingraham, we have measured an amount of snow comparable to most years at this time.

This is good news for climbers. Many of the non-standard routes rely on Mt. Rainier's typical snowfall to make the route endure long enough into the summer for climbers to take advantage of the better weather.

The project's aim is to analyze the mass-balance of the Nisqually Glacier. One of the things that we have learned from this project is that the Muir Snowfield at about 9,700 feet has lost about 1 meter of ice each year for the past six years. Many of you may have noticed the rock rib that has been exposed just down from Camp Muir at about 9,700 feet!

The Glacier Monitoring Program is coordinated by the geologist at North Cascades National Park. Many of the Pacific Northwest's glaciers are incorporated into this study. Field crews from North Cascades National Park and Mount Rainier National Park are involved in the project.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Valor Award for Climbing Ranger and Guide!

The National Park Service has finally decided to recognize Chris Olson and Dave Hahn with a valor award and citizen's award for bravery, respectively.

In 2002, Nick Giguere and I had been lowered in on a jungle penetrator from a Chinook helicopter to a serac just below Liberty Wall. We hiked up to just below Thumb Rock where the injured climber and their party were waiting for us.

The second helicopter brought in RMI guide Dave Hahn and Chris Olson, an NPS climbing ranger, to assist us with the lowering from Thumb Rock. As the helicopter was trying to land, it slid back on the snow, lifted off the ground for a short period while it spun around 540 degrees and crashed into the snow. It was one of the scariest things I've ever seen in 20 years of working for the park service.

The helicopter nosed in and lurched foreward. From 1500 feet above, the snow looked like it was spraying in all directions in slow motion. The main rotor bent down, touched the snow at mach speed, then broke with pieces flying off at 300 miles per hour in opposite directions. Finally the tail rotor broke off and swung around crashing into the main cabin of the helicopter.

Within two minutes, drenched in jet-A, and almost crushed by the transmission that came through the roof of the cabin, out jumped Chris, Dave, and eventually the pilot, unhurt.

There were no other helicopters available for a long time. Chris and Dave gave themselves a once over, and hiked up to our location. Since Dave was a guide, he took care of getting the rest of the party down the mountain. Chris's specialty is high angle rescue, so he took the position of litter attendant. Nick and I lowered Chris and the injured person in one long 1000 foot lowering.

Not often does someone crash in a helicopter, get out un-injured, and then take on a crucial role in a technically demanding high-angle rescue situation. It was truly amazing.

Chris and Dave will be honored in Washington, D.C. this week. Finally.