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.