Friday, August 27, 2010

Autumn is Coming...

As we push into late August the first signs of fall are starting to show themselves. Returning clouds, crisp days leading to cold nights, and fewer climbers are a familiar scene this time of year. We actually had some snowflakes fall on rangers the past couple of days, but the report from Muir today was of sunny skies, gentle breezes, and cool fall temperatures.

September is still a great month to climb, one of my favorites actually. Although the weather can be variable, it is still very pleasant for the most part. Climbing in September can also lead to a lot more solitude on a mountain where that is sometimes hard to find. Routes like the Emmons and the Kautz, which can be extremely busy during mid-summer, turn into full-on wilderness experiences in September. Something very notable about this year that is different from previous ones is that the routes still have a lot more snow on them than normally would be present in late August. This means instead of climbing glacial skeleton and having to wind around what may seem like endless fields of huge crevasses to reach the summit, climbers are treated to what can only be described as excellent climbing!

There are a few changes coming in the next couple of weeks of which climbers should be aware. One is that the ranger stations where you register to climb will no longer be open on their summer hours. After Labor Day the Longmire WIC, White River WIC and the Climbing Information Center will all still be open but on a more limited basis. Stay tuned for the exact hours,which we will be posting as we get confirmation on the schedules. Climbing rangers will be around throughout September, but on a more limited basis. So make sure to get your urgent questions answered by a ranger when you register.

Come on out and enjoy this next season change on Rainier. There is still a lot of climbing to be done, and watching the leaves change color from 14,000' is a pretty spectacular sight!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

International: Round 2

Climbing rangers have second round of joint international training operations!

Last week we had the privilege of hosting a group of climbers from the Korean Mountain Rescue Association here at Rainier. A group of four climbers came over from Seoul, and spent a week
with us on the mountain learning about how our climbing program operates within the national park. Their association has over 600 members who climb all over the world and promote climbing throughout Korea. Most of their time here was spent training in advanced rescue techniques with climbing rangers and climbing Mount Rainier. Word on the street is they can cook up some good food, and we think some stories might have even been exchanged, thus leading to a fully successful week.

Thomas Payne, our official liaison with S. Korea, shown here with three of our guests after coming down from the summit on a beautiful sunny day.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

In Bloom

So it's mid August, the sun has been shining and the remaining snow has been melting fast. This means that it is the time of year for blooming wildflowers! The subalpine meadows around Mount Rainier are home to many types of wildflowers, most of which are in the midst of flowering and adding beautiful colors to the landscape.

If any of you have been up climbing or hiking I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. The Paradise Meadows have been ablaze with Broadleaf Lupine, Cascade Aster, and Pasqueflower Seedhead just to name a few. Paradise isn't the only place to see fields of red and purple though. The subalpine ecosystem that is home to these flowers surrounds Rainier and is usually found between the 4,500' and 7,000' elevations. This being said climbers are sure to notice hardy plants and flowers growing in the rocky areas of Rainier at all elevations. Look around and you will surely be amazed when you see a hummingbird feeding on a flower as you approach 10,000' on Steamboat Prow or Muir Rocks!

These are some pretty hard core plants that survive year after year while spending eight or nine months buried beneath snow and ice. The best way to keep these guys around for future climbers to see is by not stepping on them, so on your way up to high camp please be sure to set a good example for the rest of the parks visitors (yes they are watching!) by staying on the trails, and not walking all over the fragile meadows.

The photos on this post were taken by Steven Redman one of our Interpretive Rangers here at Paradise. Interps work in the visitor centers throughout the park and are a great resource if you are looking for non-climbing related information. They have the most current beta on everything from flowers and animals to park geology and history. They are always amped to help you out with all the questions climbing rangers can't answer!

One thing climbing rangers can say with authority is that climbing on the mountain is still great. Check out new updates on the Kautz and DC. Don't forget about Little T (with a side trip up K Spire!) along with the Tatoosh peaks as climbing destinations.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Don't Mess

Come to Rainier and see the "Biggest scissors you’ve ever seen.” It’s true. More people are impressed by these scissors than they are with the flowers, glaciers or the entire mountain! The conditions are excellent up here and after being inspired by “The Scissors” many climbers summited in the last week.

We’ve had a few wet and cloudy days down low lately, but the upper mountain has remained nice. The freezing level has stayed around 11,000' and is forecast to drop to 8,000' early this week, followed by high pressure and warmer temperatures.

As for general route beta, we would have used our scissors to span the crevasse pictured below, but instead there has been a ladder placed across it. The crossing shown is around 13,800' on the Disappointment Cleaver route. The guide services maintain ladders and other fixed gear at times along the DC. Before using any fixed gear you find, take a moment to check it out and not just assume the other guy made it safe.

If you recall last year the lower sections of the mountain were already melting out and exposing bare ice. Not the case this year, which means you should be here enjoying these terrific late season conditions. Come see our scissors and then get out and crush it!

Friday, August 06, 2010

500 Summits!

It has been in the works since 1975 and last week early on a Saturday morning, mountain guide George Dunn reached the top of Mount Rainier for the 500th time! He climbed with his wife Nancy, son Jeremy along with friends Phil Ershler and Eric Simonson.

On the way up they had to fight through some tough wind and lightning, but were able to push on to the summit, helping George break his previous record of 499 summits! This is by far the most anyone has ever climbed Mount Rainier and he doesn't seem like he will be slowing down anytime soon.

George has been guiding for the past 35 years and has led many climbing trips throughout the world. His knowledge of climbing and of Mount Rainier specifically is a great asset to all of us here. He is currently a co-owner of International Mountain Guides, one of three guide services that operate full time here on Rainier. Our congrats go out to George and his family on this terrific achievement.

For more information about guided trips on Rainier check out these links, and for more information on Georges climb, including photos and videos click here.