Read the full trip-report on Chad's blog here, and see some awesome photos and short video from David's blog here.
With decent weather over the long weekend, lots of backcountry snow enthusiasts were out playing. The NWAA (Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center) started posting updates, check them out here.
Have a safe and inspirational holiday season!
The regulations at the park have changed over this last summer to be consistent with WA State mountain pass chain requirements.
Here's the deal simply stated: You need to have chains in your car when you come into the park - even if you don't use them and the posted restriction is "snow tires advised".
The reason for this is that the road conditions rapidly change during a snow event. So even if you drove to Paradise in the sunshine, when you leave there may be 6 inches of snow on the road.
And if you have a 4x4, remember that actual tire restriction is "Tire Chains Required - 4 Wheel Drive with approved traction tires OK - 4 Wheel drives must carry chains".
This carry chain requirement for 4 wheel drive vehicles is likely to be enforced at chain-up stations.
Here's the tire restriction FAQ off the NPS.GOV website.
Tire Chain Requirement - Frequently Asked Questions
Posts are less frequent during these winter months. Be sure to check out the weather and avalanche conditions when planning a trip to the mountain this winter. Also, regulations for climber registration change, roads will close, and visitor center hours switch as the park prepares for winter. Check out the links to keep current.
The roadgate at Longmire closes each evening (at 6pm) and reopens each morning after the Road Crew has finished its prep. We have an excellent crew who do their best to keep the road passable, but there will be a handful of days this winter when conditions are so bad the road to Paradise will not open.
Cone on up and enjoy our early winter!
Beginning on November 1st the road gate at Longmire will be closed each evening (at 6pm) and the road will be opened again each morning after the Road Crew has finished its prep. We have an excellent crew who do their best to keep the road passable, but there will be a handful of days this winter when conditions are so bad the road to Paradise will not open.
Have a fun and safe winter!
Last weekend about 2" of melted precipitation dropped on the mountain. This caused drifts of snow "knee to mid-thigh" deep on the climbing routes. Snow and high winds can make navigation, especially on the upper mountain, difficult. Be sure to have a solid navigation technique, whether it's using a GPS or map/compass/altimeter, before venturing onto the mountain.
The high winds associated with the storm cycle resulted in poor skiing conditions. Some leeward locations have loosely wind packed freshies, while other windward locations are scoured, grit-covered, hardpack. Though the skiing hasn't become great, the climbing conditions have held out! The lower freezing levels have solidified the sketchier crevasse crossings and the feshly plastered snow has kept loose rock in place.
This upcoming weekend, September 24th and 25th, will be the last weekend that the Climbing Information Center in Paradise is open. Please come on by to chat, chill, and register. We'll be open from 7:00 am to 3:30 pm. After this weekend climbers can self-register in Paradise at the self-registration kiosk on the porch of the Paradise Old Station (the small A-frame right next to the toilet tunnel in the upper parking lot). Directions on how to self-register are posted.
Even though fall flights are here, autumn hardly seems to have rolled in. "Record breaking highs" have been in the recreational forecast the last couple of days, and there has even been a "red-flag" warning for fire danger inside the park. Climbers have still been summitting via the Disappointment Cleaver, Emmons/Winthrop, and the Kautz Glacier route.
Snow melting and revealing hard glacial ice around the mountain can present new challenges for climbers. Consider bringing both snow AND ice protection for crevasse rescue. Don't be afraid to throw the sharp crampons in the backpack either. Enjoy the views as the colors start to change around the park - see you on the mountain!
Climbers approaching through White River will still register at the White River Wilderness Information Center, open seven days a week, 7:30-4:30.
We've had a splitter late season high pressue ridge sitting right on the mountain for the past week with no signs of leaving. There are litterally no parties registered to be at high camp this week - so come on up and have the place to your self!
Starting on the 7th of August this year, we have more snow at Paradise than ever recorded since 1916. The world-record snow years in the early 1970's made for similar snow packs this time of year, but the cool weather has caused the snow to melt more slowly than usual. Our total snowfall for the winter of 2011 was approximately 907 inches - not a world record, but one of the five biggest snow years Paradise has ever seen.
What's different is our cool summer we've had this year. Just today, I skied all the way to Camp Muir from the Paradise parking lot. That's amazing. It's August and we should be enjoying the flowers.
I anticipate that our record breaking trend will continue a few weeks. It never really cleared off today at Paradise. The moist, marine-layer that has Seattle fogged in is strong enough to push all the way to Paradise.
Here's the data break down:
The late-snow season has left many of the routes in great shape. Climbers will find that the flowers and trails are just now starting to melt out in the alpine meadows. The "peak" of the flower season is still to come. On approaches, climbers have been seeing more Black Bears, Clark's Nutcrackers, and Elephant's Head than in previous years.
As the season progresses, different routes will start to see more traffic. The Mowich Face and the Tahoma Glacier are both routes which stay "in," well into September, along with the standard routes - the DC and EW. Welcome to Remember to bring the sunscreen!
Climbers have been out gettin' it done. The storms below offered amazing sunrises and sunsets. Both standard routes (Emmons/Winthrop and Disappointment Cleaver) are still in great shape - as well as most non-standard routes. Climbers utilizing both the public shelter and the bathrooms at high camps should remember that these facilities are for them; please keep them clean. Do not leave trash, any food (even unopened food), or equipment behind - "leave no trace."
The photo above and right is from the shoulder of the Emmons Glacier earlier this week. These great conditions won't last for long! Hope to see you on the mountain.
She was able to graph some data that shows the distribution of the major rock avalanche events over the period from June 24th to July 7th. You can see in the graph that there is a trend decreasing in frequency and size. So it appears that the danger could be abating - but only gradually.
I must say that this correlates with direct observation, as there have not been any major rock flows down the mountain in the last week or more. The lowest extent of the largest debris path is to an elevation of about 8200 feet. Here is a graph Kate produced that shows the data from the seismic sensors installed on Mt. Rainier. The horizontal axis represents the date. The vertical axis represents the number of events per hour. The top row identifies single and large events.
At Camp Muir there are now three gallon and five gallon buckets with lids for food storage. The buckets are kept in the Public Shelter for anybody to use. After use, please return the buckets, cleaned out, to the Public Shelter. Hopefully, use of these buckets for food storage while you are climbing or sleeping will help deter foxes from becoming habituated.
Other peaks within the park have been seeing some climbing activity too. Pinnacle Peak, Castle Peak, Little Tahoma, and Pyramid Peak saw ascents this last week. Climbing in the park is about to peak, and stay popular for the next couple of weeks. Statistically, climbers have the best chance of success in July.
Sun-cups are growing larger and the grit is melting out making skiing conditions more challenging. Skiers descended the Wilson Headwall, Fuhrer Finger, Disappointment Cleaver, and Emmons/Winthrop, but all of them reported conditions are worsening - so get up here quick while there's still pleasant turns to be had!
Sadly, we have experienced what happens when foxes become habituated and dependent on humans in the park - we lost our friend Pickles.
A couple of nice pics were also snapped by rangers in the Sunset Amphitheatre. The westside routes are as remote as ever and offer extreme climbing opportunities along with a moderate descent route (via the Tahoma Glacier).
If you were one of the people who made it up to climb, ski, hike or just hang out above the clouds for a day or two you may have noticed some busy rangers running around doing all sorts of tasks, one of which was helping scientists put stakes in the glaciers by which they measure the melt rate of the winters snow, that then helps them determine overall mass balance of the glaciers. The past 14 months of cold and wet weather have had a pretty big impact on the mountain. This is the first ever year where glaciologists have found a positive mass balance in Rainier's glaciers, even though it was just barely on the positive side of things. We'll be waiting to see what kind of weather this summer will bring and how it will effect the large amounts of snow we currently have on the mountain.
Check out the new route updates and photos for the DC, Gib ledges, Liberty Ridge, Camp Muir and the Muir Snowfield.
Guides and independent parties have switched to climbing on the Disappointment Cleaver instead of the Ingraham Direct. Wands line the route occasionally, but please remember to have your own navigation system - there could be stray wands on the upper mountain.
As June progresses, and the weather becomes nicer, all the animals around the mountain start getting their own climb on. Make sure to stow your food and human waste in a safe location while climbing - or a raven and fox could swoop in and steal your last energy bar.
Please continue to check back to the Access and Roads thread for the most up to date information regarding White River and Stevens Canyon opening dates.
With Memorial Day Weekend just around the corner, the climbing season is getting into full swing. The Climbing Information Center will be open daily from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm starting Friday, May 27th. Come on up and enjoy the start of the season!
Beginning this Sunday, May 1st, the Longmire Gate will be left open, and the road to Paradise will be open to the public 24 hours/day. If snow or other weather conditions require it, the gate may be closed down again temporarily for safety reasons.
Also, please note: the overnight parking location at Paradise has changed: it is now exclusively in the lower parking lot. Please do not park by the Paradise Inn (snow removal operations are taking place).
... and, due to a recent accident, a word of warning: Skiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers should use extreme caution when engaging in snowsports in the Paradise area. High snowbanks, created by road plowing operations, coupled with unseasonably high snowdepths, present a falling hazard above plowed roads and parking lots. Make sure you have scoped out your intended route before engaging in snowsports around the Paradise area. Parents should ensure children are kept away from all snowbanks above roads.
Steph has also taken SAR, fatality, and climbing data provided on www.mountrainierclimbing.us and produced an array of graphs and analyses.
If you would like to make a poster of the map or look at her graphs and data, Steph can be reached via her webpage: http://sites.google.com/site/stephabegg/
Here's the page in full:
Climbing in a party of two, myself Joe Edmark, and my buddy Andrew Doedens. We'd been watching the weather for about a month looking for a summit window and put our climbing plans in motion when we saw our chance. Left Lynnwood for the mountain early Tuesday morning with the plan of hitting Longmire for climbing permits at 9am. We chatted with a fellow making a solo attempt of the Kautz while getting ready in the parking lot. We were a bit behind schedule but started skinning up to Camp Muir about 1130am. I was on AT gear and Andrew was carrying his climbing boots while skinning up with alpine trekkers and alpine ski gear. We carried a tent although reports said the public shelter was open. We had decided to take our time to Muir to save energy for our summit attempt and arrived at Muir about 630pm just as the sun was setting. We were met by icy and difficult skinning conditions about 1000ft below Muir which slowed us down considerably. I carried ski crampons but didn't use them (andrew had none) but it was manageable with a bit of patience and concentration. There was another party of two in the Muir shelter also planning an ascent on the ID, Harrison and his partner (don't recall his name) We cooked dinner and melted snow for water with a bit of help from our neighbors, (always bring a backup stove) thanks guys. We planned an alpine start at midnight and somehow motivated our bunkmates to start up before us. The other party left us some hot water on the stove and headed out while Andrew and I got ready and had some breakfast. We headed towards Cathedral Gap with crampons on following the other summit teams tracks about a quarter past one am. It was slow going but conditions were great and the trail was broken (thanks again guys), there were about six crevasse crossings on the whole route, easily crossed with running belays without setting any other protection. Weather was in the single digits with pretty sustained winds around 20-30mph and the sky was overcast most of the morning. Andrew started getting sick so I dug out a snow shelter at about 13,000 and he took a nap while I watched the beautiful sunrise. The other team was making their descent past our dugout as we were getting ready to continue up since Andrew was feeling better. The sun started peaking out from behind the clouds as we approached the rim. We topped out on the crater floor about 1030 am and hung out for a bit while we hydrated and fueled up for the descent. The sun really started to shine as we made our way down and we had to shed layers pretty quickly. Conditions were much looser on the way down but the snow pack was still pretty stable with minor sluffs here and there. We arrived back at Camp Muir about 230 pm. We packed up and headed to Paradise back on skis somewhere around 4pm, and were met by very difficult to ski in variable conditions. We ran out of daylight and had to stop to put headlamps back on, skins back on and figure out where we were. We had almost skiied past Paradise but were fortunate to have stopped in time and were just almost there. We packed up the rig somehow misplacing one of Andrew's plastic climbing boots and made our way down to the locked gate at Longmire. We got the combination from the hotel and fiddled with the rusted lock for a few minutes (please replace) before we got the gate open and headed back home. Awesome weather, awesome climb, awesome mountain. Looking for my next weather window! :-)
We just had two parties return from a great day of climbing and skiing in the sunshine on Wednesday, February 2nd.
The first party was attempting to climb and then ski Fuhrer Finger. They encountered 'buttery' snow up to 9,000' which switched over to very hard snow (ie front pointing) above 10,000'. The ski descent was dust on a very hard crust and didn't sound like very much fun. However, below the finger the snow softened up and made the entire trip worthwhile.
Also, a soloist ventured up the Kautz Headwall very early this morning. He didn't have much to say other than the snow was very soft above 10,500' and he turned around because it was slow going. He also reported that it was icy between 8,500' and 10,500'.
Some precipitation is headed our way, and depending on where the snow level lands it could come as rain or snow. Hopefully, we'll see some more climbs during our next weather window!
After several days of cooler weather and some precipitation, the mountain has come back out in full sunshine with a good 6" of powder on her flanks. There is some great skiing on the south and west aspects right now; while the eastern aspects are getting crusty.
This weeks snow pit was dug at the top of Narada Falls Face, just below the Steven's Canyon Road. As you can see from the profile, the main layer of concern is between 10 to 20 cm below the surface. Some moderate failures for the stability tests indicated that point releases are possible especially on lee slopes. However, no propagation was observed during the stability testing.
CTM(14) @ 12 cm Q3
ECTN(18) @ 12 cm Q3
RB3 @ 12 cm Q2
Keep an eye out for possible point releases on south facing aspects...there's plenty of sluffs coming off all around the Paradise area; especially the face on Panorama Point and the 4th Crossing area.
The sun is out and the temperatures are soaring: 49 at Paradise today! Come out and ski in your shorts.
This week's snow pit was dug just below the bathrooms at Panorama Point. Except for the surface, the top 100 cm of snow contains 6 layers that are all the same hardness and temperature and a mixture of rain crust, ice crust, and rounds. There was about 5 cm of heavy snow on top of a rain crust as of yesterday afternoon. By noon today there was a good 5 cm of slush on top.
Stabililty tests for the snow pit were as follows:
STH @ (15cm) Q2
The weekend forecast shows a drop in the freezing level (finally) and some snow headed our way!
Stability tests performed on Sunday, Jan. 25:
Alta Vista, Aspect 90o; Slope 30o; evel 5800'.
CTH(22) @ 30cm Q3
STM @ 10cm Q3
Also, there were 4 to 5 loose snow slides (sluffs off the south face of Panorama Point. These point-releases resulted from the intense sun melting and weakening the top layer of snow and occurred on Saturday, Jan. 22 around 'high noon'.
Tuesday and Wednesday (1/25 and 1/26) should be mostly sunny and warm, so come on up to Paradise and enjoy some spring skiing in January!
We're currently on the tail end of a 7" rain storm at Paradise. It was raining at times, clear up to 9000 feet. Fortunately, no major flooding damaged any roads (so far). We're planning on opening the road to Paradise today, after keeping it closed yesterday, due to avalanches (both snow, rock, and mud), flood, and rockfall potential.
Ranger Drew Bryenton dug a pit last week. Look for more full profiles from Drew. We'll post them here as well as on the NWAC website. Here's the January 11th, full profile / before all this rain.