Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pangbuk Ri

Lead climbing ranger David Gottlieb and friend/former climbing ranger/Pacific Northwest hard-man Chad Kellogg put up a harrowing, spectacular, and unprecedented ascent of Pangbuk Ri in Nepal (pictured to the right). Starting their climb early on 10/10/11, they summitted and returned to basecamp in an epic 50 hour push.
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!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tire Chains - Remember this winter!

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

Mount Rainier National Park Tire Chain Requirement:
All vehicles are required to carry tire chains when traceling in the park during the winter season (November 1 - May 1). This requirement applies to all vehicles (including four-wheel-drive), regardless of tire type or weather conditions.
Tire Chain Requirement Frequently Asked Questions
Where and when do I need to carry tire chains? Between November 1 and May 1, all vehicles in Mount Rainier National Park are requuired to carry tire chains. This requirement applies to all vehicle types in all weather and road conditions.
What about sunny days? The chain requirement applies to all vehicles and all days between November 1 and May 1, regardless of weather and road conditions. Weather in the park is notoriously quick to change, and sudden storms can appear with little or no warnng.
Why do I need to carry tire chains? A set of chains in every vehicle means that every vehicle is prepared and equipped for changing winter weather conditions. Drifting snow and whiteout conditions can occur at any time. Having chains available in the event of a storm will give each driver an extra margin of safety, allowing the road to remain open longer even when conditions are changing.
What if my owner's manual tells me not to install tire chains? The requirement to carry tire chains applies to all vehicles, regardless of make or model. Vehicle manufacturers that caution against traditional metal tire chains (e.g. Subaru) do market cable chains that are specifically made for their vehicles. Cable chains can be a good option for vehicles with limited tire clearance.
What if I have a rental car? Tire chains are required on all vehicles taveling in the park, including rental cars. However, some stores may accept returns of unused chains.
I have a 4-wheel or all-drive car- do I still need to have chains? Yes. Four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles must carry chains. While vehicles with all-wheel-drive capability and approved traction tires do have enhanced traction, during the most extreme conditions this not sufficient for safe vehicle operation. Chains provide optimal traction in the most challenging road conditions.
Mount Rainier National Park requirements are similar to Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 204-24-050, which states that, for vehicles under 10,000 gross vehicle weight:
"When "chains required" signs are posted, all wheel drive vehicles shall be exempt from the chain requirement when all wheels are in gear and are equipped with approved traction devices as specified in WAC 204-24-020 provided that tire chains for at least one set of drive tires are carried in the vehicle."
Washington State Law does not require motorists to carry tire chains over the major mountain passes- why is it different here? During extreme weather conditions, Washington state does require chains, even on all-wheel and four-wheel drive vehicles, as noted above. In addition, Mount Rainier's roads are unlike most of Washington's in a variety of ways. At 5,400 feet above sea level Paradise is significantly higher in elevation than most of Washington's highway passes and roads. Furthermore, Mount Rainier's roads are scenic park access roads and are not intended to be as wide or have as many safety pullouts as a state highway.
Is there anything I can use instead of chains? Cable chains are typically thinner and lighter than traditional tire chains and may be more easily installed. We recommend checking with your local mechanic or tire store.
Is there anywhere I can rent/buy chains? Tire and auto parts stores normally carry tire chains. Purchase chains from a business in your local community and practice installing them before you come to the park.
Tire chains are available for rent at:
Whittaker Mountaineering
30027 State Route 706 E
Ashford, WA 98304
(360) 569-2142
Several Ashford stores carry chains in limited sizes:

Ashford Valley Grocery
29716 State Route 706 E
Ashford, WA 98304
(360) 569-2560

Suver's General Store
(SUV and Truck sizes)
30402 State Route 706 E
Ashford, WA 98304
(360) 569-2377

Chains are also available in Eatonville and Morton:

Eatonville Auto Parts- Napa
105 Center Street East
Eatonville, WA 98328
(360) 832-6272

Ed's Mortan Auto Parts- Napa
184 W Main Street
Morton, WA 98356
(360) 496-5141

Practice & Safety Suggestions Before coming to the park try out the chains on your vehicle to ensure they fit.
Practice chaining up at home, were it's dry, which will save time in cold and wet conditions.
Ensure your vehicle is in park and the parking brake is set before working around the wheels.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Winter is here

There is no doubt that Winter is upon us at the high camps. New snow, rime and ice have accumulated over the past few weeks during several minor storm cycles. A few parties a week are still striking out for the summit. Shorter days, icy conditions and cold temps are keeping the summit percentage low.

Right now it is super icy at Camp Muir and on the Muir Snowfield. Boilerplate ice laid bare by winds covers large stretches of the Snowfield and the Cowlitz Glacier. In other areas the hard ice is buried under just a few inches of snow. There aren't many times that one wants a pair of crampons just to get up to Camp Muir, but this is one of 'em .

Skiing/boarding is pretty good on the lower Muir Snowfield (see snowfield conditions) but above Camp Muir it is not looking so good.

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!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fall in the Park

A handful of climbers every week are still attempting summits. and while the challenges of colder weather, shorter days and thin snowbridges make travel a bit more difficult, some are still making it to the top.

Posts will become 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.

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!

Monday, September 19, 2011

First Autumn Snow

Autumn at Mount Rainier, especially in the alpine and subalpine zones, does not last long. In fact, some argue whether it exists at all. Camp Muir had beach-like weather last Thursday; by the next night there was 70 mph gusts slinging fresh snow into climber's tents. Summer conditions to winter conditions in less than 24 hours.

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.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Fall Helicopter Flights

The days where climbing rangers "dig deep" have finally arrived. It's time for the fall flights, where all of the human waste accumulated at both high camps, and in blue bags around the mountain, is removed. Propane tanks, construction materials, and rescue equipment are also flown around the mountain and staged for the winter.

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!

Self Registration - 'tis the Season

Labor Day weekend has come and gone and that means its self-regitstration time again! The Climbing Information Center (CIC) is now open only on the weekends. During weekdays go ahead and use the self-registration booth in front of the Paradise Ranger Station. See the Permits and Regulations page for more details.

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!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Climbing Program Manager

I'm pleased to announce that Stefan Lofgren has officially been selected for the permanent position as Climbing Program Manager. Of course, he's been serving in this role in an acting capacity for over a year now, but his skills, drive, and vision for the program have proven him to be the best person to further the professionalization of the Mount Rainier Climbing program. Stefan has worked for over 20 years in the parks in the Pacific Northwest-most have been here at Mount Rainier, but he has also worked at Olympic. He knows the mountain, the weather, the people, and the environment. While serving in the acting Program Mgr. role, Stefan has guided a major transformation toward professionalizing the overall operation, establishing increased permanent supervisory oversight for staff, provided his staff with increased training opportunities and additional time to prepare for the season, created clear guidelines and SOPs which have helped reduce risk for his employees, spearheaded the first major climbing permit fee increase in over 10 years, and has set a vision for the program which will provide for an even more effective operation that works safely and efficiently doing the amazing things that the climbing rangers do. In addition, he worked with park staff to envision and implement a webcam for Camp Muir and established network connectivity for the Camp. These items will increase the safety for visitors going up to Camp Muir, and enables supervisory staff to spend more time on the mountain than at their computers in Longmire. Congratulations, Stefan! - Chuck Young, Chief Ranger, Mount Rainier National Park

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Snowdepth Record at Paradise

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:

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Washington Summer

Long term high pressure systems have surrounded the mountain, and after reading the forecasts, look to remain in the area. With July coming to a close, statistically the number of climbers on the mountain also begins to fall. Climbers looking for an experience of solitude in the alpine wilderness can come take advantage of the peace and quiet now. By climbing mid-week this time of year, even on some of the standard routes, the chances of meeting other independent parties on route is greatly reduced.

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!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Clearing Above the Mist

Washington locals already know, but for those of you "out-of-towners" the month of July has been unusually stormy. Right now there is 100' visibility in Paradise (elev. 5400'). This has hampered many climbers on approaches and backcountry skiers with navigating. Luckily, even with all the poor forecasts, the upper mountain has stayed clear and relatively calm.

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.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Nisqually Rock Avalanches - Frequency and Size

For those of you still watching these large rockslides from the Nisqually Cleaver, here's a little more information for you. I called Kate Allstadt of the Earth and Space Sciences Department at the University of Washington and asked her for some seismic data that may show a better picture of the frequency of rock avalanche events.

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.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Peak of the Season

Snow on most approaches has started to consolidate with the melt/freeze cycles we've been having. This makes boot-packing to the routes much more feasible. All of the roads in the park, except the Mowich Lake Road, are open to cars. The road crews hope to have Mowich Lake open by the end of July - there's still seven feet of snow at the lake!

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!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Fourth of July! Remember firearms are allowed in the park, but fireworks are not.

The weather and climbing conditions came together to make an amazing weekend. A windy low pressure front passing through on Sunday morning made things interesting - but it passed by quickly giving way to the best weather of the season. Climbers have been on Ptarmigan Ridge, Mowich Face, Success Cleaver, Kautz Glacier, Disappointment Cleaver, Little Tahoma, Emmons/Winthrop, and Liberty Ridge. It's as if the poor weather early this season preserved the mountain for great climbing in July. Suncups are starting to form on the south and west facing routes,making skiing on the upper mountain less fun, but cramponing much easier. Be safe, see you on the mountain!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Large Rock Avalanches on the Nisqually

OK, folks, there're some major rock avalanches happening on the Nisqually Glacier. Anyone venturing near the Nisqually or even traversing across it lower down to get across to the Fan should read this post. We're not talking about a bunch of rocks, but many thousands of tons of debris in a 50' wall of snow, ice, water, dust, and rock coming down the glacier that would outrun anything in its path.

Rangers, climbers, and guides at Camp Muir first were aware when these series of slides started on the 24th of June. Rangers reported feeling the earth shake and hearing a very loud rumble. Indeed, you can tell from extent of airborne dust in the picture above that it must have been loud. Shortly after the slide occurred, the geologists at the Cascades Volcano Observatory called us and asked us what was up. Below is the seismograph reading during the event.
Here's a quote from one of the original emails between the NPS and USGS. - "FYI about 10 minutes ago the climbing rangers at Camp Muir saw what they all described as the biggest icefall they've ever seen come off the Nisqually. A guide party at 8,000 ft on the Wilson glacier reported that it had multiple fingers & traveled down to about 7,800 ft. They also described it as the biggest icefall they've ever seen anywhere.
The rangers at Muir described the debris as a mix of rock & ice and being about 50 feet thick but couldn't judge the acreage covered as it is hard to see the entire run-out zone from Muir.
" from Ranger Ben Guttridge.

After I heard about the slide, and saw it from my house in Packwood, I decided to hop in my airplane and take a ride towards the mountain to get some pictures as close as I could.

All in all, there have been three slides of this size in the last two days. Right now, we don't recommend crossing the Nisqually Glacier at all - although at this time, the park has not declared a "closure" of the area. If you are intent on doing the Kautz Glacier route, think about accessing the base of the route by Comet Falls trailhead. Click on this link for a Google Earth KMZ file of the approximate extent of the series of avalanches. Also, here is the screenshot of this file from Google Earth.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Foxes Feast on Food

Two foxes (of a rare sub species) are currently moving up and down the mountain from Paradise all the way up to the summit. While the mountain is their natural environment, the food they have been eating this year has not been coming from the mountain, most of it has been taken from climbers and day hikers at Camp Muir. Foxes have been consistently searching out food left in backpacks and tent vestibules.

Sadly, we have experienced what happens when foxes become habituated and dependent on humans in the park - we lost our friend Pickles.

Mount Rainier is home for these foxes, meaning we can't relocate them nor would we want to. At this point we are trying our best to have the foxes and climbers interactions be kept to a minimum. Please help us with this effort by maintaining a clean camp and storing all food zipped up, inside of your tent. Day hikers and skiers please be tidy during snack breaks and clean up your scraps (both food and wrappers). Thanks so much for your help!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sending in June

Generally awesome climbing conditions have led to many teams summiting these past couple of days. Check out the trip report by Olympic Mountain Rescue on the Kautz Cleaver. This is a classic ridge-top line giving spectacular views down the southside of the mountain and a raven's point of view of the Kautz Glacier's ice pitches.
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).

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Going Big, Getting it Done

This past week has been a very busy time on the Mountain. Climbers have been coming out in droves, summiting via many, many routes, and skiing some very big and beautiful lines down the upper and lower mountain. Even though there have been some cloudy days in the lowlands, the weather on the upper mountain has been spectacular, with sunny skies light wind, and a little new snow just to keep things fresh. Last weekend saw a few hundred skiers come out to get spring turns on the snowfield, and with close to 200 inches of snow still on the ground at Paradise it can be assumed there will be many more great days of skiing this spring, and yes even this summer.

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.

Friday, June 03, 2011


Wow. Lots of sunshine and a lingering snowpack made for a busy weekend. Climbers have been summitting on all sides of the mountain. Parties have been on Liberty Ridge, Emmons/Winthrop, Success Cleaver, Kautz, Fuhrer Finger, and of course the standard routes out of Camp Muir.

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.

Climb on!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Spring Weather

Small pockets of sunshine followed by waves of snowy/rainy weather have been passing over the park the last couple of weeks. Winter conditions still persist on the mountain: climbers are still choosing to climb the Ingraham Direct instead of the Disappointment Cleaver, eighteen feet of snow still remains at Paradise, and the snow plows are still hard at work clearing the roads.

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!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

May Day

Nice weather on the weekends in April, and forecasted for the beginning of May too, has brought lots of climbers and skiers out to the mountain. There have been teams ascending Gib Ledges, Fuhrer's Finger, and the Ingraham Direct within the last two weeks. The upper mountain looks filled-in this season - lots of snow accumulation up high. Make sure you and your party can assess avalanche danger. Both the weather and avalanche danger can change rapidly (within hours) this time of year. Check the weather and avalanche resources link here.

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.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Powder to Corn

As the sun shines more frequently, and the freezing level rises, the snow around the mountain changes. It consolidates, mushes together, and begins to melt away. Spring skiing conditions are on the way! With better weather patterns in the forecast, now is a great time to have solitude on the standard climbing routes.

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.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Steph Abegg's Website

Seattle climber and photographer Steph Abegg has made a map of Mount Rainier with major routes drawn on it, each route shown in a different color. It is intended to be used for planning, rather than as a field map, and makes a nice poster for your wall. Click on the map to see it in a larger view:

Steph has also taken SAR, fatality, and climbing data provided on 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:

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Alta Vista Snow Pit

Howdy Everyone!

This week's snow pit is from the east side of Alta Vista and features the massive amount of new snow that we received during last week's storm cycle.

As you can see from the pit graph, there is small sun crust at the surface (that made for bad skiing) and below that is a 105 cm layer of cold, new snow. This layer has settled about 5" and continues to stabilize. Below this layer there are a number of complex ice crust layers that were observed just below the surface in the Feb. 9th snow pit near The Castle in the Tatoosh Range. These layers remain a source of instability and are acting as release surfaces for the deep slab avalanches that have been occurring in Washington.

Stability tests from the Alta Vista snow pit did not indicate deep instability. The compression, extended column, and the Rutschblock tests had failures either near the surface or did not fail. However, as noted by NWAC, even as the snowpack stabilizes there are still persistent weak layers, and localized areas throughout the region are experiencing large, slab releases.

The forecast is showing another series of fronts that are expected to cross the Northwest through the end of the weekend, bringing significant new snow accumulation. Cautious route finding is encouraged if traveling in the backcountry.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Climate Prediction (March April May)

Just was looking at the NWS climate prediction center's March-May forecast. Here is my summary: Looks like cooler than usual for the period, but average precipitation. This could be good for climbing and skiing on Mt. Rainier this spring!

Moderate la nina conditions continue in the tropical pacific ocean. Sea surface temperatures (ssts) in the equatorial pacific ocean are below average from around 160e to the south american coast, with ssts between 1 and 2 degrees c below normal in some areas. This very large area of anomalously cool ssts has significant impact on the large scale atmospheric circulation throughout the tropical pacific region, which, in turn, is expected to considerably influence the mean atmospheric circulation patterns over north america.

The temperature outlook for march, april, and may 2011 reflects typical spring la nina condition and favors below average temperatures from washington and oregon eastward across the northern rockies to the western great lakes region. The chances for above average mean temperatures are enhanced from the interior southwest and southern rockies to the central gulf coast states.
Here's the page in full:

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


Howdy Everybody! The road crew, after a huge three day effort, plowed their way up to Paradise today! We were able to get the weather and record that 41" of new snow has fallen in the past three days, with a snow water equivalent of 2.82" it's drier than normal. Snow stability assessments made early this week observed a 3 to 4 foot crown fracture on southern aspects just below the Barn Flats area. Stability tests near the Canyon Rim lookout on wind ward slopes produced moderate failures about 30 to 45 cm below the surface with Q2 shears. However, these observations were made early in the week before temperatures rose considerably. While the new snow is settling, continued strong westerly winds and additional new snow are keeping the instability high. Hopefully, the road to Paradise will soon be open to the public, and for all those chomping at the bit, cautious backcountry travel is highly advised!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Castle Snow Pit and a big temperature gradient!

Howdy Everyone!

This week's snow pit was dug in the Tatoosh Range on the east side of The Castle. General observations: 10 cm of great powder on top of a hard, multi-layered, 10 cm crust. As you can see from the graph there are two thin ice layers with softer snow beneath both. The layer of most concern is between 17 and 20 cm deep. Small faceted crystals (i.e., angular crystals) were observed in this layer, which can be expected due to the large temperature gradient in the top part of the snow pack. (Any time the temperature gradient exceeds 1oC over 10cm, the potential exists for faceting.)

Stability tests did not show any propagation, but failures were consistent at 18 cm. The Rutschblock Test showed a failure at 10 cm (the interface between the powder and the icy crust). But I have to admit, the crust was so icy that I slipped before I could get in a good jump on the block.

In summary, the strong temperature gradient and faceted crystals are signs of instability in the snow pack. However, the near- surface crusts are very strong, and seem to be adequately supporting sun-seeking recreationists. Great skiing conditions can be found where the wind hasn't scoured off the powder. Terrain and conditions will vary, so stay alert out there! More precip is headed our way for the weekend. Get out while you can.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Route Update: Ingraham Direct

Here is a trip report and pictures from a party that climbed the Ingraham Direct route on Feb 1-2:

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! :-)

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Route Updates for Fuhrer Finger and Kautz Headwall

Howdy Everybody!

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!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Good Skiing and Narada Falls Face Snow Pit

Howdy Everyone!

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.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sunshine! and Panorama Point Snow Pit

Howdy Everybody!
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!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mazama Bowl Snow Pit

Well here it is...a snow pit featuring the infamous 'MLK crust'. As of January 19th, the crust has yet to freeze solid, and with the recent and forecasted warm temperatures, it's unlikely to do so any time soon.

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!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Wacky Weather!

We all thought La Nina was going to give us a cold and wet winter with lots of snow and great skiing.  Well, there have been some good days of skiing at Paradise, of course, in the last month, but there's been a lot of wild weather.

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.

Currently, the rain has switched to snow.  It's sticking to the old rain surface pretty well.  The new snow density is about 40%...  Not good skiing, but good for stability.

There are some scheduled climbs this week.  I hope to hear back from them so stay tuned.

~ 2 hours later:  Just got back in from digging around for avalanche stability along the road to Paradise:

Date/Time: 1/17/2011 ~ 10:00am
Elevation: 5250
Slope: 49deg
Aspect: 170degT
Weather: Snowing
Temp: 32F
Lat: 46.781244
Long: -121.743672


SST (Shovel Shear) - STE @ 35cm Q3 (Weaker waterlogged snow just collapsed).
CT (Compression Test) - CTE(5) @ 35cm Q3 (Weak snow collapsing)
ECT (Extended Collumn Test) - ECTX (No propogation across collumn / shovel only plowing down)
RB (Rutschblock Test) - RB3 @ 35cm Q3 MB (Weaker snow collapse / no shear surface).