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!