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!