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!