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.