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!