Monday, November 25, 2013

Snow Season

A majority of cold clear nights followed by warm sunshine during the day have made for a spectacular November... so far.  Less than three feet of snow has stuck around in the Paradise area making for picky skiing and snowboarding conditions (watch out for icy surfaces - definitely not ideal for novices).  The lack of snow has made it easier to access some of the scenic points around Paradise.  Amazing photos of the cascades can be shot through the clean winter air.

Considering coming up for a climb or ski?  Please check out some of the helpful links below:

First, access can be tricky - here's the latest alert from the park website. 

Second, check the weather!  Not just the day of your adventure, but check out the trends too.

And, finally, when you come up to visit, make sure to stop by and give us a shout.  Rangers staff the booth at the entrance to the park and the ranger station at Longmire daily.  On weekends and holidays the Jackson Visitor Center (JVC) is open.  Climbers and overnight hikers still need to register in person with a ranger or at a self-registration kiosk.  Follow the directions from the ranger or the kiosk to obtain your permit and/or pass.

Safe travels, and have a great holiday season!  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

October Madness! Great weather, climbing, and skiing.

Shutdown over, Paradise is screaming for attention this week.  The weather is great and the skiing is phenomenal.  It reminds me of Colorado spring skiing.  Here's the scoop.

First, start by checking this image...

As of Saturday, October 19, 2013, you can still don your skis at the parking lot and ski all the way to camp Muir without taking off your skis, a few tricky spots and rock sections exist.  However I do think that the snow will melt quickly with the high temps and sun at paradise, but even when that happens skiing should be possible from the alta vista area for a while.  The snow is freezing at night and you can walk on the snow until mid morning.  Good skinning.  It is actually spring corn.  However in the afternoon, it is turning pretty punchy.

Sunday, October 20th, 2013 - Update to the above paragraph: It didn't take too much of the warm weather to melt through some of the usual thinner areas which has necessitated carrying the the skis for short distances.  On 2-3 breakovers from Pebble Creek to Glacier Vista, you have to take off your skis to make your way over some rocks.  At this point, I also think it's prudent to follow the summer trail to Pebble Creek.  It's easy to get drawn up some slopes because the snow continues as far as you can see, but it will end in tears.

Until enough intrepid souls forge their way to pan point, there will be some trail finding. There is still a steep exposed section from glacier vista on the traverse to pan point.  Ice axe recommended at this point.

At this time, I think I'd split the difference between the summer route through pebble creek and the winter route to McClure and below sugar loaf.  Once on the large snowfield below sugar loaf a t 7500, it's smooth sailing to camp Muir.

The skinning up the snowfield is outstanding.  Not too slick, not at all too punchy.  And no rocks to cross.  We came up to take the fall measurements on the glacier ablation (among other things).  There was at least 1.4 meters of snow during the snow/storm cycle the second week of October.

We made a trip up to Ingraham flats in the afternoon on Saturday, October 19.  Foot penetration, averaged, was about 20 cm, before noon.  Snow was softening as it got later.

The route across the Cowlitz is pretty strait forward.  Stay high on the traverse to the slope before cathedral gap.  Can't skin up the gap, too much rock exposed.

The traverse between the gap and the flats, also known as Dunn's Role, is pretty safe as of today.  It did see an accumulation of snow, highly variable.

Once again, the brief October storm didn't bury the summer's crevasses, so the right route stays high next to cathedral rocks.  A narrow corridor hugging the rocks leads out on tot he flats.  Lots of good safe camping sites on the flats.

Above the flats, I think that the normal route would still be a go to the base of the cleaver.  We were checking the glacier ablation stakes at the flats.  We measured about 2 meters of snow from the October storm cycle.  About 80 cm from the surface there was a pretty brittle layer that didn't even allow me to finish conducting an extended column test.  However, it didn't slide on each test, it fell over...  For what it's worth.

I have taken down the web cam for the winter.  Sorry!  It's just too expensive and precarious, along with the radio antenna and infrastructure to let it set out all winter.

Stefan Lofgren

Monday, September 30, 2013


The end of September is here and Paradise is receiving HEAVY snowfall! That news could either be very exciting or very depressing depending on your views of how early winter should arrive. To climbing rangers the snowfall means we have come full circle since the spring and it is time for most of us to leave until next season. It's been real. A few last thoughts...

Over winter most park facilities will be closed or operate on a very limited schedule BUT there are still lots of recreation opportunities for everyone. Check in at the main Mount Rainier web page for the latest on park operations before your visit!

The weather over the next six months or so will be mostly inhospitable on the upper slopes, but there will also be stretches of good weather that will allow for summit bids. Even in relatively good weather do not underestimate the intensity of a winter ascent on Rainier and plan ahead accordingly. Consult weather forecasts, avalanche forecasts and warnings, and be very sure of your mountaineering skills. If you do come up for a winter climb we still need you to register and get a permit. Since there are no ranger stations open full time during the winter the permit process requires self-registration at either the Paradise Old Station or the entrance arch on highway 410. This is important because it will help rangers immensely if for some reason you require outside assistance during your climb. Look at the conditions page on this blog for winter specific information on the places you want to visit or routes you want to climb.

The road from the Nisqually entrance to Paradise is the only road that will remain plowed during the winter months. All other park roads will be closed after the first major snows and remain closed until spring. The Paradise area receives huge amounts of snow each winter and the road up to it is the highest elevation road kept opened in the Cascades during winter. The parks plow operators work hard in a tough area. Please be aware that during big storms the road crews will need additional time to get the roads clear for travel. Check out the park page for specific information on road status and winter operations. All vehicles are required to carry chains during the winter.

While it is possible this blog will be updated during the winter it is guaranteed that updates will be few and far between. Climbing rangers do not work in winter, so don't get mad if we don't return your phone calls.

Finally, a Big Ups to everyone we ran into this summer out here enjoying this incredible park!

Friday, September 13, 2013

September Bliss

So things don't seem to be staying the same for very long around here these days. The new snow from last week is melting fast under the rays of sunshine and beach-like weather on the upper mountain. The DC is not only back "In" it is taking a very direct line (not just for September either) to the summit. Crowds are thinning but stoked climbers can still be found all around Rainier.

Keep an eye on the weather before you head up since it can be a bit fickle these days, but there are many reasons to take advantage of this mellow time of year all around Mount Rainier National Park.

We look forward to seeing you up here.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

The Seasons are changing, and so are the routes...

This past week has brought intense thunderstorms, new snowfall, and crisp fall air to Mt. Rainier. With these changes in the weather, we are also seeing changes on some of the routes. See the Disappointment Cleaver page for information on the latest developements there. The upcoming week looks like it holds beautiful weather, so come on up to Mount Rainier National Park and enjoy the stunning scenery, the wildflowers, and the melted out hiking trails before fall truly takes hold!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Heads Up

The weather over the next 24-36 could potentially bring heavy rainfall and new snow to the upper slopes of Rainier. Climbers should read the latest forecast from NOAA and the UW which can be found on our weather link page. This system should not last long but it is likely to produce periods of heavy precipitation with thunder storms through Friday morning. Climbers are urged to take caution.

Be advised that slopes on Rainier above 11,000' may receive significant accumulations of new snow especially on lee aspects. With the forecast for the weekend looking very good don't forget about recent weather and isolated avalanche activity that can hang around for a few days after a storm.

Stay Safe - Climbing Rangers

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Opportunities for Success!

So it is true that not many people have summited Mount rainier via the DC route in about a week or so. However it is not true that the route is "out" or "un-climbable". The main contributing factor to the lack of summits has been the weather and not the route. The route is definitely in late season condition and a very broken section of glacier has made the route more technical than it usually is but guide services have continued to work to improve this crux section and currently have ladders in place that allow passage.

Over the past couple of days climbers have made it above this crux section only to be turned around by winds and low visibility. Over the past few days there have been successful summit climbs via the Emmons and the Kautz, so there are still good routes that are being climbed on Rainier. We will continue to keep everyone hip to the latest changes in the routes.

Our view is that the routes are never "out". They only become more challenging and more testing of the abilities of the climbers attempting them. Fall is a great time out here and there is a lot of good climbing left. Just pay closer attention to the weather, bring your winter clothes and a can do attitude.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Self Registration open again

With the climbing season winding down, hours for the CIC will be changing.  As of labor day, 9/2/13 The Climbing Information Center will only be open on the weekends.  Climbing Rangers will be available to register you from 7am-3pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Plan on climbing the Emmons Glacier?  You MUST register at the White River WIC. Its open daily from 7:30am - 5pm.

If you are climbing mid week you will need to self register. The Self Registration Kiosk will be in the hallway Guide House as you enter the CIC. Please register here and then place your climbing fee of $44  in the fee canister at the Paradise Ranger Station ( A-Frame structure in the parking lot).

Have a Good Climb.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Labor Day Sun!

After a week of some pretty stormy weather up here on Rainier the sun is back out and a fresh coat of snow can be seen covering the upper mountain. Today and tomorrow are shaping up to be a great couple of days. The Emmons route is still in great late season shape and the DC is undergoing some changes, making the route a bit more difficult but motivated climbers could still find some great adventures by climbing out of Muir. We even have a very motivated lady who is currently at Muir with skis and planning on having a nice (possibly bumpy) Labor Day ski down the snowfield.

Check in with rangers at the CIC or high camps for the latest conditions. Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Crater Explorations

Late July brought a climbing team to Mount Rainier that was looking to do something a little bit different. Their mission was to explore the summit crater and it's ice caves, with the Kautz Glacier as their route of access. By the looks of their pictures it looks like they succeeded, big is the only way to look at them. 

No significant in-depth exploration or research of the crater caves has been done since Willian Lokey in 1971 and 1972. William Lokey will be presenting about "Project Crater" and his crater explorations at the Paradise Inn Saturday, August 17th starting at 9:00 PM! This event is free however Park Admission is still required.

From Xavier:
"The climb went great. We spent 24th on the summit which was probably the hardest part of the whole climb. You know... altitude."

 "The caves are amazing. We didn't get much time in them as everybody was feeling a bit altitude sick + cold and tired but I got some good shots nonetheless. See below. I would love to spend more time up there and document the phenomenon more thoroughly."

"Ice caves in crater, wicked!"

The summit craters and steam vents have provided mystery and refuge to climbers since the early days of climbing Rainier. For more information check out Dee Molenaar's classic The Challenge of Rainier. 


Thursday, August 08, 2013

Honorary Junior Climbing Rangers

This is a shout out to some pretty awesome kids and their family that came out to climb the end of July/early August.

Here is a write up of their climb.

"We flew in from Thailand on the 29th of July...then headed up to Rainier. On 30 July, we signed in with Carrie a ranger we met last year when our son Pete climbed Rainier at 6 yrs old. This time we were back with the whole family-my wife Karen, Sahale- 12, Suu -10 , Pete- now 7 and six volunteers who work with us; the Free Burma Rangers (humanitarian relief in Burma); Dr. John and Christa Shaw, Hosi Valentine, Micah Beckwith, Jonathan Claussen and Chris Sinclair.

Suu Eubank crosses a ladder at 11,300
We camped the first night near Moon Rocks at about 8,700 so we could acclimate a little from our trip from Thailand. The next day (31st), we climbed up to Muir and stayed in the shelter as a hail, snow and lightening storm swept through. We decided not to climb that night and wait for better weather. The morning of the 1st of August broke clear so we did a day light start,setting We set out for the summit at 6:30am. The route was good and thanks to those who put the ladder across the first big crevasse at about 11,300. Then up Disappointment Cleaver and at the top met guided parties coming down from the summit.
Pete and Sahale Eubank on Cleaver
At about 12,700 there is a short ice wall followed by a large crevasse bridged by a ladder. Again thanks to those who put these in place!

We continued on to the summit arriving at 1130 am. This was Pete's second climb but the girls' first. There were clouds swirling all around us but none on the immediate mountain- it was beautiful!  We thanked God for this and for the opportunity to climb with family and team. We also thank all those we met on the mountain and all the Rangers.

Suu Eubank going down the 'ice step'

We missed seeing Arlington this year but met Julian who encouraged the kids. On the way down someone asked the kids what they thought of the mountains, Sahale said, 'It was hard but fun and anyone who does that mountain is tough!' Suu said, 'Well, it was fun but it was hard and it was cold.' Pete replied, 'Lets do it again!'."

 Dave Eubank & family

Thanks for coming out to play on our lovely mountain and sharing a bit about your trip. Hope to see you all again next year!

Thursday, August 01, 2013

August Changes

After a few weeks of nothing but sun we are starting to see a few clouds and showers in the forecast. It's pretty normal to get more thunderstorm activity and the occasional fall/winter storm rolling back through in August even though there will be many more beautiful days to be had. High camps will most likely continue to be very busy places on the weekends while weekday visitation will start to decrease.

The DC is still seeing large numbers of climbers and with the current condition of the route going through a bottleneck area, wait times have been long especially on more crowded days. Climbers should note this when planning their trip (see the DC conditions page for further info). The Emmons route on the other hand is in stellar condition with almost no bottleneck areas and if you are slowed or blocked by another party there are plenty of variations available to take. The take home here is if you want a less crowded Rainier climb come mid-week and/or choose any route other than the DC.

See you on the mountain.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Busy Busy

Like the previous post stated, it's fully summer. Still. The sun has been out consistently during normal daylight hours and the stars have been seen most of the other time. The cloudy marine layer that covered the Puget Sound area most mornings never even made it close to the park boundary. Summertime and the living is easy!

Saturday Morning, Camp Schurman
The scene up here on Rainier the past couple of weeks has been really busy with climbers making many successful ascents of many routes. The Emmons and the DC are still both in great shape. The Emmons is currently the more direct route of the two, offering stellar glacier climbing from Schurman to the summit. Many people have also been climbing the Kautz, encountering moderate and fun conditions in the ice chutes and moderate glacier travel above. We've even gotten a few reports in from climbers who have made recent ascents of the Tahoma, Sunset Ridge, Ptarmigan Ridge and Mowich Face. The approaches on these more remote west side routes are a bit long and involve more encounters with scree and talus this time of year, but the climbing conditions above 9,000' remain great.

Sunset Ridge,  photo by Paul Cook
The past couple of weeks we have seen what appears to be an increase in the number of climbing parties having mishaps and/or full on accidents. We as the climbing rangers just want to remind everyone to stay vigilant, know and respect their abilities, stay aware of current conditions, and be ready and prepared to deal with whatever emergency may arise on your own. Help is definitely out there for people if it is needed, but that help might be a long way off which means self rescue is always required to some level.

Stay Safe. Climb Hard.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Fully Summer

Optimal route condition and great weather systems are starting to line up with one another.  Longer trail approaches on the West Side of the mountain are melting out which facilitates access to some rarely climbed gems.  The freezing level has been hovering between 12,000 feet to 14,000 feet making for comfortable climbs.  Mid-July has historically been the busiest time up high on the mountain - and for good reason.

Crevasses are starting to open wider, and as the summer wears on, the routes that navigate along glaciers become more circuitous.  Longer summit climbs aren't necessarily the worst thing, but they can put climbers crossing bridges and overhangs during the warmest part of the day.

Notable events in the last week include a posse of "mono-skiers" on the Muir Snowfield, the opening of the new Carbon River Ranger Station in the often overlooked northwestern part of the park, and black bears starting to make their way into the alpine meadows.  Come on up and enjoy prime-time at the park!   

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Happy Birthday America!

Lots of sun and blue sky up here on Rainier are adding to our celebration of America's 237th year of existence. The forecast for the holiday weekend looks great, and conditions should be great for summit bids. We are expecting a very busy weekend so climbers should show up early at the ranger station to improve chances of getting their preferred camping spot. The popular camps such as Muir, Schurman and Ingraham Flats will be busy places. Climbers are encouraged to have a backup plan since there are many places on Rainier that will not be crowded at all. Looking for moderate routes? Try the Tahoma, the Kautz, the Success Cleaver or Couloirs, or the Wilson Headwall just to suggest just a few. Skiing conditions still seem to be holding strong but some booting is required from most trailheads these days. Check out recent route reports from the DC, The Tahoma Glacier and Ptarmigan Ridge among others.

On this fourth of July remember that you have the freedom to bring celebration items such as watermelon, spareribs, and refreshing drinks into your national park. You even have the freedom to share your goodies with rangers or other people you meet. You do not have the freedom to bring fireworks, explosives, or share your edible goodies with any non-human species such as foxes or marmots.

Come on out and enjoy the natural wonders this country has to offer.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Weekend Update

Up on Rainier things have been a bit wintry lately. Recent storms have deposited enough snow to make one to three foot drifts on lee aspects. Not many people have been climbing above high camps the past few days, but we are looking for that to change along with the weather. This weekends forecast looks to be sunny and warm to very warm. Freezing levels will be above 16,000' by the end of the weekend with lots of solar radiation on the mountain. Climbers should take great caution when venturing into areas of exposure. With the new snow and huge warmup coming avalanche conditions will be elevated for a few days. Make your own hazard assessments, don't just follow the herd.

In other news the Mowich road is scheduled to open July 3rd at noon! This will make approaches to the northwest side of the mountain much easier. Ptarmigan, Mowich, Edmunds, and the Sunset area should remain in good shape for a while to come. We'd love to get some beta from anyone who ventures out over there. The new Carbon River ranger station is scheduled to open on July 6. There will be a gathering and opening ceremony from 10am to noon.

Climb Smart. Climb Safe. Have Fun.

Friday, June 21, 2013

_____________________Nick Hall______________________

It's been one long year since we lost you. 
We won't ever forget your friendship or your style.
Thanks for the inspiration to do more, do it better. 
The mountains are still out there. 
We're still climbing. 
Miss you a ton. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Summer on Top

During the past week of cloudy weather in the lowlands, rangers and others have been enjoying sunny skies and stellar climbing conditions on the upper mountain. Even with the forecast of snow and cold temps the past few days rangers experienced the very opposite above 9,000'. Check out recent reports on the DC, Liberty Ridge, Little Tahoma, the Kautz Cleaver, and the Emmons on our route conditions page. We'll try to stay on top of things as they change and we get new information.

Upper Kautz Cleaver/Success Couloirs
Remember your sunscreen and sunglasses even when you are still under cloudy skies! Come up and talk to rangers for the most current conditions.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Mountain Getting Climbed

We just got through a really busy weekend here at Mt. Rainier and thoroughly enjoyed all the people we met. Seems like everyone was in really high spirits. Don't know if it was the $20.00 people saved at the gate due to the fee free weekend, the great weather we had despite a few gusts of high winds, the great climbing and skiing conditions, or just the joy of being on a really cool mountain, but whatever the reason we are glad you enjoyed your time spent in the park.

Check out new route updates on the DC, Gib Ledges, Liberty Ridge and more on our conditions page. The forecast for the next few days looks like it's going to be COLD again with a few showers, but the weekend looks like it should be fairly pleasant, so come on up and enjoy!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Weekend Update

After the past few weeks of stormy weather, the skies have cleared and there is a bunch of new snow on the mountain. During the last storm cycle, waist deep snow drifts were being reported with consistent winds in the 40 mph range. There were significant avalanche hazards with point release and slab avalanches occurring naturally as well as a few that were skier triggered. Thankfully no one was buried or injured. The Nisqually basin especially saw a considerable amount of activity with the rapid warming that came after the storms.

The past week has seen climbing parties being stymied by wintry conditions and increased avalanche potential, but that is changing with more stable weather and snow conditions. The past couple of days have seen successful ascents of the DC, Gib Ledges, Liberty Ridge, the Emmons and more (we'll be putting up info as we get it from some of the more remote areas).

Point release avalanches, rising freezing levels and unsupported snow bridges are still a concern but should not keep interested climbers away. With the recent new snow and rising temperatures, be on the look out for loose snow and rock above you and unsuspecting climbers below. Climbing early and being off route before the solar radiation impacts the snow is critical right now but conditions overnight and early morning could be great for climbing.

Potential hazards aside, its going to a beautiful week, so enjoy the warm weather out there and climb safe!

Monday, June 03, 2013

Speed on Skis

Eric and Nick on the summit in 3h 37min.So a couple of our rangers ran into some guys going for a speed record on the summit last week, they were able to get a brief conversation and snap a photo of them before they took off downhill. According to their clocks they made it from Paradise to the summit and back to Paradise in 4 hours and 19 minutes...which if you aren't familiar with that route means they went really really fast! Check out their full story here. There have been a number of speed ascents over the years but as far as we know Nick and Eric were the first to do it with skis.

It's looking like we are at the start of a spell of nice weather. Lots of fresh snow on the mountain should make for some great climbing and skiing conditions, especially if you hit it early before the sun turns everything to mid-day glop. Visit our route conditions page for recent conditions reports and thanks to Dmitry Shapovalov for a great report of their recent climb of Success Cleaver.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Memorial Weather

Both high camps have been receiving lots of new snow over the past couple of days.  Memorial Day itself put drifts up to 50 cm deep around camp.  High winds (40-50 mph) pasted the wet snow to most surfaces.  The general forecast, at least initially, looks better for early-June.  Hopefully we'll avoid the all too common "Junuary" weather pattern.

Climbers have been unsuccessful in reaching the summit for almost a week due to weather and avalanche concerns - although challenging conditions have been welcome training conditions for climbers with their sights set on even loftier peaks.  

Stop by the Climbing Information Center in Paradise for the most current information on the mountain.  We're open everyday at 06:00 - come on up and talk to us early, the Paradise Inn is open again for the season and they do serve espresso!

See you on The Mountain.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cancel the Luau, Winter is Back!

As we approach the month of Juneuary here on Mt. Rainier our weather has done a 180. Monday was sunny with great corn skiing on the Muir Snowfield, now we are looking at breaking out the powder skis again!

Yesterday, NOAA published a  Special Weather Statement reguarding this front moving down from the Yukon. Snow is expected Wednesday thru Friday. So far we have  14" of new snow is on the ground!
Today, 5/23/13 rangers in Paradise woke up to another 7" of fresh snow and no sign of it letting up soon. If your a powder hound you will be stoked!  If you are traveling to Paradise, Chains or 4x4 have been required for the past two days.

On the climbing front, this storm system has provided a reset for the mountain. Last week was bluebird and climbing felt like July. This week climbers should be prepared for winter conditions and the subsequent avalanche hazard from heavy snow fall and wind loading.

 Further, crevasses are going to be a increasing hazard. The recent warm spell produced significant melt on the mountain with NPS natural resources speculating that 2 meters of snow was lost. Lots of craks have started to open up and combined with this recent snow the possibility for thinly covered and wind-liped crevasses is very high. Be sure to travel in rope teams anywhere on a glacier.

The Climbing Rangers are still on the Mountain and Rainier is open for business. Come up and enjoy the weather.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Route Updates

Check out a couple of updates on the DC and Emmons on our conditions page. Temps have cooled off and snow surfaces have solidified for the time being. This could be a great time to get on some non-standard routes if the weather keeps giving us some breaks. Full on sunny day at Camp Muir this afternoon!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Weekend Update

We have come to realize there was some incorrect information about the White River road posted earlier on this blog. The road to White River campground is currently gated at highway 410 and not plowed past the White River ranger station. Climbers will need to boot or ski if traveling past the entrance booth. Apologies to anyone who was thrown off or planning on bicycling to the campground.

The Emmons and Inter are in prime shape for climbing and skiing right now though, so if you don't mind the extra travel it's a worthy destination. Stay tuned for some more route updates over the weekend.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Feels Like a Pacific Island Around Here

With all the beautiful sunny days and scorchin' temps we've been having lately, some visitors to Rainier might feel like they are actually visiting a Pacific Island rather than on a cold snowy volcano in the Pacific North Wet. It's actually kind of fitting since this month of May, is National Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Even though our high camps are far away from warm Pacific Islands, rangers have sometimes been known to imagine themselves on a tropical beach of some sort. So bring your sunscreen, some tropical fruits, your favorite swim costume and head on up to our glacial island where you can almost see the Pacific Ocean on a clear day. We'll be waiting.

On another note the Northwest Avalanche Center has issued another special statement visitors to our mountain should read. If anyone sees anything weird going on with out snowpack we'd love to hear about it.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Special Avy Statement

For those who are venturing out in the backcountry anywhere in the Cascades from now until the end of the weekend take a moment to read the special avalanche bulletin that NWAC has put out.

There are some great conditions for climbing and skiing right now, always use YOUR best judgement to stay safe.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Climbers Climbin'

So it seems like we are in the middle of an extraordinary stretch of good weather for late April in the PNW. Some motivated people have been making the best of it and getting out for some really fun looking climbs. Rangers have been mostly in pre-season training and prep work so thanks to those who sent in some conditions updates and photos, we will continue to live vicariously through your reports until we hit the mountain full time in a couple of weeks. Check out recent beta on the Ingraham Direct, Fuhrer Finger, and Muir Snowfield posted in our conditions page.

Climber on the Fuhrer Finger - Photo by the Next Adventure crew

If you are heading up for any overnight stays on the mountain make sure you register for a permit. Self registration is still available all hours at the Paradise Old Station but the Climbing Information Center will be open this coming weekend May 4th and 5th from 8:00am to 3:00pm. Stop by to say hello, talk to a ranger and get any last minute info you need for your trip. Also remember if you are parking overnight at Paradise the overnight parking is in the lower parking lot. Please follow the signs to keep your car and wallet out of trouble.

For those of you wanting to access other areas of the park, it looks like Cayuse Pass (SR 410/123) will be opening this Friday May 3. Chinook pass is still a few weeks out so don't try to go to Yakima this way yet. The road to WR campground is still closed to vehicles but should be mostly clear for those who want to bicycle in for an Emmons climb. 

For those of you who want to know if its sunny at 10,000' the Muir webcam is back in operation!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

High Pressure!

Hope everyone has been enjoying the sun. We would love to get some reports or photos of people's climbs if they would like to share. Climb safe.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Congrats Sally!

We just want to send a "Big Ups" to Sally Jewell for her recent confirmation to the office of Secretary of the Interior! Sally is a longtime friend of the Rainier climbing rangers, even letting her son work with us for a few years. We wish her all the best in her new job.

Photo courtesy of Biden office

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Volcano's Out

Climbing rangers have recently been spotted in the park. Check back soon for some updates related to climbing, skiing, and park access. Hope everyone had a good winter!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Tahoma Ski

During our recent spell of high pressure a group of local climbers made a rare winter ascent of the Tahoma Glacier and ski descent from the summit. Thanks to Doug Daniell for the report and photos.

I climbed and skied the Tahoma Glacier with a group of four from Seattle on January 19-21. I wanted to share some conditions information and beta for a winter approach from the west side of the mountain. We began our ascent on the 19th from the Westside Road closure near the park entrance. We were able to skin from the car (~2150') although coverage was a few inches at best. We eventually joined Tahoma Creek and except for a few creek crossings found easy travel. Camped to the west of Glacier Island on a calm, mild night. On the 20th we skinned up on firm snow to the glacier, passed a few icefalls on the right, and then traversed left at 9K to a smooth ramp that led to camp at 10K. Enjoyed a beautiful sunset and alpenglow on the slopes above.

Sometime before 5am on the 21st we roped up, dropped down to the north to avoid some looming seracs, and then navigated crevasses and ice debris to the base of Sickle. We decided on this variation to avoid what looked like large swaths of glare ice on the main Tahoma. In the Sickle we found good travel on shallow wind-packed powder and firmer styrofoam, with patches of ice globs especially higher on the route. Beautiful Rainier shadow at sunrise though we remained in the cold ourselves. Brought pickets/screws but none were used. Definitely not a route to tackle with much avy danger - saw lots of evidence of sluffs and maybe a well-weathered crown or two. The rest of the way to the summit was a slog as usual. Great views from Jefferson to Baker, though the Puget Sound was covered in fog and clouds. 

The ski down was a hodgepodge of snow conditions - terrible off the summit, some nice smooth patches below Liberty saddle, fun steep skiing through the Sickle, thousands of feet of wind-effect down the glacier, and then occasionally breakable crust down to the creek. Three of us completed the full descent and one had a major binding failure high on the route that entailed lots of walking and some improvised ski-strap solutions to get out by 10pm.

FYI, snowmobiles are allowed from the road closure on 410 to White River Campground, Remember to self-register before your climb or overnight stay whatever your route may be.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Winter on the Snowfield

A strong high pressure system over Mt Rainier led to some incredible weather last week! It felt like summer up at Camp Muir, with clear skies and warm temperatures. Unfortunately the snowfield was hammered by consistent moderate to strong winds, causing significant transport of the relatively dry snow left by the last major storm. The upper snowfield and Cowlitz glacier were laden with heavy sastrugi. and thick sun crusts and ice layers were exposed in many areas, making uphill ski travel difficult at times. The lower portion of the snowfield (below Panorama Point) had heavier snow and was less effected by the wind, and was actually quite enjoyable  to ski. 

Travel to Camp Muir can still be an enjoyable venture, as long as folks bring appropriate equipment to safely deal with the terrain, and are prepared for the harsh weather often encountered during the winter. Ski crampons or a set of light weight boot crampons would have been nice for getting to Camp Muir. If you expect to make use of the public shelter at Camp Muir, be prepared to spend time digging out the doors, as they were nearly completely buried by drifted snow when we arrived. Do not count on other parties to have dug them out recently, and certainly bring at least one sturdy shovel.

In addition to creating heavy sastrugi on the snowfield, the winds and heavy sunlight last week created significant spacial variability in the snowpack around Camp Muir. Some ridgelines had been scoured nearly to the ground, while others had generated large cornices, like those typical of the east side of the snowfield during the winter and spring. A few large wind pillows were noted along the ridgline above Camp Muir heading to the Beehive and Gibralter Rock, whereas other areas of the upper cowlitz were scoured down to last year's snow. We dug a snow pit above Camp Muir, and although we found no major red flags in the snowpack, the huge spacial variability in the area makes it difficult to draw any reliable conclusions about the overall snow stability. If you are going to venture up to Camp Muir and beyond, always get a detailed weather and avalanche forecast before you leave the trailhead, but also know that these forecasts are not an adequate replacement for good observations and decision making. Be prepared to make your own assessments about the safety of the terrain you are traveling in. Oh, and please remember to register for overnight trips so we know you're up there.

Have a great winter, get out and ski, be safe.