Monday, November 10, 2014

Fresh Coat

Photo Taken  from Paradise 11/10/2014
Fall snow has been slowly re-painting the mountain.  The sub-alpine meadows are blanketed and crevasses both on the lower snowfields and upper glaciers are slowly filling in.  For a snapshot of the current weather, future conditions, and past snowpacks check out our forecasting links.  Obtaining a clear mental image of weather and avalanche hazards is a good first step before any winter adventure on Mount Rainier.

Storms and snow slides can close access to the park.  Check the road status page for the most up-to-date notifications and predictions on when access will close for winter and open in the spring.  The status of the Longmire to Paradise road will be announced on Twitter all winter long - @MountRainierNPS.  Parking for overnight vehicles at Paradise is located in the upper part of the lot, across from the Paradise Inn.

Registration must be completed for any overnight adventure on the mountain - even in the winter.  Here's our permit and registration page where you can get information on how and where to register and/or buy a climbing pass if you haven't purchased one this year.  The Mount Rainier National Park Operating Hours Page also has current information up regarding the operation of information centers and ranger stations around the mountain.  

Lastly - Have fun!  There's a definitive feeling of solitude once you pass the rime iced sub-alpine trees and ascend into the true alpine zone during the winter.  Not much out there except you, lots of snow and glacier, and a big pile of rocks below that.  Whether you're on a mission to get some fresh ski tracks or dig a monster snow cave - enjoy your time here at the mountain!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fresh Snow and Fall Colors

September 29

Another morning in Paradise
As the end of our season draws near there are some important things you should know.

Variable weather conditions are the norm here at Mount Rainier. Be prepared for rapidly changing conditions and low visibility. Get a good forecast before you leave.

Fresh snow! It's awesome!
During this last weather cycle Camp Muir received ~ 1' of snow creating several foot drifts around camp. Snow level was down to Pebble Creek/7,200' or so.
Be aware that fresh snow can camouflage the crevasses on the Muir Snow Field, and elsewhere on the mountain. Be alert. Review and practice your avy skills. Cross your fingers and toes for lots of it.

Starting this week is the mass reduction of the Climbing Ranger and other Ranger staff here to help you. The guide services are also closing down their operations this week. This means that there will be no ladders or wands between Paradise and the summit.  If you bring your own please remember to take them with you when you leave.

Expect to break your own trail, be it from Paradise to Camp Muir or on the upper Mountain.
Think Prevention, take your safety seriously. Help might be awhile getting to you. Plan ahead and prepare, you are your own best rescuer.

Self-registration will be available on the porch of the Paradise Old Station (small building between the Jackson Visitor Center and the Paradise Inn). Please follow the instructions carefully. Help us help you. If we can't read it we can't help you.
    • Fill out your registration card completely
    • Fill it out neatly
A note about doors. Please make sure all doors are closed securely when you are done. If doors aren't properly closed their respective structures fill up with snow and ice.
Doors to think about: Camp Muir public shelter doors, Camp Muir bathroom doors, Paradise Old Station porch door, self-registration box cabinet door, Paradise bathroom doors.

Have fun, stay safe, and enjoy this magical place.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sunny September

The month of September is already more than half over!  With clear skies and almost no precipitation climbers have still been getting up to the summit via the Disappointment Cleaver.  The route has stayed in incredible shape for this time of year.  A warmer, and more importantly, drier forecast for the end of this month would offer outstanding late-season climbs.  See route report links to the right for pictures and more details.

At the height of the climbing season (July and early-August) we'll have almost 1000 climbers a week on the mountain.  Now, in mid-September, there are 100 climbers a week or so.  If you're looking for a bit more solitude and 'wilderness' mountain experience - now is the time to climb.  

Check the Mount Rainier National Park website for the fall/winter hours of operation.  Also, as the snow starts to fall, roads will start to close for the season.  Keep an eye on predicted and current closures on the park's road status page.  Climbing rangers will no longer be staffing both high camps regularly.  Make sure to have a current forecast (this time of year especially) before heading up on a climb.  Enjoy the last bit of summer before the snow!

Monday, September 01, 2014

Fall Is Falling

Well folks it's getting to be that time a year again...

Starting September 2nd the Climbing Information Center in Paradise will have reduced hours as the season draws to a close.
September 2014
Saturdays 7:00am-3:00pm
Sunday 7:00am-3:00pm
Monday-Friday CLOSED

Visit the permits and registration page for more details about where and when you can register, during the month of September and beyond.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Heads Up Regarding Late Season Hazards

Icy area
Fall is arriving swiftly with changing weather and variable visibility.

Please use caution and come prepared for your visit. The fall weather can change rapidly from sunshine to clouds, fog and even snow. Expect decreased visibility conditions.

In some places the glorious sunshine of the summer has finally melted down to the ice of the Muir Snow Field. Be aware of firm and slippery ice in some places. Crampons or other traction devices are still optional at this time but may come in handy on the upper section depending on your comfort and skill level.

Weak/false bridge across crevasse.


You don't want to go there.

As of this posting none of the crevasses observed were wider than ~18" and were easily stepped over. Note that 18" is still large enough for some people to fall into. By crevasse standards 18" is small but it is big enough to bite and cause serious harm or worse.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Camp Construction

Construction continues at both high camps this month.  Bags of concrete for the new toilet project at Camp Muir were flown up this week.  The carpenters have been hard at work forming the walls now that the footing for the structure has been finished.  Two massive steel I-beams were also flown up as a part of the project - amazing precision by the pilots at NW Helicopters!  Safety around the worksite is paramount.  Please don't enter the worksite without permission from the carpenters working there.  Keep out of areas above the worksite where rocks could be dislodged and land near the construction zone.  Swing by the ranger hut if you have any questions regarding the construction project.  

New windows for the Ranger Hut at Camp Muir are also being installed.  One of the oldest buildings in the park (if not the oldest) will finally have windows that can open.  Fresh air, not to mention lower CO levels, will be a welcome change for the hut.  

Steel framing plus backing board was flown for the new water and electrical system at Camp Schurman.  Help from private donations and fundraisers has been directed to help bring the Schurman Hut into the twenty-first century.  Hopefully we'll have up-to-date forecasts, reliable communication, and the ability to procure resources after the improvements are finished.

All the construction hasn't put any damper on climbing.  Lots of teams are still heading up both of the standard routes (the DC and the E/W) and reporting great conditions with uncharacteristically direct routes for this time of year.  Despite a couple of upper level troughs moving through, and a bit of new snow, the conditions have been optimal.  And... speaking of optimal - the wild flowers in the alpine meadows have been amazing this season.  Bring the macro lens!

Friday, August 08, 2014

Mountain Ambassador Extraordinaire

Early in August - on the fifth - we remembered our partner on the mountain, colleague, and friend, Ted Cox.  Ted passed away two years ago, but still seems to be present in our lives everyday at high camp.  He worked at Camp Muir for about a decade doing most everything: fixing doors on huts, installing new solar toilets, painting and weather proofing the structures, helping climbers with broken crampons, hauling down garbage left in the public shelter, hauling up medical kit supplies, and assisting the rangers with search and rescues. These were but a few of his skills. Where Ted stood far above the rest of us was in his extraordinary willingness to befriend anyone who ventured over to say hello. "Welcome to Camp Schurman" he would say as someone walked out of the clouds into Muir.  The ruse never lasted long, but reminded everyone that everything didn't have to be so serious.

Ted brought a mix of compassion, thoughtfulness, humor, competence, and sense of place to Camp Muir.  He knew exactly the measure of the mountain with respect to the cosmos, and kept others informed of it with his sharp wit and smile.  Ted summitted Mount Rainier, but he valued brotherhood and the journey more than any summit.  He'd see folks jockeying to get in front of or behind other rope teams; frustrated from not summitting; nervous about late starts. Ted would try to tell them it wasn't about bagging the peak.  There's always a taller peak - some climbed, like Everest (29,029 ft) and some unclimbed, like Olympus Mons (69,649 ft) - but enjoying the time on the mountain and the people you're around is most important.

In that spirit we remind folks that next time they're waiting for a slow climber on a ladder, or behind a rope team taking a photo, or waiting at a bottleneck on a popular route; to offer a smile, some spare water or snacks, even offer to take a photo.  We're stoked to see so many folks up climbing and having great adventures together.  See you on the glaciers!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Summertime's Back

Warm weather around Mount Rainier has been creating some pretty large electrical storms near the mountain.  Spectacular to see from afar, but a bit unnerving to be near - especially if there's nothing else around that's taller than you!  Safety around electrical storms is all about minimizing the chances of getting hit.  Put the odds in your favor by avoiding any climb that puts you near a storm, staying near depressions and away from ridge tops, and crouch with your feet close together if the storm is unavoidable.  Definitely don't climb up into a storm - it's generally not fun.

Also - a heads up: for those of you planning to arrive in the wee hours or depart late this next week, Monday through Wednesday, August 4, 5, and 6 the Nisqually Road will be CLOSED TO ALL TRAFFIC between the Westside Road and Longmire between  the hours of 9:30 pm & 4:30 am.  This is the main road into the park from Seattle and Portland.  Climbers heading into or out of the Paradise area during these nights will need to use Stevens Canyon Road.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mid-July Update

Despite the recent heat and associated melt-off, routes are holding strong around the mountain! Some areas are definitely starting to become more barren of snow, but that hasn't stopped motivated climbers from successful outings on Ptarmigan, Mowich, and the Tahoma to name a few. The DC and Emmons are still in great shape and seeing lots of traffic, especially on weekends. Being organized when you show up at the ranger station to get your passes and permit helps a ton in making that part go fast! Have your group together, information (car license!) accessible, and your climbing pass or payment ready. 

Tahoma Glacier - Photo by Tim Hale
There is still lots of road construction happening between the Nisqually entrance and Longmire so be prepared to have a delay if you are driving through that area. There is construction and scheduled shutdowns on 410 near Chinook pass (check WSDOT for latest). Some of the lower Paradise trails are receiving some much needed resurfacing and portions of the trails will be closed weekends for the next couple of weeks. There are many easy alternate routes through the Paradise meadows, so this should not delay anyone too much.

Please be extra vigilant about trash and blue bags. This is the time of year rangers are picking up more garbage and human waste from all over the mountain. If you bring it up on the mountain it is your responsibility to take it off. This includes all uneaten food and unburned fuel. All this stuff becomes garbage no one uses and rangers end up packing it down for you, which is bad form on the part of whoever left it. Even worse form is leaving a huge poo right beside camp or the climbing route. People don't want to walk by that and rangers sure would rather not pick it up. It always amazes us how many people leave their poo for us to pick up, please be a better steward of this mountain than those people. Thanks to everyone that has helped us clean up areas and taken down trash that is not theirs, your help does not go unnoticed! 

No major accidents on the mountain recently either. Keep on staying safe, and like always have fun!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summertime Effect

July is going great on Rainier. Thanks to Julian for the photo.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Heat Wave

Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend. Even though there were some steady winds up high many people got up and had successful summit bids. Routes all over the mountain are being climbed and reports seem to be that things are staying in good shape! Check out new reports on Mowich Face, Ptarmigan Ridge, the Disappointment Cleaver and the Emmons/Winthrop.

The upcoming days are going to be seriously HOT. Climb early (teams are stoked to reach the summit before 8:00 AM)  or late (as soon as the snow firms up at night) to avoid sloppy snow, postholing, increased icefall and rockfall, sunburns, dehydration, sunstroke and photokeratitis. Snow surfaces should refreeze nicely with the clear nights, but will rewarm and soften rapidly when the sun comes up.

Stay safe out there.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

July 4th and Near Misses

Happy Independence Day! We sure will be celebrating America's 238th birthday up on Rainier tomorrow, having a good time but most definitely not shooting off fireworks since they are not allowed in the National Parks! If you get high enough on the mountain though and the lowland clouds stay out of the way the chances of being able to see some fireworks from your camp are very good. Some items that are definitely allowed in the park that might be useful this holiday are charcoal and grills (front-country camping only unfortunately), spare ribs, BBQ sauce, cole slaw, farm fresh produce, and fresh cherries (rainier variety of course). Got to stay well fed this holiday! Please note that all wildlife here are already well fed and do not need any of your delicious food. Rangers, on the other hand could possibly be talked into helping if you don't want any leftovers.

It looks to be great weather throughout the park this weekend. Get an early start to avoid scorching daytime temps and full parking lots. Expect crowds in ranger stations and be prepared with a backup plan if the spot you most want to camp is full. Help us out by knowing things like your license plate number, emergency contacts for everyone in your group, and having your climbing passes in hand or payment ready. It helps dramatically if your entire group comes in together and ready to go.

Ranger Patrol, Ingraham Flats
On a more climbing specific note, this past week there have been a few incidents that did not become full blown rescues but easily could have. Both the events happened on Liberty Ridge, which has been the site of many successful climbs this season but also a spot where there is a long history of climbers needing rescue, getting injured and even killed. While Liberty Ridge is a great climb, and is within reach of many intermediate climbers it is a very serious undertaking and a real wilderness alpine climb. Rangers over the years have seen far too may groups come unprepared for such a difficult climb (f.y.i. - rangers have seen climbers on all routes come grossly unprepared). The lessons here apply to every climber and every route on Rainier. Do not underestimate this mountain, be on your game. Climb smart, we would rather not rescue you.

In one incident a climbing team was caught in a avalanche around 13,500' and swept over 800' according to them, and luckily were able to stop short of disaster. One of the most significant aspects of this event is that the team had climbed into a forecasted strong storm. This forecast included high winds on the upper mountain along with a significant amount of precip (which of course is still snow at 13,500'). New snow, plus wind, plus steep slopes, equal avalanches. The safest option is to not go into that situation or to turn around if bad weather sneaks up on you. Conditions such as this usually stabilize rapidly after a storm and can be avoided. Also remember even small avalanches that might not bury a person can still do serious damage if they push you off a cliff.

Another close call came when a team of climbers from Colorado got lost after a successful ascent on Liberty Ridge but failed to properly plan for their descent down the Emmons. As a result they started descending into some very serious terrain (Curtis Ridge) before they realized they had it wrong. Eventually they found their way down the Emmons but spent a lot of time and energy doing so. The route isn't over until you are down to your car. Get the proper information and make good plans before any climb. In the end these climbers also ditched a pair of skis on their descent because it was "too windy" to continue carrying them on their pack, and conditions were too difficult for them to actually ski. Climbing Rangers later recovered the skis that were left (littered) on the upper mountain. Needless to say we think this is poor form.

Happy climbing, Happy 4th. We'll be looking for fireworks from 10,000' so if you aren't up here and it's legal to do so in your area shoot off some big ones for us!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer Solstice and Remembrances

The longest day of the year has just passed and summer is now officially happening. This change of season has been marked by many of the Rainier employees (climbing rangers included) staying busy long past daylight hours responding to lost and injured visitors. Fortunately one of the week's rescues ended well, and unfortunately one did not. We can't overemphasize enough how important it is to make good plans, be prepared for unforeseen events (injuries), and to let someone know your plans including any possible alternate plans you might have. Even with precautions experienced backcountry users take, accidents still occur, but stack the deck as much as you can in your favor.

Nick Hall
This past weekend also marked the second anniversary of the loss of our friend and co-worker Nick Hall. Nick was killed in a rescue on the Emmons Glacier on June 21st, 2012. His quiet, calm, fun-loving demeanor and his superb confidence and skill as a climbing ranger will continue to be missed daily. We wish you were here to work the long days with us, slog through the snow for miles then finally get a few good tool swings tools into alpine ice. Wish you were here to sit on the front porch at high camp drinking coffee and listening to good tunes, complain about the bureaucratic hoops we jump through, make plans for where to climb on off days, and then finally sit back and marvel at the beauty of the place we get to work and how incredibly privileged we are to have this job of "Climbing Ranger". Wake up and do it all over again. Will miss you always brother.

It's prime climbing season. Routes are in great shape. Get after it.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Early June Update

Mowich Headwall
This upcoming weekend looks to be a sunny one! Warm but not too warm temperatures should also prevail making for some potentially great climbing conditions. We have started seeing the summer surge of climbers here on Rainier. Weekends at popular spots (Muir and Schurman) have been crowded and lots of people are successfully reaching Columbia Crest (aka the summit).

We've recently crunched some numbers for you folks who are interested in such things and found this: The six year average of registered climbers between January 1 and June 1 is 1,160 and this year during that same time period we have had over 2,000 climbers register. It's hard to tell if this trend will continue through the season but we are happy to see so many folks out enjoying the alpine! Usually somewhere between 10,000 and 11,000 people register to climb Rainier annually, so anyway you look at it the majority of climbing this year is still to come. Also thanks for registering and getting permits. Not only are you following the law, but you are also helping yourself out tremendously in the event of an emergency. The permit system is how we track climbers, figure out if you are overdue, who your emergency contacts are, cell numbers, itinerary, supplies, gear you have, etc. This is very valuable information. One of the first things rangers do if we get any sort of hint that a group might be in trouble is look at their climbing registration. It's Important!

We are playing catch up a little with some of our route updates, but there are now current photos of almost all routes on our conditions page. Climbers rangers have done very thorough updates for the Emmons/Winthrop and Liberty Ridge routes. Stay tuned for updates on the DC (It's great right now). Coverage seems to still be good on all routes and people have definitely been taking advantage. Please be safe out there. Take your time, get good info, watch the weather. Know your and your partners ability. Climb Safe!

Monday, June 02, 2014

To All:

Liberty Ridge
Many of you have now heard about the accident on Liberty Ridge late last week that took the lives of six climbers. This accident is not only unprecedented in size (the biggest of its kind in over 30 years) but also hits close to home, as two well known guides were lost along with their four clients. Our sympathies go out to all the friends and families of the climbers involved in this accident.

To our friends at AAI and across the larger guiding world, thank you for all you do in the mountains. By leading people, who might otherwise never get to visit these beautiful and wild places into them, you provide a view of life and of the world that is hard to equal. We are constantly impressed by the professionalism you show in your work and by the support many of you have provided to us climbing rangers over the years. We know we'll see you in the mountains again, because those are the places we all feel most alive.

This accident is a stark reminder of the inherent hazards that come with climbing. Our community of climbers is a small one and that becomes all too clear in tragedies such as this. Keep reaching for higher heights. Safe travels to wherever those heights lead you.

For further reading here are a couple of well written pieces. National Geographic Daily News & Seattle Times

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Memorial Day

Thanks to all the Military folks out there for your service. We couldn't do our job effectively without the support of the 214th GSAB out of Joint Base Lewis McChord. Their SAR Chinooks and crews have been giving us unparalleled support for many years. Big Thanks.

Keep an eye on road openings and closures, especially on the east side of the park.  Downed trees, stormy weather, and lingering snowpack have impacted some of the opening dates.  Both Chinook and Cayuse Passes are open (awesome!).  The road to White River Campground is still closed for this holiday weekend, but cars are allowed to park at the White River Ranger Station.  Climbers can approach climbs starting there for the holiday weekend (adds four miles to the approach).  Check out the Park Access link above and click the links on the right hand side for the most up-to-date info.

Hope everyone will have a fun and safe holiday weekend!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Full Swing!

It's been a great week at Mount Rainier! The climbing and skiing have been excellent, lots of people have been getting to the summit, and we rangers have wrapped up our annual early season training so we've begun staffing the upper mountain more regularly.

Right now is a prime time to climb some of the less-traveled routes on the mountain as well as the standards. The snowpack is deep and coverage is great all over the mountain so many of the more difficult and committing routes are in excellent shape. There have been parties on the Tahoma Glacier, Liberty Ridge, and all over the south side of the mountain. We will be adding information about more routes as we get access to them and hear reports from you folks. We want to hear from you about your climb particularly if you have been on any of the aforementioned non-standard routes.

As always, pay attention to the weather forecasts. We still get some pretty strong spring storms this time of year, but the sunny periods in between offer excellent climbing conditions and fantastic views of the alpine surroundings. Access to more remote areas will usually require skis, snowshoes or determined post-holing, come prepared.

The Climbing Information Center in Paradise is open daily from 6:00 am - 3:00 pm Sunday to Thursday and 6:00 am - 5:00 pm Friday and Saturday. Stop in for route and weather updates, and to register in person with a friendly ranger.

Climbers leaving from the western side (Paradise, Longmire) of the park are required to register in person during business hours. Climbers leaving from Carbon or White River may still self register as those ranger stations have not opened for the season yet. These ranger stations should be opening prior to Memorial Day weekend so please check our Park Access page for current road conditions and opening dates.

Since there is a holiday weekend coming up make plans for getting to ranger stations early, especially if your destination is Camp Muir or Camp Schurman. Although these camps can hold a lot of people they do sometimes fill to capacity. It is smart to have an alternate plan or at least have the ability to be flexible if your primary itinerary doesn't work out.

We look forward to seeing you on the mountain!

Friday, May 16, 2014

It's N.A.A.P.I.H.M.

Big Smile. Clean Desk
As some of you probably know May is officially National Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Us, the Climbing Rangers, would like to give a huge "Big Ups" to Armando, who is a real live Pacific Islander and a vital part of our program here at Mt. Rainier. Armando is a guy you most likely won't see on the mountain (although we keep trying) but he keeps the climbing ranger and SAR program running smooth with his mastery of all things Park Service. He has the incredible ability of procuring the latest and greatest gear, hiring the best instructors to come and give us excellent trainings, and at the same time dealing with the ineptitude of climbing ranger paperwork skills. Props to Armando for holding it down!

Camp Schurman in August
Here on Rainier for the past few days it has really felt like a tropical Pacific paradise. The sun has been out and temperatures have been hot! We haven't seen any grass skirts being worn on the snowfield even though conditions have been warm enough for beachwear.  Rangers will be up at Muir this weekend and surely loving the spring climbing and skiing on this volcano, but also keenly aware that there is no sandy beach nearby.

When temps cool down a bit and the snow stabilizes, climbing conditions should be excellent. Roads and ranger stations will be opening over the next couple of weeks throughout the park and access to the alpine will be getting easier. The Climbing Information Center (CIC or "kick") opens this weekend which means you can come in, talk conditions and recent activity with a ranger and get registered all in one convenient location.  Stay safe in the sun and get your 'Pacific Island" on!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

It's Very Warm. Heads Up.

Ingraham Glacier & Disappointment Cleaver 
The Northwest is going to get a blast of summertime over the next few days. Temperatures are going to be hot. Seattle will be in the 80's and freezing levels in the mountains are going to be hovering around 12,000' until the weekend. The Northwest Avalanche Center has issued a special advisory through Thursday for our area. Please read this before venturing into the backcountry in the coming days. Many wet loose avalanches have been observed on steep slopes around Rainier along with a few moderate sized slabs. Avalanches can be seen  high on the Kautz above the ice chute and most likely are occurring in other high elevation spots around Rainier. A recent pit profile from the Ingraham can be found on our weather and snow page.

The next few days are going to be beautiful and great for getting outside but be wise. Climb early before the sun is up and be back in camp before the heat of the day takes real effect. Travel in all snow covered areas during the daytime will be strenuous. Skis or snowshoes will be necessary if you plan to make any progress. The snow surface should be refreezing fairly well overnight making late night and early morning travel much more pleasant. PLUS it's pretty much a full moon these days and with all the new snow the mountain will be lit up at night by moonbeams.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Climbing Information Center Opening This Weekend

Anyone planning to climb should come by for their permits, passes and the latest information. The CIC is now open seven days a week for the remainder of the 2014 season.

Starting Friday May 16 ALL climbers leaving from PARADISE will be required to register in person during business hours. Climbing registration is available at any ranger station, hours vary. Self registration will be closed until the fall. Climbers leaving from WHITE RIVER OR CARBON will still be able to self register.

There is a new update about the road construction on our Park Access page. It's a good and informative write up if you are curious at all about this monstrous project. Expect 20-30 min delays getting to Longmire.

Rangers made it up to Muir during the recent 24 hours of clear skies and were able to dig a snow pit and do a profile that can be found on our Weather and Snow page. Conditions on the snowfield were excellent if you had skis, maybe a bit more work if you didn't. Whenever this storm stops there should be some great climbing and skiing conditions available.

Friday, May 02, 2014


So it's the beginning of a new month and here in the Park we are gearing up for the coming of the summer busy season. The past few days have brought a taste of summer sun if nothing else. Blue skies and warm temps dominated making some people very happy (if they remembered sunscreen). The forecast is calling for increasing clouds and snow over the next few days so come prepared.

Check out new updates on the Muir Snowfield, Disappointment Cleaver and Ingraham Direct routes. Remember that the Nisqually Road in currently under construction so expect delays up to 30 minutes. The work is only happening Monday - Friday so this project should not affect weekend visitors as much. We recommend checking road conditions before you come up since snow delays and closures remain a reality.

Have fun, stay safe.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Weather Advisory

Rare Mountain Glimpse
It has been stormy up here! In the past three days Paradise has received upwards of 25"inches of snow and water totals close to 3.5". That's a pretty big storm for this time of year. Temperatures have been mild the whole time, leading to some very heavy snow. These conditions mean there will be significant avalanche hazards in sub-alpine and alpine areas for the next few days and into the weekend. NWAC and NOAA have both issued special avalanche advisories for our area. Anyone venturing into backcountry areas should take extra caution during their travels.

W. Baumann Assessing Conditions
Climbing rangers got out to check conditions this afternoon above Paradise and ran into some seriously deep and heavy snow. There were many naturally occurring small to moderate sized point releases on slopes above 35 degrees. Human triggered avalanches would be almost certain on any steeper slopes, and there is potential for some very large slides. Backcountry users should avoid all avalanche terrain and terrain traps until this new snow has had a chance to settle out. The forecast is calling for some cooler weather, which should help things, but be aware of any warming you observe. This time of year even a brief break in the clouds can lead to rapid solar warming which will greatly increase the likelihood of avalanches.

All isn't lost though. There are many areas above Paradise that are not in dangerous avalanche terrain, but travel will be tough! Earlier today big skis were easily sinking over a foot deep and people on foot had snow to mid-thigh. Skis or snowshoes are a must if you want to get out beyond the parking lot. Be aware that the road above Longmire is being closed at night right now and will open in the AM pending road conditions. This could be anywhere from 7:00 onward, be sure to check road conditions before you drive up.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

National Parks Week

Next week April 19 - 27 is National Park Week. Go Wild! 

To help you in this officially sanctioned "going wild!", National Parks across the entire country will not be charging entrance fees during the weekend of April 19 - 20. That means here at Rainier you can save yourself and everyone else in your car fifteen bucks. If you need some help in planning what to do check out this link, which features suggestions on different ways you can get wild. Don't confine your self to this list though, there are many different parks out there and many ways to get wild in them. Be creative. Have Fun.

The weather around here is looking to be pretty standard for this time of year, which means conditions for activities like skiing could be really nice. Remember that carrying tire chains is required on roads here until May 1.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Road Work (Expect Delays)

Visitors to Mt. Rainier should be aware that there will be an ongoing construction project on the road from
the Nisqually entrance to Paradise. This project is going to include a number of upgrades such as updating the electric and telecom lines into the park, improving the substructure and drainage of the road, and of course repaving the whole thing. Eventually this project will vastly improve not only driving conditions but much needed park infrastructure. For the time being and foreseeable future though, this will mean delays.

This project will be happening the entire summer, most likely for the next four years. Yeah four years! This is an absolutely huge project. This summer the work will focus on the section of road between the Nisqually entrance and Longmire. Between Longmire and Paradise the road should be construction free (at least as far as this project is planned). The goal is to keep wait times between 20 and 30 minutes one way, which isn't too bad considering all the work that is going on. Just take this down time as an opportunity to check out a spot of forest that normally passes at 35 mph. There are some big trees to be seen. Possibly deer.

The construction delays should only happen Monday through Friday from 8 am to 6 pm. Weekend delays will just be from normal high volume traffic! Check out this page for more information and we'll let you know if anything changes with the road status.

In somewhat similar news the road from Longmire to Paradise is no longer being gated nightly. If the weather cooperates the road should be open 24 hours a day. Be aware there is potential for road closures due to snow. Check out park access page and links before you head up for an early mission. There is also a current update on conditions around HWY 410 and White River.

Flaggers love friendly waves and smiles.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Muir Weather Telemetry Back Online

This afternoon, I was able to get up to Camp Muir with a bunch of test equipment and figure out what was wrong with the weather telemetry at Camp Muir.  It turned out to be simply a power issue.

I also brought up the webcam and installed it and the microwave network link that gets the image back down to Paradise.  It is currently online but this time of the year it can easily get covered in ice and it takes a couple of days to melt out.  The ice also covers the micro-wave antenna and impedes radio transmissions it needs to transfer the image.  So you may see a completely white image, or just an image that has not updated in a few days.

PLEASE DO NOT HIT, BANG, BUMP, or TAP the webcam to help clear the ice!  It has been irreparably damaged by someone doing this already, and it is on its last legs because of it.  Several clips and cables have come unsoldered from the board in difficult locations to access.

Just let the ice melt off please!

The snow today was good, however there is some developing sastrugi up high above 9,000'.

Ski penetration at 10:30 am this morning was less than 1-2 cm all the way up from Paradise.  At pan point, the snow is very frozen.  Although I was on less-than-full-thickness skins, I had to take my skis off to ascend up Pan Point and I was unable to put them back on where I usually do.  Falls are still possible and we've had many accidents on pan point this winter.  Please take an ice axe, a whippet, or something to help stop you if you get to sliding.  Something store-bought for that purpose!

Several summits on the Ingraham Direct route have been achieved in the last couple of days.  A few people tonight have plans to climb Gib Ledges. A guided group (Alpine Ascent International) reported very good climbing conditions all the way to the top.

Not many people are climbing so you may find yourself up there by yourself.  Please take enough gear on your summit climb to survive a night or two or a storm on the mountain.  Climbing rangers are starting to come on duty now, but we are not staffing high camps yet.  Stay sane and within your skill and comfort zone.

Remember that a climbing pass and permit are required for day use on glaciers, even below 10,000'. If you are on the Cowlitz or Nisqually Glacier you need a climbing pass and climbing permit. You can pay for your climbing pass at the self-registration kiosk at Paradise.  You can also find instructions by following this link.  Once you have your annual pass, permits are free and you can come as many times as you want!

- Stefan Lofgren

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Big Avalanches on the Nisqually (Rock AND Snow)

Late in February, we received word from the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network and the University of Washington that there had been a noticable surface seismic event (not an earthquake) that appeared to be near the top of the Nisqually Cleaver.  You may recall that in the summer of 2012, a large portion of the Nisqually Cleaver gave way at about 12,000 feet and tumbled down to about 8000 feet on the Nisqually Glacier.  This wasn't as big, but nevertheless the PNSN and the UW gave us a heads up and asked if anyone had seen anything. 

You can see the brownish stain on the surface of the glacier below the Nisqually Cleaver.  This is exactly where the large rock avalanche occurred in 2012. However, what was more noticeable was a snow avalanche that occurred from the 11,500 foot level on the Nisqually Icefall and traveled all the way down to the terminus of the Nisqually Glacier.  I have seen avalanche debris on the Nisqually down to about 6500 feet before, but never down to the terminus!

The following images were taken on Friday February 28th from the Muir Snowfield:

Snow in Red. Rock in Blue.
Debris approaching terminus of Nisqually

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Chad Kellogg

Sad news from Patagonia. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to everyone who knew Chad and are currently dealing with the tragic news.

Chad left a huge mark here at Rainier and his legacy and accomplishments will not be forgotten.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Volunteer Opportunity

So as some of you may know the National Park Service has many volunteer opportunities available for the generous souls that feel the urge to give their time and effort to make our parks a better place. Here at Rainer hundreds of people put in thousands of hours of volunteer time every summer doing everything from working on trails to answering questions at ranger stations. Especially in these times of very slim budgets many of us have come to rely on the support of volunteers to accomplish everyday tasks and just keep the park open. So thank a volunteer next time you visit, but now onto the main point of this post...

The climbing ranger program is looking for a few volunteers for the 2014 climbing season! Due to the nature of the work we perform we ask a lot of our volunteers, but for the motivated person interested in gaining experience in the type of work we do this is a great opportunity. Volunteer climbing rangers will need to commit to a full summer of work and come in with a bit of experience (mostly in the climbing realm). As a volunteer climbing ranger you can expect and will be expected to do the following tasks at a minimum:
  • Work a full time schedule as part of a team of rangers in the alpine areas of Mt. Rainier.
  • Staff high camps (Muir and Schurman) throughout summer.
  • Participate in climbing patrols on all areas of Rainier. 
  • Staff ranger stations, and issue permits and provide information to climbers. 
  • Interact with park visitors and climbers in a professional manner. 
  • Participate in Search and Rescue operations.
  • Participate in resource protection and monitoring. (Yes, this does include dealing with human waste)
  • Be willing to learn and motivated to contribute to our team.
Volunteers should have the following skills at a minimum:
  • Solid alpine and glacial climbing background. (detail in resume. route & grade)
  • Current EMT or WFR. (experience preferred, detail any SAR experience in resume)
  • Ability to function in harsh alpine environments in all types of weather.
  • Avalanche level II education, with working knowledge of avalanche science and making sound judgement in avalanche terrain. 
  • Ability to ski/snowboard in intermediate to advanced back country terrain.
  • Ability to effectively communicate climbing and skiing conditions to public. 
For all this work we will provide the following:
  • Housing in Mt. Rainier for the duration of your stay.
  • Stipend of $20/day with the occasional opportunity for other paid work. 
  • As much training in NPS operations and search and rescue as you can stand. (this is a great way to resume build for future employment)
  • Equipment considered essential for duties (although volunteers will need to provide some of their personal equipment to make it all work. You should have it all if you're a climber.)
  • Rewarding work environment! Plus many experience, awesome views, etc...
So if you or anyone you know might be interested and qualified send them a link to this post. Applicants will need to submit a resume detailing their experience in everything mentioned above, along with anything else you think we should know about you. This is a timely thing as we start our season in mid-April. (concessions can potentially be made for you college folk who are not out of school by then)

Email resume to or contact if you would like additional information.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

What's with the weather? We'll take it!

I made a program that calculates the freezing level each hour and saves it.  If I average all the values where this indirect method of determining freezing level seems to be working acurately, I get 6000 feet! Here's just the last two weeks.

dateAVG ( frelev )

But anyone who has been out in the mountains doesn't need a program to tell them that this isn't a normal year.  We've had a few weeks worth of days where the freezing level has been around 10,000 feet.  Quite a few climbers have taken advantage of this as these high freezing levels have come with sunny days and reasonable winds.

There have been an unusual number north and east wind events.  Although this isn't uncommon, the normal low pressure system that sits off the coast of Vancouver Island which sends our prevailing winter westerlies has been absent.  Instead, for much the winter, there has been a high pressure system off the coast of Northern California.

Climbers have been taking good advantage of the good weather that has accompanied the drier weather and warmer temperatures.  On Friday, January 24, rangers (3 volunteer + 1 full-time) Peter Ellis, Danny Johnson, Matt Sommerville, and Stefan Lofgren went up to Camp Muir to look into a report (from a former 90's climbing ranger, Ross Freeman) of the roof on one of the toilets hanging on by a thread.

Although the freezing level was forecast to be at 10,000, the snow at Paradise was solid.  At Panorama Point (6800') the snow was very hard.  This has proved to be a hazardous spot this winter because of the steep, very icy snow conditions and produced a number of rescues for us.  A very experienced skier took a fall and slid down towards the Nisqually.  He was eventually rescued and carried out to Paradise at mid-night by mountain rescue.  Another hiker was injured and was airlifted from Glacier Vista.  Many more hikers have been injured, but have made it down under their own power.

The message here is to be care.  TAKE AN ICE AXE or at least a whippet.  Know when to take your skis off (up and down).  Shoe chains can help, but crampons could be a big boon.  Pay attention and select your route carefully.  I found myself surrounded by ice a few times.

Above Pan Point, the snow got a little softer but my full-width, pretty new Dynafit skins certainly slipped out several times on the way.  Reliable sources like Amar Adalker have told me that he has frequently been using ski crampons recently.

We arrived at Muir around 11:30 and immediately found a small section of the middle toilet's roof missing.  We fired up the generator and screwed down more firmly the roof that was remaining.  This was not the end of the damage we found, unfortunately.

A routine check of the voltage on the public shelter radio system hinted at something not right.  We checked the solar panels on the roof of the public shelter.  They had ripped from their mounts and were lying upside down and at ninety degrees.  Even amidst the twisted aluminum and steel, the panels were salvagable.  We disassembled them and put them inside a enclosed storage area.

For the time being until we're able to fix this, please don't rely on the emergency radio in the public shelter.  We'll need to mount a temporary panel on the roof, but may not be able to do this for a few weeks.

We have been experimenting with a system to keep the liquid waste from the toilets unfrozen so it more easily drains into the leachfield.  The solar-thermal panel that provides the heat for this system was completely crushed.

The ski down was pretty good.  The high freezing level and calm winds melted the surface of the snow to provide great turns for most of the trip down.

The moral of the story of this trip is that we should not expect the same conditions as we have come to expect as normal.  There has been a lot of snow transport from east to west slopes.  This is unusual.  There could be more avalanche danger on slopes we have come to learn as being relatively safe.

As always, make good evaluations, and keep it real!