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