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!