Thursday, June 22, 2017

Disappointment Cleaver June 22nd

Ranger hut fully iced over after last weekends storm cleared. Notice all the
wind effected snow in the background.
The past week of weather on Mount Rainier has presented a bit of everything for climbers taking a shot at the upper mountain. 60 mph winds, rapidly rising freezing levels and  2-3 inches of water falling in the form of both snow and rain last weekend have created exciting climbing conditions to say the least. Despite the lull in low pressure the last few days, no guided parties have made the summit in the last 8 days due to insecure upper mountain conditions. High winds, coupled with icy surface conditions above 12,000 ft. have been enough turn around guided groups the last few days. At this time, there is no formal "trail" above roughly 12,500 ft. The guide services have been working tirelessly to shovel in the route but haven't been able to punch it to the top as of yet. That being said, any parties planning to summit need to be fully dialed on their glacial navigation skills, crevasse rescue techniques, route finding abilities and be comfortable sidestepping or front pointing on firm upper mountain snow/ice crusts.

Now that it's been nearly a week since most of the precipitation fell on the upper mountain, it would seem that the snow pack has had time to settle out and consolidate. Despite this, rising freezing levels will undoubtedly increase icefall/rockfall hazard along the route in addition to loose wet avalanches. With so many climbers turning out to enjoy  the high pressure, it will be imperative for groups to move quickly and efficiently through hazard zones on the route. Traversing the Ingraham glacier under the "Ice Box" and the rock gullies on the cleaver itself are repeat offenders. Pictured on the left is a photo taken this week of 17 people parked underneath the rock gullies below the cleaver. With such high temperatures predicted for the weekend, be sure to move quickly through these areas and DO NOT stop below steep snow slopes, ice seracs or rock bands and gullies.

Lastly, crowd management is going to be an issue this weekend with so many parties on route and slow, icy conditions on the mountain. Handlines are meant to be used as handlines and teams should not attach any devices or prussiks to these lines along the route. Running protection is in place along a few of the steeper sections along the route and should be used efficiently if needed at all. This may not be the weekend to climb Mt. Rainier if all members of your party aren't comfortable with rope management skills and using running protection. Ensuring your team is comfortable in possibly icy conditions will help prevent bottle necks and keep climbers moving safely up/down the route.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Climbing Conditions on the Emmons/Winthrop and The Inter Glacier (6/19)



Glacier Basin, looking towards St. Elmo's Pass
Starting out from the White River Campground, expect to be walking on dirt for about two miles or so, but still a fair amount of snow in Glacier Basin.  With all the warm weather, be super cautious about traveling on snow over rivers and streams.  If you can hear water running below, assume its a fairly thin bridge that may or may not support your weight, and think about an alternate route.  This is especially true right out of Glacier Basin crossing the Inter Fork of the White River.



Crevasses on the Inter Glacier are beginning to open up so keep an eye out for them on your way up and down.  The traverse/descent from Camp Curtis to the Emmons still has a fair amount of snow, just keep an eye out crevasses once on the Emmons Glacier and make sure to rope up.

Wet Slab release on the Winthrop Glacier
We spotted quite a few point releases in steeper terrain above Camp Schurman.  Mainly new storm snow that was just beginning to see the sun.  Keep an eye out for these wet/loose avalanches.  Though they are small, they pack a lot of energy, and have the potential to carry you through consequential terrain.  We did spot a small wet slab avalanche on the Winthrop Glacier around the elevation of Camp Schurman, so the potential for wet slab activity exists, especially with the warm temps and recent new snow.  Remember, the best indication that there is potential for avalanches in the area is if you see recent signs of natural activity.

View of the route from Steamboat Prow
Track of current route
Currently, the route heads up from Camp Schurman and past the Emmons Flats and climbs the Football Field for a couple hundred feet.  Be sure not to cut over to the Corridor too early, otherwise you will be forced to navigate through an area where very thin bridges are present.  Once on the Corridor, ascend up to the Alpine Meadows and begin a mellow ascending traverse towards the Winthrop shoulder.  You can then keep a fairly direct line up to Columbia Crest.  Traversing the shrund to Liberty Saddle is unnecessary at this point in time and adds time to your ascent as well as puts you in a zone with more objective hazard
than you would be in otherwise.





Looking up the Inter Glacier towards
Steamboat Prow

Monday, June 19, 2017

Weather Update

Greetings Climbers:  As many of you already know the mountain was hit by a significant amount of precipitation and wind over the past five days.  From early Thursday afternoon through Friday afternoon the lower mountain received from 2.0 to 2.5 inches of rain.  Meanwhile the upper mountain was hit with a substantial amount of snow...due to the high winds the distribution of that snow varied from zero to several feet.  After the precipitation event the freezing level shot up to 15,000 and wind speeds remained high, resulting in less then ideal climbing conditions. 

As a result of all of the above few parties have summited since last Wednesday.  The good news is that snowpack on the upper mountain is starting to stabilize and more summer-like conditions should be returning this week.  As regards to the weather...we have a brief disturbance moving through on Tuesday which should produce some clouds and a slight chance of showers, after that all indications are for generally clear skies on the upper mountain.  The main issue mid-week will be continued moderate to strong winds.  It looks as if these winds will diminish during the day on Thursday.  Friday and Saturday are looking like prime weather days on the old mountain, Sunday is looking a little questionable this far out, but may turn out to be ideal as well.

If your planning on climbing the DC route this weekend and you do not have a reservation (which are full) we have 30 spots available as walk-ins for each night.  The Climbing Info. Center opens at 7 AM each morning.  Pay for your climbing passes before you leave home, just show us proof of payment when you get your permit.

There has been a lot on inquires regarding the amount of snow we have in the Paradise area and above.  The Snotel site is located just below Paradise and is running 147% of the long-term mean for this date!  We are at 230% compared to June 19, 2016...so yes there is still a lot of snow.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Cam Muir/Muir Snowfield June 16th



Ranger hut before the storm picked up in the night. Current weather conditions aren't allowing for great photo's.

With 2.5 inches of water falling from the ski in the last 24 hrs, and sustained winds above 35 mph this week's storm has proven to be much more than a summer squall. Since the storm began early Thursday morning, visibility at Camp Muir has been nearly zero due to the sustained winds, intense precip and high level of snow transport. All independent climbers and guided teams turned around near pebble creek or below yesterday due to deteriorating conditions. Although the weather is forecast to let up a bit by Saturday, sustained winds and another pulse of precipitation on Saturday evening may continue to make mountain travel difficult through the weekend. Although the winds are making it tricky to judge the total accumulation of snowfall on the upper mountain, it's certainly stacking up on leeward aspects and "fetch" zones. Rangers are experiencing pockets of snow around camp from 1-3' in depth. Everything else around camp that hasn't accumulated new snow is covered in 1-3" of ice. 

Guided parties headed up to Camp Muir today are reporting challenging conditions in the white out and difficult navigation as many of the wands up the snowfield have either blown away or are buried in snow. In storms like this, proper preparedness and conservative decision making are more crucial. What starts out as light rain leaving the parking lot can quickly turn into blizzard like conditions as temperatures drop and saturated clothing begins to freeze. Anyone planning to travel up the snowfield this weekend should be carrying a GPS with an appropriate track log or "route" of the path to Camp Muir. Appropriate winter layers/clothing and enough supplies/equipment to make an emergency bivy on the route if necessary are also critical this weekend. 

Many folks have been calling to inquire about climbing conditions as the weather breaks and begins to warm early next week. Although the weather is calling for general clearing by next week, climbers must keep in mind the amount of new snow this storm cycle has put down on the mountain (2.5 inches of water!!!!) in the last 24 hrs. This, paired with the rapid warm up will no doubt lead to unstable snow conditions on the upper mountain for a few days as the snow pack begins to heal/consolidate. If you plan to come up for a climb or an overnight in the next few days, be certain to tie in with rangers stationed at the Climbing Information Center in Paradise. These rangers are and invaluable resource for weather and route condition information before you head up the hill. 

Liberty Ridge TR June 11th-14th

Big thanks to Austin Shannon and the IMG team for the following trip report...
IMG team on the summit just before the weekend storm hit

As most climbers know, Liberty Ridge is one of North America’s 50 classic climbs. It receives this honor because of its iconic location, alpine style of climbing, and over all commitment level.  Liberty Ridge is a spectacular 5,300’ ridge that summits on Liberty Cap, the northern most summit of Mt. Rainier.
My most recent guided summit of Liberty Ridge was nothing short of classic.  As one of the climbers stated, “this was the most difficult and rewarding thing I have ever done.”  Liberty Ridge demands everything a climber possesses.  Due to the challenging conditions on this particular trip, each of the climbers was tested in their own way. Here is a more detailed breakdown of the trip:

Day 1: (5hrs)  Approach from White River to St. Elmo’s pass.  We had great travel through the forest below.  Great dry trail led to compact snow travel near Glacier Basin.  A seamless transition to snow on the Inter Glacier made for efficient travel without snowshoes or skis.  Easy step kicking up the steep slope to St. Elmo’s Pass made for a great day.  Tent platforms on snow made for a great camp that night.  No running water was found.

Day 2: (4hrs) We traversed across the Winthrop glacier to camp at the bottom of Curtis Ridge.  Due to low visibility and moderate winds we decided to pull up short and camp at Curtis Ridge near the edge of the Carbon Glacier.  No running water was found at this camp either.

Day 3: (5.5hrs) Big move up to thumb rock.  Crossing the Carbon Glacier was relatively straight forward.  We made our way up climber’s right of the main ice fall to access good compression zones that led to easy travel.  Once near the bottom of Liberty Ridge proper some tricky rout finding was required to find access to the ridge.  Steep snow climbing led to the ridge crest.  Once on the ridge crest it was good boot packing in styrofoam style snow all the way to Thumb Rock camp. Once at Thumb Rock camp we found generous amount of snow in which to dig a large tent platform.

Day 4: (17hrs)  The great push up and over the mountain is the single most committing part of the climb.  Leaving Thumb Rock camp we encountered boot-top to knee deep trail breaking for the first thousand feet.  Once near the Black Pyramid the trial breaking became more consolidated snow and ice.  No ice pitches were encountered on the route.  However, we were required to do two steep snow pitches to get above the Black Pyramid.  From there it was easy glacier travel up to the bergschrund.  One 12’ vertical snow and ice pitch was needed to ascend up and over the bergschrund.  Once above the bergschrund, steep snow climbing led us up to Liberty Cap! There was moderate winds and light snowfall during the entirety of our climb.  Once on top of Liberty Cap we found ourselves in a complete and total whiteout.  Advanced whiteout navigation skills were required to find our way to Columbia Crest.  Once on Columbia crest we followed the Disappointment Cleaver route all the way to Camp Muir where our DC team was waiting for us with some hot drinks and soup!

Day 5: (2.5 hours) We hustled down to Paradise and were in Ashford for lunch!
A great climb with some great climbers. A special thanks to fellow guide Nickel Wood, who was there with me every step of the way!
Austin Shannon

Disappointment Cleaver Conditions

Track Log from 6/10
Climbers have been having fairly high success rates via this route despite the winter-like weather.  A well wanded and kicked-in route exists.  Snow still covers almost all of the Disappointment Cleaver and Cathedral Gap which makes for safe and efficient travel with crampons on.  There are a couple of hand-lines in place that the guide services maintain.  These are exactly what they're called - hand-lines.   Don't try to clamp on an ascender and aid-climb up these ropes. 
Photo of the Disappointment Cleaver

A larger crevasse at 13,900 feet has a thinning snow bridge and a steep slope above it.  This makes for a hazardous situation when the first climber makes it across the crevasse safely and the rest of the climbers still have yet to cross.  If the snow bridge were to break underneath the second climber, they would surely drag the first climber on the steep slope above them.  There's different techniques to make this situation safer for both climbers - either using running protection or setting up a quick belay system.  As we approach "prime-time" on the mountain, please be respectful of the Leave-No-Trace guidelines so everyone can enjoy this amazing place! 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Liberty Ridge, June 16-June 18

Liberty Ridge climbers! 

- And all of you folks out there considering any of the other routes on Mt. Rainier this weekend.  I will attempt here to help give you more good information about attempting a climb this weekend.

* Yes!  There is a bit more snow at 10K and 12K feet this year than normal.  This has made climbing conditions great, especially on the non-standard routes, and also for skiers.

* Yes!  This is the right time of year to be thinking about a climb of Liberty Ridge.

* Yes!  The route goes right now.

HOWEVER!!

* No.  This is not shaping up to be a good weekend to attempt climbing Liberty Ridge.

Here is the issue with Liberty Ridge

The route with the highest rescue rate on Mt. Rainier is Liberty Ridge.  You have somewhere between a 2-5% chance of being involved in a rescue on this route, depending on how you spin the statistics.  We haven't done this, but if you were to analyze the statistics of Liberty Ridge climbers who attempt to climb the route in marginal weather, the % rescue rate, I'm guessing, would be far higher.

In post-incident interviews with rescued parties, they are often quoted as saying, "Up was down," meaning that you can't down climb the route.  So escape from the route only tends to put climbers in even more peril as they ascend into worsening, colder, and windier conditions.

What can we do about this?

You need a good, solid, reliable window of obviously good weather before leaving Thumb Rock.  What is good, solid, and reliable?  Most parties take LONGER than they think to climb from Thumb Rock and return safely to Camp Schurman.  Factor this in.

With knowledge of an increased exposure to rescue, underestimating the route, we're saying give yourself at least an 18-24 hour window where there is an obvious, incontrovertable good weather forecast.

What are we looking at this weekend?

Hmm..  Not good.  Not obvious.  Not incontrovertable.

Where do we start?

Let's look at the Meteogram for Paradise:



And then let's cross-reference this with the UW MM5 Mt. Rainier Cross-Section for Thursday night:





So it's gunna dump big.  Lot's of precipitation Thursday and into Friday.  And it appears to be along the full elevational profile of the mountain.  Expect new and drifted snow.  There's quite a bit of wind associated with this weather system, too, so the snow will drift.

By 08:00 am on Saturday, the storm backs off, but another approaches on the horizon and comes in with moist air up high.  Check out the image below and pay attention to the upper moisture coming in up high.



By midnight on Saturday and into Sunday, this is what we're dealing with:



As you can see, once again we're getting blessed with more weather up high.

So what's the bottom line:

* This is not a good time to plan to climb a route like Liberty Ridge.  There is not a good clear period (18-24 hours) of good, promising weather.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Inter Glacier June 9, 2017

June-uary conditions have arrived on Mount Rainier. The past 48 hours has brought new snow to the mountain, with a trace of new snow as low as 4800' and accumulation beginning around 5800'. Snowfall totals are in the 1-4" range between 5800' and 9600'. 




The Glacier Basin Trail is largely snow-free until 5400'. At 5400', however, the approach to Glacier Basin changes dramatically. There is a short (100 yards long), but significant section of avalanche debris filled with snapped trees and branches. This section is wanded and has a decent bootpack, but it is strenuous travel and adds a few minutes to the journey into Glacier Basin. Beyond this blowdown, there is continuous snow all the way to Camp Curtis. 
The Inter Glacier is completely filled in, except for one small crevasse that is starting to open around 8000' on the climber's left side of the glacier. Recent snowfall has somewhat smoothed the surface conditions, with 1-3" of new snow lying over last week's corn snow. This snow has already begun the transformation into spring snow, so early June powder skiing conditions were short lived. Beware of this new snow warming up on solar slopes and with rising freezing levels since loose wet avalanches are possible. 

Travel conditions this weekend are expected to be challenging with shin-deep boot penetration and whiteout conditions. Personal experience, competence in GPS navigation, and conservative decision-making are essential with the current weather and snowpack conditions.

There is no established bootback on the Emmons Glacier and teams should not expect and wanded or maintained route. Travel and navigation on the upper mountain will require a full complement of glacier travel and mountaineering skills this weekend.

Chinook Pass Opens

Chinook Pass, the east entrance to the park, has reopened for the season.  It was a bit delayed this year do to necessary rock work.  The pass has an altitude of 5,430 feet and provides access directly from Naches, WA via State Route 410.  Check out WSDOT's website for more information and a table of opening and closing dates for both Cayuse and Chinook Passes.

Little Tahoma June 8th, 2017

Summit ridge
       Climbing rangers were able to get out of Camp Muir on Wednesday before the incoming low pressure to check out route conditions on Little T. Fortunately, the weather held and it made for a pleasant day of climbing to the summit and back. The plan was to drop from Camp Muir down the Cowlitz Glacier, across the Ingraham, up the Whitman and onto the SE ridge of Little T. 

       As we had hoped, dropping down the Cowlitz was fairly straight forward. Parties can avoid the vast majority of cracks by hugging the east side of the glacier as you descend roughly 1,600 ft. A mellow ridge crossing will get you onto the Ingraham Glacier at 8,600'. Try to maintain elevation as you contour across the Ingraham. There are many tight, parallel crevasses here so careful route finding is essential. Once across the Ingraham Glacier, a large snow ramp will allow you to gain the ridgeline that separates the Whitman from the Ingraham. Currently, the rock step exiting the snow ramp necessitates 8 ft. of climbing before leading to easier scrambling. As things continue to melt out, this step will undoubtedly become higher and the presence of a moat may create issues. 

Hogsback/rock band as you exit the Ingraham onto the Whitman.
            Route finding up the Whitman is fairly straight forward as this glacier is not so broken as the others. 400' of climbing will place you onto a large bench at the base of the SE face of Little T. This offers a good view of the rest of your climb. Two large cracks on the west side of the upper Whitman will push you to the climbers right as you ascend.  It is worth noting that the upper pitches of the snow here (9,800-10,800 ft.) are quite sun cupped and not ideal for skiing.

Looking up at Little T from the approach on the Whitman. Notice the two cracks on the upper left of the photo.
          Near the top of the Whitman, there is an obvious exit gully on the climbers left just below 10,800 ft. Although the climbing through the gully is not super strenuous, the amount of loose blocks may warrant protecting this section with ropes and gear. There is a slung horn at the top of the gully that can be used for belaying your second and/or lowering/rappelling on the way down. Always be sure to inspect the integrity of permanent anchors before using them.

4th class scramble off of the Whitman glacier and onto the SE ridge
Maneuvering through another small snow patch and up a short section of 3rd class rock will get you to the summit ridge. An exposed/airy traverse allows a great opportunity for a pitch or two of climbing. The rock can be quite rotten in this section so a few slung horns and careful hold selection is most helpful. Be sure to place gear for your follower here as a pendulum fall could be nasty. Enjoy the views down onto the Emmons and back east to White River. Descend the route, ensuring proper belays/lowers/rappels are utilized based on your teams personal comfort level.

Track log from Camp Muir to Little T summit
             Climbing the 3rd tallest peak in the state is a worth while outing and offers an excellent opportunity to test your skills on both glacier and rock. If you are looking for a climb with a bit more solitude and variety compared to the DC or the Emmons, Little Tahoma might be worth your time. Keep in mind that route conditions are bound to change as summer progresses and things continue to melt out. Safe climbing! 

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Travelling on Muir Snowfield

All sunny weather spells come to an end eventually in the PNW. Winter has dropped in to visit Rainier once again.




This may come as a surprise to many who are traveling from afar, but the path from Paradise to Muir is still almost completely covered in snow. There are a few patches of ground popping out now around Marmot hill and Panorama point, but a majority of your travel will be on snow. And with a strong low pressure system coming through dropping temperatures and bringing  in snow down to 5000 ft in the coming days, it doesn't look like things will be melting out fast. That being said, hikers, skiers, and climbers should travel up the Muir snowfield prepared for the conditions, especially this coming weekend with the less than sunny weather forecast.




Know the weather and plan accordingly. Temperatures are going to be colder than they have been the last couple weeks. Be prepared for more winter like conditions with what you wear and bring for food and water. The snowfield is very exposed to winds. Rain shells and insulating layers are essential. There is a chance of thunderstorms in the coming days as well. There is no shelter out on the snowfield. Plan the timing of your hike accordingly.




Bring a GPS. For those used to traveling and navigating obviously marked trails or forested mountains, a map and compass or your natural sense of direction are not helpful when you are in a white-out on the Snowfield. We have had many people get lost on or off the Snowfield because of white-out conditions. There are times where you can't see the difference between the clouds and snow, what's the angle of the slope you are on, what is 5 feet in front of you, or whether you are moving or standing still (especially true to skiers). You can't take a bearing if you have nothing to reference off of. Wands are few and placed far apart and cannot be used as your sole method of navigating the field (they are not placed by the NPS and not regularly maintained0. This can be very dangerous for people who are unprepared. It is not hard to accidently wander too far left or right and fall off a steep slope or wander onto a severely crevassed glacier. For those of you coming prepared with your GPS, the following link has some helpful coordinates you can use to navigate the Snowfield in such conditions.
https://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/upload/camp-muir-route-with-get-your-bearings-map-oct11.pdf




That all being said, as panorama point area begins to melt out, we ask people to start following the summer trail where it is exposed and not walking across the alpine meadows that have just surfaced out of the snow. Our park employees are working hard to put signage and ropes in to show where to walk as the snow recedes. We want to protect the beautiful and fragile alpine vegetation that is starting to pop out for visitors to see and enjoy throughout the summer.




For those who have planned a climbing trip this weekend are a bit disappointed with the weather, don't worry, the mountain will still be there. This could be a good weekend to still practice and hone in your skills (crevasse rescue, navigation, layering, etc) for you next summit attempt. Or wax your board or skis and get ready to sneak in a few more turns this season.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Liberty Ridge June 6, 2017


Ranger Waterfall leads out above Thumb Rock. Photo: NPS Reade

Climbing Rangers Reade and Waterfall climbed Liberty Ridge and descended the Emmons-Winthrop in in a 13.5 hour effort from Camp Schurman on June 6.

We left Camp Schurman at 10 PM and descended the Winthrop Glacier to approximately 7400' where we found an old boot track leading to lower Curtis Ridge. From lower Curtis we were able to easily descend to the Carbon glacier on a mix of scree and snow.

The route up the Carbon was very straightforward until 8600' where we encountered extremely large crevasses that forced us to zigzag up and down the glacier looking for bridges to cross the chasms. The bridges that we used may not last more than a few days. Looking down at the glacier from high up on the route however it appeared that there was a better path that traverses to the climbers right at about 8400'.

Once we were able access the bottom of the ridge the route finding was even more difficult. The moats and heavy crevassing forced us to climb onto the bottom of the ridge, traverse right and climb back out onto the Carbon. Then we had to climb the glacier towards Ptarmigan ridge to end run two large crevasses. From there we were able to traverse back left and climb over a small bergschrund to finally begin climbing Liberty Ridge for real.

Once on the ridge we had easy snow climbing until 9700' where we encountered the first of 3 ~fifteen foot rock bands. They each went at 4th to low 5th class on loose rock and we were very happy to climb these at night when the rock was somewhat frozen together. After the third rock band we climbed a few hundred more feet of snow to Thumb Rock.

At Thumb Rock we brewed up some water and relaxed for about 1.5 hours. While we waited for the snow to melt in our stove the sun rose and the wind increased and we observed an increase in rockfall. The majority of the rock rock went to the west side of the ridge but it is notable that the tent sites here are exposed to hazard from above.

We left Thumb and climbed on the east side of the ridge on variable snow and ice. There were large sections with high roackfall hazard as evidenced by lots of rock debris in the snow. We tried to move through those areas as quickly as possible.

Ranger Read climbing above Thumb Rock. Photo: NPS Waterfall

Nearing the top of the Black Pyramid the snow became increasingly more firm and there was exposed alpine ice where the wind had scoured the snow away. We found the climbing here to be increasingly intense on our calf muscles and the ability to climb this type of steep terrain while getting the weight off of our toes was critical to keeping a steady pace.

Ranger Waterfall climbing near the Black Pyramid. Photo: NPS Reade
 
 
The slope angle kicks back at 13,000' and we took a short break before heading up into the bergschrund. The bergschrund runs wall-to-wall and we were forced to climb into the ice cap on the climbers left. There we found a large ice system of ice ledges that allowed us to regain the bowl above the 'schrund. From there we climbed steep neve (up to 85 degrees) and finally gained upper Sunset Ridge and easier terrain. From there it was just 10 minutes of easy walking to the top of Liberty Cap.
 
 
Ranger Reade climbing into the Liberty Ice Cap. Photo: NPS Waterfall


All told we found the climbing to be engaging and sustained on the slopes above Thumb Rock and definitely worth the effort. However, the condition of the Carbon glacier and the degree of melting on the lower slopes in the next two weeks will possibly make accessing the ridge impossible.

Special Weather Statement issued June 06 at 8:59PM PDT by NWS

Published: 2017-06-06 08:59:00
Updated: 2017-06-06 08:59:00

MUCH COOLER IN THE CASCADES AND OLYMPICS STARTING THURSDAY INTO THIS WEEKEND

An unseasonably strong cool upper level low pressure system in the gulf of Alaska is expected to work its way onshore late this week and move inland over the weekend. The associated air mass is quite cool and unstable which will result in a showery weather pattern. Snow levels are expected to plummet close to 5000 feet Thursday night and continue into at least Saturday.

On Tuesday paradise on mount rainier hit 70 degrees. On Thursday night and Friday snow is expected with at least several inches of accumulation. Those planning any travel into the cascades and Olympics should anticipate this dramatic change to much cooler weather
particularly hikers and climbers.

Even motorists crossing the higher passes such as Washington,
Chinook, Cayuse and White Passes should be prepared for more winter like driving conditions. Monitor the mountain forecasts closely through the rest of this week if planning to travel into higher terrain locations.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Disappointment Cleaver (June 5th)

Rangers crossing the Cowlitz up to Cathedral Gap.
         Although it was a windy weekend up high on Mt. Rainier, those folks that managed to get above the marine layer were treated with plenty of sunshine. Low climber turnout in camp made for pleasant conditions as rangers made their way up the mountain to check out the DC route.  As of now, the route is fairly straight forward without any ladder crossings or pitched climbing. Currently, the crossing of the Cowlitz remains fairly benign and Cathedral gap has begun to melt out, exposing the dirt/rock. Gaining Ingraham Flats remains straight forward and the standard traverse onto the cleaver is still intact. 

Conditions on the Disappointment Cleaver. Notice 3 climbers traversing through the "ice box".
         
            The Disappointment Cleaver itself remains almost entirely snow at this point. Which means rockfall in the "bowling alley" isn't much of a concern at the moment. Many switchbacks and fixed pickets will get you to the top of the cleaver. These pickets are placed/maintained by the guide services and shouldn't be tampered with. That being said, always inspect pickets for their security/anchoring before clipping into them for a running belay. Again, be sure to thank the guides along the way for all the hard work they do maintaining the route. 
Route traverse under the serac and towards the Emmons shoulder at 12,800ft.

         From the top of the cleaver, the route trends up and right until it makes a long, flat traverse out towards the Emmons shoulder. At this point there will be an impressive, vertical serac wall above you. Be sure to admire it, but don't stop under hazards such as these along the route. Once you get passed the large wall, the route will take a steep switchback that trends SW up to 13,600 ft. After a few more crevasses to navigate, one last turn around the burgshrund will gain you access to the crater rim.
Track log of route up the DC
           The forecast is calling for warm, calm conditions early this week with deteriorating weather starting on Wednesday. If you plan on coming up the mountain this upcoming weekend be sure to be prepared for winter like conditions. GPS units with pre-programmed routes/tracks are crucial for glacial (and even snowfield) travel in white out conditions. We hope to see you up here!

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Emmons-Winthrop 6/4/17

Sunset Panorama taken from Camp Schurman June 3, 2017 Photo: NPS Reade

The Emmons-Winthrop conditions are currently very good. Climbing Rangers Reade and Waterfall summitted via the route today (06/04).

From Camp Schurman the route ascends directly to Emmons Flats without difficulty. Just a couple hundred feet above the Flats it angles over to the Corridor on a large snow bridge. That bridge should last for the rest of June at a minimum. The climbing on the Corridor is very straight-forward, there are just a few small crevasses to avoid. There is no single boot path to follow though as climbers have ascended all over the Corridor trying to find the most efficient line.

At the top of the Corridor (~11,300') the route moves right through some rapidly opening crevasses. In the coming days and weeks this will probably become a difficult passage. After this tight passage the route continues to traverse right out onto the Winthrop (~12,200'). Once on the Winthrop the various boot tracks come together into a more coherent trail, mostly because you are forced to cross several large crevasses well out to the climbers right.

That said, it is a pretty straight shot up after 12,200'. Passing the bergschrund is still relatively simple and the only difference that you note when climbing through it is that the slope angle increases by about 10 degrees. All in all the route is in great shape.

Of note for skiers the top 2000' feet of the route has not been softening well with our recent high winds and many skiers are making the wise decision to down climb from the summit until they reach softer snow.

-Rangers Reade and Waterfall


Ranger Reade Descends the upper Winthrop Glacier. Photo: NPS Waterfall

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Emmons


Good morning from Camp Schurman! There are only a handful of climbers in camp this morning. The winds were steady all night through early morning at about 30mph. The snow surface is supportable and the air temperature is moderately warm. No climbers went up this morning but the route appears to be in good condition. The weather forecast is calling for high winds again tonight on the summit with the potential for some precipitation over the weekend.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Disappointment Cleaver 5/29/2017

Looking back at the traverse above the Cleaver.
Memorial Day weekend brought beautiful weather and some changes to the climbing route above Camp Muir. While some parties continued to use the Ingraham Direct (ID) The majority of climbers and the guide services transitioned to the Disappointment Cleaver (DC) route over the past few days.

Overall, the DC is in great condition with many parties climbing each day, especially during the nice weather on Sunday. The Ingraham Direct (I.D.) is becoming somewhat hollow with an increasing likelihood of crevasse falls, leading to the switch to the DC. The single ladder on the I.D. is scheduled to be removed sometime in the next few days, along with all of the fixed pickets.

The Cleaver itself is almost entirely snow and begins with a well-shoveled traverse (and a handline) out onto the crest of the ridge. The upper half has a handful of switchbacks before arriving at a nice break spot near some the rocks atop the Cleaver.


Nearing the bergschrund around 13,800'
From the top of the Cleaver, the route does a rightward traverse nearly to the Emmons Shoulder. There are bountiful fixed pickets in the section, which can be used at your discretion. Part of this traverse is threatened by an overhanging serac, so try to move efficiently here.


The last thousand feet to the crater rim weaves around some large holes.  Try to maintain appropriate rope spacing up there, especially on the descent when slack is more likely to develop. On busy weekends, please work with the guides on the route to coordinate passing one another to avoid bottleneck situations. Also, as you pass them be sure to thank them for all of the hard work they put into maintaining such a nice route!




Monday, May 29, 2017

The Basics


Question and Answers:


Before you call with questions, check out the information on these Route Briefs for the two most popular routes on the mountain.

Disappointment Cleaver 
Emmons-Winthrop

These route briefs are packed full of useful information and will most likely answer all of your questions. So grab a cup of coffee and your favorite chair and take the time to look these over.

Weather:

Be sure to check the updated Mount Rainier Recreational Forecast before heading out for your climb.

Registration, Reservations, and Fees:

Registration

You can register for your climb at the climbing information center and any wilderness information center within the park the day of your climb or up to 24 hours ahead of time. For locations, hours and operation and phone numbers follow this Climbing Registration link.

Climbing Cost Recovery Fee

The climbing fee and where you pay has changed this year. It is now online at pay.gov  There will be no annual climbing passes issued so keep you receipt handy during registration to show that you have paid.  Please have everyone in your party try to pay online before you come to the park.  There is no longer an option to pay for more than one pass at a time!

Reservations

The park opens 60% of its sites at each camp or zone up to reservations.  The other 40% are always kept for 24 hours or day-of walk-up permitting.  For more information on reservations, please visit:

https://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/climbing.htm

Current Conditions:

The Muir Web Cam is on line!   Muir Web Cam

For the latest snow and route conditions, please keep in touch with this blog.

If after all of this, you are having trouble finding the answer to your question, please give us a call.  360-569-6641.  Bear in mind that the ranger may have quite a few registering climbers at the desk when you call.

Thanks!

In Depth Route Descriptions

Hey, everyone!

We wanted to take a moment and orient everyone to two documents we worked on this winter.  These two 20-30 page documents detail what we want you to know about climbing the Disappointment Cleaver and the Emmons-Winthrop Glacier.

Each route guide contains details on:

  • Route History
  • Route Use and Statistics
  • Case Studies in Rescues
  • SAR Occurrences and Statistics
  • Weather Statistics, Forecasting and Resources
  • Guiding
  • Assessing and Managing Risk
  • How to Train
  • What to Bring
  • Search and Rescue Program
  • Explanation of Climbing Fees
  • Leave No Trace and Wilderness Protection
  • Navigation & Bearing Sheet
  • Permitting and Reservations
  • Ski Mountaineering
  • PreClimb Briefing
  • Physical Route Descriptions
  • Checking Out
  • Further Reading

Please use these route briefs.  They are in PDF format and meant to be used digitally.  However, there are useful pieces here and there to print.

Please enjoy!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Kautz Glacier (May 28th)

Upper Kautz looking very filled in

Ice pitches with hardly any ice

Fairly good access off the turtle and onto the Kautz

Success Cleaver (May 28th)

Success Cleaver from Pyramid to the convergence with the Kautz Cleaver

Lower Success

Upper Success traverse

Kautz Cleaver & Success Couloirs (May 28th)

Looking up the route from 11,400 ft.

Last week's lower freezing levels paired with the warming trend at the start of the weekend allowed climbing rangers and excellent opportunity to get out on the SW side of the mountain. The itinerary was to access the Kautz cleaver via Paradise by crossing the lower Nisqually, climbing the Wilson gully, and contouring west around 8,500 ft. all the way to the Kautz glacier. The lower Nisqually/Wilson gully are still well filled in and are easily navigated. The ridge line that leads up to "the castle" above the Wilson gully however, is starting to melt out and peel away. It was quite difficult to manage on skis and i would bet you will be forced to walk the ridge on rock after this warm spell.
Ridge line melting out and breaking up as cornice pulls away from the ridge.
Tricky navigation if you choose to stay on the snow.
Just below the castle, a quick contour to the eastern edge of the Kautz glacier lead us to a nice flat/protected snow camp at 9,100ft. This elevation currently allows for a very mellow crossing of the Kautz glacier over to the Kautz Cleaver. From camp, a 150ft. descending traverse will get you on the cleaver. From here, choose your own adventure up and climbers left as you pick your way up the cleaver and into the Success couloir. Once we were in the couloir, we hugged the climbers right ridge line to stay out of the fall line.
Route accross the Kautz glacier and up the couloir shown. 9,100 ft. camp shown as red square.

Warming temps and large mushrooms of upper mountain rime had us on the lookout for falling ice. French stepping and front pointing conditions were excellent in the early morning and 4,000 ft. later we found ourselves at the top of the Success couloir. From here, trend east and up through two rock bands to gain Point Success.

Track log from camp to 13,000 ft.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Liberty Ridge 5/27/2017

Thanks to IMG guide Justin Merle for the follow Liberty Ridge report!

"IMG Liberty Ridge climb May 22-26th: 

We climbed over the course of 5 days, Monday through Friday last week.

Approach: May 22-23.  We experienced generally deep sloppy isothermal snow with good warm temps and great weather (freezing level 13,000 ft) as we approached the base of the ridge.  Boot pen was ankle to knee deep over these two days (we spent our first night at St Elmo Pass).  We were certainly envious of our buddies who passed us on skis, but we were happy to not be carrying snowshoes later.  Easy travel up the Carbon took us to the base of the Ridge--only having cross over a few crevasses.  There are currently a couple good options for route selection to the base of the ridge and it seems like they will last awhile.  We camped at the base of the Ridge on the Carbon to wait out the high winds Tuesday night. 

* Photo: Justin Merle, IMG guide.  Blue showing the access taken by their team, yellow showing an alternate route they discussed.

Liberty Ridge: On Wednesday the 24th we started toward thumb rock around 10:30 am as the winds began to drop.  We gained the ridge easily a couple hundred feet up on the west side.  The freezing level was now at 4000ft and the west side of the ridge had good firm cramponing.  We transitioned to the east side of the ridge about halfway to Thumb Rock and found deeper generally secure wet snow.  Harder trail breaking but good secure travel.  Occasionally it was firm and less secure but still good cramponing.

Photo: Justin Merle, IMG guide, showing the approach to Liberty Ridge.

There was plenty of snow at Thumb Rock and easy digging, so we made a large platform for our three EV 2 tents and rested up for the big day Thursday.  We saw no rockfall  while at Thumb Rock (thanks cold temps!).

Upper Ridge:  May 25th. We left for our summit day in good cold and generally calm conditions at 3:45 am.  We climbed west out of Thumb rock and found great, bootable cold snow.  Hard work kicking steps made for secure steps for those behind the leader.  We transitioned back to the east side of the ridge a couple hundred feet below the top of the Black Pyramid.  There was firm, less secure snow and a little ice as we crossed the crest back to the east, where we again found softer snow and more secure travel.  The ice patch above the Black pyramid had grown as the high winds the day before scoured away a bunch of the snow that our friend had easily booted up on Tuesday. 

We tried to pass the ice on the left, but the snow cover became thin and we placed a couple screws and made a 50m pitch to cross back into secure snow.  From their we continued up into the basin below the 'shrund with great snow travel conditions.  We passed the 'shrund easily in the middle with 8' of 85 degree neve climbing.  Above the 'schrund we lost vis as a cap-cloud formed.  We made 3 more 50m pitches on good, moderately steep snow to get to easier glacier terrain below Liberty Cap by 11:30 am.  We navigated from Liberty cap to Columbia Crest with no vis in the icy cloud with light snow and descended the well-wanded DC/Ingraham direct route to Muir by 5pm."

Justin Merle

Memorial Day Weekend Update

Good Morning Climbers and Hikers

This holiday is shaping up to be a great one here at Mt. Rainier! Just a quick update for visitors heading up to the park over the weekend.

Park Openings:
Stevens Canyon Road is open for the summer

Box Canyon Road is open for the summer.

Steven's Canyon Entrance Station is now open.

White River Entrance Station is now open

White River Wilderness Information Center is now open daily 7:30-5:00

Longmire Wilderness Information Center is now open daily 7:30-5:00

Climbing:
The Ingraham Direct is still in. There is a large 8-10 crevasse crossing with a handline in place on the route. The guides are reporting that this section may go out any day or even on your way down from the summit. Take note of the DC route on your way up because it may be your way back down. Make sure you are bringing snow pickets vs. ice screws for anchors and running protection.

Weather:
The latest forecast is still calling for good weather with high temperatures well above normal. Freezing levels are expected to be bouncing around 11,000 - 12,000 for the next three days.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Memorial Day Weekend




Happy Memorial Day Everyone!

Here is what you need to know to make this upcoming weekend go off with out a hitch!

Question and Answers:
Before you call with questions check out the information on these Route Briefs for the two most popular routes on the mountain.  Disappointment Cleaver   Emmons-Winthrop  These route briefs are packed full of useful information and will most likely answer all of your questions. So grab a cup of coffee and your favorite chair and take the time to look these over.

Weather:
The weather forecast is calling for a high pressure to move over the area starting tomorrow. It is expected to last through Memorial Day with freezing levels rising above 11,000 by Monday. Be sure to check the updated Mount Rainier Recreational Forecast before heading out for your climb.

Registration and Fees:
You can register for your climb at the climbing information center and any wilderness information center within the park the day of your climb or up to 24 hours ahead of time. For locations, hours and operation and phone numbers follow this Climbing Registration link.
The climbing fee and where you pay has changed this year. It is now online at pay.gov  There will be no annual climbing passes issued so keep you receipt handy during registration to show that you have paid.

Current Conditions:
The Muir Web Cam is back on line!   Muir Web Cam
Independent climbers and guide services have been successful climbing the Ingraham Direct as of today. Based on the condition of the ID with additional crevasses opening up, the guide services have begun work on the Disappointment Cleaver. They are are expecting a route changeover to the DC any day now. The Emmons route is holding strong and is still very direct.







Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Gibraltar Ledges 5/23/2017

On Monday May 22nd climbing rangers Kurt Hicks and Joseph Anderson climbed the Gibraltar (Gib) Ledges route on Mt Rainier. 

* Photo Kurt Hicks and Joe Anderson beginning the traverse through the Gibraltar Ledges.

The climb begins by ascending the striking ridge line (Cowlitz Cleaver) immediately to the northwest of Camp Muir.  The route climbs moderate to steep snow slopes and meanders around scenic rocky gendarmes for 1,600 feet until it intercepts with the namesake Gibraltar Rock. 

From 11,800 feet the route follows exposed snow and rock "ledges" that traverse the well defined base of Gib Rock.  This portion of the climb is south west facing (shade until 10am) and is exposed to rock fall hazard from above while the terrain remains moderately steep and exposed.  The ledges traverse for a third of a mile and intercept with the top of Gibraltar Chute at 12,300 feet.  From here the route climbs 400 feet up 45 degree snow until the top of Gibraltar Rock. 

From this point you are looking down the other side at the upper Ingraham Glacier and the top of Disappointment Cleaver.  There are several large crevasses separating the route from the glacier below.  To avoid this hazard climb toward the summit on the upper Ingraham glacier for another 1,200 feet elevation. From here the route will intercept with the current track of the more popular DC route at approximately 13,800 feet.

We found the route to be in good, mostly snowy conditions along the Ledges. Protection is plentiful, with solid pickets and occasional ice screws available. Try to move quickly across the ledges to reduce exposure to spontaneous rockfall.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Kautz Glacier (May 22, 2017)

Kautz glacier is still looking very filled in with minimal exposed ice.
Kautz glacier ice pitches