Saturday, July 22, 2017

Inter-glacier

The Interglacier approach to the Emmons Glacier route is currently very straight forward.
The trail is completely dry to 6,700 feet.  Transition to snow is fairly abrupt.  Expect this to thin quickly and the possibility feet to pop through with out warning into holes in the snow.
t in user friendly snow.
Main uphill track is currently very consistent and goes directly up the middle of the basin in fairly hard pack snow.  Concurrently glissade track goes right down the middle.  If deciding to glissade on your way down know that rocks and cracks will continue to appear directly in the middle of the track in the next few weeks.  Also expect snow to become less and less user friendly for both the up and the down.

Crevasses are beginning to open up between 8 and 9 thousand feet.  From there the route veers directly south to the ridge towards Camp Curtis.  Camps here are dry.

Overall conditions are typical for this time of year which means things are changing daily.  

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Late July Kautz Climbing

The lower Nisqually Glacier is beginning to break up quite a bit and making travel fairly difficult through the Wilson Gully.  We recommend taking the trail up to Comet Falls and up through Van Trump Park.  This approach involves no glacier travel, crevasse crossings and the flowers are just starting to poke out.  Sounds pretty good right?

Looking up from Van Trump

Upper Kautz step
Running water can be found at both the Castle as well as Camp Hazard, but expect these flows to be lessened or even frozen in the early mornings or on cooler days.

Looking down below the second step.
The step off the cleaver and down onto the Kautz Ice tongue is fairly short currently.  Only about 10’ and can be easily down climbed.  Just note that there is a sizeable steep snow slope below you, so utilizing a rope for this may be a wise idea.

Secons step looking towards climbers left and the Kautz Cleaver

The climbing on the tongue itself involves a fair amount of snow, granted, this snow is highly featured penitents, but snow none the less.  Ice can be found far climbers right and easily accepts screws and good purchase with your tools.  The lower step involves about 2 pitches of easy climbing, followed by a short section of steep snow walking.  The second step involves about 3 pitches.  Both these steps can be easily simul-climbed depending on your comfort level and ability.

Looking down from the  top of the Second step
The climbing above the tongue involves navigating around a couple crevasses, although a couple of them are widening and the plugs, thinning.  In time, a few of these may warrant a belay to cross safely.

Once on the Wapowety Cleaver, you will see that the crossing onto the Upper Nisqually Glacier involves maneuvering a hollowing section.  Again, this may warrant a belay.  Large cracks are beginning to open up on the Nisqually and the plugs are beginning to fall through a couple of them.  This said, navigation is still fairly straight forward from Wapowety Cleaver to Columbia Crest.


Looking up , just below the Wapowety Cleaver.
Looking up towards the Upper Nisqually 
Whether you plan on down climbing the Kautz or descending the DC, plan to bring gear to safely get from the top of the ice pitches back to Camp Hazard.  Crevasses may impede travel upwards or weather may move in and force you to descend.  Either way, plan to bring equipment to rig a V-thread and bring extra cord to leave as tat.  The last thing you want is being forced to down climb technical ice because you decided to leave materials back at the car.






Dissapointment Cleaver Conditions July 20th. 2017

The current track up the DC is right around 3.8 miles from Camp Muir to Columbia Crest.   There is still no ladder at high Crack above Ingraham Flats and the crossing onto the Cleaver is fairly straight forward with little moat exposure.  That said, there is still a large amount of rock and ice fall in this area, with a recent collapse that sent large blocks of ice onto and below the current track.  We recommend moving through this area (between High Crack and the nose of the cleaver) with purpose, don’t hang out and take a breather and remember that rock and ice fall occur at all hours of the day.



We recommend shortening your rope between climbers in the rock sections, such as Cathedral Gap and the Disappointment Cleaver to improve travel and minimize the risk of snagging up rocks and dropping them onto parties below you.

View of the traverse from the top of the cleaver to the Emmons Shoulder.  Keep in mind this is a descending traverse on the ascent and an ascending traverse on the descent.  Plan an extra bit of food for this one.
Ladder crossing leaving the Emmons Shoulder
Once on the top of the cleaver, you be faced with a short climb, then presented with about a 500-600’ descending traverse to the Emmons Shoulder, followed by a series of switchbacks which will put you at a short ladder crossing spanning an open crevasse.  This is the only ladder on the route currently.

Shrund crossing with fixed line visible

The shrund around 13,600’ is becoming fairly hollow and is accompanied with a fixed hand line.  On a busy weekend this will be a zone where we would expect to see a possible bottle neck and a short weight may be required.

Looking towards the Emmons Shoulder. Taken a hundred or so feet above the top of the Cleaver.
There are a couple of fixed lines on the route currently.  We encourage you to inspect the integrity of the picket anchors prior to utilizing them as they tend to melt out during the day.  If they are weighted when they are melted out there id a high likelihood they will fail and the fixed line will become
un-anchored.

As we progress through July, keep in mind that glacier conditions are breaking up and snow bridges are thinning and opening.  This means that crevasse fall potential are heightened.  As a traveler in glaciated, YOU NEED TO KNOW HOW TO EXTRICATE YOUR PARTNER FROM A CREVASSE.  This means carrying the appropriate equipment and knowing how to use it.  Climbing Rangers are looking for your team to be equipped with a rope of adequate length for your rope team, multiple pickets within your group and gear required to rig a raising system.  Everyone should be traveling with helmets, ice axes, crampons etc…

The past couple weekends have been very busy and we have been reaching capacity at our high camps which results in large numbers of climbers on routes like the D.C. and the Emmons.  In order to avoid these busy and sometimes hazardous scenarios, we encourage you to plan a trip to climb during the week, opposed to the weekend.

July is a busy time for Search and Rescue on Mount Rainier.  Please come prepared with the appropriate gear and knowledge for climbing in heavily glaciated terrain and keep an eye out for changing weather.

Hazardous Upper Mountain Ski Conditions


Upper mountain surface conditions
After nearly 5 weeks of high pressure and sunshine, the vast majority of the mountain is beginning to show signs of late season snow conditions. Rockfall, icefall, opening snow bridges, sastrugi, suncups and penitentes are just a few of the obstacles/hazards that folks are dealing with at this stage in the game. Although there are plenty who would argue otherwise, climbing rangers are asking that ski mountaineers consider putting off their summit ski descent until next year when conditions are more suitable for safe skiing. The argument that routes on the mountain still "can" be skied doesn't necessarily mean that they "should" be skied.

Less than ideal skiing conditions.
Late summer snow conditions have already lead to two skier fatalities in the last three weeks and rangers have responded to multiple accidents/near misses for folks who were perhaps getting in over their heads. As it stands now, conditions on some of the most popular ski descents of the mountain would prove to be tedious/strenuous at best for even the most experienced skiers. For those that feel the need to ski on/around the mountain late into the season, rangers ask that you ski slopes lower on the mountain that aren't exposed to such high consequence terrain. No route on the mountain is worth injuring yourself or worse.

No one skis their best after being up all night, after ascending 9000 vertical feet, at high altitudes, dehydrated, and on light-weight ski-mo skis.  Make conservative decisions and plan on skiing real pow this winter!


High Camps are FULL this Weekend

The high camps (both Muir and Schurman) have filled up for Friday and Saturday nights.  Here's how it breaks down:

There are 110 people allowed at Camp Muir each night.  There are 48 people allowed at Camp Schurman.

Camp Muir and the Muir Corridor

Currently, Camp Muir is FULL Friday, July 20th, and Saturday night, July 21st.  Even for walk-up permits.  The only chance of getting a permit is if someone comes down early from their climb and checks out at the desk so that we can avail the numbers in the system.  Don't count on it.

Common overflow areas for Camp Muir are the Muir Snowfield and Ingraham Flats.  There are 36 people allowed at each of those spots.  Right now the system shows those camps full as well.

Camp Schurman and the Emmons/Winthrop Corridor

Camp Schurman full as well for Friday and Saturday. The overflow area for Camp Schurman is Emmons Flats. Friday night is full there and there are 4 spots open on Saturday. That's basically enough for one more team.  Please don't count on these being available this weekend for walk-up permits.

Resource Protection and Visitor Safety

The current limits on campers at each camp each night has been in place for a few decades.  These numbers represent the maximum limit of people that each area can handle with regards to resource protection and visitor safety.  For example at Camp Muir, when we have more than 110 people camping, the number of climbers on the route gets so large that it becomes unsafe.  Rockfall from climbers above, long wait times at pinch points or technical crossings, as well as lines for the bathrooms (and managing the human waste collection systems) can all reach un-enjoyable and un-sustainable conditions.  When the limits on the wilderness areas reach their maximum visitor's experiences aren't as fun or safe.  Please respect these limits.

Reservations

To make a reservation for the coming weeks and ensure a spot on the mountain, please visit this site.  About 60 percent of the total number of sites are available for reservation.  Please make your reservation two weeks in advance.  

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Emmons Winthrop July 18, 2017

Mt Rainier's crater as seen from Register Rock


Bottom Line: The Emmons Winthrop has quickly progressed to late-season conditions. Large crevasses have continued to open on the route and snow surface conditions are firm and rough. Cautious climbing and keeping to a time plan are highly advised.

The long and hot summer days have left their mark on Mt Rainier and the Emmons Winthrop route is no exception. Several large crevasses have opened quickly at all elevations.

The glacier from Camp Curtis to Camp Schurman is becoming pock marked with rock fall from Steamboat Prow. Do not linger in this area. We are also still observing many parties travelling unroped in this area. The route crosses several snow bridges and the hazard here should not be under estimated.

We have also observed a lot of unroped travel between Schurman and Emmons Flats. This area is currently breaking up with large 'cathedral-ceiling' type crevasses. Those can appear to be thin at the glacier surface but open into large caverns below. Please travel on a rope team in this area.

The Corridor is climbing fine but the bulk of the traffic has been concentrated in a large trough that can be difficult to climb when frozen. Above the Corridor there are several large crevasses that must be crossed on ever thinning bridges. The 12,400' crevasse that has been discussed in previous posts is still bridged by a small plug of ice and snow but when (not if) that falls out the route will require a major change. The path over this obstacle has been shifted nearly every day so do not assume that the existence of footprints indicates a safe passage. Consider belaying your teammates. It might take extra time but it may also prevent a crevasse fall from becoming a major injury.

Above 12,500' to the summit the sastrugi from early season has melted into a firm and rough surface. Climbing out of the trail is very difficult and skiing down safely is not truly possible. This was, unfortunately, made clear July 17th when a skier fell to his death on the route.

Please climb safely, know your limits and don't be afraid to make the conservative call to turn around early if things aren't working in your favor.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Rainier Weather 101- Stratus Clouds

Stratus clouds are layered clouds that are very common in the northwest during the summer and impact Rainier climbing frequently.  Weather geeks subdivide these clouds into three sub-groups depending on elevation:  cirrostratus are found above 20,000 ft and are composed of ice particles. Altostratus tend to form in the 10-20,000 ft elevation band and can be either water droplets or ice particles.  Below 10,000 ft marine stratus, or just stratus are composed of water droplets (during the summer).

Low-level stratus as seen from Paradise looking west.

 
The 'marine' portion comes from the fact that these clouds form over the eastern Pacific and then move onshore when the winds are out of the west.  Large areas of clouds (thousands of square miles) form over the ocean because the cold water temps cool the lower atmosphere causing water vapor to condense into very small water droplets which then forms the clouds.  What is ironic about marine stratus formation is that they occur under a ridge of high pressure, which in general is associated with clear skies and warm temps.  Once a marine stratus deck forms it will have a well defined top.  This occurs because the air in the upper and middle atmosphere is slowly sinking (subsidence), this produces an inversion (temps increase with height over a short distance) which acts like a lid on any further cloud formation.
Typical stratus top as seen from Muir Snowfield.

When there is moderate to strong onshore flow across western Washington marine stratus move inland; how far inland these clouds move depends on the strength of the wind at various elevations.  When the winds are light clouds may only reach Puget Sound and the western foothills of the Cascades, cloud tops are typically 4-5,000 ft.  When the low-level winds are stronger a stratus deck can move across the crest of the Cascades and down along the eastern slopes.  When this occurs cloud tops are in the vicinity of 7-8,000 ft.  This means that Paradise and Sunrise are enveloped within the clouds.  In these situations visibility on the Muir Snowfield or Inter Glacier is greatly reduced. During summer these events do not produce much more than drizzle if any precipitation at all.

The intrusion of marine stratus into the Cascades can display a broad spectrum of behavior.  For example, at times the cloud layer breaks apart during the later afternoon (due to local heating and the mixing of drier air), only to reform overnight.  This may occur over a number of consecutive days (3 to 5 is typical).  At other times the atmospheric conditions are such that the stratus remain intact for days with no afternoon clearing.  I recall climbing the Tahoma Glacier years ago during one of these events- the top of the stratus were around 7,500 ft for three days, above was nothing but blue skies.

Evening stratus breaking-up near Cougar Rock CG.
The moral of this story is that stratus clouds on Mt. Rainier are common during the summer season and can at times produce low visibility conditions, especially at lower to middle-elevations.  In general, the Recreational Forecast does not reflect the nature of stratus clouds on the mountain.  Here is an recent example when it did: "Thursday...Cloudy on slopes below 7000 feet through mid afternoon, otherwise partly sunny."  Often the forecast will just say "mostly cloud", which in reality is only true for the lower half of the mountain- much of the time during this events the upper mountain is in the clear.  Hence if you know that Puget Sound is under the influence of marine stratus and the Rec. Forecast says "mostly cloudy"or "cloudy", there is a good chance that the upper mountain is going to be in the clear or partly cloudy.

The best way to predict whether a given stratus event is going to impact Rainier is by looking at a weather model and in particular an upstream sounding (vertical profile of winds, temps, moisture).  You can check-out the following website (Univ. of Wash.) for forecast soundings:
               https://www.atmos.washington.edu/wrfrt/rt/soundings_d3.cgi?timeindep
Keep in mind that forecasters tend to emphasize viable weather: clouds, precip, strong winds, etc.   Hence the forecast highlights these elements at the expense of more benign conditions like clear skies and light winds. With over 12,000 ft of relief within the park, Rainier can have a number of different weather scenarios at various elevations at the same time, so it is important to keep this in mind when planning and when climbing.

The next Rainier Weather 101 topic will cover lenticulars and mountain cloud caps.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Muir Snowfield July 10, 2017

Summer is in full swing on the Muir Snowfield. Warm temperatures over the past few weeks have brought the Snowfield into summer condition.

From Paradise, there is discontinuous snow on the Skyline Trail all the way to Pebble Creek (elevation 7200’). Please stay on established trails in this fragile area. In snow covered areas, there is a well-established bootpack and wanded route that connects sections of dry trail. The flowers are starting to bloom and marmots can be seen sunning themselves on the rocks throughout the area.

Above Pebble Creek, the route to Camp Muir is continuous snow. The bootpack follows the summer route, gaining a series of steep snow slopes directly above Pebble Creek. Glissade tracks are deepening on these features and rocks are starting to emerge in the bottom portions of these tracks. Always investigate a glissade track before starting to ensure that the runout is devoid of rocks or other hazards.

Climbers ascending the Muir Snowfield.

The upper half of the snowfield is becoming suncupped and dirty, making ski descents less favorable than earlier this season. Dedicated skiers can still sneak in a few enjoyable turns, but smooth snow is hard to come by. Once below Pebble Creek, stick to patches of snow that connect directly to established trails to keep from damaging fragile alpine vegetation.


Remember to carry and use blue bags for human waste while hiking on the Muir Snowfield. These can be deposited at Camp Muir in dedicated waste collection barrels near the bathrooms. 

Emmons-Winthrop

The Emmons Glacier route is currently in fine shape.  On July 9th climbing rangers found very similar conditions that were reported from the July 4th Blog Post.  That being said please remember that large glacier routes like this are dynamic and continue to shift through out the season both on a daily and even hourly pace.  Inspect all crevasse crossings and look for better ones where it is necessary.

The first location that is changing quickly is the section between Camp Curtis across the lower Emmons and into Camp Shurman.  The descent from Camp Curtis down to the Glacier has several large moats that are opening up through the main track.  Safer options exist so take the time to look around beforehand.  Also on the approach to camp Shurman the large moat right before stepping into camp is beginning to open.  Stopping on the snow bridge and un-roping on this snow bridge is not recommended.

The Emmons Flats camp can be a pleasant and quiet alternative to Camp Shurman but please keep in mind you are on a glacier here and there may be crevasses in camp.

From the top of the Corridor moving up into the alpine garden there is cerac fall hazard, please keep that in mind when planning breaks or traveling in large groups with potential for bottle necking.

The large crevasse at 12,400 may be reasonable to cross for a little while longer but every party should inspect bridges.  Once this can no longer be crossed the route will most likely move south then back to the west for 1,000 feet of climbing or so before rejoining current track at 13,400.  The Bergshrund at 13,800 needs to be given a lot of respect as well.

Again the climb is in great shape and may remain so for quite awhile and will also continue to shift from day to day.  Have fun with it.

Monday, July 10, 2017

DC Route Update

Sunny skies and good climbing conditions have been the trend the last few days on the Disappointment Cleaver route.  The route hasn't changed much, however the objective hazards are increasing.  A couple areas in particular are good places to move quickly and ensure there are not too many other climbers creating a bottleneck.  The first is the icefall the route traverses under on the way to the Cleaver.  Rangers observed fresh icefall debris there today when climbing the route.

Recent icefall debris under the Icebox on the traverse to the cleaver

 The second area to move quickly through is under the Tsunami Wave serac. This feature is above the traverse toward the Emmons Shoulder above the Cleaver. The serac is leaning steeply over the route, and ice has been calving off the underside periodically.  Rangers noticed fresh icefall debris this morning over the trail under this serac.


The Tsunami Wave leans over the route at about 12,500 ft


Icefall can happen at any time of day on Mt. Rainier.  However, minimizing your time under icefall zones can help mitigate this hazard.  Also, moving efficiently and relying on good time management amongst your team can help you get out from under these icefall zones before the heat of the day.
 
One last area of note for climbers on the DC is the bergschrund at 13,800 ft.  Here, a very large snow bridge spans an even bigger crevasse, and the route ascends the steep uphill wall of this crevasse.  A hand line is in place here to help climbers negotiate this steep feature.  This area is also creating quite the bottleneck on busy days.  Please come up with a plan within your team before climbing that will allow you to safely and efficiently negotiate this hand line. Keep the rope streched out between team members as you descend the hand line.  Below the bergschrund, the snow bridge is large and flat.  Though it looks like a good place to stand and wait, it is not.  Underneath this bridge is the largest crevasse crossed by the route.
 
Climbing Rangers descending Cathedral Gap, with Camp Muir beyond
 
Remember, be courteous to other climbers you find on the mountain.  Communicate when you need to pass other rope teams, and remain patient.  Climb safely and make new friends on the mountain this week!
 

NW Side Route Photos

Here are some photos taken from Observation Rock. Liberty Ridge looks pretty ugly and we don't recommend anymore Liberty climbs this season.




Emmons-Winthrop over the July 4th Weekend

Climbing on the Emmons is still holding strong.  Little has changed on the route since the last post.  This being said, the bridges are becoming wider and thinner with the warm weather.  The crack that spans the alpine meadow at 12,400' is becoming slightly offset and difficult to cross.  Don't be afraid to bump out of the boot pack and find a better way around a feature.  Most of the time this is a wise maneuver, because the previous climbers may have climbed days prior when the span was much smaller.  If you are presented with a crevasse feature, do your best to avoid crossing it where there is a visibly thin bridge.  Instead, try to end run the feature and cross it where it appears to be safer.

Glissade track in the Corridor
The climbing on the Emmons is still fairly direct, and the traverse under the shrund to Liberty saddle is unnecessary.  The safer and easier option is climbing directly up to Columbia Crest from the top of the Alpine Meadow.

Now for a note on descending.  With the warm weather, snow conditions become very sloppy by mid day.  Note that while you are descending to Camp Schurman, you are in glacial terrain the entire way.  this means there are visible and non-visible crevasses present.  Resist the urge to rest your tired legs, sit down in the snow and glissade.  This is VERY Dangerous!  If you are unable to arrest your slide, there is a very high likelihood of sliding over a serac or into a crevasse.

Lastly, please remember that when you are climbing up to Camp Schurman, and Descending from Camp Schurman via the Emmons, please rope up until you hit camp Curtis.  This zone is glaciated and there are crevasses present.  It may seem like a benign zone and it may be a pain to dig out your glacier gear and throw the rope on, but it is no different than the Emmons Glacier above Camp Schurman, So please rope up for this
section.

On a happier note, the climbing has been incredible and the weather, splitter.  We look forward to seeing you up on the mountain.  Safe Climbing!


Hazardous Midsummer Conditions

Although summer weather was delayed arriving to Mount Rainier this season, strong high pressure and warm temperatures over the last few weeks have taken their toll on the upper mountain. Despite good snow coverage early on this spring, recent hot weather has begun to melt out many of the routes at a rapid rate. Climbers, guides and rangers alike have been reporting persistent rock fall, hollow bergschrunds, icefall and tedious glacial navigation on some of the mountains popular routes.

Although some parties have been continuing to climb routes like Liberty Ridge, Ptarmigan Ridge, Fuhrer Finger, etc... nearly all of them have reported near misses and unsafe/unstable conditions. In addition, some parties have even had team members pegged by rockfall while on route. At this stage in the summer, climbing rangers are asking public climbers to avoid these routes in order to minimize risk. Just because you might be able to sneak up a route, lucky and unscathed DOES NOT mean you should. Although many routes may no longer be "in season" here on the mountain, there is still plenty of fun to be had climbing other routes like the Disappointment Cleaver, the Emmons and the Kautz Glacier. Waiting until next spring to tick off a new, non-standard route may very well be your best bet.

With that said, any climbers that wish to speak more thoroughly on the topic are more than welcome to call the Paradise CIC (360.569.6641) or White River WIC (360.569.6670). Rangers there may be able to answer your questions or connect you with climbing rangers directly.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Kautz Glacier Conditions

Climbing rangers were able to get some photos of the Kautz Glacier Route during helicopter operations yesterday. Snow is melting fast and we can expect some ice ptiches to be forming in the near future.
Kautz Headwall and Glacial Finger


Kautz Glacier

-682

Friday, July 07, 2017

Muir Snowfield Conditions

Summer has come to Mt Rainier. The avalanche Lilly's are out and snow conditions are changing rapidly. For those who are looking to make a trip up to the Muir Snowfield for a hike or ski you can expect variable trail conditions with firm snow in the AM and slush in the PM. The main route out of paradise up the Skyline trail is patchy snow and melting out quickly. Skiers looking to skin directly from the parking lot will be out of luck over the next few days and will need to carry skis to behind Alta Vista before starting their tour.

During this initial melt out the newly exposed meadows and plants are very delicate. Keep your travel to continuous snow and melted out trail sections. Though walking on dry ground is tempting stay on established routes. For Skiers, this means that you have to chose lines through the paradise meadows that link you back to trails. Please do not ski until the snow runs out and then march across a meadow to get back to the trail.

Travel on snow is still mostly continuous from the back side of Alta Vista up to Glacier view, just below the Pan Point switchback. The upper switchback is melted out as are several rockbands above it on the way to pebble creek. The Pan Face winter route is closed so please keep to the summer switchback trail. On skis expect to take them off and carry 3-4 times before you are above Pebble creek.

The Snowfield itself still has a lot of snow on it but it is starting to get heavily textured with sun cups and melt runnels. With the continuing hot weather these features will be increasing in size. Several boot pack paths have developed for up hill travel, and a number of glassade troughs exist on the steeper slopes. Watch your runout, on any glassade!
If you are on skis / boards, the early afternoon snow conditions are decent but the highly variable surface makes for challenging skiing.

-682

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Disappointment Cleaver Conditions 7/6/2017

Bottom Line: The DC is climbing nicely now but stay tuned for route changes in the next two weeks.

The route from Paradise to Camp Muir is still 90% snow. There are asphalt trails melting out near Paradise and dirt trails near 7000'. But for the most part it's still snow from the parking lot.

The main camping area at Muir is in the 'Trough'. There's plenty of room there for many tents. Please help the Rangers out by keeping the top of the big snow roll free from tents just in case we need to use the flat area during a rescue. Thanks!

The route across the Cowlitz glacier is still very direct. There are rocks on the glacier all the way across to Cathedral Gap so keep your eyes and ears open for rockfall, even at night.

Cathedral Gap is almost entirely rock at this point so please shorten up your rope and keep it out of the rocks. This will keep your rope cleaner and it will help prevent knocking rocks down on climbers below you.

The camp at Ingraham Flats is still looking good. Some really nice guys helped everyone out last week by carrying down used blue bags that were left by another team (gross!). The Ranger's have also picked up a few errant poops over the past week. Come on people, we can do better than this.

Ingraham Flats and the DC
The Cleaver is melting out at the bottom. The lower third of it is patches of rock and snow. Again, please get your rope up and out of the rocks by shortening it so you don't clobber anyone below you with rockfall. The trail is notoriously hard to follow this time of year so pay attention as you're climbing up and down. The upper two thirds is entirely snow and the guides are doing a great job of keeping the route at a nice climbing angle.

Above the Cleaver the route still passes below The Tsunami. The guides did move the route downhill about 100' below it but you are still exposed to significant overhead hazard as you pass below it. The area is easily identifiable at night since you pass through a large debris field. Move quickly and efficiently through this area.

The Tsunami
In the coming weeks the route will probably be forced to go down another 100-200' or up and over the Tsunami so stay tuned for that.

From the traverse under the Tsunami to the crater rim the climbing is straight-forward but there are several crevasse crossings to deal with. The bridges across the crack will thin and weaken as the season progresses so be mindful of the temperatures and your climbing time. Bridges that are solid when frozen will weaken significantly by mid morning and will be slushy by the afternoon.

Several teams had extremely long summit days over the 4th of July weekend. On team left Camp Muir at 10PM Saturday and returned at 6PM Sunday. That's a 20 hour summit day! The majority of the team was exhausted and the possibility of them rescuing themselves in the event of an accident was slim at best. This increases the risk for everyone else on the mountain, especially teams climbing near them.

Access to West Side Routes

For those looking to access the Mowich Face and routes in that area, Mowich Rd is open.

Also, checkout where the snow line and snow melt is at on the WEST side as of July 6th.
Photo from Mirror Lake Area

Pyramid Peak from Mirror Lake Area

West Side From Mt Ararat
 Approaching from Longmire, via the Wonderland trail, you will hit snow around 4900ft. You might actually need to use you GPS just to navigate to Mirror Lakes area. And expect to get your feet wet in that area-lots of water running under the snow and it's punchy, thin snow that covers a lot of ground.

Friday, June 30, 2017

SAR Training At Camp Muir

June 30, 2017 

Some of the Rangers and local climbing guides were out and about today at Camp Muir training together under the unrelenting sun (double check you packed your sunscreen, spf lip balm, sun shirt, extra water and extra electrolytes).

We were working together today to refresh on our rescue skills incase someone gets injured on the D.C. this summer and we need to get a patient down in a litter to camp Muir. The local guides are up here every day working hard, and they are a valuable resource for such situations, possibly the first responders (not to mention all the hard work they put into maintaining the DC).
Our day of training was long and it was probably half the time it would take to rescue someone from above the DC if they were non-ambulatory. It takes a long time to dig enough snow anchors in rotting snow to hold a litter, patient and litter attendant. Not to mention how many anchors we would have to build to descend a few thousand feet with 300 ft long ropes.

Don't forget, you and your climbing partners are your first line of defense on this mountain (or any mountain really). Most important is to prevent an accident with smart decisions: don't linger in areas prone to ice and rock fall, assess every bridge you cross no matter how many crossed it before you (with these hot temps routes are melting out and changing fast), and stay fueled and hydrated. If things turn south, have the tools and skills to self extricate and provide self care. The rangers and guides practice these essentail rescue skills but we hope to never need to use them to save you because there is a good chance it could take us 8 to 36 hours to evacuate you from the field.

Climb Smart and Have Fun.



Emmons-Wintrop Update

Little has changed on the east side of the mountain in the past week.  The route remains very direct, and there is an obvious boot pack to follow.  As we transition back to warmer weather this weekend, be cognizant of snow bridges getting soft and weak as you descend in the heat of the day.  The two to watch out for are at the top of the corridor (11,400 ft) and at the end of the traverse through the alpine meadow (about 12,400 ft).

Direct route on the Emmons-Wintrop

Rangers have noticed climbers arriving to Camp Schurman unroped as they cross the Emmons glacier.  Though this short section of glacier may seem benign, it is not.  Huge crevasses criss-cross this section of glacier, and only a few are presently visible.  Traveling unroped on glaciers here requires a solo permit.  Please rope up from the ridge near Camp Curtis all the way into Camp Schurman.
A large, hollow crevasse sits under the climber's trail near Camp Schurman
Finally, remain aware of small crevasses melting out on the Inter glacier as you descend from camp after climbing.  While glissading or skiing, take care to slow down and look over blind roll-overs that may be hiding open crevasses.  Climbers and skiers will find continuous snow above glacier basin. Please take care to stay on the trail as it melts out so you don't crush the fragile flora coming to life after a long winter under the snow.

Rangers enjoy good skiing conditions on the Inter Glacier on 6/28










Disappointment Cleaver June 28, 2017

Congratulating a climber on his 47th consecutive year of Rainier summits.

It is shaping up to be another very busy weekend on the Disappointment Cleaver. We expect a full house at Camp Muir and Ingraham Flats and most campsites are already taken for the weekend.



Ingraham Flats and Disappointment Cleaver -- June 29, 2017

The climbing route remains in good condition from Camp Muir to the summit, thanks to the efforts of the guide services. Little change has occurred to the route in the past few weeks, except for minor re-routes around widening crevasses. 


Disappointment Cleaver track - June 28, 2017

With decreasing snow cover and warming temperatures, rockfall is increasing on Disappointment Cleaver and in the Cathedral Gap area. Helmets are strongly encouraged whenever climbing, but especially so in these areas. Careful footwork and rope management can be helpful in reducing party-inflicted rockfall hazards, so do your part to reduce rockfall risk to climbers below. Yell "ROCK" if you knock down any sizable pieces to alert parties underneath you to warn them.

There are currently no ladders on the route, but there are bountiful fixed pickets and a couple handlines. Whenever using in-situ protection, evaluate it carefully before trusting it. The existing handlines are designed for aiding balance, not catching falls, so avoid clipping or attaching your teams to these as it will create massive bottlenecks that slow climbing teams behind you.

Around 12,700’, there is a threatening serac leaning over the route. This “tsunami” is shedding ice chunks onto the track almost daily. Minimize your exposure to this hazard by moving efficiently and not taking breaks in areas exposed to icefall. The track is quite narrow in this location, which will also make passing other parties difficult.

The "tsunami" above Disappointment Cleaver.
For more information about recent conditions on the D.C., please review the June 25th update.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Tahoma Glacier Conditions - 6/27/2017

On 6/27, climbing rangers traveled to 10,000 feet on the Tahoma Glacier via the Puyallup Cleaver.  Here is what they saw.


There were only a couple of spots off of Puyallup cleaver that safely accessed the glacier. Rangers chose a snow ramp at 8200' and belayed across the moat.  This ramp was exposed to rockfall and it might be too melted out in another week or two.  There also looked to be a ramp higher up just below lower St. Andrews Rock that could access the glacier.  Your best bet might be taking that approach, as it's pictured in Gauthier's book, but make sure you stay near the Puyallup Glacier side of the Puyallup Cleaver early on as midway up the cleaver itself is impassable due to steep cliffs around 8500'.

Snow ramp leading onto the glacier at 8200'. 

Once on the glacier routefinding was relatively straightforward but included many crevasse crossings. Most of these could be carefully stepped across, though some of them were 2-3 feet wide and quite deep. End running all of these would be challenging as most of these cracks were very long and numerous.


Things started getting more interesting around 9800' feet where rangers were almost unable to find a way through a particularly broken section of the glacier where wide cracks in numerous orientations block passage.  The few bridges in this section were very thin and unsafe.

9800' on the Tahoma Glacier.
Rangers traversed to a compression zone to the south, or lookers right, side of the glacier and found passage to around 10,000' elevation where they witnessed a very large ice avalanche coming off of the ice cap lookers left of the Sickle.

Large ice avalanche near the Sickle. 

Deciding that the only probable route up the glacier traversed under the Sickle runout zone, it was decided to bail and head south to the Success Cleaver which they climbed.

Track log starting when we stepped onto the glacier at 8200' in the upper left and following our traverse to the Tahoma Cleaver.  

The route on the southern part of Tahoma glacier afforded easier travel, and so would be a better ascent route, coming from Glacier Island.  Be advised that at this point, due to a large crevasse spanning almost the entire upper glacier, the only likely route up the upper Tahoma Glacier puts you on the Sickle before traversing back right, which looks like it has been funneling a lot of ice debris lately.  If attempting this route, make sure things are well frozen, start early, move quickly, and realize there is some unavoidable objective danger that must be traveled through.  At this point the Tahoma Glacier route looks like it's best left to early season 2018 and the Sickle route is definitely a no-go.

-686