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.