Sunday, August 27, 2017

DC update 8/27/2017

Late season conditions reign supreme on the DC. The route is long and there are numerous large crevasse bridges that must be crossed to climb to the summit. Most of the route's difficulties have been and continue to be above the top of the Cleaver (12,300'). Solo or unroped climbing is NOT recommended.

NPS Ranger Madsen climbing out of the Popcorn Bowl.
A 400' climb is still to come on the 'descent'.
The main area of concern for the guides is the 'Popcorn Bowl'. This is a heavily crevassed area where large seracs have all collapsed in giant blocks (the popcorn) and the blocks, crevasses and seracs are all shifting and moving constatly. The area is very reminscent of the Khumbu on Mt Everest. To top it all off there is a ladder lying at a 45 degree angle which get's you into and out of the popcorn. It's not a place to dilly-dally.

The rangers are more concerned with the length of the route and the fact that it climbs, descends, climbs, descends and then climbs and descends again. We normally refer to features by their elevation but the Popcorn Bowl lies at 12,500' and you reach that elevation 4 times while climbing Mt Rainier via the DC. The long and tough route is leading people to make some poor risk-management decisions. We have observed many teams takeing more than 15 hours for a Muir-to-Muir trip and even worse, leaving teammates behind and unroping from each other while on the upper mountain. It may be tempting to split up from a slower teammate but this is rarely a good idea.

The circuitous DC route of August 2017.

This is not the time of year to cut corners on your rick management and the rope is a key piece of that while climbing on glaciers. We'd much rather see people make safe and conservative decisions on the upper mountain as opposed to leaving teammates stranded or forgoing the rope altogether.