Monday, February 12, 2018

Clear Skies and Cold Temps

Over the weekend people were out in force around the mountain. While the skiing conditions were not so great, the weather was fantastic. And I think a lot of folks from around the Northwest needed a good dose of sunshine.

Climbing rangers were out and about and up at Camp Muir over the weekend and found a wide variety of ski conditions, from breakable rain crust, to light, cold snow on top of the crust, to wind scoured ice. Ski crampons were a near necessity for the majority of the journey to Camp Muir. Many people had taken their skis off and were wearing boot crampons. There was certainly some better turns to be found on leeward aspects where snow had been deposited by the wind instead of scoured away, but these spots were few and often times far between. But this weekend was more about enjoying the sunshine and the views of the mountain than ski quality!

Cathedral Gap 2/10/18
The overall snowpack on the upper portions of the mountain, including Camp Muir, appears to be fairly low for this time of year. For those of you familiar with Camp Muir, the rocks that form the helipad in camp are currently melted out and exposed. As are nearly all of the structures, with the usual wind blown snow around them of course. The route across the Cowlitz Glacier looks to be filled in, but  Cathedral Gap still has several bare patches, and rocks popping out. From what rangers could see, the upper mountain appeared to be in a similar state, with large sections of exposed ice and scoured snow. The Gibraltar Ledges route appears to be well filled in, but looks more like it typically does in May, as opposed to February!

If you are planning a trip to climb the mountain, this may be the week! Just be aware that conditions may be quite firm and icy up high. And be prepared to have the upper mountain all to yourselves, with no established route or wands this time of year. When the weather is nice this time of year, it can be a true wilderness experience on the upper mountain, and teams need to be self-sufficient! Don't underestimate "the standard routes", which become a little more involved when there is no shoveled boot track, wands, or other parties on the route. It is a good idea to come prepared with a GPS that has pre-loaded way points, and gear to spend an unplanned night on the upper mountain in the event of an emergency. All of that said, when the weather is nice in the winter time, Mount Rainier can be a great place to recreate, so maybe consider taking a day or two off work and coming up to play!