Summer is officially over and the climbing season is pretty much wrapped up here on Mt Rainier. The end of the season was a unique one for sure with most routes becoming significantly impacted by significant heat waves this summer. This resulted in more crevassing on the glaciers and increased rockfall on the ridges.
Snowfall has returned however, and while this is a good thing for the mountain in general it does make an autumn or early winter ascent particularly dangerous. Crevasses are just barely covered with a thin blanket of snow. And so, be prepared to rope-up: have helmets, harnesses, ice axes, crampons, pickets and other glacier travel equipment with you, potentially just to travel to Camp Muir!
|The Cowlitz Glacier and Cathedral Rocks|
In the regular season, a trip to Camp Muir can be done without that extra equipment, but this year's late-season conditions are extreme and especially dangerous with icy, crevassed surface conditions being hidden by fresh snow. Any climber attempting the summit this time of year should consider it an off-season climb and be very experienced, totally self-sufficient, and realize that any emergency help could be not just hours, but days away.
Late season storms can roll in with little warning and can be much more vigorous and longer lasting than summer squalls. Please check the weather forecast before starting your trip - click on the Weather Resources tab above for some starting places - but keep in mind that forecasting for Mt Rainier is very difficult, so prepare for the unexpected! Stretches of beautiful summer-like weather can also be possible, and late-season visits do offer more solitude than the more popular times, but please be cautious this time of year.
All climbers are still required to pay the annual climbing fee (which can be done online ahead of time) and obtain a climbing permit (which has switched to self-registration for the winter season and can be done in-person at the trailhead). Enjoy the change of seasons and climb safe!