It’s been a busy week on Mt. Rainier for the climbing rangers, with teams attempting routes on three major aspects of the mountain and skiing from the summit. Our team headed up to Camp Schurman for the first part of our shift to climb the Emmons-Winthrop route.
Consistent with our last blog post, the route climbed (red line) on 5/28 is very direct, going directly up and over two large cracks that have solid (for now) steep snow plugs. There was a notable crux at ~12,500’ that required Rangers to front point and utilize axes in dagger position over a 20' section of AI 2/3. Beyond this, the route went directly to the crater rim, passing several zones of notably steep snow. This additional exposure can be avoided via a less steep option (green line) traversing out right on lower angle slopes underneath the icefall near ~13,200’, This would take climbers to the saddle between the top of Curtis Ridge and the summit. From here, one can gain the summit on the western facing, low angle slope from the saddle with minimal exposure compared to the direct route.
Rangers enjoyed a ski down the Emmons via the yellow line in the photos. Snow surfaces from the summit to 12'500' were variable with intermittent sections of compact windboard, sastrugi, and recycled pow. This terrain is relatively steep, and a fall would not have a desirable outcome. Rangers dropped skier's left of their climbing route, down the Emmons-Winthrop Shoulder, to avoid the crux ice crossing at 12,500'. They then traversed back to the Emmons Corridor at 12,400' and found very enjoyable corn skiing all the way back to camp. Something to consider when skiing the Emmons is that while most glaciers have cross-slope cracks, the Corridor also has vertical cracks on either side!
Rangers visited the Success Couloir for an investigatory patrol. Rangers approached via Comet Falls, finding intermittent snow along the trail, which made for less than efficient travel. Continuous snow was found at ~5,000', where one can navigate up through the forest and continue toward the Success Glacier via Van Trump Park. A final, consequential traverse across well-covered snow slopes delivers prospective climbers to the ridge on the eastern edge of the Success Glacier at 8,000'. Upon arriving at camp, clouds lifted, and Rangers were able to assess conditions up high in greater detail.
Utilizing a monocular, Rangers observed deep runnels, chicken heads, and evidence of recent rockfall. Snow was discontinuous and would requiring climbing through several rock bands. Significant rock and ice fall events crossed much of the Success Glacier. Given the conditions, Rangers decided not to continue climbing and ski the line. Two other ambitious skiers came through, ascending 300' into the couloir until they came to the same conclusion, reporting "heinous" conditions on the route. Ultimately, between this and conditions found in the Fuhrer Finger recently, our evaluation is that the south side of the mountain is highly sun affected above 8,000'. Mid elevation slopes still hold excellent snow to about 5,800'.
That's the conditions report for this week! Hope to see everyone out there!