Sunday, July 14, 2024

Emmons Update 7/13/24

July 14th, 2024

This blog is maintained by the Mount Rainier National Park Climbing Ranger team for use by recreational non-guided climbers. Use these reports as a baseline, but plan for changing conditions.

During the month of July, Mt Rainier has been experiencing clear sunny weather with above average temperatures and freezing levels between 14,000-15,500 feet. Current hazards include:

+Thin Snow Bridges and Crevasse Falls

+Knee Strain/Strain and Lower Leg punctures by Crampon Points due to Soft Snow


The approach to Glacier Basin is currently snow free and the Inter Glacier is still holding winter snow. When dropping from Camp Curtis to get on to the Emmons Glacier, be sure to rope up for glacier travel. Rangers have observed teams traveling this section to Camp Schurman without a rope, particularly when descending from camp. There are numerous large crevasses in this section.

Image of climbers traveling without a rope in use on the Lower Emmons approaching Camp Schurman.

The route has continued to follow the same path as the last week or two. Some things to consider are that with warm temperatures snow bridges have been continuing to thin. The existing "trail" goes over thin portions of numerous snow bridges which were robust a week ago, and are now beginning to sag, which is an early sign of impending collapse. Use discretion when crossing and do not hesitate to go off the boot pack to cross a thicker portion of the snow bridge.

Route as scene from Camp Shurman. Note yellow line indicating the 11,400 foot "plug" detailed bellow.

At least one snow bridge crossing should require additional attention at this time. This is the 11,400 foot "plug". It is a major bridge roughly the width of a dump truck and if it were to fail with a climber on it there is possibility for a major swing into the adjacent wall. Additionally, this crossing is long enough that more than one climber at a time could end up on it, both increasing the likelihood of collapse, and making a team arrest more difficult. Consider adding security when crossing this, particularly on the descent. 

Side profile of the snow bridge at 11,400 feet. This image demonstrates the length; the width is about as wide as a dump truck. Use additional caution when crossing this. Or considering finding an alternative work around.

Please be sure to climb with "blue bags" on route. These can be disposed of at Camp Schurman at the designated barrel by the doors to the entrance of the restrooms. These can be picked up at the White River Wilderness Information Center (open every day from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm), the same location as where climbers pick up their climbing permits. Also, when there be sure to observe the printed-out photo of where tent platforms are allowed next to camp Schurman. For more information about climbing the Emmons route consult the Emmons-Winthrop Route Brief. Remember to pay for you annual climber's recovery free, found here.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Trash, Waste, and Leave No Trace! Cleaning Up Muir and a DC Update!

With the increased numbers of visitors utilizing Camp Muir as summer takes off, rangers have been finding more and more trash around Camp Muir that isn't being managed properly. No trash removal is provided by the park service at any of the high camps. All trash must be hiked out. Unfortunately, people are increasingly leaving trash hidden or stuffed in corners around camp, in the bathrooms, hidden in the snow, and piled in the public shelter. This is starting to have a significant impact on camps, as it is attracting mice. The public shelter is the publics' shelter. Not the rangers' or guide services.' This means it is a shared resource. A resource every user is responsible for. People all too often convince themselves that leaving their half-eaten Mountain House or fuel canister is "helpful." But soon, every other climber does the same, and a mound of trash is left behind. Please be mindful of this and hike out all of your trash. Help manage the shelter by hiking out any other trash you may find. Leave the shelter like you would want to find it when you first arrive. 

When it comes to human waste, more is also emerging on route and around camps. Please utilize the bathrooms around camp and the blue waste bags for disposal on route. Remember to carry them with you back to camp. The blue bags are provided by the ranger stations if you forgot to bring any. Don't leave them on route with the expectation they will be there on the descent. They will blow away and can become an unpleasant object to have fall down the mountain. The park service does provide disposal at the high camps for the blue bags. There will be marked barrels near the bathrooms. If you are unsure of where to dispose of them, please ask! Don't stuff them into the toilet systems, which may break the system, or hide them around camp. Several unsavory discoveries have been made.

DC Route Update:

The heatwave over the past week brought freezing levels up to 17,000' at times, with little to no radiative cooling and strong winds. Most climbers are shifting start times earlier in order to climb through the night so they are done by the time the sun and heat hits the route. This helps minimize exposure to rockfall and crevasse crossing hazards. The loss of snowpack means the Cleaver is now largely rock until the upper portion. Travel carefully and short rope through this section to help minimize knocking down loose rock. 

As of Sunday the 7th, the route from the top of the Cleaver continues up a steep traverse where there are handlines and fixed pickets for running protection. Remember that these pickets need to be checked before use as the warm temps have melted them out. The route then arrives at a series of switchbacks before the route continues up two vertical ladders to make it up a large step around 13,200'. 

We have received multiple reports since yesterday (7/10) that a large crevasse collapsed around 12,800' where the switchbacks started. This occurred sometime in the afternoon and a party descending late in the day was trapped above for a short time before being forced to rappel into the crevasse and climb out the bottom. This serves as a reminder that parties need to be prepared to route-find, safely utilize technical climbing skills, and potentially climb back up and then descend alternative routes. Multiple guide parties are currently working to establish a reroute around this new feature as it has stopped multiple parties who have been unable to find a route around. Please be respectful of these parties as they work.  

Additional Notes:

Please remember that the DC route is popular, but it is still a technical, high-altitude mountaineering route that requires skilled use of alpine climbing and glacier travel techniques and equipment. Many parties are climbing with the expectation of somebody being nearby to quickly provide assistance and are projecting their risk onto others without consideration. If you can't fully manage your own risk, consider shifting to another objective on Rainier or in the Cascades to build those skills. With the current reroute underway, these skills are even more important, as you may have to do your own route-finding. The ability of your party to be self-sufficient is imperative for a safe and successful mission.

Thursday, July 04, 2024

Emmons-Winthrop Update 7/4/24

The Emmons-Winthrop route currently follows the standard path up out of Camp Schurman.  Small cracks have opened up low on the route and the first major crevasse crossing is around 11,400 ft. There's two options to cross this crevasse - one option is going straight up over a narrow snowbridge or working climber's left and end-running the crack. As of the day this blog is written, the snow bridge here remains and has been the option used the most. After the anticipated heat-wave however, this option might fall through, forcing climbers to go left.  Many are opting to place fall-protection to navigate this section, especially on the descent.

Route as seen from Camp Schurman

The route then continues with several long, right-hand traverses to avoid large crevasses. The last long right-hand traverse is at 13,400 ft. to end run the bergschrund and get to Liberty Saddle. It is within this zone the route travels directly under large seracs immediately above. Move efficiently and do not take breaks under this, or any, overhead hazard. Surface conditions have been decent overall but expect a wide variety of soft, firm, wind-board, and so forth throughout the entirety of the route.

Overhead serac hazard around 13k

Worth noting that the heat wave forecasted is expected to put freezing levels at 16000ft +. Many days of this heat has historically taken a large toll on the entirety of the mountain. Seracs, snowbridges, rocks, crevasse openings, wet-loose avalanches, and more can all be potential hazards worth heavily reiterating as the mountain melts during this heat wave.

Skiers: See our recent post about Ski-Mo or Ski-No

Skier numbers on the upper mountain have been dwindling drastically as the upper slopes do not offer very good snow conditions for skiing. There are large open crevasses that would be extremely dangerous in the event of a fall on skis in the wrong spot. The few parties that have brought skis have been opting to leave them at the top of the Corridor, at around 11,400 feet, and continue to the summit on foot.

Additional Information  

It is strongly recommended that parties rope up if ascending or descending from Camp Schurman via the lower Emmons. There is a large crevasse complex just below camp that you have to cross. It is opening quickly, and bridges are getting thinner every day. 

It is worth reiterating from the last post to never abandon your climbing partners on the upper mountain. NEVER split up. If you are climbing, stay together, roped up. If you are skiing, stay close enough to see each other and spot each other. 

Proper food and blue bag storage is still very important. Rangers have found multiple wag/blue bags at the Emmons Flats Camp that were left out and compromised by the ravens. They will get into waste and food if not stored properly. Please practice Leave No Trace!

Lastly, if you haven't seen a new blog post for a while, that likely means not much has changed on the route! See you on the mountain!

DC Route Update 7/4/24

July 4th, 2024

This blog is maintained by the Climbing Ranger team for use by recreational non-guided climbers. Use these reports as a baseline, but plan for changing conditions.


Winter of 2024 brought slightly warmer than average temperatures, resulting in average seasonable snowfall on the upper and mid mountain, with the lower mountain below average. Currently the snow line is at about 5,500 feet. Summer is here on Mount Rainier and temps have been back to average, with above average temperature forecasted for the week ahead. Crevasses are beginning to open up, but the climbing route is well established. Many teams have been reaching the summit by this point. Some of the hazards associated with higher temperatures include:

               + Rock fall/Icefall

               + Crevasse Bridge Collapse



Muir Route

The path to Camp Muir up the Muir Snowfield currently follows the summer trail which is mostly snow free. Please pay special attention to trail markings and keep to the trail as we would like hikers and climbers to avoid trampling sensitive vegetation. Above Pebble Creek the route is snow covered.

Above Camp Muir the route has seen significant traffic, and the path is well marked and packed in. Climbers should be prepared to shorten their rope spacing after getting off the Cowlitz Glacier and before crossing Cathedral Gap, in order to reduce risk of tangling ropes with other teams and to minimize the risk of knocking rocks loose onto teams below.


View of Ingraham Flats after rounding the corner of Cathedral Gap. Disappointment Cleaver is visible about the tents

The route above Ingraham Flats currently ascends the Disappointment Cleaver. The path is clear of any major cracks and gaining the Cleaver is straightforward. Here too, teams should be ready to shorten rope spacing. The Cleaver is approximately 50% covered in snow, and it is expected to melt out after this weekend's heatwave. Pay special attention for red flagged wands which mark the way here, as there are many old trails, some which may lead to dead ends.

The route above the Cleaver steepens as it ascends and switchbacks and has a handful of "fixed" snow pickets with webbing runners and carabiners attached. Please leave this gear for other teams to use. This gear is intended for clipping into and use as a running belay, meaning that rope team members continue to move in unison. Beyond the steep switchbacks with running protection, teams will encounter two ladders at 13,200 feet. Both options are viable, there are two ladders to reduce bottlenecking at this point. Note that there are fixed snow pickets in place that attach to the ladders, and some that are free. These free pickets both below and above the ladders are intended for rope teams to clip into and use as running protection. As always, be sure to evaluate any fixed gear as they are checked by guides when passing, but are subject to melting out. For specifics on the climbing route please reference the NPS route briefing packet- Disappointment Cleaver- Ingraham Direct

Image of the ladders crossing at 13,200 feet. Note the open pickets at the base of the ladders, these are intended to be used as running protection

This portion of the route from 12,500-13,300 feet where the fixed adjuncts are in place is where bottlenecking is most likely to occur. If teams are backed up here it is advised to wait down below, or above in order to reduce teams lining up in this tight space and exposing climbers to ice fall and crevasse fall hazard. Beyond this portion the route is mostly direct to the crater rim. When descending from the summit consider spacing out from other teams to reduce the potential for backups here.

View as seen from the top of Disappointment Clever. Note the steep switchback in the center of the photo above the team of climbers. Also, the ladders are faintly visible to center right at the upper most crack in the photo. This is where bottlenecking has been occurring, and the exposure to risks is best mitigated by spacing out rope teams to minimize time in this zone.

As always, don't just follow the boot pack blindly toward the summit.  Look both climber's left and right for other options to ascend the mountain - even if the boot pack doesn't lead there.  There are always multiple ways to climb Mount Rainier - just be sure to stay within your team's ability level and place fall-protection if things get steep!  

The Paradise Wilderness Information Center (PWIC) is open daily from 07:30-17:00. Check in here before your climb to receive your permit, or to check for walk up availability and be sure to check out here at the end of trip. "Blue Bags" used for human waste can be picked up here. Also please remember to pay the Annual Climbing Cost Recovery Fee.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Ski-Mo or Ski-No?


June 27th 2024

This blog is maintained by the MRNP Climbing Ranger team for use by recreational non-guided climbers.

Use these reports as a baseline, but plan for changing conditions.

Ski tracks on the Paradise Glacier showing near misses with crevasses - NPS Photo

Skier traffic on the upper mountain has been hitting all-time highs this spring as the skiing itself rapidly deteriorates in quality. Solar input, especially as we approach summer, can lead to conditions such as: thin and discontinuous snow that requires steep down climbing; variable snow surfaces such as sastrugi, sun cups, runnels, and penitentes; open crevasses; weak snow bridges; and rockfall. Ski movement ability is the best way to improve your safety margin from falling while skiing in the mountains. When combined, the conditions described will make a route "out of condition" even for the best of skier. The routes have been changing rapidly due to consistent high freezing temperatures and sunny days.

An unseen crevasse causes a skier to fall and lose control - their tumbling impacts can be seen below the crevasse - NPS Photo

Even if someone skied the route a week prior, remember that we are in a highly dynamic environment that is changing at a fast rate. This results in quick route changes and new crevasses opening in a matter of hours, let alone days. Not only must you possess the skills necessary to navigate through heavily crevassed terrain, but anyone skiing the mountain must possess expert skiing abilities as any unplanned fall could have severe consequences.

Rangers are observing a marked increase in skier traffic on the upper mountain in recent years, with a decrease in the movement abilities of skiers and riders. This has coincided with an increase in accidents involving skiing. One constant observation that rangers are making is that the basic approach to risk management is often skewed in skiing parties.

The two biggest misconceptions about the risks involved with skiing on Rainier are:

  • Speed of Glacial Navigation on a Ski Descent: Since you may have more days on skis annually going downhill at a resort than you do walking downhill with crampons on, you may be under the impression that skiing down the upper mountain will be easier than walking. What this perception lacks to factor in is that when you are skiing, the same glacial navigation and snow bridge evaluation you had to perform on the way up the mountain has to happen at over double the speed on the way down! Rangers have seen many close calls with skiers approaching blind, convex rolls at speed -- just barely stopping before skiing straight into a crevasse. In one case, a skier was observed accidentally jumping a crevasse they did not identify. When managing open glaciers, slow is smooth and smooth is fast. So be sure to ski slow and in control, especially when you cannot see the whole line you are skiing.

  • Safety of Skis vs. Booting Uphill: It is often assumed that since skis spread one's weight out over a large surface area, they are a safer method of travel on glaciers. This may be true for flat valley glaciers, but while ascending on steep terrain, the opposite is often true. The extra weight and awkwardness of skiing or snowboarding makes the endeavor more challenging and requires more attention paid to risk management. Variable, steep surfaces with significant fall consequences are not the place to practice “high-stakes skinning”, especially if you are new to backcountry travel.  


Individuals considering a ski attempt on Mt. Rainier should possess significant previous experience skiing on glaciers and at altitude. While no other Cascade volcano possesses the same degree of challenge for a ski mountaineer, it is strongly recommended to have experience skiing on other peaks like Mount Baker and Mount Adams before coming to Mount Rainier. Mt. Rainier has more substantial objective hazards and complex glaciated terrain than any other mountain in the lower 48. Combine this with the unpredictability of how high altitude will affect you, and having significant previous experience to draw on will provide a much higher safety margin on any ski descent of Mt. Rainier. A deep well of experience managing these hazards on less complex terrain should be developed before heading to Washington State's highest peak.

Other Safety considerations for planning a ski trip on Mount Rainier:


Team Selection

This is the most important factor to consider when planning a trip to Mount Rainier. The vast majority of terrain on Mount Rainier can be classified as “no fall” territory. Although ski falls may be common and insignificant in a ski resort, all falls on the upper mountain are serious. Simply losing an edge can easily cascade into an unstoppable slide into an open crevasse. Reverting to side-slipping or falling-leaf technique, rather than linked turns, can help maintain control of your ski descent. If anyone in your party has any doubt of their ability to safely ski the route, you must be willing to communicate that and revert to appropriate roped glacier travel techniques - this would include stashing skis low and continuing on foot. If you doubt your ski ability, consider hiring a professional to give you objective feedback in a more controlled environment such as a ski resort or less complex ski mountaineering objective.


Successfully completing a ski descent of Mount Rainier requires individuals and teams who are competent in a broad array of mountain skills. Mountaineering, glacier travel, rope techniques, navigation, and expert-level downhill skiing skills with a heavy backpack are the bare minimum.

Route Selection

There is no easy way to ski from the summit of Mount Rainier. All routes feature complex glacier travel, steep skiing, and long sections of no-fall terrain. Commonly attempted routes include: Emmons-Winthrop, Fuhrer Finger, Kautz Glacier, Success Couloir, and Ingraham Direct. There are many excellent ski descents on the mountain that minimize exposure to crevasses, ice and rock fall, and high altitude. Descents of the Muir Snowfield, Van Trump Snowfields, The Turtle, and Inter Glacier all serve as a nice introduction to the challenges of skiing on Mount Rainier.

Skiing down a route that you didn't climb up is generally not recommended. When walking up the route you plan to ski, it allows you to see and assess hazards, record a GPS track, and plan your descent. When onsighting a descent, especially on skis, you are suddenly put in the position of quickly identifying hazards and route finding as you go in a broad and expansive glaciated landscape.


One Day vs. Overnight Trips

An increasing number of teams opt for single day attempts; these require exceptional fitness levels. We see many teams that begin their attempt together but slowly get spread out across the upper mountain. This is unacceptable. It is crucial that team members remain within verbal and visual communication at all times. If one party member needs to stop or descend, the group should do the same. Do not leave anyone alone on the mountain. Consider a multi-day attempt so that you can begin your summit attempt rested and focused for the strenuous day ahead. Overnight trips also present better opportunities to time your descent for optimal conditions.

No matter which strategy your party chooses you must register for your climb and pay the climbing fee. More information on that process can be found here.


Weather and Avalanche

When signs of current or developing snow instability are present, the best course of action is to descend immediately from your current location rather than trying to outsmart the avalanche problem. It only takes a small amount of moving snow to knock you off your feet and push you into places that have serious consequences.


Snow Surface Conditions

This is probably the hardest variable to predict when planning a ski descent of Rainier. Snow conditions vary widely across aspect and elevation. The upper mountain rarely features smooth snow surfaces that could be defined as “good” skiing – it is commonly “survival skiing” up high. The surface above high camps is frequently a mix of breakable wind crust, very firm wind packed snow, ice chunks, sastrugi, firm and smooth (slide for life) conditions, and refrozen snow. Expect to ski “bad snow” for some, or all, of every descent on this mountain.  

Furthermore, it is rare that a ski descent does not require some down climbing. In many cases the decision to transition to crampons and ice axe for a short down climb can be a life-saving event. You must expect that you will need to take off your skis, rope up and climb down intermittently using proper mountaineering techniques.

Glacier Conditions

As the season progresses, all potential ski descents become more challenging as crevasses open and more ice is exposed. The trend in recent years has been to attempt ski descents earlier in the season to help mitigate these hazards, though this brings increased risk of avalanches, challenging navigation, and more hidden crevasses. Regardless of when a descent is attempted, always ensure that you can see to the bottom of the slope you are on. Convex rolls are classic trigger points for avalanche's and often hide crevasses on their downhill side.


All parties on foot should be roped up to help protect against glacier hazards. This means that transitioning from skiing to booting (or booting to skiing) should be done after roping up and spreading out the team. The greatly reduced surface area of boots compared to skis greatly increases the likelihood of punching through a snow bridge into a crevasse.


Technical Rescue & Rope Considerations

All parties must be competent in crevasse rescue. Every member should wear a climbing harness at all times in the event of a crevasse fall. Carrying two ropes affords a greater safety margin in the event that the person carrying the only rope falls into a crevasse – this risk can be easily mitigated. Many teams opt to bring a single 60m rope, however carrying two ropes per team that are each 30+ meters increases rescue safety margins while having a commonly missed benefit: the ski quality for the party as a whole is increased as no one is skiing with the weight of a 60m of rope in their pack! Each party member should have enough supplies to construct a rescue anchor, rappel into and ascend out of a crevasse, and execute a haul system. All other mountaineering equipment should also be carried, including crampons, ice axe, helmet, navigation, and survival gear.


A ski descent of Rainier can be one of the most rewarding experiences for a competent party but it can quickly turn disastrous for the unskilled or unprepared. The fact that descending on skis is so much faster than on foot allows skiers to get off route and into problematic terrain all that more quickly. Proper planning and a high degree of caution is a prerequisite for a successful ski descent of the mountain.

DC Route Update 6/27/24

 June 27, 2024

This blog is maintained by the MRNP Climbing Ranger team for use by recreational non-guided climbers. Use these reports as a baseline, but plan for changing conditions.


Recent warming is causing the route to evolve, crevasses are widening, snow bridges are beginning to weaken and thin, adjuncts and the best paths up and down the mountain may vary day to day.

In addition to all the hazards that are present when climbing Rainier, climbing parties should be prepared for:

  • White out conditions
  • Rock fall hazard, thin snow bridges, and crevasse falls

Disappointment Cleaver

The approach to Camp Muir has transitioned to the summer route, please follow trails, wands, and orange poles marking the route up to the pebble creek zone. This is the time of year when as the snow melts, old boot packs expose underlying vegetation and delicate alpine meadows. Sticking to marked trails and wanded routes helps your party travel on an easier route and limits impact on the environment. Please do your part to help these beautiful and delicate landscapes last for others to enjoy!

Photo showing approximate route on 6/24

Above Camp Muir the route takes a standard approach onto the Cleaver. The moat getting onto the cleaver has begun to open up. As of writing this blog post this hazard is manageable but as always, with time this could change.

Looking across the bowling alley towards the cleaver (~11,300ft)

Looking back at the traverse onto the Cleaver from The Nose (~11,450)

Looking up the Cleaver from The Nose (~11,450)

The Cleaver is approximately 60% snow, and parties are encouraged to keep crampons on while ascending/descending this feature. Managing slack by shortening the rope is also important to lessen the likelihood of knocking off loose rocks onto your partners or other parties. 

Looking up the Cleaver (~11,800ft)

*Ladder at 13,200ft

*After the above photo was taken the ladder was moved just to the right of where it is in this photo. It is now steeper than pictured and has an associated handline.

There are a few fixed pickets before this ladder as well as after. When temperatures are warm, and the solar radiation is intense, fixed pickets and other adjuncts can melt out and become weaker without attention. Climbers have been seen clipping pickets, while descending late in the day that are inches melted out of the glacier! The NPS does not maintain these route adjuncts and climbers are encouraged to inspect them and use their own judgment before using them. 

Additional Information 

Please be prepared to spend time filling out some paperwork when coming to pick up your permit at the PWIC or other issuing ranger stations. Even if you reserved a permit through we still need to gather more information from you!

Enjoy the park and have a safe climb.

-Climbing Rangers