Friday, September 06, 2019

Emmons Winthrop End of Season 09/05/2019

View of Glacier Basin September 2019

As summer winds down, so does the climbing season on Mount Rainier. No parties have attempted the Emmons Glacier route recently. Climbing Rangers have finished doing patrols of the route for the year, and all guided climbs have ceased. Although it is probably still possible to forge a route above Camp Schurman, all parties attempting such a late-season attempt should expect a very long day and circuitous, complex navigation requiring honed glacier travel and ice climbing skills.

Beware that autumn storms often deposit enough snow to obscure any remnant of this summer's climbing route and can thinly cover open crevasses. Serac fall has also been observed recently. Be prepared to do all of your own navigation, route-finding, and decision-making if you choose to attempt the mountain this late in the season.

This will be the final update for the Emmons Glacier route for the 2019 climbing season. If you're planning a climbing trip to Mount Rainier next season and are doing some pre-trip planning follow these links to view our in-depth route briefs on the Disappointment Cleaver Route, the Emmons-Winthrop Glacier Route, the Kautz Glacier Route, and Liberty Ridge.

Thanks for a great summer season!  Happy Autumnal Equinox and see you next year!

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Muir Snowfield Update 9/4

As we transition into September, the Muir Snowfield is becoming more of an "Icefield" than a snowfield.  The majority of the hike beyond Pebble Creek has exposed glacial ice with a number of open crevasses above 8500'.  Where there is snow, the surface conditions are quite sun cupped and capped with a fine layer of rock and dust.

The crevasses that are present on the upper portion of the snowfield are easy to spot and navigate around, but caution should still be taken as the surface condition adjacent to these features are firm and icy.  Take caution while descending from Camp Muir, as a couple of these cracks can be difficult to spot from above.

While navigating the Muir Snowfield, we recommend bringing sturdy footwear that are capable of accepting micro-spikes or crampons which will greatly aid in security.  Trekking poles are also very useful!

Water is present around the lower rock outcroppings as well as on the top of Moon Rocks.  Beware though, as the Muir Snowfield sees a large amount of traffic and filtering the run-off is highly recommended.

Safe Climbing!

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Trash & Waste + Route Update

September vistas of Camp Muir
Rangers have been experiencing an uptick of trash and human waste left on the Disappointment Cleaver Route.  We ask you to please pack down what you bring up.  Understandably, it can be difficult to maintain wrappers and micro trash, but please do your best to keep a handle of these items.  These unsightly attractions detract from the climbing experience for all visitors.  Please do your part and leave mountain in better condition than how you found it!

While on patrols of the DC, rangers have noted more human waste directly off the boot pack.  The Paradise Wilderness Information Center (PWIC) offers blue bags free of charge to climbers.  Please be responsible and use these blue bags to collect and carry off your waste, otherwise, others will have to do this.

We have also found a number of soiled blue-bags left both at Ingraham Flats as well as along the route.  Not only are these climbers not doing their part in removing their human waste, they are now littering and leaving plastic in a delicate alpine environment.  Please, if you go through the effort to use a blue-bag, do your part and dispose of it into a designated blue-bag barrel at Camp Muir.

Human waste, blue-bags and trash left along the route

The DC route is largely unchanged since the last blog post update. When approaching rock features along the route, use cation and be on the lookout for hollow moats and ablated glacier ice.

There is still only one ladder on the route, currently located at 13,100'.  This is configured in a vertical orientation.

As we make our way into September, climbing tactics have to adapt to the changing conditions.  Be aware of more rock and ice fall.  A fair amount of the route has ablated glacier ice present as well as firmer snow conditions.  Come prepared with the appropriate climbing equipment such as crevasse rescue equipment, ice screws and pickets than can be easily be placed from a self-arrest position.

Safe Climbing!

Unstable boulders perched on ablated glacier ice, viewed from Cathedral Gap, looking towards the Ingraham Glacier
Looking towards the base of the Disappointment Cleaver from High Crack

The Bowling Alley from the
Disappointment Cleaver over to the Ingraham Glacier
Top of the cleaver, looking at the Upper Mountain
Climbers descending the ladder

Climbers descending the upper mountain, just above the top of the cleaver

Current track as of September 2nd, 2019

Friday, August 30, 2019

Emmons/Winthrop and Camp Schurman Update 8/29/19

Camp Schurman and Steamboat Prow from the Corridor. 

Climbing season on Mount Rainier's east side is winding down. Camp Schurman was a good spot for alpine solitude this week with only a handful of parties attempting to climb. Rangers waited out the high winds last weekend until Sunday afternoon to climb and explore the lower part of the route. Rangers climbed to 11,000 feet on the Corridor, and negotiated most of the route difficulties before turning around. September climbing on the Emmons/Winthrop requires a slightly different set of gear than early season. Bring ice screws, pickets, and sharp crampons along if attempting to climb. A shovel is a good idea as well so your party can chisel out a tent platform on the snow at Camp Schurman.

Getting to Camp Schurman
The Inter Glacier is crevassed and firm, with lots of exposed ice. Parties will need to don crampons and rope up for the Inter Glacier. An alternate route up Mount Ruth to Camp Curtis exists, but check with the rangers at White River for more information about traveling this way. From Camp Curtis, travel to the upper sites (#3,4,5) to find the climber's trail descending through the scree towards the Emmons. Parties have reported encountering difficulties getting across the moat onto the Emmons Glacier.

Camp Schurman to Emmons Flats
From the edge of the Prow above the helipad, the route climbs directly up through a maze of crevasses and exposed glacial ice. Variations further climber's right look more appealing, but dead end in large, open crevasses. Expect to belay your partners from pickets or screws over a crevasse or two in this section, as some crossings are pretty wide and arresting a fall would be otherwise impossible on the firm glacial ice here.

Looking up at the route from Emmons Flats. The Corridor is illuminated by sunlight on the left.

Emmons Flats to the Corridor
From Emmons Flats, climb straight up though sun cups trending toward the bottom of the Corridor. Parties will encounter a set of large crevasses running horizontally that funnel into one remaining snow bridge allowing passage onto the Corridor. This bridge is narrow, but still well supported on the uphill side with snow. Inspect this bridge before crossing it, and belay your team across if necessary.

The Corridor has firm snow, and sections of glacial ice. The travel is arduous and not exactly straightforward. Stay mostly climber's right as you ascend the Corridor. Countless crevasses cut through the route here, running in all directions. In several spots, the only way to build an anchor in the event of a crevasse fall is with ice screws. The route finding becomes more obvious as you approach the top of the Corridor.

Top of Corridor to Summit
Few parties have ascended above the Corridor in the last couple weeks. The best information about this section of the route can be found in the last Emmons blog post. The upper part of the route has more snow still, but don't expect easy travel to the summit. Climbing to the summit will make for a very long day. Be prepared with plenty of food, water, and anchor materials. As always, take a GPS track on the ascent to give your team something to follow on the way down.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Muir Snowfield Conditions Update 8/28/2019

Beautiful summer weather finally arrived at Mount Rainier National Park and the days have been nice for hiking on the mountain. That said, walking conditions on the Muir Snowfield continue to deteriorate as the summer season progresses.

Crevasses are beginning to open up above 8500' and icy patches are melting out all over. The guide services have made the switch to crampons for their trips up and down the snowfield. Skilled snow walkers may be able to navigate the firm patches but we definitely recommend micro-spikes or full crampons.

A crevasse on the Muir Snowfield
We still have the odd (no pun intended) skier or two making the journey to Camp Muir and trying their luck at skiing back down. We definitely cannot recommend that due to the conditions however. The surface is a mix of the aforementioned ice with pumice and plenty of loose rock all around. Please use extreme caution when skiing as the open crevasses can be very hard to spot due to the roughness of the snow surface.

The view down to Paradise from 10,000'
As September approaches we will see a return to stormy weather. If you're planning a trip up to Camp Muir or beyond please prepare for the trip by checking the weather and bringing the essentials, especially navigation equipment.

Disappointment Cleaver Update 8/26/2019

As of 8/26, the Disappointment Cleaver route is unchanged from the previous post. The guide services are still running trips on the DC, but independent climber numbers are decreasing precipitously.  Camp Muir is nice and quiet on weekdays.  The route is still climbing well for this time of year.  The late-season nature of conditions make it slightly more challenging than a July ascent, but many climbers are having successful summit climbs.  Come enjoy a quieter experience on the DC!

Looking up from Ingraham Flats.

The ladder around 13,000'.  There are fixed ropes above the ladder to aid in ascent.