Monday, September 26, 2022

Autumn is here!

Autumn is here! Though with the gorgeous sunny days, it feels like we are still getting to soak up a little more summer. People who have ventured up to Camp Muir have had gorgeous views with very few people around. 

View of Mount Rainier's south side from Pebble Creek

The climbing season on Mount Rainier has slowed down significantly, and already stopped for many of the guide services. Along the Muir Snowfield are cracks and skeletal ice making travel difficult to and from Camp. Above Camp Muir the climber's route across the Cowlitz Glacier has seen a bit more active rockfall than usual, with one big slide stopping right at the boot pack. There's significant rockfall hazard and tricky loose-rock-on-steep-ice terrain to cross to get to Ingraham Flats. From Ingraham Flats to the Cleaver presents various challenges as well. Near High Crack, there are several large hollowly bridged crevasses going latitudinally and longitudinally. As for route adjuncts, at High Crack (around 11,400 ft.) there is a horizontal triple ladder and getting onto the cleaver there are also some fixed pickets. The route above the Cleaver is very difficult to navigate due to large crevasses, and with the freezing levels staying above 10,000 feet all of the glaciated portions of the route seem to be changing rapidly. It's definitely an advanced climbing route - not the "easier standard route" that it typically is.

The traverse onto the Cleaver from the Ingraham Glacier

Climbers attempting a summit climb at this time of the year should be prepared to be entirely self-sufficient. The climbing ranger season is winding down and we aren't regularly staffing either of the high camps. Any emergency rescue is not just hours, but most likely days away - which will feel like a very long time for any ill/injured climber. We cannot stress this enough - be prepared for self-rescue and self-care in the event of an emergency - and choose to turn around, or not push upward, if you're unfamiliar with the mountain and it's hazards and/or the skills needed to navigate, perform crevasse rescue, ascend a rope, etc.

Thin snow bridges exist on route between Ingraham Flats and the Cleaver

Permits are still available in-person until October 12th at the Longmire Wilderness Information Center and the White River Wilderness Information Center. Getting an in-person permit allows you to talk to a ranger and get updated weather and route information, it is definitely the way to go! Check out this page for updated hours of the Wilderness Information Centers. At Paradise there is a Self-Registration area at the Old Ranger Station (see this blog post for more details). Don’t forget to pay the annual climbing fee before going up! 

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Camp Schurman and the Emmons Winthrop

The season has come to an end at Camp Schurman for 2022. Visitation has been next to zero for the past few weeks. Access up the Inter glacier is on exposed glacial ice and challenging travel. The Emmons and Winthrop glaciers continue to have several large crevasse systems above the Corridor that continue to thwart any climbing attempts.

Inter Glacier and Ruth Ridge

If you do chose to take and adventure and travel to Camp Schurman this Fall be aware that there are no open toilet facilities, but a Blue Bag barrel does remain available. You may have to clear off a bit of snow to find it.  Also, be aware that the climbing rangers are no longer regularly staffing Camp Schurman.  Be completely self-reliant - any rescue could be hours and even days away!

Climbing and Wilderness permits are still required thru the Fall and Winter for travel on Mount Rainier above 10,000 feet and on its Glaciers. These can still be acquired at the White River Ranger Station in person or via self registration. 

Camp Schurman
Have a great Fall and Winter Season and we look forward to seeing you back at Mount Rainier and Camp Schurman in 2023.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Climber Self-Registration begins soon!

This season sure flew by quickly! Climbing and Wilderness Permits are still required through the fall for traveling on Mount Rainier above 10,000 feet or on glaciers. Self-registration for climbers in Paradise begins Monday September 19th, 2022. There will be self-registration box located outside at the Ranger Station in Paradise. As winter approaches a large tunnel will be put in front of the door. Walk through this tunnel and find the self-registration box with instructions at the end of the walkway. This is open 24/7 for registration, even if no one is staffing it. 

Self Registration is at the Paradise Ranger Station near the center of the photo.

Climbers can still register in-person (which we recommend) in Longmire and White River. Check the park's operating hours and pay special attention to the date at which the operating hours change as we move into winter. The White River Wilderness Information Center will be staffed until around October 12th, 2022. After that date, there will be a self-registration box on the outside of the Wilderness Information Center as well.

There are two things required to climb in the off-season. The first is to pay the online Annual Climber Cost Recovery Fee. The second is to use the self-registration stations at Paradise or White River to fill out your permit. 

Filling out your self-registration permit completely will help any necessary search and rescue efforts - please take the time to get it right! The full list of instructions will be located at both self-registration stations. There will be a sheet you fill out and leave at the ranger station, and a sheet you take with you on your climb and then return to the box at the ranger station when you get back. 

As summer turns to winter, our seasonal staff starts to migrate away from the mountain. High camps will only be staffed very occasionally, search and rescue operations will be delayed, and the park's exclusive use helicopter will be departing the area this coming week. Please keep in mind that during the winters, there aren't rangers actively staffing the high camps to talk about conditions or weather. It is recommended that climbers are prepared to be very self sufficient as any rescue efforts could take days! 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Disapointment Cleaver Update 9/14/22

Camp Muir has been quiet lately with only a few guided groups and independent parties coming through. On the Disappointment Cleaver Route has had large crevasses open up on the upper mountain, making it difficult for ladders to span the gaps. This heavily broken terrain makes for challenging climbing conditions. If you plan to head up the mountain, keep in mind that there are fewer people around during this time of year. Having enough equipment so your team can be self sufficient is vital because any search and rescue efforts could take days!  

A nighttime view from Camp Muir looking down at the Goat Rocks Fire (long exposure)

Lastly, the weather is changing! Washington has had many wildfires in the last few weeks, but the damp weather in the last few days has reduced the smoke. As more precipitation works it's way into the forecast, be wary of rain events with a dropping freezing level. This can cause icy surface conditions and make for dangerous travel conditions. 

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Disappointment Cleaver Update 9/10

The Disappointment Cleaver route has been reestablished with a reroute to the Emmons Shoulder. The route currently has two ladders. One is just above Ingraham Flats and horizontal. The other is at around 12,700' and vertical. All route adjuncts have been changing quickly due to high freezing levels. Assess ladders, hand-lines and any other route adjunct on a use-by-use basis - don't use it if it's not safe! The last major feature on the route is a crevasse at 13,900' that can be crossed via a fin of snow.  

GPS track from 9/8
The summer season is winding down, but the guide services continue to climb and maintain the DC route.  This means there's less people on the route - so you'll have a bit more solitude up on your climb and don't have to worry about bottle-necks, but the route definitely isn't as direct and contains more challenges than earlier in the season.  Make sure to bring your A-Game and see you on the Mountain!

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Disappointment Cleaver Update 8/28

Looking up at the DC from just below Ingraham Flats.

There’s some crisp fall notes in the air this week! A blip of 7000’ freezing levels rolled through and cooled things down.  The route still continues to be in reasonable shape - especially for this time of year! Climbers have been making it to the top with reasonable trip times, mostly due to the direct nature of the route.  Ladders and planks are still in place. The cleaver itself is mostly rock now.  A couple of steep snow fins on the upper mountain and a couple of skeletal glacial ice patches lower down have melted out. Be sure to have the proper mountain boots and crampons for glacial travel.  

Crossing the ladder just before traversing onto the cleaver.

Also, as a reminder, you must do two things before climbing Mount Rainier:

All climbers must pay the fee and each group must have a permit - don’t leave the trailhead without doing both of those things!  While paying the Climbing Fee is pretty straightforward, some of the steps to getting a climbing permit can be a bit confusing, but don’t fret! This late in the season there’s generally plenty of walk-up permits - just come on in and say hi to the rangers and we’ll help you through the process of getting one.  See you on the mountain!