Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Muir Snowfield and the Disappointment Cleaver Route

Check out this 2x6 style of crevasse crossing. The image was snapped over the weekend (thankfully the board didn't)... The lumber has since been pulled, so now climbers must find another way around the crevasse. Here's more on the DC... I received a few comments about the ice mass on the Muir Snowfield. Avid Rainier skier Ron Jarvis had this to say,

"When I started playing on Rainier in 1991 there were no dismounts required while skiing from Muir to Pebble in late summer/fall and as I recall that seemed to be the case right up until the last 2 or 3 years (dementia notwithstanding :-) ). I would also add that similar conditions (volume/snow-ice depth) also seem to be the case on the contiguous neighbor to the east, the Paradise Glacier."

Monday, July 10, 2006

Pushing up the bar

So, what will YOU be doing at age 83? If you're Bill Painter, you're still climbing Mount Rainier. Mr. Painter of Richland, WA successfully ascended the Kautz Glacier route this weekend with his family and friends. He described the climb as his "most technical so far," but when I asked how he was feeling afterward, Bill's response was, "I feel fine today, but I sunburnt my lip a little." For training, Bill (a self described "family man") rides his bike at least 100 miles each week and regularly hikes a local hill called Badger Mountain... Actually, he makes that hike quite a bit... 1,502 times to be exact. But most of all, he credits his fitness to a life of hard work. Congratulations, Bill Painter! Are you interested in climbing Ptarmigan Ridge or routes on the Mowich Face?? Make sure you register at the Carbon River Ranger Station. Remember, the Wilkeson Ranger Station is PERMANENTLY CLOSED. A number of teams have been turned around b/c they didn't get permits. See the registration page for specific and helpful information about registering for these routes.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Aerial Mount Rainier, Climbing Route Images

Moving the bear aside... This picture tells a long story. Here is Mount Rainier on May 30, 2006. I was able to capture a few climbing route images during a flight. A series of recent storms dumped a lot of snow on the mountain. In some places, there were reports of 3 feet. There are rumors that more is expected later this week too. Winter is not over... Today, however, climbers contended with blue bird skies and light breezes (and quite a bit of postholing.) The tracks indicated that a few made the summit too! Here, two climbers took on the arduous task of breaking trail up the Emmons Glacier... It didn't appear as if anyone else was on the route either. These climbers are at roughly 11,400 feet, exiting the top of the corridor to the left. Parties were having a hard time making it to Camp Schurman until Sunday, so it's good to see a team getting up the route. This may mark the first successful ascent of the route in 2006. And here is a nice image of the Ingraham Direct and Disappointment Cleaver routes. The green line traced the visible climbing route up the Disappointment Cleaver. Notice how directly it climbs the spin of the cleaver... Nice... More images later, this week. All images by Mike Gauthier

Monday, May 29, 2006

Ursa Americanus at Ingraham Flats

On Saturday, we heard about a black bear near Cathedral Rocks... Today, the person who photographed that bear wrote. More about the climbing bear from David Gutzman of UT.
"We were approaching Ingraham Flats when we heard some rock fall... we looked and saw what we thought was a large, odd shaped rock tumble down a hundred feet onto the glacier. To our surprise the rock got up , shook itself, took one look at us and took off..."
David shot a few images and shared them. Wildlife high on Rainier isn't entirely unheard of, but it's certainly a rare treat to encounter something like a bear at 11,100 feet. David continued, "[The bear] ran full speed uphill (through deep snow) across the... Ingraham and looked like it was heading towards the Emmons Glacier, all the time glancing our way." On the climbing front, the weather finally cleared some today...but more snow is forecasted for the week. Let's see if this snow will settle.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Photos... and the heat wave

We had some aviation training today and along the way, I was able to snap a few images. Here is a north side picture of Liberty and Ptarmigan Ridges. It has been a really hot week on the mountain, and the snow is melting quite rapidly... I'll post more photos later today (when I can get some time to process them.) Photo by Mike Gauthier

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Updated Route Conditions for Mount Rainier

Lots of climbing reports. Here's a scary image of Rainier's north face... A serac falls off the Liberty Cap Glacier down the Liberty Wall. It was a very warm this weekend. Thankfully, most climbers had a great time and there were no accidents... Reports to follow soon (i.e. TONIGHT.) Image by David Gottlieb

Friday, April 21, 2006

Gibraltar Ledges and Ingraham Glacier Direct Route Conditions

Two teams attempted these routes this week. Tuesday at Camp Muir, two climbers departed in the morning hoping to climb the Ingraham Direct. The pair made it to 13K before turning around. They reported knee deep snow the entire way up the Ingraham Glacier. They also reported several crevasse crossings, most of which went smoothly. They stated that the bridges were in good shape and most were easy to cross. That said, one of the pair did take a crevasse fall at 13K... After a day of kicking steps in deep snow, the pair decided to descend after the crevasse fall. Gibraltar Ledges was attempted on Wednesday by a soloist (carrying skis). He reported knee deep snow on the Cowlitz Glacier up to the beginning of the ledges. The snow on the Cowlitz was described as powdery, underneath a crust of varying thickness, but "thin" overall. On the ledges, the climber experienced a lot of soft, sugary snow... Sometimes even waist deep. It took over 2.5 hours to traverse and climb the ledges. After pushing through what you get when you "open a bag of cane sugar," upward progress seemed futile. He turned around at 12,500 feet (about 3/4 of the way up the chute). It took over an hour to descend the ledges, as the footing was still quite challenging. There is a boot path up the Muir Snowfield. The weather is supposed to be excellent this weekend. Photo by Mike Gauthier, climber ascending Gib Ledges before the traverse and chute.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Liberty Ridge - Spring Ascent

A team of 3 Midwest climbers set their sites on Liberty Ridge last week... and for the second reported time in 2006, climbers made it again to the summit of Rainier. Erik Beeler, Neal Mueller and Isaac Will pushed through deep snow, high winds, whiteouts, steep ice, 5th class rock and even a moonlit night so that they could top out of Mount Rainier's classic of line. The wintry conditions took more out of the team than expected. In particular, areas of really deep snow became troubling and time consuming. They had intended to spend three nights on route, but needed FIVE and were forced to bivy near 13,000 feet. In this close up image of the upper route, green dots represent the high camps and bivies and the blue sections represent areas of difficulty or belays. It's interesting to note that the team took the far right variation out of Thumb Rock. Neal made it clear that "some deep snow" was not going to thwart their summit efforts. A mix of Midwest pride and fortitude pushed the men through the exhausting conditions. And yes, they did wonder about avalanches... They started late the 1st day and spent the night along the trail in the snow. The 2nd night found them near the access to the Carbon, 7,200 feet. It was up to Thumb Rock for the 3rd and 4th night. Isaac stated that the extra night was needed because,
"As soon as we started to set up camp, my body started to let me know exactly what I had done to it... I threw up before I got in the tent, and... three more times before I could get some Power Gels and water to stay down. I didn't have a headache and I was not concerned it was AMS. The weather was not perfect and when we woke up at 0500. I said I could use another day to recover. They all agreed a rest day was in order so we stayed in the tent all day long."
After a recovery, the team climbed a major portion of the upper route. The 5th night was pitched at a bivy site above 13,000 feet. At that camp, Issac described setting anchors into the rock for fear of either being blown or avalanched off the mountain. Thankfully, neither happened. They belayed two pitches of alpine ice (one was described as 15 fee of WI 4) to reach Liberty Cap. After finding a few crevasses the hard way between Liberty Cap and the summit, the team cautiously descended to Camp Schurman. They spent a final night in the hut, but only after digging it out. Somehow, the door had blown open during the winter and for the most part, the hut was filed with snow... The team intends to post a trip report on summitpost and cascadeclimbers. You can also find information on Neal Mueller's website. Successfully climbing Liberty Ridge is quite an achievement this time of year, congratulations and thanks for your help digging out the Camp Schurman hut! Also, thanks to Pandora for sharing her image here.

Liberty Ridge Climb in April

Three climbers from MN climbed Liberty Ridge this week. I spoke with the team and have the initial report. More details later today. This photo of Liberty Ridge was taken a few years ago during the month of May. Photo by Mike Gauthier

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Abandoned Gear

In the 05/06 winter, three separate climbing teams reported being caught in significant storms. Two were below Camp Muir, and one was higher on the Ingraham Glacier. While getting lost or pinned down in a storm on Mount Rainier isn't that unusual given the time of year, it was interesting to note that all three teams retreated to snowcaves. Pure and simple, shovels are mandatory. And that means one for each person. One team said that they broke three of their shovels while digging. Thankfully, there were four of them! These teams were helped by their size; two were 4-person, one was 5. It’s a lot easier to pull through a storm with extra people around. And as the storms relented, each team made their way back to Paradise without assistance, but not without some cost. Two of the teams abandoned a significant amount of equipment; gear such as tents, bags, stoves and pads. Each stated that they could not retrieve all of the equipment because of the intensity of the storm and snow accumulation. Tents, for example, were nearly impossible to dig out. To them, it seemed safer to retreat; this is a tough decision to make. It can’t be overstated, winter AND spring storms can be particularly fierce on Mount Rainier. If you’re pinned down and must abandon camp (high winds, snowfall, avalanche/icefall exposure), do all you can to retrieve at least your stove, pad, clothing and bag. One tip is to pack your pack before exiting the tent. Though a rapid exodus to Paradise or Camp Muir may seem appealing given the current circumstances, it has also led to many notable accidents and fatalities. Caught on the mountain with only a shovel and few odds and ends is a downright brutal experience to live through. Photo by Mike Gauthier

Monday, February 27, 2006

Sunset Amphitheater

The Headwall Couloir... A team of five climbers made a strong attempt on this remote and difficult route a few weeks ago. Here are a few images from one member's website; I'll attempt to summarize the trip. They decided not to post a report, but did share a few details with me. The team first noticed that a major section of the Tahoma Creek Trail was destroyed below the suspension bridge/Wonderland Trail. Last fall, glacier outbursts from a heavy rain storm took out some of the westside road and Tahoma Creek Trail. The trail washout, in particular, was rather amazing. The original trail abruptly disappears into a creek bed of gravel, rock and boulders. What was once an old growth forest, moss, downed trees, dense vegetation, is now a creek bed with gigantic trees. The forest floor is buried. In all, about 1/2 mile of the trail is wiped out. As for the climbing route... The team reported a few problem, the first significant one being a dropped set of tent poles. This would make things difficult later on. Also, and maybe more importantly, they selected a route up St. Andrews Rock that cost them a day of travel... This exposure left them more vulnerable to the changing weather. And that's what happened, wind, snow, /12 a tent, and a snow shelter... It made for an interesting night. After losing the effectiveness of one tent, and a day of travel, the team reluctantly retreated with plans of returning. Despite not summiting, they felt the route was a go! Here is a closer picture of the Amphitheater and upper Puyallup Glacier. For more information, see: a listing of climbs here. These photos are courtesy of Alexandre Mineev

Monday, February 20, 2006

Cold Snap and Frozen Waterfalls

The mountain sustained several days of sub-freezing temperatures between Feb 16th-20th and the trend is expected to continue for the next six days. During that time numerous frozen waterfalls formed along the Nisqually-Paradise Road. Here are a few images... The approach is rather short, and the ice seems to be getting thicker each day. It was cold and blustery Friday and Saturday, particularly on the Muir Snowfield. I ran into a number of parties that turned back from their Camp Muir and/or summit plans because of the winds and temperatures. A few hardy groups did make it to Camp Muir on Saturday night, but those east winds and cold temps intensified with elevation and in the end, most parties lost their summit steam. And rightfully so, I recorded -7° F and a steady 20-25 MPH wind at Camp Muir. On Feb 10/11th, Ted cleared a mountain of snow at Camp Muir. Thankfully, his handy work was still intact, as access to the Public Shelter, restroom, and emergency radio remained easy.

Friday, February 17, 2006


It dropped to -1°F with 50+ MPH gusts at Paradise last night. The icicles on my house are growing, and I suspect the waterfalls are freezing. If this cold snap keeps up, there will be some ice climbing in the park. Probably in the usual spots above the Nisqually Bridge.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

More Nisqually Icecliff

Here is another image of the upper Nisqually Glacier, with the route lines drawn. The BLUE represents the line Hannah climbed on the Nisqually Icecliff. The PURPLE is a variation on the Nisqually Cleaver, and the GREEN is the standard Nisqually Cleaver Route. Photo by Gauthier, Feb 12th, 2006.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Feb 2nd conditions

General Information: There is over 180 inches of snow on the ground at Paradise (5,420 feet.) Since December 21st, it has rained or snow almost every day and Paradise has received over 500 inches of snow for the year (which begins on July 1st.) A series of winter storms has dominated the region and is still depositing a great deal of precipitation on the mountain. There have no reported successful ascents on the upper mountain. All backcountry travelers should expect, and prepare for, fierce and adverse weather and climbing conditions. Conditions may include high winds, heavy precipitation, low visibility, avalanche, difficult route finding and sub freezing temperatures. General Climbing Conditions: At this time, we have no new or current information about the climbing routes or the Muir Snowfield. One team attempted to reach Camp Muir on 1-9-05, but snow caved instead on the Muir Snowfield. The weather was so fierce, the team abandoned their gear and navigated through whiteout and heavy snowfall back to Paradise. Another four person team had a similar experience on Jan 15th and 16th; they too were forced to make an emergency snowcave (but were able to retrieve their gear.) There was brief clearing on January 23rd and 24th. During that time, a team did stay at Camp Muir and reported that the public shelter was quite accessible. Muir Snowfield: The trail is 100% snow covered and there is no established boot path due to a significant of snow and rain. Gibraltar Chute: A team summited via this route on December 17th. A significant amount of ice-debris from the Nisqually Ice Cliff had to be crossed in order to reach the Chute; otherwise, the approach was straightforward. Excellent climbing conditions were found in the Chute itself - firm/icy snow with good crampon-ing allowed for quick progress. Ice coverage in the hourglass near 11,800 feet was thin. The ascent was direct from top of the Gibraltar Rock to the summit was direct. The team descended Gibraltar Ledges and found them to be mostly melted. On Dec 11th, teams of climbers attempted both the Gibraltar Ledges and Ingraham Direct. Neither summited; both were turned back due to late morning starts, icy conditions, and broken mountaineering terrain that slowed the ascent. At that time, there was a fair amount of snow below 7,000 feet however the upper mountain looked surprisingly thin. As an example, many of the rocks along the Cowlitz Cleaver, Cadaver and Cathedral Gaps are still exposed (this is not the case now.) Both teams reported a fall into thinly veiled crevasses and each party felt they could have made the summit if they had left earlier and allowed more time for circuitous route finding. At this time, we have no reports for the Disappointment Cleaver route.