Sunday, September 08, 2013

The Seasons are changing, and so are the routes...

This past week has brought intense thunderstorms, new snowfall, and crisp fall air to Mt. Rainier. With these changes in the weather, we are also seeing changes on some of the routes. See the Disappointment Cleaver page for information on the latest developements there. The upcoming week looks like it holds beautiful weather, so come on up to Mount Rainier National Park and enjoy the stunning scenery, the wildflowers, and the melted out hiking trails before fall truly takes hold!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Labor Day Sun!

After a week of some pretty stormy weather up here on Rainier the sun is back out and a fresh coat of snow can be seen covering the upper mountain. Today and tomorrow are shaping up to be a great couple of days. The Emmons route is still in great late season shape and the DC is undergoing some changes, making the route a bit more difficult but motivated climbers could still find some great adventures by climbing out of Muir. We even have a very motivated lady who is currently at Muir with skis and planning on having a nice (possibly bumpy) Labor Day ski down the snowfield.

Check in with rangers at the CIC or high camps for the latest conditions. Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Crater Explorations

Late July brought a climbing team to Mount Rainier that was looking to do something a little bit different. Their mission was to explore the summit crater and it's ice caves, with the Kautz Glacier as their route of access. By the looks of their pictures it looks like they succeeded, big is the only way to look at them. 

No significant in-depth exploration or research of the crater caves has been done since Willian Lokey in 1971 and 1972. William Lokey will be presenting about "Project Crater" and his crater explorations at the Paradise Inn Saturday, August 17th starting at 9:00 PM! This event is free however Park Admission is still required.

From Xavier:
"The climb went great. We spent 24th on the summit which was probably the hardest part of the whole climb. You know... altitude."

 "The caves are amazing. We didn't get much time in them as everybody was feeling a bit altitude sick + cold and tired but I got some good shots nonetheless. See below. I would love to spend more time up there and document the phenomenon more thoroughly."

"Ice caves in crater, wicked!"

The summit craters and steam vents have provided mystery and refuge to climbers since the early days of climbing Rainier. For more information check out Dee Molenaar's classic The Challenge of Rainier. 


Thursday, August 01, 2013

August Changes

After a few weeks of nothing but sun we are starting to see a few clouds and showers in the forecast. It's pretty normal to get more thunderstorm activity and the occasional fall/winter storm rolling back through in August even though there will be many more beautiful days to be had. High camps will most likely continue to be very busy places on the weekends while weekday visitation will start to decrease.

The DC is still seeing large numbers of climbers and with the current condition of the route going through a bottleneck area, wait times have been long especially on more crowded days. Climbers should note this when planning their trip (see the DC conditions page for further info). The Emmons route on the other hand is in stellar condition with almost no bottleneck areas and if you are slowed or blocked by another party there are plenty of variations available to take. The take home here is if you want a less crowded Rainier climb come mid-week and/or choose any route other than the DC.

See you on the mountain.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Busy Busy

Like the previous post stated, it's fully summer. Still. The sun has been out consistently during normal daylight hours and the stars have been seen most of the other time. The cloudy marine layer that covered the Puget Sound area most mornings never even made it close to the park boundary. Summertime and the living is easy!

Saturday Morning, Camp Schurman
The scene up here on Rainier the past couple of weeks has been really busy with climbers making many successful ascents of many routes. The Emmons and the DC are still both in great shape. The Emmons is currently the more direct route of the two, offering stellar glacier climbing from Schurman to the summit. Many people have also been climbing the Kautz, encountering moderate and fun conditions in the ice chutes and moderate glacier travel above. We've even gotten a few reports in from climbers who have made recent ascents of the Tahoma, Sunset Ridge, Ptarmigan Ridge and Mowich Face. The approaches on these more remote west side routes are a bit long and involve more encounters with scree and talus this time of year, but the climbing conditions above 9,000' remain great.

Sunset Ridge,  photo by Paul Cook
The past couple of weeks we have seen what appears to be an increase in the number of climbing parties having mishaps and/or full on accidents. We as the climbing rangers just want to remind everyone to stay vigilant, know and respect their abilities, stay aware of current conditions, and be ready and prepared to deal with whatever emergency may arise on your own. Help is definitely out there for people if it is needed, but that help might be a long way off which means self rescue is always required to some level.

Stay Safe. Climb Hard.

Friday, June 21, 2013

_____________________Nick Hall______________________

It's been one long year since we lost you. 
We won't ever forget your friendship or your style.
Thanks for the inspiration to do more, do it better. 
The mountains are still out there. 
We're still climbing. 
Miss you a ton. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Mountain Getting Climbed

We just got through a really busy weekend here at Mt. Rainier and thoroughly enjoyed all the people we met. Seems like everyone was in really high spirits. Don't know if it was the $20.00 people saved at the gate due to the fee free weekend, the great weather we had despite a few gusts of high winds, the great climbing and skiing conditions, or just the joy of being on a really cool mountain, but whatever the reason we are glad you enjoyed your time spent in the park.

Check out new route updates on the DC, Gib Ledges, Liberty Ridge and more on our conditions page. The forecast for the next few days looks like it's going to be COLD again with a few showers, but the weekend looks like it should be fairly pleasant, so come on up and enjoy!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Weekend Update

After the past few weeks of stormy weather, the skies have cleared and there is a bunch of new snow on the mountain. During the last storm cycle, waist deep snow drifts were being reported with consistent winds in the 40 mph range. There were significant avalanche hazards with point release and slab avalanches occurring naturally as well as a few that were skier triggered. Thankfully no one was buried or injured. The Nisqually basin especially saw a considerable amount of activity with the rapid warming that came after the storms.

The past week has seen climbing parties being stymied by wintry conditions and increased avalanche potential, but that is changing with more stable weather and snow conditions. The past couple of days have seen successful ascents of the DC, Gib Ledges, Liberty Ridge, the Emmons and more (we'll be putting up info as we get it from some of the more remote areas).

Point release avalanches, rising freezing levels and unsupported snow bridges are still a concern but should not keep interested climbers away. With the recent new snow and rising temperatures, be on the look out for loose snow and rock above you and unsuspecting climbers below. Climbing early and being off route before the solar radiation impacts the snow is critical right now but conditions overnight and early morning could be great for climbing.

Potential hazards aside, its going to a beautiful week, so enjoy the warm weather out there and climb safe!

Monday, June 03, 2013

Speed on Skis

Eric and Nick on the summit in 3h 37min.So a couple of our rangers ran into some guys going for a speed record on the summit last week, they were able to get a brief conversation and snap a photo of them before they took off downhill. According to their clocks they made it from Paradise to the summit and back to Paradise in 4 hours and 19 minutes...which if you aren't familiar with that route means they went really really fast! Check out their full story here. There have been a number of speed ascents over the years but as far as we know Nick and Eric were the first to do it with skis.

It's looking like we are at the start of a spell of nice weather. Lots of fresh snow on the mountain should make for some great climbing and skiing conditions, especially if you hit it early before the sun turns everything to mid-day glop. Visit our route conditions page for recent conditions reports and thanks to Dmitry Shapovalov for a great report of their recent climb of Success Cleaver.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Climbers Climbin'

So it seems like we are in the middle of an extraordinary stretch of good weather for late April in the PNW. Some motivated people have been making the best of it and getting out for some really fun looking climbs. Rangers have been mostly in pre-season training and prep work so thanks to those who sent in some conditions updates and photos, we will continue to live vicariously through your reports until we hit the mountain full time in a couple of weeks. Check out recent beta on the Ingraham Direct, Fuhrer Finger, and Muir Snowfield posted in our conditions page.

Climber on the Fuhrer Finger - Photo by the Next Adventure crew

If you are heading up for any overnight stays on the mountain make sure you register for a permit. Self registration is still available all hours at the Paradise Old Station but the Climbing Information Center will be open this coming weekend May 4th and 5th from 8:00am to 3:00pm. Stop by to say hello, talk to a ranger and get any last minute info you need for your trip. Also remember if you are parking overnight at Paradise the overnight parking is in the lower parking lot. Please follow the signs to keep your car and wallet out of trouble.

For those of you wanting to access other areas of the park, it looks like Cayuse Pass (SR 410/123) will be opening this Friday May 3. Chinook pass is still a few weeks out so don't try to go to Yakima this way yet. The road to WR campground is still closed to vehicles but should be mostly clear for those who want to bicycle in for an Emmons climb. 

For those of you who want to know if its sunny at 10,000' the Muir webcam is back in operation!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

High Pressure!

Hope everyone has been enjoying the sun. We would love to get some reports or photos of people's climbs if they would like to share. Climb safe.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Congrats Sally!

We just want to send a "Big Ups" to Sally Jewell for her recent confirmation to the office of Secretary of the Interior! Sally is a longtime friend of the Rainier Climbing Rangers.  We wish her all the best in her new job.

Photo courtesy of Biden office

Monday, January 28, 2013

Tahoma Ski

During our recent spell of high pressure a group of local climbers made a rare winter ascent of the Tahoma Glacier and ski descent from the summit. Thanks to Doug Daniell for the report and photos.

I climbed and skied the Tahoma Glacier with a group of four from Seattle on January 19-21. I wanted to share some conditions information and beta for a winter approach from the west side of the mountain. We began our ascent on the 19th from the Westside Road closure near the park entrance. We were able to skin from the car (~2150') although coverage was a few inches at best. We eventually joined Tahoma Creek and except for a few creek crossings found easy travel. Camped to the west of Glacier Island on a calm, mild night. On the 20th we skinned up on firm snow to the glacier, passed a few icefalls on the right, and then traversed left at 9K to a smooth ramp that led to camp at 10K. Enjoyed a beautiful sunset and alpenglow on the slopes above.

Sometime before 5am on the 21st we roped up, dropped down to the north to avoid some looming seracs, and then navigated crevasses and ice debris to the base of Sickle. We decided on this variation to avoid what looked like large swaths of glare ice on the main Tahoma. In the Sickle we found good travel on shallow wind-packed powder and firmer styrofoam, with patches of ice globs especially higher on the route. Beautiful Rainier shadow at sunrise though we remained in the cold ourselves. Brought pickets/screws but none were used. Definitely not a route to tackle with much avy danger - saw lots of evidence of sluffs and maybe a well-weathered crown or two. The rest of the way to the summit was a slog as usual. Great views from Jefferson to Baker, though the Puget Sound was covered in fog and clouds. 

The ski down was a hodgepodge of snow conditions - terrible off the summit, some nice smooth patches below Liberty saddle, fun steep skiing through the Sickle, thousands of feet of wind-effect down the glacier, and then occasionally breakable crust down to the creek. Three of us completed the full descent and one had a major binding failure high on the route that entailed lots of walking and some improvised ski-strap solutions to get out by 10pm.

FYI, snowmobiles are allowed from the road closure on 410 to White River Campground, Remember to self-register before your climb or overnight stay whatever your route may be.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Winter on the Snowfield

A strong high pressure system over Mt Rainier led to some incredible weather last week! It felt like summer up at Camp Muir, with clear skies and warm temperatures. Unfortunately the snowfield was hammered by consistent moderate to strong winds, causing significant transport of the relatively dry snow left by the last major storm. The upper snowfield and Cowlitz glacier were laden with heavy sastrugi. and thick sun crusts and ice layers were exposed in many areas, making uphill ski travel difficult at times. The lower portion of the snowfield (below Panorama Point) had heavier snow and was less effected by the wind, and was actually quite enjoyable  to ski. 

Travel to Camp Muir can still be an enjoyable venture, as long as folks bring appropriate equipment to safely deal with the terrain, and are prepared for the harsh weather often encountered during the winter. Ski crampons or a set of light weight boot crampons would have been nice for getting to Camp Muir. If you expect to make use of the public shelter at Camp Muir, be prepared to spend time digging out the doors, as they were nearly completely buried by drifted snow when we arrived. Do not count on other parties to have dug them out recently, and certainly bring at least one sturdy shovel.

In addition to creating heavy sastrugi on the snowfield, the winds and heavy sunlight last week created significant spacial variability in the snowpack around Camp Muir. Some ridgelines had been scoured nearly to the ground, while others had generated large cornices, like those typical of the east side of the snowfield during the winter and spring. A few large wind pillows were noted along the ridgline above Camp Muir heading to the Beehive and Gibralter Rock, whereas other areas of the upper cowlitz were scoured down to last year's snow. We dug a snow pit above Camp Muir, and although we found no major red flags in the snowpack, the huge spacial variability in the area makes it difficult to draw any reliable conclusions about the overall snow stability. If you are going to venture up to Camp Muir and beyond, always get a detailed weather and avalanche forecast before you leave the trailhead, but also know that these forecasts are not an adequate replacement for good observations and decision making. Be prepared to make your own assessments about the safety of the terrain you are traveling in. Oh, and please remember to register for overnight trips so we know you're up there.

Have a great winter, get out and ski, be safe.