Friday, August 29, 2014

Heads Up Regarding Late Season Hazards

Icy area
Fall is arriving swiftly with changing weather and variable visibility.

Please use caution and come prepared for your visit. The fall weather can change rapidly from sunshine to clouds, fog and even snow. Expect decreased visibility conditions.

In some places the glorious sunshine of the summer has finally melted down to the ice of the Muir Snow Field. Be aware of firm and slippery ice in some places. Crampons or other traction devices are still optional at this time but may come in handy on the upper section depending on your comfort and skill level.

Weak/false bridge across crevasse.


You don't want to go there.

As of this posting none of the crevasses observed were wider than ~18" and were easily stepped over. Note that 18" is still large enough for some people to fall into. By crevasse standards 18" is small but it is big enough to bite and cause serious harm or worse.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Mountain Ambassador Extraordinaire

Early in August - on the fifth - we remembered our partner on the mountain, colleague, and friend, Ted Cox.  Ted passed away two years ago, but still seems to be present in our lives everyday at high camp.  He worked at Camp Muir for about a decade doing most everything: fixing doors on huts, installing new solar toilets, painting and weather proofing the structures, helping climbers with broken crampons, hauling down garbage left in the public shelter, hauling up medical kit supplies, and assisting the rangers with search and rescues. These were but a few of his skills. Where Ted stood far above the rest of us was in his extraordinary willingness to befriend anyone who ventured over to say hello. "Welcome to Camp Schurman" he would say as someone walked out of the clouds into Muir.  The ruse never lasted long, but reminded everyone that everything didn't have to be so serious.

Ted brought a mix of compassion, thoughtfulness, humor, competence, and sense of place to Camp Muir.  He knew exactly the measure of the mountain with respect to the cosmos, and kept others informed of it with his sharp wit and smile.  Ted summitted Mount Rainier, but he valued brotherhood and the journey more than any summit.  He'd see folks jockeying to get in front of or behind other rope teams; frustrated from not summitting; nervous about late starts. Ted would try to tell them it wasn't about bagging the peak.  There's always a taller peak - some climbed, like Everest (29,029 ft) and some unclimbed, like Olympus Mons (69,649 ft) - but enjoying the time on the mountain and the people you're around is most important.

In that spirit we remind folks that next time they're waiting for a slow climber on a ladder, or behind a rope team taking a photo, or waiting at a bottleneck on a popular route; to offer a smile, some spare water or snacks, even offer to take a photo.  We're stoked to see so many folks up climbing and having great adventures together.  See you on the glaciers!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Summertime's Back

Warm weather around Mount Rainier has been creating some pretty large electrical storms near the mountain.  Spectacular to see from afar, but a bit unnerving to be near - especially if there's nothing else around that's taller than you!  Safety around electrical storms is all about minimizing the chances of getting hit.  Put the odds in your favor by avoiding any climb that puts you near a storm, staying near depressions and away from ridge tops, and crouch with your feet close together if the storm is unavoidable.  Definitely don't climb up into a storm - it's generally not fun.

Also - a heads up: for those of you planning to arrive in the wee hours or depart late this next week, Monday through Wednesday, August 4, 5, and 6 the Nisqually Road will be CLOSED TO ALL TRAFFIC between the Westside Road and Longmire between  the hours of 9:30 pm & 4:30 am.  This is the main road into the park from Seattle and Portland.  Climbers heading into or out of the Paradise area during these nights will need to use Stevens Canyon Road.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mid-July Update

Despite the recent heat and associated melt-off, routes are holding strong around the mountain! Some areas are definitely starting to become more barren of snow, but that hasn't stopped motivated climbers from successful outings on Ptarmigan, Mowich, and the Tahoma to name a few. The DC and Emmons are still in great shape and seeing lots of traffic, especially on weekends. Being organized when you show up at the ranger station to get your passes and permit helps a ton in making that part go fast! Have your group together, information (car license!) accessible, and your climbing pass or payment ready. 

Tahoma Glacier - Photo by Tim Hale
There is still lots of road construction happening between the Nisqually entrance and Longmire so be prepared to have a delay if you are driving through that area. There is construction and scheduled shutdowns on 410 near Chinook pass (check WSDOT for latest). Some of the lower Paradise trails are receiving some much needed resurfacing and portions of the trails will be closed weekends for the next couple of weeks. There are many easy alternate routes through the Paradise meadows, so this should not delay anyone too much.

Please be extra vigilant about trash and blue bags. This is the time of year rangers are picking up more garbage and human waste from all over the mountain. If you bring it up on the mountain it is your responsibility to take it off. This includes all uneaten food and unburned fuel. All this stuff becomes garbage no one uses and rangers end up packing it down for you, which is bad form on the part of whoever left it. Even worse form is leaving a huge poo right beside camp or the climbing route. People don't want to walk by that and rangers sure would rather not pick it up. It always amazes us how many people leave their poo for us to pick up, please be a better steward of this mountain than those people. Thanks to everyone that has helped us clean up areas and taken down trash that is not theirs, your help does not go unnoticed! 

No major accidents on the mountain recently either. Keep on staying safe, and like always have fun!

Monday, July 07, 2014

Heat Wave

Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend. Even though there were some steady winds up high many people got up and had successful summit bids. Routes all over the mountain are being climbed and reports seem to be that things are staying in good shape! Check out new reports on Mowich Face, Ptarmigan Ridge, the Disappointment Cleaver and the Emmons/Winthrop.

The upcoming days are going to be seriously HOT. Climb early (teams are stoked to reach the summit before 8:00 AM)  or late (as soon as the snow firms up at night) to avoid sloppy snow, postholing, increased icefall and rockfall, sunburns, dehydration, sunstroke and photokeratitis. Snow surfaces should refreeze nicely with the clear nights, but will rewarm and soften rapidly when the sun comes up.

Stay safe out there.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Early June Update

Mowich Headwall
This upcoming weekend looks to be a sunny one! Warm but not too warm temperatures should also prevail making for some potentially great climbing conditions. We have started seeing the summer surge of climbers here on Rainier. Weekends at popular spots (Muir and Schurman) have been crowded and lots of people are successfully reaching Columbia Crest (aka the summit).

We've recently crunched some numbers for you folks who are interested in such things and found this: The six year average of registered climbers between January 1 and June 1 is 1,160 and this year during that same time period we have had over 2,000 climbers register. It's hard to tell if this trend will continue through the season but we are happy to see so many folks out enjoying the alpine! Usually somewhere between 10,000 and 11,000 people register to climb Rainier annually, so anyway you look at it the majority of climbing this year is still to come. Also thanks for registering and getting permits. Not only are you following the law, but you are also helping yourself out tremendously in the event of an emergency. The permit system is how we track climbers, figure out if you are overdue, who your emergency contacts are, cell numbers, itinerary, supplies, gear you have, etc. This is very valuable information. One of the first things rangers do if we get any sort of hint that a group might be in trouble is look at their climbing registration. It's Important!

We are playing catch up a little with some of our route updates, but there are now current photos of almost all routes on our conditions page. Climbers rangers have done very thorough updates for the Emmons/Winthrop and Liberty Ridge routes. Stay tuned for updates on the DC (It's great right now). Coverage seems to still be good on all routes and people have definitely been taking advantage. Please be safe out there. Take your time, get good info, watch the weather. Know your and your partners ability. Climb Safe!

Monday, June 02, 2014

To All:

Liberty Ridge
Many of you have now heard about the accident on Liberty Ridge late last week that took the lives of six climbers. This accident is not only unprecedented in size (the biggest of its kind in over 30 years) but also hits close to home, as two well known guides were lost along with their four clients. Our sympathies go out to all the friends and families of the climbers involved in this accident.

To our friends at AAI and across the larger guiding world, thank you for all you do in the mountains. By leading people, who might otherwise never get to visit these beautiful and wild places into them, you provide a view of life and of the world that is hard to equal. We are constantly impressed by the professionalism you show in your work and by the support many of you have provided to us climbing rangers over the years. We know we'll see you in the mountains again, because those are the places we all feel most alive.

This accident is a stark reminder of the inherent hazards that come with climbing. Our community of climbers is a small one and that becomes all too clear in tragedies such as this. Keep reaching for higher heights. Safe travels to wherever those heights lead you.

For further reading here are a couple of well written pieces. National Geographic Daily News & Seattle Times

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Memorial Day

Thanks to all the Military folks out there for your service. We couldn't do our job effectively without the support of the 214th GSAB out of Joint Base Lewis McChord. Their SAR Chinooks and crews have been giving us unparalleled support for many years. Big Thanks.

Keep an eye on road openings and closures, especially on the east side of the park.  Downed trees, stormy weather, and lingering snowpack have impacted some of the opening dates.  Both Chinook and Cayuse Passes are open (awesome!).  The road to White River Campground is still closed for this holiday weekend, but cars are allowed to park at the White River Ranger Station.  Climbers can approach climbs starting there for the holiday weekend (adds four miles to the approach).  Check out the Park Access link above and click the links on the right hand side for the most up-to-date info.

Hope everyone will have a fun and safe holiday weekend!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

It's Very Warm. Heads Up.

Ingraham Glacier & Disappointment Cleaver 
The Northwest is going to get a blast of summertime over the next few days. Temperatures are going to be hot. Seattle will be in the 80's and freezing levels in the mountains are going to be hovering around 12,000' until the weekend. The Northwest Avalanche Center has issued a special advisory through Thursday for our area. Please read this before venturing into the backcountry in the coming days. Many wet loose avalanches have been observed on steep slopes around Rainier along with a few moderate sized slabs. Avalanches can be seen  high on the Kautz above the ice chute and most likely are occurring in other high elevation spots around Rainier. A recent pit profile from the Ingraham can be found on our weather and snow page.

The next few days are going to be beautiful and great for getting outside but be wise. Climb early before the sun is up and be back in camp before the heat of the day takes real effect. Travel in all snow covered areas during the daytime will be strenuous. Skis or snowshoes will be necessary if you plan to make any progress. The snow surface should be refreezing fairly well overnight making late night and early morning travel much more pleasant. PLUS it's pretty much a full moon these days and with all the new snow the mountain will be lit up at night by moonbeams.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Big Avalanches on the Nisqually (Rock AND Snow)

Late in February, we received word from the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network and the University of Washington that there had been a noticable surface seismic event (not an earthquake) that appeared to be near the top of the Nisqually Cleaver.  You may recall that in the summer of 2012, a large portion of the Nisqually Cleaver gave way at about 12,000 feet and tumbled down to about 8000 feet on the Nisqually Glacier.  This wasn't as big, but nevertheless the PNSN and the UW gave us a heads up and asked if anyone had seen anything. 

You can see the brownish stain on the surface of the glacier below the Nisqually Cleaver.  This is exactly where the large rock avalanche occurred in 2012. However, what was more noticeable was a snow avalanche that occurred from the 11,500 foot level on the Nisqually Icefall and traveled all the way down to the terminus of the Nisqually Glacier.  I have seen avalanche debris on the Nisqually down to about 6500 feet before, but never down to the terminus!

The following images were taken on Friday February 28th from the Muir Snowfield:

Snow in Red. Rock in Blue.
Debris approaching terminus of Nisqually

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Chad Kellogg

Sad news from Patagonia. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to everyone who knew Chad and are currently dealing with the tragic news.

Chad left a huge mark here at Rainier and his legacy and accomplishments will not be forgotten.