Friday, December 18, 2015

Winter Wonderland

The snow is really stacking up out there right now! With the kids on holiday break from school, it's a great time to come for a winter visit at Mt. Rainier.

Over the past week or so the park has been receiving almost daily doses of snow and winter storms, making for excellent skiing and snowshoeing opportunities. With that said, the new snow isn't all fun and games. Winter brings new challenges for the back country enthusiast, such as cold and windy weather and the potential for avalanches.

A couple climbing rangers are back on duty and got out to dig an avalanche data pit today. See the photo to the right. While the pit profile in and of itself may not be too scary, rangers found several layers of concern in the snowpack. Heavy snowfall turned to rain briefly yesterday afternoon, creating a crust on the surface, this event was followed with strong winds and more snow. This crust was providing a potential sliding surface for all the new snow on top of it. Rangers also noted substantial wind loading on east and north facing aspects, avoid avalanche terrain at this aspect until things settle down. A crust was also still present from the Thanksgiving cold spell, which provides a deep sliding surface. The Thanksgiving crust appears to be less and less of an issue as the snowpack piles up. What does all of this mean? Well, check the avalanche forecast provided by the Northwest Avalanche Center as well as a weather forecast before venturing to the mountain. Also bring an avalanche beacon, shovel, and probe along with the knowledge of how to use them. As always, use caution when traveling in the back country, and come prepared for any and all weather conditions.

Come enjoy our winter wonderland, and venture out for a ski! If you are planning on a climb, or trip to Muir, the self registration kiosk is out and stocked in Paradise, in front of the Old Station. The Jackson Visitor Center will be open for weekends and holidays as well.

Happy Holidays from the Mt. Rainier Climbing Rangers!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Dry and Cold

The weather has been incredibly dry after a series of big wet storms in early November.  More moisture is predicted later this week into early December.  Keep an eye on the freezing levels to see where snow will be accumulating.  The Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC) has a great website that's full of resources for climbers and skiers.  You'll find regional avalanche forecasts and links to different weather stations (telemetry sites) around the state.  Determining conditions for a climb or ski in different parts of the park is best done by examining data from stations near your route. 

Climbers and skiers should keep in mind that response time to any backcountry incident will be slower than in the summer.  Make sure to have a self-rescue plan (sled? overnight gear?) so that a small incident does not become a tragic situation.

Self-registration for climbers is available at the small Paradise Ranger Station.  There's a kiosk right inside the grey porch awning.  Enjoy the holiday season!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Sunny Winter Skiing

Skiers have been out making tracks.  Snow has thinly covered most of the Paradise Meadows and a couple of sunny days have made backcountry skiing feasible.  Weather patterns have been unstable over the past month and will probably continue to be variable.  Severe storms have blown through the park without much warning.  Make sure to have a contingency plan if poor weather leaves you stranded!  Check the NWAC Website and look at the "Mount Rainier Area" telemetry sites for the latest conditions.  The snow pack at Paradise looks to be holding on for the duration of the winter.  The Tatoosh Range still looks rocky with lots of slide alder sticking up.  Use caution while backcountry skiing this time of year - or just wait till the mountain gets a solid snow base.  Be especially cautious skiing in thinly covered areas with low visibility.

Road access to Paradise is limited to the daytime.  There's a gate at Longmire that is open ideally from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  Extreme weather events and high avalanche danger can prevent the road from opening.  The park is tweeting out road daily opening/closing updates @MountRainierNPS.  Check out the widget in the sidebar to the right for the latest tweet!  Also, look to previous posts for off-season climbing information.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Come visit your park in its fall glory!

Fall is here and it’s time to start tuning up the skis in hopes of snow! The lower slopes are turning bright red with fall colors, and the cyclic storm patterns are bringing the possibility of fresh snow to the Muir snowfield for those keen to ski.

To NPS climbing rangers, the snowfall means we have come full circle since the spring and it is time for most of us to leave until next season. We've wrapped up our upper mountain operations, which might play into your risk-management decisions, as search and rescue on the mountain will be much more limited than in the summer. The guide services are done for the season as well, and have removed their ladders and fixed lines, so there have been very few climbers on the upper mountain.

Climbers and skiers need to be aware that conditions change extremely rapidly, and increased snowfall and increased wind transport above high camps will make for variable avalanche conditions. We highly advise anyone contemplating climbing to be well prepared for these conditions (transceiver, probe, and shovel). Also keep in mind that due to late season conditions, most glaciers are heavily featured with very thin snow bridges and complex terrain. With the recent snow, many of these poorly-bridged crevasses may now be less obvious.

Considering coming up for a climb or ski? Please check out some of the helpful links below:

First, access can be tricky - here's the latest alert from the park website.

The road from the Nisqually entrance to Paradise is the only road that will remain plowed during the winter months. All other park roads will be closed after the first major snows and remain closed until spring. The Paradise area receives huge amounts of snow each winter and the road up to it is the highest elevation road kept opened in the Cascades during winter. The parks plow operators work hard in a tough area. Please be aware that during big storms the road crews will need additional time to get the roads clear for travel. Check out the park page for specific information on road status and winter operations. All vehicles are required to carry chains during the winter.

Second, check the weather! Not just the day of your adventure, but check out the trends too.

The weather over the next six months or so will be mostly inhospitable on the upper mountain, but there will also be stretches of good weather that will allow for summit bids. Even in relatively good weather do not underestimate the intensity of a winter ascent on Rainier and plan ahead accordingly. Consult weather forecasts, avalanche forecasts and warnings, and be very sure of your mountaineering skills. Look at the conditions page on this blog for winter-specific information on the places you want to visit or routes you want to climb. Please note that while it is possible this blog will be updated during the winter, updates will be few and far between.

And, finally, when you come up to visit, make sure to stop by and give us a shout. If you do come up for a winter climb, we still need you to register and get a permit and a climbing pass. This is important because it will help rangers immensely if for some reason you require outside assistance during your climb.

The Ranger station in Longmire is open daily. On weekends and holidays the Jackson Visitor Center (JVC) is open. Climbers and overnight hikers must register in person with a ranger or at the self-registration kiosk at the Paradise Old Station. Click here for hours and locations.

We hope you had an excellent summer and look forward to skiing with you this winter!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Cold Blustery Weather is Upon Us

Climbers at Camp Muir braving an August alpine storm
that produced about two inches of fresh snow.
As we progress into mid August, the warm beach weather we are so used to is now transitioning into more of what you see in the picture to the left.  This does not mean the climbing season is over of that the warm weather has come to an end.  It just acts as a reminder that we are operating in a changing environment and that we have to be prepared for changing weather and upper mountain conditions.  If you are on the fence about packing that extra layer or the four season tent verse the three season, keep in mind that the fall weather is upon us.  If you were to get caught out in a storm, that extra layer might end up doing you some good.

The well traveled routes on the upper mountain are still holding up, but travel carefully and err on the side of caution when warm weather persists and you are faced with crevasse crossings or melting out bridges.  Pickets are highly recommended for each member of the climbing party in case someone were to take a plunge.  Keep in mind that as the season progresses, the amount of climbing parties is decreasing, so don't expect or plan on other climbing parties to be there to help if an incident were to occur.

With all the low pressure, and the in and out alpine storms, comes clear skies above the marine layer, so come on out and enjoy some fresh alpine air with minimal forest fire smoke.

Safe climbing!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

General Mountain News

Foxes have been spotted slinking around Camp Muir. Keep your food storage scene tight. Use the provided buckets or store food in the public shelter.

Please be aware of extremely hazardous and climbing difficult conditions on Liberty Ridge. There have been several reported near misses with rock and ice fall. Climb at your own risk.

With the recent heat things around here are melting rapidly, watch out for rock fall and weak bridges.Make sure you bring adequate hydration and sun protection.

Everything that comes to the mountain with you should leave the mountain with you. Please no trash or extras in the camp toilets or public shelter.

Last of all don't forget to stop to enjoy the views and smell the wildflowers!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Welcome 5-Hotel-Xray!

Please join us in welcoming 5-Hotel-Xray of Helicopter Express to Mount Rainier National Park. Helicopter Express, Inc. was recently awarded our Pacific Northwest NPS 120-day exclusive use contract for a high performance small helicopter.

N25HX, is an A-Star B3, arguably the most powerful small helicopter in the world having the record for highest landing and takeoff known (top of Mount Everest). The intended use of the ship is search and rescue, resource projects and fire preparedness and suppression.

This ship will be shared by with North Cascades National Park and potentially other neighboring parks and agencies.

Keep an eye out for 5-H-X if you are headed to the mountain this next week as we resupply our high camps.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend

Recent Weather and Tokaloo Spire,  Puyallup Cleaver
'Tis the weekend again and a three day one at that. Be prepared for some fabulous and variable mountain weather this weekend.

The DC is in shape thanks to much work done by the guide services. Check the route condition pages for more details from around the mountain.

The general consensus is that the glaciers are in mid-late summer condition, and that the snow is in spring condition not quantity. If you are planning on voyaging on a lesser traveled route expect heavy slogging, flotation recommended.

Skiing from Muir to Paradise is getting less and less direct you will probably have to pop your skis before hitting the parking lot. As the trails melt out please stay on them! Per the usual watch for terrain traps and unmarked obstacles.