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!