Thursday, September 28, 2017

End of September Update, Caution for Skiers

 The season is rapidly changing here at Mount Rainier National Park. The guide services are winding down their season on the DC with operations running until about October 2nd. The guides have been able to re-establish the route to the summit but the forecast for the weekend is looking rather stormy.

UW MM5 model showing significant precip for the October 1st weekend.

A couple of the Rangers went up to Camp Schurman this past week to check on the hut and to check conditions. The first coating of snow seems to be sticking to the upper mountain but not below 10,000'.

Traces of new snow on the Emmons Glacier.

With the recent snowfall skiers have been chomping at the bit to get their turns in but we'd like to caution folks from striking out unroped on the glaciers when a fresh skin of snow has covered the crevasses. This summer was remarkably free of precipitation and that means lot's of open crevasses. Add a couple feet of fresh snow to hide them and a person travelling rapidly on skis or snowboard and you have a good recipe for a crevasse fall.

Tracks around thinly covered crevasses on the Inter Glacer.
We did have a near miss last week when a snowboarder fell unroped into a crevasse. That person was able to self extracate and evacuate, fortunately. The best bet for skiing this time of year on Rainier is to stick to the Muir snowfield but even that can have hidden hazards. Look forward to a long ski season by easing into it and wait for a few more storms to roll throuugh.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

DC Conditions and the End of Summer

Winter conditions have returned to Mount Rainier without much of a Fall transition. There has been snow as low as Paradise in the last 24 hours and the National Weather Service has issued the first winter storm watch for the season.


.TODAY...Showers. Snow accumulation at Paradise near 3 inches. 
Snow level near 5500 feet. 
.MONDAY NIGHT...Showers. Snow accumulation at Paradise near 9
inches. Snow level near 5500 feet. 
.TUESDAY...Showers. Snow accumulation at Paradise near 8 inches. 
Snow level near 5000 feet. 
.TUESDAY NIGHT...Rain or snow. Snow accumulation at Paradise near
5 inches. Snow level near 5500 feet.
.WEDNESDAY...Showers. Snow accumulation at Paradise near 4 inches.
Snow level near 5000 feet.
A snow level near 5000 feet is typical for Winter here in the Cascades. BRRRRRR.
The guided climbs from Sunday didn't even leave Camp Muir to attempt a summit bid due to the stormy conditions. The route requires a large degree of independence and technical proficiency as well and would be very difficult to navigate in white-out conditions. We strongly discourage climbing it in a storm. Above the Cleaver there is several hundred vertical feet of heavily crevassed terrain. The guides have been sending teams up to repair and reroute the path through this area every day for the past several weeks. There have been large collapses with climbers on route and parties without sufficient skill have become stranded on the mountain for short periods of time.
Climbing teams navigating a heavily crevassed area.
There are a few more storms in the forecast before things dry out again. For this reason and the complexity of the route we would advise against attempting a summit bid in the next few days. Consider changing your objective to focus on learning skills instead of going to the summit or even let the winter pass and climb when conditions are more favorable in the Spring. Remember that even a trip to Camp Muir can be extremely hazardous in low visibility.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Conditions Update

The White River Entrance to the park is currently closed due to nearby forest fire activity.  Here's a link to the park's website with details on the closure.  The closure may be lifted with cooling temperatures and the chance of rain this weekend, but it may remained closed if fire behavior stays high.  The park's website has an Alerts and Conditions page that has the most up-to-date info.  

This means climbers should expect to register and climb through Paradise this weekend.  Check the previous posts for current conditions on the Disappointment Cleaver and Kautz Glacier.  Even with the added difficulty of late-season conditions, both of those routes have been climbed in the last week.  Be prepared to breathe some smoke and carry extra water for the unseasonably high temperatures.  The Emmons/Winthrop Glacier Route has not been climbed in over a week due to crevasses spanning the entire glacier mass.

The Climbing Information Center will be open this weekend, but it's the last two days of the season that it will be staffed.  After this weekend, climbers will be able to self-register at the Paradise Old Station.  Have a safe and hopefully non-smoky weekend!

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Smoke on the Mountain.

The Wildfires of the PNW are causing  some very unusual conditions around Mt Rainier. Here are a few photos of the conditions from the summit  and Camp Muir. Smoke is expected to dissipate over the next few days with some cooler weather expected too.

-Sam Luthy  682

Looking to the south and the Muir Snow field. Mt. Adams in the Smoke.

East, toward Little Tahoma. 13000ft

Heavy smoke  layer looking down the Nisqually Glacier.

Liberty Cap in the Clear, but smoke filling the lower elevations.

Little T from Camp Muir on Wednesday 9/6. Empty Camp.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Labor Day DC Conditions

The Disappointment Cleaver Route has been all over the upper mountain this year, and September climbing is not an exception. The most recent route change, first mentioned on 8/31, has become established as the current best option to reach the summit. Instead of the taking a hard right of the top of the  DC and proceeding to the Emmons Shoulder, this route climbs above the Cleaver through broken and hollow terrain before traversing across the upper Ingraham to just above Camp Comfort at 12,800ft. This Ingraham traverse is very similar to conditions in 2015. Teams will have to negotiate steep terrain, two ladders and significant overhead hazard to make it through. Good time management is key and stopping for any length of time along this section should be avoided.  Once above Camp Comfort and climbing on to the upper Nisqually glacier the steepness and overhead hazards ease and the route traverses almost all the way to Point Success  and then to the  East Crater  Rim. Keep an eye out for hollow terrain and crevasse crossings thru here as well.  Total Route length is  3.5 miles from camp Muir.

 A main factor of this current route is its tenuous nature. Many of the current passages are thin and hollow and the  current hot weather is not helping. Teams should be prepared to potentially change route or not return exactly the  way they came. Stay tuned for any updates as more info from Rangers and Guides become available.

Making the top of Rainier is still possible this September. Come enjoy fewer crowds, and fall vistas on the Mountain.

- Sam Luthy  682

Hollow terrain just above  the Cleaver .
Double Ladder bridge.

Penitente Fields to the Summit