Thursday, March 29, 2018

Almost April

Conditions in March varied drastically week to week this year.  Periods of winter-like storms enveloped the mountain, rainy spring-like storms passed through as well, and then moments of glorious sunshine occurred and made it seem like summer was truly on the way.  Skiers and climbers have been busy out on the lower slopes of the mountain.  Carving turns in fresh snow, drawing with pastels amongst an alpine landscape, and testing equipment to prepare for an early-season climb on Denali were just some of the activities on the mountain in March.

All of the spring months, March, April, and May, are notorious for lengthy storms and bad weather.  Even when the cherry trees are blossoming down in the city, the slopes of the upper mountain can be extremely harsh.  Any summit attempts should be made by teams with lots of experience, and not just climbing experience in general, but previous climbing experience on Mount Rainier.  It's strongly recommended that climbers attempt the mountain for the first time during the regular summer season.  Not having the correct warm clothes, a stove malfunction, running out of food and water, a ripped tent, being unable to navigate, and so many other hazards can become serious events this time of year.  Make conservative decisions in the backcountry during this time.  And, as always, check the forecast and avalanche report before venturing out on snowy slopes.

As the summer season draws near, and climbing plans start to gel, check the park's Permits and Reservations page to make sure your team gets all their proper paperwork taken care of.  The Paradise Wilderness Information Center will start opening on the weekends in early-May and seven-days-a-week starting the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend.  Swing on in and say hello to the staff and get all your climbing questions answered!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Winter Storm in Spring

Crevasses opening up early-season.
Spring sprung on the mountain for almost a week - high temps, plenty of sunshine, and even a couple of rain squalls.  Now that it's officially spring the sun is carving a higher arc in the sky providing warmth to most slopes on the mountain during the day, and speaking of days: they're getting longer!  Summer will be here before we know it - but even in the summer, and reading into the forecast for the weekend, winter storms can still pummel the mountain.  With almost a foot of new snow and 1000 foot freezing levels, this weekend looks cold!

Climbers have been submitting reservation requests for this season already.  The park starting accepting reservations on March 15th.  You have until April 1st to submit your request before the park starts processing requests in the order they were received.  We recommend making a reservation if:
  • The dates you want to climb are around a holiday weekend or around a weekend in July
  • You're traveling a long distance to get here
  • There's a slim margin of dates that you're able to climb
  • The size of your climbing party is large (five or more)
Remember that walk-up permits are available and that only 60% of the total amount of permits are available for reservations.

Some intrepid climbers have already made the summit of the mountain this March during a spell of good weather up high.  The self-registration kiosk in Paradise and the Longmire Museum in Longmire are the two places climbers can register this time of year.  Any overnight trip in the park requires a wilderness camping permit, and each climber climbing above 10,000 feet or on glaciers must pay the climbing fee.

This time of year on the mountain can be cold, and at times unsafe, but can also be the most wild and beautiful.  Check the forecast, road access, and come on up to visit the mountain in the spring time!


Saturday, March 10, 2018

March Madness

The sun came out for the second weekend in March and so did the skiers and snowboarders.  High pressure aloft made for amazing views from the flanks of Mount Rainier.  New snow made the mountain sparkle!

Big shout out to the Road Crew for keeping the road clear and getting it opened early on a Saturday morning for all the backcountry enthusiasts.  Check out the park's twitter feed (link to the right) for the latest info on when the roads in the park will open and close.  Remember that it is still 'winter' here on the mountain and to drive and park accordingly.  If in doubt, ask a ranger.

Also, as a reminder, please be aware of the avalanche danger in the backcountry.  The forecasters at the Northwest Avalanche Center have been doing a great job this winter.  Check out there website, read the current bulletin, and then corroborate the forecast with your actual observations.  Avalanches aren't the only danger in the backcountry - cliffs, rocks, creeks, tree wells, moats, sastrugi, and other visitors can all cause accidents.  Stay in control when you're skiing and riding.  If in doubt in the backcountry, make a conservative decision - there's no ski patrol at Mount Rainier waiting at the top of the mountain and any help or rescue could be hours, if not days, away.

It's just five days away from when reservation requests for the summer season will start being accepted.  Don't worry about being first, at least not until April.  All requests received from March 15th to April 1st will be picked at random and processed starting in April.  Any request submitted after April 1st will be processed in the order it was received.  We recommend getting a reservation if you're flying a long distance to get here and don't have flexible dates, have a larger party size, or are planning on climbing during a weekend in July and early-August.

Hope to see you on the Mountain!