Warm winds and sunny days have definitively marked the end of the winter season. There's still plenty of time for winter-like storms to occur, but spring has officially begun and with that have come some changes around the mountain. The recent high pressure system has consolidated the snow pack this last week. Last Thursday, 154 inches of snow sat on the ground at Paradise. By the end of today, Thursday, March 21st, the snow-depth measured just 130 inches - two whole feet in a week! Check out the Northwest Avalanche Center's website for hourly updates. There's also more birds out and about in the high country. They seem to be chirping extra loud and excited about the sunny weather too. Please remember not to feed or disturb the wildlife - no matter how curious they are!
The beginning of spring also means the beginning of the wilderness permit reservation season at Mount Rainier. Now is the time to get your plans together and submit a reservation for your summer climbing/camping trip here on the mountain. Check the park's Wilderness Permits and Reservations webpage for more information and for the link to submit your reservation. There's helpful info there that describes how to select your first choice of campsite, dates, etc. And remember: even if you miss out on your reservation there's still a small percentage of campsites held for walk-up permits - so don't despair!
Climbers have made it to the summit during the last stretch of good weather via both the Gibraltar Ledges and the Ingraham Direct. Reports have mentioned that there seems to be less snow up high (above 10,000 feet) and that crevasses above Gibraltar Rock and on the Ingraham Glacier are easy to navigate. Early season ascents of the mountain are more difficult than summer ascents due to the extreme cold, longer storm cycles, and lack of a maintained route. It's not recommended to climb this time of year without plenty of prior experience on the mountain during the regular climbing season - which is just around the corner! See you on the slopes!