Tuesday, April 30, 2019

In Depth Route Descriptions

Hey, everyone!

We wanted to take a moment and make sure you checked out a few new documents we produced over the last couple of years.  These four 20-30 page documents detail what we want you to know about climbing the Disappointment Cleaver, the Emmons-Winthrop Glacier, the Kautz Glacier, and the Liberty Ridge routes.
Each route guide contains details on:
  • Route History
  • Route Use and Statistics
  • Case Studies in Rescues
  • SAR Occurrences and Statistics
  • Weather Statistics, Forecasting and Resources
  • Assessing and Managing Risk
  • How to Train
  • What to Bring
  • Search and Rescue Program
  • Explanation of Climbing Fees
  • Leave No Trace and Wilderness Protection
  • Permitting and Reservations
  • Ski Mountaineering
  • PreClimb Briefing
  • Physical Route Descriptions
  • Further Reading

Kautz Glacier and Liberty Ridge In-Depth Route Guides

Based on the success of the two route guides that were published last year on the Disappointment Cleaver and Emmons-Winthrop Glacier routes, we decided to publish two additional documents this year.  The two routes we chose were the two next most popular routes; the Kautz Glacier and Liberty Ridge.

Each route guide is 20 to 30 pages in length.  Similarly organized, each document gives overall statistics, climbing history, recommended skills, a physical description of the approach, ascent, and descent, how to get current conditions, weather data and forecasting resources, ski mountaineering considerations, risk management strategies, resource protection, search and rescue statistics, as well as many other topics of discussion relative to each route.

Written by Mount Rainier climbing rangers, the text of each document is a holistic body of knowledge from nearly 1000 ascents of the 13 current rangers.  With the rough edges of opinions and approaches rounded out, the advice contained in the guides delivers the core elements of what you need to know.

There's something in these documents that you'll find interesting no matter what your skill level.  From historical use statistics to search and rescue data, you'll likely learn something you don't know.  The document contains weather forecasting recommendations and data, recommended additional reading, and lessons learned from search and rescue incidents.

Here are the direct links to each document on Mount Rainier's official webpage:
Enjoy the documents and have a great ascent!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Winter-like Conditions Return

Whiteout and flat light navigation in the Tatoosh Range. April 2019

This week has been a stormy one at Mount Rainier. Over the past two days, we have received over 30” of new snow at Paradise. Additionally, over 5” of water has fallen there in the past week; some of this was rain and the remainder snow. Whiteout conditions have been constant and navigation has been challenging, even when using all of the available tools (GPS, map, compass, altimeter, good decision-making skills). All considered, it feels like winter has returned to the mountain.

Rangers in the field today avoided avalanche terrain, but found between 2-3 feet of recent storm snow sitting on top of last week’s old, melted snow surface. This new snow has been blowing around, increasing avalanche danger and reducing visibility. Please consult the Northwest Avalanche Center for the current avalanche forecast as part of your trip planning process. With a slight rise in temperature, the new snowfall rapid transitioned from powder into “Cascade Concrete,” and ski quality was fair at best. Beware that the snow will continue to change with the weather and surface conditions and avalanche danger will change correspondingly.

The weather for this weekend looks to largely continue this stormy trend with sustained snowfall and windy conditions. Be sure to consult the weather forecast before your trip and come prepared for winter-like conditions. Just a reminder that the gate in Longmire closes to downhill at 5:30PM (depending on conditions, of course), so depart from the trailhead with plenty of time to make it down to Longmire before it's locked.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Early April Conditions

Mount Rainier from Panorama Point. April 4, 2019
After a warm and dry March, the total snowpack depth at Paradise is hovering around 120 inches on the ground. In fact, this is 71% of what an average year has as of April 1, 2019. Watch out for open holes or sagging snow surfaces in creek drainages and growing moats near rock outcroppings—give these a wide berth. Often these features are difficult to see until you are quite close to the opening, so consult the map, be observant, and plan a route that avoids these hazards. Avoid “dropping in blind” on convex slopes where the bottom isn’t visible, since it might end in a cliff, creek, or waterfall.

Lower Nisqually Glacier, The Fan, and The Turtle. April 04, 2019
The weather is forecast to become more typical for April over the coming week. This will likely mean result in many inches (or feet) of new snowfall at and above Paradise with rain below that elevation; this will create challenging navigation and travel conditions. Always be prepared to do all of your own navigation when traveling in the backcountry. The route to Camp Muir is not marked or wanded and there is no bootpack. Blowing snow can obscure your tracks in minutes, making the use a GPS a critical skill, especially above treeline or in areas with snow-covered trails. Always check the weather forecast as part of the planning process for your visit to the park and adjust your trip plans to match conditions.  Real-time weather data is available on the Northwest Avalanche Center’s website. Some of the low-elevation trails around Longmire are melting out, but higher elevation trails are still snowbound.   

The Tatoosh Range. April 04, 2019
With the change in the weather, avalanche danger is certain to change too. Always consult the Northwest Avalanche Center for the current avalanche forecast before your trip and use it during your planning process. Snow conditions can change rapidly this time of year, so be on the lookout for signs of snow instability and reduce or eliminate your exposure to avalanche terrain if necessary. New snow will be falling on a variety of surfaces, including melt-freeze grains, firm crusts, and sastrugi.

The gate at Longmire is currently closes at 5:30PM. Plan to depart Paradise with plenty of time to avoid getting locked in. All vehicles are still required to carry chains until May 1 including AWD/4WD. Consult the Mount Rainier Twitter Feed for road opening updates.