Thursday, September 26, 2019

Disappointment Cleaver Final Update for 2019

Clouds surround the summit as a storm rolls in. September 25, 2019.
Fall is upon us at Mount Rainier and that means winter-like conditions on the upper mountain. There has been significant snow on the mountain in the last two weeks and we are expecting more in the next few days.

This creates a particularly hazardous condition where the crevasses are as open as they ever get, but are now thinly covered with a veneer of new snow. We have had several parties experience crevasse falls in the last few weeks, thankfully with no injuries.

Icy, steep serac walls and newly formed wind slabs are other hazards that climbers will encounter this time of year. That's along with the usual rockfall, icefall, and altitude hazards that occur year-round. 

Now that snow has returned to the mountain, ski conditions are starting to improve, but skiers/boarders still have to hike 2000 feet up AND down since the snow doesn't start until above Panorama Point.  Due to thinly covered crevasses use extreme caution when skiing the snowfield between 8,500' and 9,500' and if you're venturing onto the Paradise Glacier. There was a remarkable turnout considering the variable conditions of skiers and hikers this past Saturday.  Don't ruin this winter season by getting injured in poor/rocky conditions this fall. 

When traveling to Camp Muir this time of year, be prepared for Winter weather! The Muir Snowfield is statistically more dangerous than a climb to the summit, with the majority of major incidents and fatalities occurring because of poor weather, lack of preparation, disorientation, and exposure.  

Guide services will continue to run summit trips through the first few days of October. After that the upper mountain will be cleaned of wands and route adjuncts. If you're planning a summit attempt between then and early May plan on being totally self-sufficient.

Seasonal climbing rangers are off duty for the season and while there is a skeleton crew of climbing rangers through most of the winter, high camps are not staffed regularly and any response to an injury or incident will take hours, even days. 

The Self-Registration Kiosk for Climbers can be found just inside the entrance of the Guide House
The Paradise Wilderness Information Center is also closed for the season. Climbers can still self-register at Paradise using the self-registration kiosk (currently located in the hallway of the Guide House) or register in-person at the Longmire Museum.

The Climbing Fee and Registration are mandatory for all climbers/skiers venturing on glaciers or above 10,000'
If you're reading this blog while planning a climbing trip to Mount Rainier next season follow these links to view our in-depth route briefs on the Disappointment Cleaver Route, the Emmons-Winthrop Glacier Route, the Kautz Glacier Route, and Liberty Ridge.  

Thanks for a great summer season and see you next year!

End of Season at Camp Schurman

Camp Schurman from Steamboat Prow

Climbing Ranger operations have come to their end at Camp Schurman for 2019. Visitation has been next to zero for the past few weeks. Access up the Inter glacier remains challenging, and the Emmons is very broken in its late season condition.

Rangers and park staff have been busy no the less, taking advantage of a quiet camp to work on a new helicopter landing zone and repairs to the Ranger Station.

New Helicopter Landing Pad

If you do chose to take and adventure and travel to Camp Schurman this Fall be aware that there are no open toilet facilities, but a Blue Bag barrel does remain available. You may have to clear off a bit of snow to find it.

Climbing and Wilderness permits are still required thru the Fall for travel on Mount Rainier above 10000 ft and on its Glaciers. These can still be acquired at the White River Ranger Station thru mid October.

Camp Schurman

Have a great Fall and Winter Season and we look forward to seeing you back at Mount Rainier and Camp Schurman in 2020.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Camp Muir 09/09/2019

New snow at Camp Muir

Camp Muir has received a few inches of new snow in the past two days. In fact, a dusting of snow fell as low as Pebble Creek on Monday! While it’s not enough to smooth out the snowfield for skiing, it is enough to thinly cover open crevasses and make them difficult to identify. There are a few such holes between 9,500’ and 8,800’ that are certainly large enough to fall into. These are especially difficult to see in flat light or whiteout conditions.

Fresh snow starting to obscure crevasses on the snowfield

As the summer season winds down, so does the amount of traffic on the Muir Snowfield. Expect the trail to become less obvious (or totally obscured by new snow) and to see fewer people out and about. Travel conditions above Pebble Creek have become quite firm and additional traction is recommended—many people are opting for crampons. Be prepared to do all of your own navigation and decision-making. Carry and know how to use a GPS, since it is very easy to get lost on the snowfield in whiteout conditions.

Whiteout conditions below Camp Muir

Be sure to check the weather forecast and park webcams before your visit, since conditions change rapidly this time of year.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Emmons Winthrop End of Season 09/05/2019

View of Glacier Basin September 2019

As summer winds down, so does the climbing season on Mount Rainier. No parties have attempted the Emmons Glacier route recently. Climbing Rangers have finished doing patrols of the route for the year, and all guided climbs have ceased. Although it is probably still possible to forge a route above Camp Schurman, all parties attempting such a late-season attempt should expect a very long day and circuitous, complex navigation requiring honed glacier travel and ice climbing skills.

Beware that autumn storms often deposit enough snow to obscure any remnant of this summer's climbing route and can thinly cover open crevasses. Serac fall has also been observed recently. Be prepared to do all of your own navigation, route-finding, and decision-making if you choose to attempt the mountain this late in the season.

This will be the final update for the Emmons Glacier route for the 2019 climbing season. If you're planning a climbing trip to Mount Rainier next season and are doing some pre-trip planning follow these links to view our in-depth route briefs on the Disappointment Cleaver Route, the Emmons-Winthrop Glacier Route, the Kautz Glacier Route, and Liberty Ridge.

Thanks for a great summer season!  Happy Autumnal Equinox and see you next year!

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Muir Snowfield Update 9/4

As we transition into September, the Muir Snowfield is becoming more of an "Icefield" than a snowfield.  The majority of the hike beyond Pebble Creek has exposed glacial ice with a number of open crevasses above 8500'.  Where there is snow, the surface conditions are quite sun cupped and capped with a fine layer of rock and dust.

The crevasses that are present on the upper portion of the snowfield are easy to spot and navigate around, but caution should still be taken as the surface condition adjacent to these features are firm and icy.  Take caution while descending from Camp Muir, as a couple of these cracks can be difficult to spot from above.

While navigating the Muir Snowfield, we recommend bringing sturdy footwear that are capable of accepting micro-spikes or crampons which will greatly aid in security.  Trekking poles are also very useful!

Water is present around the lower rock outcroppings as well as on the top of Moon Rocks.  Beware though, as the Muir Snowfield sees a large amount of traffic and filtering the run-off is highly recommended.

Safe Climbing!

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Trash & Waste + Route Update

September vistas of Camp Muir
Rangers have been experiencing an uptick of trash and human waste left on the Disappointment Cleaver Route.  We ask you to please pack down what you bring up.  Understandably, it can be difficult to maintain wrappers and micro trash, but please do your best to keep a handle of these items.  These unsightly attractions detract from the climbing experience for all visitors.  Please do your part and leave mountain in better condition than how you found it!

While on patrols of the DC, rangers have noted more human waste directly off the boot pack.  The Paradise Wilderness Information Center (PWIC) offers blue bags free of charge to climbers.  Please be responsible and use these blue bags to collect and carry off your waste, otherwise, others will have to do this.

We have also found a number of soiled blue-bags left both at Ingraham Flats as well as along the route.  Not only are these climbers not doing their part in removing their human waste, they are now littering and leaving plastic in a delicate alpine environment.  Please, if you go through the effort to use a blue-bag, do your part and dispose of it into a designated blue-bag barrel at Camp Muir.

Human waste, blue-bags and trash left along the route

The DC route is largely unchanged since the last blog post update. When approaching rock features along the route, use cation and be on the lookout for hollow moats and ablated glacier ice.

There is still only one ladder on the route, currently located at 13,100'.  This is configured in a vertical orientation.

As we make our way into September, climbing tactics have to adapt to the changing conditions.  Be aware of more rock and ice fall.  A fair amount of the route has ablated glacier ice present as well as firmer snow conditions.  Come prepared with the appropriate climbing equipment such as crevasse rescue equipment, ice screws and pickets than can be easily be placed from a self-arrest position.

Safe Climbing!

Unstable boulders perched on ablated glacier ice, viewed from Cathedral Gap, looking towards the Ingraham Glacier
Looking towards the base of the Disappointment Cleaver from High Crack

The Bowling Alley from the
Disappointment Cleaver over to the Ingraham Glacier
Top of the cleaver, looking at the Upper Mountain
Climbers descending the ladder

Climbers descending the upper mountain, just above the top of the cleaver

Current track as of September 2nd, 2019