Saturday, September 26, 2020

Storming into "Winter Season" on Mount Rainier

Cancelled climbs and cold weather closed out the regular climbing season on Mount Rainier.  Guide services are finishing their trips for the year and all of the route adjuncts (handlines, planks, ladders, etc.) are being taken off the mountain.  Dangerous conditions currently exist on the mountain with crevasses on the lower slopes being just barely covered with this new blanket of snow.  Be prepared to rope-up: have helmets, harnesses, ice axes, crampons, pickets and other glacier travel equipment with you - just to travel to Camp Muir!  In the regular season, a trip to Camp Muir can be done without that extra equipment, but this year's late-season conditions are extreme and especially dangerous in this transition time with icy crevassed surface conditions being hidden by fresh snow.  

Rain, then snow fell on the mountain last week.  Drifts up to three feet deep!

No climbers have been on the Emmons-Winthrop or the Kautz Glacier Route in the last couple of weeks.  Both can be considered "out" for the year.  With the guides removing the adjuncts and fresh snow, the Disappointment Cleaver Route can also be considered "out" for the year.  Any climber attempting the summit this time of year should consider it an off-season climb and be very experienced, totally self-sufficient and realize that any emergency help could be not just hours, but days away.  

Late season storms on the mountain can roll in with little warning and can be much more vigorous and longer lasting than summer squalls.  Please check the weather forecast before starting your trip - click on the Weather Resources tab above for some starting places - and because forecasts can be wrong, prepare for the unexpected!  This last week we had winds reaching Category 2 Hurricane speeds at Camp Muir which sits well below the actual summit.  Stretches of beautiful summer-like weather can also be possible, and late-season visits do offer more solitude than the more popular times, but please be cautious this time of year.

All climbers still have to pay the annual climbing fee (which can be done online ahead of time) and obtain a climbing permit (which has switched to self-registration for the winter season and can be done in-person at the trailhead).  Enjoy the change of the season!