Thursday, May 27, 2021

Memorial Day and Mount Rainier

With sunny weather in the forecast, this Memorial Day weekend will be a lovely and busy time in the park.  It's been a stormy week leading up to the weekend, and it'll be nice to have warm, sunny days to get out on the mountain.  There will be a few challenges that will come with the expected good weather, however.  

Perhaps most relevant to climbers and skiers will be the increased avalanche hazard.  Due to the rapidly rising freezing level and solar input that is forecasted, new and wind transported snow from earlier in the week and a large number of possible triggers (abundant backcountry travelers, cornice fall, pinwheels, glacial movement, etc.) backcountry travelers should approach avalanche terrain with a wary eye.  

This past week, climbing parties triggered several small wind slabs that had developed in pockets of new snow at around 13,000ft on the south side of the mountain. These slabs released above the teams and slid on a firm bed surface. Small loose wet slides were also observed on the lower cleaver.  With warming predicted through the weekend, wind slab sensitivity is expected to increase and loose-wet avalanches are also expected.  Persistent deep instabilities may still exist on the upper mountain, especially on more northerly aspects.  Be up on your avalanche awareness game this weekend!

For those coming up for a one-day adventure, make sure you're set up for success with regards to permits and fees - single-push climbers and upper-mountain (glaciated) skiers need to pay the cost recovery fee and get a climbing permit.

Climbers on the Emmons-Winthrop route should expect a fair bit of new snow, and complex glacial route-finding, as there has been very little traffic on the route.  Take the time to assess crevasse crossings, be willing to end-run them, and have a plan in case the bridge falls out before you come back down.

Climbers on the Disappointment Cleaver route should expect a busy weekend, and take care in areas exposed to rockfall.  

Screenshot of the Disappoint Cleaver Route as of May 13th.  Route remains largely the same.

With good weather, there will be lots of people in the back-country as well as the front-country.  Please be considerate of how your actions may affect another, help each other when needed, and enjoy any opportunities to put yourself at service to others this Memorial Day weekend!

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Disappointment Cleaver route is now "IN"

While the Ingraham Direct route may still 'go', it is no longer being climbed/maintained by the guide services, and they've switched their operations to the Disappointment Cleaver route.  

Climbers will find the route wanded and kicked in, with several route adjuncts in place.  Specifically, there is a hand-line at the "Nose" of the Cleaver.  Please recognize this is put in place by the guide services for the safety of their clients, and give them some space should they be actively using it.  The hand-line is typically used by clipping a carabiner on a tether to the line, instead of using a prussik.  There may be other fixed equipment (eg pickets with carabiners for running protection at both ends of a ladder/bridge) on the route - use them as appropriate, but please leave them in place.

Use care when stopping for a break, and make sure you're not exposed to rockfall/icefall/avalanche hazard from above. 

Please remember to not drag your ropes when you're traveling on rock/scree so as to minimize the likelihood of triggering rockfall onto parties below you (short-rope on the rocky sections), and pause to let them move out of the way if you're directly above them.

If you have questions, take a look at the route brief, or read through some DC reports from past years.  There are rangers available at the Wilderness Information Centers to help with the permit/fee process, and there will be rangers at high camps and on route help answer questions, check permits and doing maintenance at high camps.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Climbing Permit and Fees Explained

Now that things are starting to get busy for the climbing season we realized that there's some confusion with the new process for making reservations for the high camps at Mount Rainier. We thought this would be a good reason to further explain the climbing permit process.

What's changed? The only change is that we now use for all wilderness permitting and reservations. However, we still use to collect the climbing cost recovery fee.

But let's back up. When do you need a climbing permit at Mount Rainier and what is a climbing permit exactly?

At Mount Rainier National Park you are required to obtain a climbing permit if you plan to travel to the summit, above high camps (or ~10,000 ft) or travel on any glaciers. This includes climbing the mountain in a single push without camping, or doing a circumnavigation where you are traveling on glaciers.

What constitutes a climbing permit? A climbing permit is the combination of paying the climbing cost recovery fee and obtaining an appropriate wilderness permit for your trip.

The climbing cost recovery fee is charged in order to help the park service pay for the costs associated with climbing activities on Mt. Rainier. The fee pays for:

  • Staffing the mountain's high camps with climbing rangers who can rapidly respond to incidents on the mountain
  • Staffing the lower mountain ranger stations to assist climbers with registration
  • Maintaining a clean and healthful upper mountain free of human waste
  • Flying human waste off the mountain from collection points and disposing of it properly
The climbing cost recovery fee must be paid by all climbers in the climbing party.

For each party a single wilderness permit is required for all trips to the summit and for overnight stays in the backcountry. The wilderness permitting process is handled by It is possible to reserve a wilderness permit ahead of your visit to Mt. Rainier. Some considerations for wilderness permits:
  • The backcountry in the Park is organized by camps, alpine zones and cross-country zones. These each have limits to the number of people and parties that may occupy them each day.
  • 'Single-push' climbers are placed into a high camp or alpine zone for the day of their climb.
The steps for obtaining a climbing permit are as follows:

  1. Each member of the climbing team must pay the climbing cost recovery fee before you all get to Mt. Rainier. You each only have to do this once for the calendar year, no matter how many trips you do in a season. It is possible to pay once you've entered the park but it will speed up your permitting process.
  2. We then recommend making a wilderness permit reservation at Click on "Check availability." Fill out the required information and find your camping locations. If a number is listed, it is the number of reservation spots still available for that zone. If there is a "W" then only walk up permits are available. If there is a zero then there are no more permits available for that camp or zone on that day. Wilderness permit reservations cost $26.
  3. On the day of or day before your climb go to the Paradise Wilderness Information Center (PWIC) for west and south-side routes or the White River Wilderness Information Center for north and east-side routes to activate your reservation and pick up your physical climbing permit. You must have this on your person when you are on the mountain. This is also a good opportunity to ask the rangers about route and weather conditions, pick up blue bags and meet other climbers that may be on your same schedule. Reservations may cancelled if they are not activated by 12:00pm on the first day of the reservation. These spots then become available to walkups.
  4. Walk up permits are available up to 24 hours ahead of time. These are available at any ranger station but, for climbing, it's best to go to the Paradise Wilderness Information Center (PWIC) for west and south-side routes or the White River Wilderness Information Center for north and east-side routes. Walk up wilderness permits are $6. We can only accept credit cards at the ranger stations. No cash. 
Once you have paid the cost recovery fee and obtained a physical wilderness permit you now have a climbing permit.

With how busy this season is shaping up to be, if you are trying to get a walk-up permit, it is best to show up the day before your climb and be prepared to be flexible with your camping locations. Having flexibility with your dates and try to climb on a weekday instead of the weekend is the best way to ensure you have the optimum choice for camping locations.

If you need more information on the route you want to climb or want to find a guide service to go with here is a valuable source for this information.

We look forward to seeing you on the mountain this season.

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Ingraham Direct Route Conditions May 1, 2021

Guides establishing a climbing route on the Ingraham Glacier on May 1, 2021.

Welcome to the first route conditions update for the 2021 climbing season on Mount Rainier. The rangers have been busy with pre-season training and are just getting the high camps up and running.

Climbers and ski mountaineers have been climbing with a relatively high success rate for the month of April due to the historically dry and warm conditions. Also, the guide services are ramping up their operations for the summer. We expect the success rate on the Ingraham Direct to go up even more as the route becomes better established.

That said, the upper mountain snowpack looks more like late-June than early-May. The windy winter and lack of April storms has resulted in more open crevasses and generally lower snow levels than one would expect this time of year.

Rangers climbed the ID to 12,300' on May 1. The route across the Cowlitz Glacier and up to Cathedral Gap is very straightforward. There are a few rocks poking out in the Gap but just a couple of steps to cross.

Cathedral Rocks and Cathedral Gap

There is some icefall debris on the climbers left of the route as you enter the Ingraham Flats area so it's best not to break until you are all of the way clear from that hazard. After that the route climbs up to approximately 11,500' where you will encounter the first of many crevasse crossings.

The Ingraham Glacier from Ingraham Flats

The guides have installed a ladder at approximately 11,800' in order to bridge a crevasse that cannot be end-run. From this elevation up to 12,300' the route weaves its way back and forth across the Ingraham, end running and crossing several large crevasses.

A ladder on the Ingraham Direct Route

Crevasse fall is an ever present hazard on Mt. Rainier, especially so for the Ingraham Direct route. Please make sure your team is proficient at managing this risk and is capable of self-rescue in the event of a teammates' fall into a crevasse.

Climbers negotiating steep, crevassed terrain on the Ingraham Glacier