Friday, May 27, 2022

Muir Snowfield and Ingraham Direct Update

For the holiday weekend, expect wintry conditions to persist on the mountain, especially above Paradise. Frontal systems moving through our area during the next couple of days will be unseasonably cold, wet and windy. Expect multiple inches of new snow each day Saturday and Sunday, with the highest concentration predicted to fall Saturday. The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory from 1PM Saturday to 5PM Sunday.

A ranger skins uphill near Panorama Point.

Of course it's still 100% snow from Paradise to Muir. It's a 'choose your own adventure' mashup of skin tracks and boot packs to the base of Panorama Point where everyone converges on the main chute to get up 'Pan Face'. Above that the boot pack trends NNE aiming towards McClure Rock and the Sugarloaf. This is what rangers and guides call the 'winter route'.

There are very few rocks exposed on the Muir Snowfield. Expect whiteout conditions, which can happen without notice despite any weather forecast. Please prepared to travel without visibility by recording a GPS track so you can get back to your starting point.

For a GPS device or cell phone to be useful for navigation the device must be and stay charged throughout your travels. Bring equipment to recharge if needed. Ensure the appropriate maps are downloaded for the area. If technology fails you, a map and compass can be a lifesaver. Below is a helpful NPS map not to be used as a topographic map, but it notes key features along the route, GPS coordinates, and the compass bearings to Camp Muir and back to Paradise. 

Camp Muir is very much still in winter conditions. NPS high camp workers, rangers, and the guides have all been teaming up to dig out the camp despite consistent new snow. As of 5/22/2022 there are five working bathrooms, 2 on the West side of camp, and 3 on the East side.

We are trying to discourage folks from urinating in bathrooms which operate on a conveyor system that is prone to freezing. Instead to dispose of urine waste on the snowfield side of camp and as far away from camp as possible. There are also no blue bag receptacles, currently, at Camp Muir. Please transport your blue bags down to Paradise for disposal.  Also, The public shelter has been reopened for normal use after being closed since 2020.

Camp Muir from Muir Peak

While climber success remains abnormally low, a few teams of guided parties and independent climbers have made the summit recently. Weather and heightened avalanche danger have been the main reasons for unsuccessful summit bides. We expect that to continue to be the case through the weekend and into next week.

Rangers have been busy opening the camp and have not yet been to the summit so information is a little thin on route conditions. The Ingraham Direct is 'in' but with several crevasses to traverse. With a winter storm advisory we can expect the exact route to change over the weekend but below is the track take by an independent team that went to the summit on May 23.

Please continue to use your winter mindset when preparing for a climb of Mt Rainier. Avalanche danger continues to outweigh most of the 'normal' hazards and if your team is not prepared to perform avalanche risk management please reconsider the timing of your climb.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Good Weather for the Weekend But Please Use Restraint

It looks like winter's icy grip is about to loosen for the weekend and that is cause for some celebration, but we're asking climbers and skiers to use some restraint before rushing to the mountain this weekend. Caution is advised due to the combination of two heightened risk factors:

1) A human-factor of Scarcity due to a lack of recent opportunities to recreate can create a self imposed pressure to finally take advantage of a nice weekend. And, the unusually cold and snowy spring we've been experiencing has thwarted many plans so it may be tempting to rush to take advantage of this weather window. Social media can also contribute to the fervor and increase the pressure you put on yourself to take on a big objective.  Stay true to your ability level and maximize your enjoyment! 

2) A Rapid Warming on a snowpack that is currently in a mid-winter condition. The climbing rangers have observed a widespread natural avalanche cycle with avalanches of up to size 3 (large enough to destroy cars and small buildings) within the past four days. This cycle will likely continue as the temperatures and solar input increases.  Guides have also been reporting sudden reactions on wind slabs above 10,000 feet.  There's no avalanche forecast for the upper mountain.  Use your judgement (of knowledge of your lack of experience to make a good judgement) to know when to turn around. 

During the past few good weather windows we have had several human triggered avalanches in the Nisqually Chutes and one prolonged rescue high on the Kautz Glacier. All of these incidents were a direct result of groups trying to 'squeeze-in' their objective during a break in the weather and could have been avoided by taking a tactical pause and assessing conditions objectively. 

So that's what we're asking the climbing and skiing community to do, collectively. Slow down, take a breath, talk to your partners and communicate with each other about the risk you are taking.  There's an above average and seemingly deep snowpack, and we should be climbing and skiing in great conditions well into the summer.   We want folks to enjoy, but be able to return to the mountain!

NPS/Waterfall Photo

Sunday, May 15, 2022

April Showers.. and May Storms!

It's been an unprecedented stormy start to the summer on Mount Rainier.  Prepare for full winter conditions for any adventure in the park this May.  Not much to report conditions-wise since weather has been shutting most of the climbing and skiing down.  Use caution when entering onto steeper slopes on the upper mountain - the snow pack hasn't transitioned to a regular spring diurnal pattern yet, and there could be hazardous conditions with all of the new snow.  

The Paradise Wilderness Information Center (PWIC) is already open on weekends - come on up and register in-person!  Self-registration is still in effect during the weekdays until May 27th.  After May 27th the PWIC will be open everyday through the end of the climbing season in September.  Paying the Climbing Fee and obtaining a Climbing Permit is required for all climbers and skiers who journey above 10,000 feet or onto a glacier - even folks doing a single-push style ascent.

Rangers were able to get up in the helicopter for some aviation training and snapped some photos of the upper mountain.  See below for some photos taken May 10th and 11th.  We're excited for more stable weather patterns and a bit more sunshine - and excited to see everyone up on the mountain soon!