Warm temperatures and clear skies this week are giving way to lowering freezing levels and showers over Fourth of July weekend.
|Sunrise over Little Tahoma Peak|
Guide services are continuing to climb the Ingraham Direct route at this time. Though not as direct as a couple weeks ago, the route remains in favorable conditions. Summer temperatures are widening crevasses in the 11,500’ to 13,000’ zone. It would not be surprising to see ladders spanning some of these crevasses in the coming days. The serac band around 12,500’ poses some significant icefall hazard on the route, as evidenced by several large ice blocks that have crossed the route. Reduce exposure by climbing in cold conditions, taking breaks before the hazard, and move quickly through these hazard zones. Be patient at bottlenecks and step uphill to allow faster parties to pass on the downhill side.
Guide services have started to consider transitioning to the Disappointment Cleaver route as the crevasses on the Ingraham Glacier widen and icefall hazard increases with summer temperatures. At this time, the cleaver remains pillowed with snow and is rather steep. The surface conditions are firm and may require running protection for fall protection. Due to these concerns, the Ingraham Direct still remains the primary climbing route in the Muir corridor.
After warming temperatures this past week, the winter snowpack containing persistent weak layers has stabilized. Wet avalanche problems are the primary concern in the current summer snowpack. Signs of pending wet loose avalanches are increased boot penetration, pinwheels, and roller balls. Wet slab avalanches, of low probability but high consequence, are of concern with high freezing levels, significant water in the snowpack, and nights with no freezing temperature recovery. Reduce exposure by starting early, climbing at night, and monitoring firmness of snowpack.
With the possible return of snowfall this weekend higher on the mountain, slab avalanche problems could present themselves again. Visibility could deteriorate quickly and wands can become invisible in a whiteout. Use GPS tracking while the skies are still clear so it can be used as backup if conditions deteriorate. Slick surface conditions, poor visibility, and increasing winds can turn into a nasty combination quickly.
Summer is here after months of winter weather. Don’t let pent up unsuccessful summit attempts or urgency overtake you. Though the mountain hasn’t been accessible for months, it will still be here for years to come. Be patient at bottlenecks, monitor snow conditions, and respect the weather.
Calm winds, warm temperatures, and good visibility at the summit crater.