Thursday, June 16, 2022

Ingraham Direct / DC Conditions and Avalanche Uncertainty

Warmer, drier and more seasonable conditions are forecast to return to the mountain next week, but climbers should manage expectations and not get too excited for spring climbing conditions just yet. The mountain has been entrenched in a winter like pattern with heavy snowfall, cold temperatures, and strong winds for weeks.

Weather hazards may be decreasing, but avalanche danger remains elevated. This is not your typical June. Until consistent warm temperatures, high freezing levels, and lack of storms stabilize the snowpack, uncertain avalanche conditions remain.

Multiple recent avalanches can be observed from the Muir Snowfield

Guide services reported a very large, or D3, sized avalanche on the Ingraham Direct route last week. Rangers and guides have also observed persistent weak layers and wind slabs in the Ingraham Direct/Disappointment Cleaver area snowpack. Rangers have also observed very large avalanches on the Emmons Winthrop route. Additionally, avalanches triggered by cornice collapse were also visible from the Muir Snowfield on Tuesday.

It all adds up to the fact that there is lots of unstable snow on Mount Rainier and there will be until a change in the weather actually occurs. While humans may not trigger weak layers deep in the snowpack; serac fall events, such as those that occur frequently on the Nisqually Ice Fall, can trigger very large avalanches at any time.

A serac collapse on the Nisqually Ice Fall

Climbers should be prepared to make their own snowpack evaluation before traveling into avalanche terrain. There’s no avalanche forecast center providing assessments for the upper mountain and just because another rope team ascends doesn’t necessarily mean it’s “safe” to climb. Consider using the “Entrenchment” strategic mindset - not an ideal place to be operating, but a safe place, and with discipline and time will eventually allow for climbing and skiing into the future. 

Be prepared for winter-like travel conditions and carry avalanche rescue gear and know how to use it. Keep in mind there is no established route to the summit at this time. Neither the Emmons-Winthrop nor Disappointment Cleaver have an established boot pack, so prepare for a more wilderness-like experience than in a typical Mount Rainier climbing season.  Stop by one of our ranger stations in the park for more information!