Thursday, May 25, 2023

Emmons-Winthrop 5/25

Here is the first update of the 2023 season for the Emmons-Winthrop Route, just in time for the opening of the White River entrance on May 26th. In general, things are looking good through Glacier Basin, on the corridor and the upper Emmons-Winthrop route. The north-east side of the mountain has not been as significantly affected by the early season warm-ups and currently has solid snow coverage. The Glacier Basin trail is continuously snow covered starting at 5,300'. The Inter Glacier is well filled in and planar (read: will make for good skiing.) 

The route begins up the Corridor as usual. Above the Corridor, Rangers found easy travel by continuing straight up past the typical traverse at the base of the Alpine Meadow.

At 12,300' the route contours west below a steep snow wall that gives way to a wide crack. After this contour, travel towards the summit involves navigating a few more large crevasses. At around 13,400', one last large crack can either be climbed through or end run west towards the saddle. 

Although an ascent has been completed, there is by no means a defined or marked route up the Emmons-Winthrop. Snow conditions are cold and dry above 12,000' making for excellent cramponing, but create no evidence of travel. Those attempting the route should be certain they can find their way back down without relying on tracks. The cold snow is also concealing smaller cracks, so teams should implement glacier travel best practices even where cracks aren't obvious. 

Lastly, both the Paradise Wilderness Information Center and the White River Information Center are open for the season. Their hours of operation are from 7:30am-5:00pm 7 days a week. This means that all parties who intend to ski or climb on a glacier and/or ascend above 10,000 feet on Mount Rainier need to obtain a climbing permit, In person at one of these ranger stations prior to your climb. Climbers are no longer able to self-register climbing permits before their trip.

Muir Snowfield and Ingraham Direct 5/23

Well folks, it looks like summer might be here to stick around earlier than we expected! In our previous blog post, we mentioned that the mountain had been going through some changes rather quickly. As of today, let’s upgrade that to rapid changes! Below we’ll highlight some relevant information for those either planning a climb or simply a trip to Muir.
Looking up Ingraham Direct from below the Flats on 5/21

Over the past week Camp Muir has melted out substantially along with the lower mountain. There are sections of exposed rock and trail, particularly in the Pan Point zone. Skiers, you will likely need to take off skies and “boot” sections of trail. The days of skinning from Paradise parking lot to Muir are coming to a close… For all parties, either skiing or hiking, please use the trails through the rocks and do not trample the vegetation. The path to Muir will likely switch to the summer route in the coming days and folks will be walking over Pebble creek. Beware of those creek holes this time of year! 

The upper mountain on the south side has also been greatly impacted by the unseasonably warm days in May. For starters, Cathedral Gap is more rockbound by the day, if not hour. Wear your helmet for overhead hazard and be prepared for gravel travel through the gap on your upcoming climb. The Cowlitz crossing to the gap has some cracks open up as well, so teams, pleeeease rope up and use proper glacier travel as soon as you take off from Muir… You are on a glacier! 

The route coming out of Ingraham Flats remains to be the ID. While guided and independent teams alike have been stomping in the trail, there seem to be more and more hazards coming into play. There are multiple snow bridges the climb travels through, please use caution before, during, and after crossing. Inspect the snow integrity yourself, move in control, and look after your team members as they cross while you manage the rope tension. Within this same zone (roughly 1000 vertical ft) there is potential for ladder crossings as well. The route has been tweaked almost daily so be prepared if ladders get put in over the coming week. The same rules apply to each ladder you proceed to travel over, paying close attention to how and where it is mounted over the crevasse. 

Above these traversing crevasse bridges the climb seems to be in good shape and remains quite direct. In good weather conditions, a well prepared team will find the climb an enjoyable wilderness challenge worthy of attempting. However, please always remember that for any party climbing the summit is only halfway! Keep those energy reserves for the way down.
Looking out at some of the cracks near the top of the ID as rangers traversed down from above the Cleaver.

A special note for skiers, while skiing the upper mountain gains more and more popularity, it should be understood that this presents an abundance of hazards we are not going to get into here (a whole can of worms). What I want to touch on is specifically teams ascending the ID. As of now it's not recommend to descend the Ingraham Glacier via skis. This is not a friendly ski route and would require very advanced ski mountaineering skills and multiple transitions throughout the descent. If, however, you are skiing the ID down, do not descend the climber’s trail. This destroys the track relied on heavily for guided and independent teams alike. If you feel like you need to ski the trail down, it is likely an indicator that you should not be skiing the upper mountain to begin with… 

Remember to check in with the rangers when you get up to Muir for the latest and greatest route info and get your permits from the Paradise Wilderness Information Center which is open every day for the season starting on Friday May 26th from 7:30 am-5:00 pm. Self registration will no longer be available. Looking forward to seeing you on the mountain.
                                                                            Happy Climbing!

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Ingraham Direct Conditions 5/13/23

Spring has sprung and summer is making it's approach well known. After our first big warm up just over a week and a half ago, a second heat wave hit the mountain this past weekend. With the seasons, the mountain is changing quite quickly. Cracks that were just starting to show on our last patrol just under two weeks ago are now opening up and making for thoughtful crossings and navigation on the upper mountain. 

While there is an established route marked with wands, it is particularly important to evaluate snow bridges on a case by case basis as you come upon them. Just because the bridge held for someone else yesterday, or even earlier in the day, does 
not mean that it will hold for you! This same principle even applies when you are descending a route you climbed earlier in the day, and re-crossing the same bridge. Smart travel considerations mean navigating the glacier for yourself, approaching lips and bridges with caution, and if there is any doubt about it's stability: using a belay. Timing is everything: planning ahead to get up and down the mountain before warm ups lead to more snow bridge instability is going to be the key. We are seeing avalanche activity across the mountain, temperatures will continues to rise as the mountain moves towards summer. Along with avalanches you could encounter increased rockfall hazard during peak warming. Situational awareness of objective overhead hazard for breaks and pauses while climbing is important to making it up and down the mountain safely.

While temperatures remain warm and island-y the mountain is still a mountain. Saturday the Camp Muir weather station experienced gusts close to 80mph. These winds can destroy even the sturdiest of tents, or worse yet will pick your tent up and blow it down the mountain. There's nothing worse than coming back to Camp Muir from a climb to see your tent blowing down the Cowlitz Glacier! If extreme winds are expected consider breaking down your tents and setting blocks of snow on-top while you are away from it during your climb. Additionally, even given warm temperatures - strong winds will also deliver strong windchill and proper preparedness is still of paramount importance. Snow surfaces can be icy and slick even in warmer temperatures due to wind cooling as well.

The Ingraham had a handful of notable crevasse crossings on our ascent in the 11,400'-11,800' zone, all of which opened up considerably since our last patrol and during the day while we were climbing in the heat. For reference, the most notable crack on the route required quite the large step across that will be getting progressively larger. Make sure to inspect undercut snow lips when attempting to cross cracks.

Friday, May 12, 2023

It's Getting Toasty!


The mountain is seeing freezing levels between 13,000-14000 feet over the weekend. It would not be surprising to see rapidly changing conditions and increasing avalanche danger as the temperatures rise. The mountain hasn't seen a significant warming to the upper elevations yet this season. A great forecast to read in order to check the freezing levels is the Mount Rainier Recreational Forecast. Stay cool and be prepared for the heat in your weekend adventures by carrying plenty of water, sunscreen, and sunglasses!

Don't forget to check out our recent blog post on how to get your climbing permits. See you out there! 

South side of Rainier as seen from the Tatoosh, May 11th, 2023

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

May Updates

The Old Station in Paradise is now open for climbers to get permits on the weekends. In person registration is available Friday - Sundays from 0730-1700. If you are arriving Monday - Thursday, please use the self-registration at Old Station. On May 26th, the Paradise Wilderness Information Center will open for the season for permitting and registration from 0730-1700 seven days a week. 

Our staff were up at Camp Schurman and the Emmons Flats last week for some project work and checking on high camps. The upper mountain has a thinner snowpack than this time last year. Conditions this last week were spring like with sticky conditions in lower elevations and a mixture of breakable and supportable layers in higher elevations. For a comparison of the Emmons-Winthrop from last year, check out this blog post from June 1st 2022.

May 3rd 2023 Emmons-Winthrop Glacier from Camp Schurman

View of Little Tahoma from Camp Schurman


The road to the White River Campground is currently closed for plowing and is estimated to open around May 26th. The campground itself is estimated to be open for camping around June 23rd.

On the Muir side, independent climbing parties are starting to trickle in, and there have been reports of some guided parties summiting on the Ingraham Direct. We hope to see you visiting the park soon!