Muir Snowfield 2007

Camp Muir and Muir Snowfield - July 21

The past few days have been wet and windy on the snowfield, with more precip expected in the coming days. That being said I saw a good 30 day hikers heading up to Camp Muir today despite the mediocre weather. Everyone I talked to seemed to be prepared with proper equipment and either a GPS or a compass with the bearing sheet, which is very reassuring since navigation can become difficult in bad weather. The recent storms also dropped 4-6" of new snow above 9,500 and the rain made the sun-cups all you skiers who are looking for some July turns might find the hike worth it if you are willing to pack your skis to and from Pebble Creek, since the trail below is 95% snow-free.

July 19

The trail to Pebble Creek is pretty much melted out. There are a few snow patches across the trail. Please try to find the correct path across the snow to avoid trail erosion. From Pebble creek to Muir is all snow. Running water sources can be found up to 8,500 feet on sunny days. Be careful on early morning descents when the snowfield can be icy - you might consider bringing crampons or waiting for the afternoon heat.

July 12th

This last week has been extremely warm and the snow is melting fast! The snowfield is becoming more and more suncupped, and skiing conditions are beginning to deteriorate. Lots of people are still bringing skis and boards up and having fun, but the conditions are not perfect. Lower down, the summer trail is rapidly melting out. There are now many sections of dirt or paved trail below Panorama Point, and there is a large section of dirt trail exposed between Panorama Point and Pebble Creek. There is still snow between Pebble Creek and Camp Muir. Where the snow has melted out, please make sure to travel on the summer trail to prevent damage to the vegetation.

July 4th

The recent storms deposited snow along the upper half of the Muir Snowfield, resulting in great skiing conditions for visitors over the weekend. High temperatures forecast for this week might change the status of this new snow, so enjoy the good snow while it lasts. Otherwise, the snowpack still reaches the parking lot, though there are numerous small melted sections between Paradise and Pebble Creek. A good bootpack remains, as do the wands marking the most popular route. Please be attentive to the summer trail as the snow melts. If you see the boot prints leading into a mud pit 2 feet to the side of the rocky trail, head for the established rock trail instead. The vegetation thanks you!

And for those of you struggling to muster the gumption for your trip to Muir, take inspiration from the recent Camp Muir visitor from Colorado who powered her way up to camp . . . 25 weeks pregnant! She doesn't leave much room for self-pity amongst those of us who aren't 6 months pregnant.

June 28th

The trail from Paradise to Camp Muir is still mostly snow covered, but it is starting to melt out near Paradise and between Panorama Point and Pebble Creek. It snowed several inches on Sunday (6/24) which made for good skiing and boarding from Camp Muir. The new snow is melting out quickly however, so you should expect slushy conditions on warm afternoons.

In many places the boot track does not follow the summer trail, so please be careful to follow the wands and stay on summer trail where it is exposed.

June 21st

The summer snowpack is beginning to form on the snowfield. Things aren't melting much and there is still snow from Paradise to Muir. The upper snowfield is consolidating though, with sloppy afternoon snow freezing to an icy sheen at night. There is a good bootpack with sporadic wanding. Be careful where you step as the snowy sections of the Paradise meadows start to melt down to dirt. The boot track on top of the snow doesn't always follow the rocky permanent trail hidden under the snow. Now is the time of year when the plastic boots of climbers can inadvertently turn a patch of heather into a mud pit devoid of vegetation if climbers aren't careful where they walk.

June 17th

Conditions on the Muir Snowfield remain good for skiers/snowboarders. You will need to walk your skis/boards over two short sections, but otherwise you can make the run all the way to Paradise.

The snow conditions have been good the last few days with small amounts of new snow during the short storms that recently rolled through. There are multiple large, though no longer unified, boot tracks from Pebble Creek to Muir. There is occasional wanding of the route, though one of the larger swaths of the boot prints is not following wands at all. A GPS/compass and bearing sheet still come in handy, especially on the stormy days.

June 13th

Last weekend's recent snowfall made the Muir Snowfield a smooth place to ski and ride snowboards. As you can see, Stoney Richards is enjoying some smooth terrain down on the Nisqually after dropping down the "Nisqually Chute" (which you can see behind him). A number of areas around Pan Point and Pebble Creek have really started to melt out, so you ski-oriented folks will have to dismount, or take an alternative path.

At this time, there is a well established boot track to Muir, but the current weather forecast calls for more snow on Thursday/Friday. Check in at the Jackson Visitor Center front desk for more information before your trip.

June 11

The weather was beautiful at Muir last week. It was clear, calm, and warm with clouds below around 8000 ft. A storm came in Friday night and brought snow, rain, and sustained 40 m.p.h. winds. No one summitted on Saturday because of the weather, and there were many unhappy climbers.

The trail is still snow covered above Pan Point, but the summer trail is starting to melt out below that. Still good skiing though!

June 7

This past weekend we had several thunderstorms to the east of the mountain giving us a great lightning show. During the past week climbers have been on all sides of the mountain, many of them summitting in bad weather. The trail to Muir is starting to follow the summer route up Pan Point and through Pebble Creek. The trail goes up the center of the snowfield to Moon Rock then to Camp Muir. The trail us 100% snow covered from the parking lot to Muir.

Today we woke up to a fresh blanket of snow. We got about 2-3" at Paradise. The Muir snowfield is smooth once again after the weekend traffic. Don't put those skis and snowboards away just yet.

May 23

Not much has changed at Camp Muir and along the Muir Snowfield. Lots of great skiing and boarding, especially since it recently snowed. Here is a nice aerial of the camp, note the weatherport tents on the Cowlitz Glacier. Those belong to the guide services.

Aerial image by Mike Gauthier, May 22.

May 20

Many skiers are out enjoying the slopes of Mount Rainier. Conditions are changing. Nice weather over the past week facilitated the formation of a good boot track. The general route is marked with wands for most of the way between Paradise and Muir but there are some long blank sections where no wands are visible. During periods of low visibility or storms don't expect to rely on the wands as your sole source for route finding. Earlier a firm crust formed on the upper half of the snowfield but today it is snowing again with accumulations between 4-10 inches anticipated. This should hopefully result in very enjoyable skiing conditions!

May 7th

Four to six inches of new snow and relatively cold weather on Saturday and warm rainy weather (up to almost 9000') on Sunday was Mother Nature's contribution to Mt. Rainier's re-opening this weekend. The winds and overall poor weather up high prevented most parties from summitting, but that did not stop people from enjoying the myriad of recreation possibilities on the Muir Snowfield. The Muir Snowfield has great coverage this spring. There is still over 140" of snow on the ground in Paradise.

Currently the Snowfield is in the process of being wanded and should be well marked from Pan Point up by this weekend. The recent snow, rain, and warm weather have made the snow soft and slushy. In some places knee deep post holing is the rule. In other areas where more people have walked the boot pack is supportable. Using skis, snowshoes, or a split board to skin or walk up the Muir Snowfield will make things much faster and easier both on the way up and the way down.

As long as the freezing levels stay high the Snowfield should stay soft. Later this week the freezing level is supposed to drop below 5000'. This cooler weather will allow the snowpack to start going through a melt freeze cycle. Early in the day after the snow has refrozen the surface should be hard and supportable making going up much easier. As the day warms up the snow surface should soften making the skiing and sliding conditions much nicer for a midday descent.

April 19th

The Muir Snowfield is in good shape for climbers, and particularly skiers, who will undoubtedly enjoy the snowpack once the road to Paradise opens. This image was taken on April 19th, note that most of the rocks are well covered by the winter and spring snow. Currently, there is over 150 inches on the ground at Paradise. Snowshoes or skies are recommended for the trip.

The NPS is in the process of digging out the huts at Camp Muir. The guide services are also moving equipment and getting ready for the summer.

Photos by Arlington Ashby

April 10th

Under calm clear skies, I hiked to Camp Muir on April 10th. For the most part, I found typical spring conditions: soft snow, deep snow, crusty snow, ice, etc. The route was 100% snow/ice covered, and snowshoes are recommended as well as a reliable navigation device that you know how to use, so that you can make it safely up and down. For skiers and boarders, there was one section of ice near McClure Rock that had a number of exposed rocks. That area might require a skier or boarder to dismount (unless you're talented enough to thread the hazards).

The buildings at Camp Muir were accessible, and there was no notable damage to any structures. For more information on Camp Muir, check out our 2006 reports. Seattle Times photographer, Erika Shultz, is seen here with snowboard in tow near 8K.

Tahoma Glacier Route Conditions 2007 - Archived

Tahoma Glacier Route Conditions - April 2

Hike the Nisqually Road to the Westside Road, and up to Fish Creek, which is three miles up the Westside Road. Depending on conditions, you may need to ford or hop across rocks to get across the obstacle of this creek. Continue up the severely washed out road until you hit the old Tahoma Creek trailhead. Consider traveling the creek bed, which may be easier. Now Tim Ryan's route report begins:

TAHOMA CREEK TRAIL: From the trailhead, there is windfall covering the trail for the first 0.2 miles. Beyond this the trail is completely covered in sand and rocks and then washed over a section perhaps 60 yards long.

At this point on the way in, we opted to follow Tahoma Creek, rather than search for the trail in a woods full of blow down. Traveling on snowshoes, we followed the north side of the creek to an elevation of 3900 feet, where we made camp. At first, we were hampered by thin, rotten snow between some of the larger rocks on the bank. Not evident from the surface, we would break through and stumble. As we gained altitude, this tendency subsided. Unable to continue like this due to the course of the creek, which completely cut off our path, we decided to look for the trail up above us in the woods. To our joy, we found the trail in generally good condition and easy to follow to the junction with the Wonderland Trail. There was enough snow to warrant snowshoes.

WONDERLAND TRAIL TO TAHOMA GLACIER: The Wonderland Trail was in good traveling condition, save two or three sections of windfall. Above 4800 feet however, the trail was lost under the snow on a switchback. We then bushwhacked along the side of Emerald Ridge, eventually following a gully at treeline (perhaps the Wonderland Trail buried under snow) to the saddle in front of peak 6037.

TAHOMA GLACIER: From the saddle, we roped up and traveled north onto the Tahoma Glacier. On the glacier, all but the largest crevasses were completely snow covered. The snow was firm and travel on snowshoes was quick and easy. Between 6000 and 7000 feet, we generally stayed to the right. Above 7000 feet, we traveled more or less up the center of the glacier, avoiding the ice falls and few large crevasses. We made camp at 8800 feet.

Monday night, it snowed about a foot. This coupled with high winds canceled our summit bid for Tuesday morning. Tuesday, was spent in camp, resting and improving our windwalls to deal with the constantly changing wind direction. Though windy, Tuesday was warm and sunny, and we got our first good look at the route.

Wednesday morning was calm and cold and we left for the summit at about 3:30 am, hoping to arrive at the steep section above 11400 feet at dawn. The snow was hard and travel by moonlight on snowshoes made fast. We crossed two or three crevasses, marking them with wands, while climbing the left side of the glacier. Arriving at the steep section, we switched snowshoes for crampons. There was some windloading of snow on this slope, with a windslab a few inches thick in many places, though other areas were blown clean down. We were able to kick step up most of this without difficulty, save a few areas where the windslab was covering unconsolidated powder. Above 13000 feet, the terrain leveled off and we climbed directly to the summit crest.

SUMMIT: Above 14300 feet, there was windblown rime snow covering the rocks with a strange brittle shell. Trying to climb, we continually punched through this to the rocks that were a foot or two below the shell. Also, immediately upon reaching the crater rim, the wind picked up force. Reaching the high point on the crater rim, we quickly snapped a few photos before descending. Below 14000 feet, the wind abated and we climbed down to our camp

I must here admit that in retrospect, having examined our summit photos and consulted our map, I do not believe that we reached the true summit. I think the true summit lay 200 yards to the east and perhaps 70 feet higher than where we stopped climbing. Due to the wind and fatigue, I did not however mark the high point of our climb on my GPS. Furthermore, my climbing partner has a different recollection, and remains convinced that we did indeed climb to the very top. (BLOG PUBLISHER NOTE: Who really cares? You guys did a GREAT JOB!!)

DESCENT: On the climb down there were three separate avalanches off the icefall on the right side of the steep section of the Tahoma Glacier. Furthermore, the windslab we had climbed up was poorly bonded to the underlying layers of consolidated snow. We could also hear the boom of avalanches in the Sunset Amphitheater and see small sloughs coming off both the Tahoma and Puyallup Cleavers. Most of these were small slides, triggered by rock or ice fall. We saw no slab avalanches high on the mountain. Nonetheless, as it was already afternoon, we climbed down the steep section from 13000 to 11000 feet as quickly as possible. Switching back into snowshoes, we strolled back to camp, noticing that several of the crevasses we had crossed that morning had opened nicely in the heat of the day.

Further into the descent, we stayed on the Tahoma Creek Trail as much as possible. There were six or seven sections of windfall that could be crossed directly or circumnavigated. There were also two or three sections of trail that were washed out. This combined with the snow, made finding the trail again mildly difficult. At lower elevations we traveled without snowshoes. Above 4000 feet, we wore them. Photos by Tim Ryan.

For more information about previous attempts and route conditions on Tahoma Glacier, check our our achieved information on the Tahoma Glacier climbing route.