Camp Muir and Muir Snowfield - 2008

Camp Muir & Muir Snowfield - November 17th

Here is a link to a bearing map provided by the NPS.

Snow stayed in patches above Glacier Vista, making it through last week's big rain event. From below Glacier Vista to Pebble Creek, water ice forms on the trail, depending on the fluctuating temperatures. Below Pebble Creek, the summer trail is still easy to follow. Above this point there's an unbreakable crust, four inches thick; skis were better on my feet than on my back, even though the walking was easy. Crampons might be needed on the hill below Anvil Rock, or some other random location. Camp Muir greeted me with its normal slap in the face; gusts of wind delivering micro-derm abrasions from the ice particles aloft in the air. Rimed up ice world, drifts over the door necessitate a shovel to access the shelter. 2500' of skiing - all icy, yet, the happy zone of sliding down on my skis was achieved. FYI, one can see the sun go down into the trees from Muir this close to the solstice, have a happy winter:)

Happy trails,

October 20th

Paradise received about 3-4 inches of snow over the last 24 hours. Although the total accumulation is not very much, the wind created 1-2 ft snow drifts on the trail up to Panorama Point. The trail up to Pebble Creek is still good to go and easy to follow. Beware of crevasses on the Snowfield that may have been covered by this fresh coat of new snow. Check out the posts below for more details on how to best avoid these cracks.

On the lighter side, it was a beautiful morning up at Paradise -- sunny, crisp and clear. A day like today would make for a great hike up the hill. See you on the Mountain!

October 14

Winter weather conditions have been the norm on the upper mountain since the guiding season came to a close earlier this month. The snow bridges covering many of the crevasses encountered on the snowfield are extremely weak. Late September was blessed with days of intense solar gain and high freezing levels. These mild conditions left many of the large crevasses exposed and relatively easy to navigate around. The recent snow accumulation and high winds have created a deceptively uniform surface coverage on the Muir Snowfield. The previously open cracks between 9000 and 10200 feet are now covered with a thin wind slab (3"-6") that can fracture easily under the weight of a climber. Many hikers were making their way up to Muir this weekend in the tracks of other visitors who had ascended on skis. Please be mindful that bridges able to hold the weight of a person spread along the surface area of a pair of skis may not be strong enough when that weight comes down on the small surface area of a foot. Make sure to probe in suspect areas and give visible cracks a wide berth. Until more snow falls on the Muir Snowfield to help solidify these bridges, utilizing the rocks on climbers right as a handrail up to Anvil Rock and then on toward high camp is highly recommended.

October 3-4

"From Fall to Winter in a mile of Paradise"

The hike from Paradise to Camp Muir these days is definitely a dynamic one. This time of year, expect everything from 65 degree weather, blues skies and calm winds to 25 degrees, snow and blizzard-level gusts. This weekend up at Paradise was almost as manic as you can get up there...without the blizzard.

I started my hike in the morning around 9:00 a.m. Although the Mountain was only partially in view, it had been a beautiful morning, offering a purple sky at sunrise and beautiful silhouettes of the Tatoosh Range behind the fog. By the time I began to hike, though, the weather was deteriorating, and by the time my hike to Pebble Creek was done, the clouds had fully encompassed the sky. It both rained and snowed on me during the day, changing from liquid to solid form as I walked higher and the temperature dropped. The trail was covered in snow below Panorama Point and above there, rime coated the signs and the rocks, so caution was required to maintain steady footing. At Pebble Creek, things are pretty icy - it rained and then snowed, creating a nice ice sheet.
The Muir Snowfield is still pretty broken up and crevasses are still present along the route. Watch out for these gaping cracks and DO NOT approach them to get a closer look - we have already had multiple hikers fall into these crevasses, requiring assistance from guides and rangers who were luckily nearby. As per our previous posts, stay to the hiker's right on the way up.

Conditions at Muir are snowy. The wind this weekend also pushed the snow into drift 10 - 15 ft high, so maneuvering to the bathrooms may require a little extra effort; despite attempts by climbing rangers to shovel the doors free of snow. A note to climbers staying in the public shelter - BE SURE THE DOOR IS SHUT TIGHT! It is a heavy door and if not closed completely, can re-open, allowing snow and ice to get in and a very unpleasant stay for the next visitors.

Despite the cold, wind and snow this weekend, it was clear skies in the afternoon and evening. Not many climbers were around, so anyone venturing up there has an opportunity to enjoy themselves on the Mountain with few distractions. The hike up offers some beautiful views of the landscape blanketed in fall colors and even the snow coated trail up by Panorama Point is really spectacular this time of year. If you're looking for some additional recent images of Paradise and the hike up to Muir, check out the updated Route Conditions for the Disappointment Cleaver and the new post on our front page "Autumn in Paradise". Better yet, find out for yourself - G0 out there and enjoy it!

See you on the Mountain.

September 22

Approaching Camp Muir whether to climb or simply for a training hike requires both crampons and strong glacier travel skills BEFORE reaching Camp Muir. That's right, its 'game on' for the approach with three separate incidents of hikers falling into crevasses in the last two weeks BELOW Camp Muir. The hikers each fell approximately 25 feet unroped into open crevasses on the Muir 'Snowfield', each requiring high-angle rope rescue by either professional guides who happened to be close or by climbing rangers. Please exercise extreme caution when traveling above Pebble Creek to Camp Muir as the bootpack crosses onto hard ice with open crevasses running all the way to Anvil Rock; stay climbers right and try to end-run as close to the rocks as possible.

Caution is the name of the game right now, so be sure to have your "bearings" while heading up to Camp Muir and be prepared with the necessary gear for this time of year. Enjoy your hike up to Camp Muir, which despite the increased hazards, will likely be quite pleasant with lower visitor use this time of year.

September 11th

The public shelter has been opened. Come on up and relax on the new benches outside the public shelter. A helicopter flew the rest of the contractor's equipment off today (Thursday). Climbers could see large sling loads floating below "three papa delta" (the helicopter's tail name) as he flew up and down from Camp Muir.

As always with September conditions on the snow field: BE CAREFUL. This is not the best time of year for kids. A 14 year old girl fell 20 feet down into a crevasse. She was wedged there until the climbing rangers with the help of some guides pulled her out. Use caution while jumping over these cracks in the snow field. If in doubt don't jump. Usually by hiking to the climber's right, the crevasse openings will become smaller.

Crampons aren't necessary to get up and down from Muir, but they will make your footing much more secure. Trekking poles are also strongly recommended.

September 5th

Ahhhha, this is why they call it 'Paradise'.

Although most climber types (including myself) are prone to just put their heads down and grind out the hike to Camp Muir without much of a look around,I highly discourage that type of behavior these days. The wildflowers from Paradise to Pebble Creek are in full bloom, the marmots seem to have scheduled boxing matches, all while Bambi and friends stumble around the meadows above Paradise. Now, add to this picture the backdrop of the alpenglow on Mt. Rainier and the Tatoosh and you will begin to get a slight sense of the breath-taking natural beauty of Mount Rainier National Park and an understanding for why the words "why are we whispering?" are so common among hikers.

Temperatures this week at Camp Muir have been cold and some light snow showers pasted camp two days in a row. The route from Pebble Creek up the snowfield is still fairly easy to follow, although crampons are recommended for the upper third of the approach. Keep an eye out for both open and hidden crevasses in this upper third of the snowfield and don't be afraid to get off the bootpack and blaze a new trail as conditions are changing fast. Several climbers have reported punching through snow bridges on the approach and descent from Camp Muir accrediting their lack of vigilance to what is usually "just a hike".

Also, be advised that the Public Shelter at Camp Muir will remain closed through the weekend and possibly the beginning of next week as contractors are performing some much needed renovations to the structure.

Camp Muir and Muir Snowfield ~ August 30th

First Snowfall of Autumn?

A strong winter storm plastered Camp Muir (pictured at right is the Ranger Hut with some excellent scottish style mixed climbing) leaving up to 3 feet of fresh windloaded snowdrifts...

Coming up from Paradise one will find good dry trails all the way to Pebble Creek before hitting snow. The wildflowers are still abundant and the Nisqually Glacier has some beautiful waterfalls pouring in from the upper mountain. Above 7500 the route to Muir is predominantly on soft snow with an obvious bootpack. At around 9000 ft hikers will encounter icy patches which only become wet when warm and provide little traction. Consider picking your way around on the new snow from this past week's storm or bring a trekking pole for balance.

With warmer temperatures in store for the end of the week the new snow probably wont be around for long. However, around 9500 ft on climbers leftside of the snowfield there is at least one open crevasse. This should not be consider too much of a threat as it is several hundred feet away from the bootpack but descending from Muir, one is liable to intersect this crevasse and possibly others. The crevasse in question (pictured) has been wanded but care should be taken to avoid the area around it.

With new snow filling in the suncups the opportunity for boot skiing the snowfield down to Pebble Creek allows for a quick descent. Be advised that Rainier has received significant snow every month this summer and one should not be complacent when traveling the snowfield. Still with excellent sunsets, sunrises, marmots and wildflowers come visit the highest camps on the mountain.

August 19th

Both the Skyline and Deadhorse Creek Trails are mostly snowfree on the way up to Pebble Creek, with the exception of a few stubborn patches. These spots are pretty well marked and visitors should folllow the designated path to avoid stepping off the trail when the snow meets back up with dry land.

The snowfield saw sleet, rain and snow this past week and now sunshine and warmer temperatures. Therefore, expect conditions on the snowfield to vary depending on the day's weather and also the elevation. If it's raining at Paradise, prepare for possible snowfall further up the Mountain. The fresh snow that fell this week definitely helped out the exposed icy patch right below Camp Muir, but don't expect the cover to last too long...unless we get more snow next week. Additional things to look out for when hiking up to Camp Muir - Crevasses! That's right folks, although we use the term snowfield to describe this perennial snow cover, there is ice underneath most of the trail up to Camp Muir. Travelers on the Snowfield should keep their eyes peeled for some larger cracks that have formed below Muir Rocks, as well a small crevasse right off the bootpack at around 9500 ft. Also, if you plan on glissading on your descent back to Paradise, be sure that you can see the end of the path and any obstacles that may lie in your way. Several glissade routes ended in, or near-by melted out rocks and boulders - potential hazards for sure! Finally, the route is easy to follow with a boot-pack leading you uphill most the way, but if fresh snow falls and covers these tracks or whiteout conditions occur, which can happen quickly on the Snowfield as we warn about often, be sure to keep your topo map and compass or GPS handy. Navigating the snowfield can become extremely difficult if you are left unprepared. If needed, stop by the JVC at Paradise or Longmire WIC for more information.

August 9th

Although fall is right around the corner, the snow around Paradise has finally begun to melt and the flowers are out and blooming. Both the Skyline trail and the Dead Horse Creek trails leading up to Camp Muir are mostly clear of snow all the way to Pebble Creek. Once you pass Pebble Creek, you step back onto the snow for the remainder of the approach to Camp Muir following a fairly well-established bootpack. Be aware that the underlying alpine ice is beginning to show itself just outside of high camp although crampons are not yet needed. Get out and enjoy the snowfield!

Camp Muir and Muir Snowfield - July 28th

Currently, there are two main trailheads in use for your hike up to Camp Muir: Deadhorse Creek and the Skyline Trail. The Deadhorse Creek Trail begins from the lower parking lot by the JVC. It's still about 60% snow covered. However, the trail is wanded and easy to traverse. At the upper parking lot by the construction of the new visitor center, the Skyline Trail begins across from the Paradise Inn. From the trailhead, signs guide you uphill to Camp Muir via the westside of the Skyline Trail. Right above Alta Vista, Deadhorse Creek Trail meets up with Skyline Trail and the merged trail heads to Panorama Point. The stairs at Panorama Point to Pebble Creek are mostly snow free. Throughout your route uphill, you will run into snow patches of varying sizes. It may seem easier to walk on the side of the snow, but please be aware of the fragile meadows running right next to the paved trail and below the shallow snow, so please, stay on the trails!

The trail on the snowfield is pretty worn in. The boot track used by most climbers and hikers runs uphill to the hikers right. The conditions on Monday were great. The snow was soft, but not too slushy, and the boot track was easy to follow. Be aware that conditions on the snowfield change not only from one day to another, but throughout the day as well. Later in the afternoon, we hit slick, icy conditions, especially inside those large suncups that dominate the snowfield at this time. These can be dangerous if your legs are tired from a long day's hike and you hit a hard ice patch after some footskiing downhill - there were more than a few slips and falls to be seen by those trying to cruise down the hill. Slide shoots are well worn in and many folks take advantage of the opportunity to give their legs a rest by sliding downhill a few hundred feet at a time. Be sure to check that you didn't leave/lose anything behind on the snowfield after a quick slide.

Skiing the route has become a bit arduous due to the large snowcups, but this doesn't stop everyone. Folks can still be seen skinning up and getting a few good turns down, thus extending their ski season another month.

Overall, the conditions for hiking up to Camp Muir on Monday were perfect: it was warm, but not hot, sunny and beautiful. Granted, we lucked out and hit the one day of nice weather sandwiched between lesser than ideal hiking days. With a low-pressure system coming in this week, bringing clouds and possibly also rain/snow, caution should be used when hiking on the snowfield in conditions that have potential for a white-out. Be sure to prepare for the weather and the possibility for some route finding. You just may find a cloud deck below Camp Muir, such as occurred on Sunday with bluebird skies above 9500 feet. At the least, you wont have to fight the crowds and you'll have the chance to enjoy some good times on the Mountain with a few friends.

July 18th

More and more trail keeps appearing as the unseasonably huge snow load keeps melting. Be sure to stay off the meadows. This takes a lot of effort as the most direct path across the patches that are melting out is not the trail itself. Even if the "meadow" looks like just a bunch of rock - stay off it.

People hiking to Muir are still enjoying plenty of boot-skiing opportunities. The snow conditions to Muir have been soft which makes it easy to find traction with out crampons. We do reccommend trekking poles to help with balance. Enjoy!

July 11th

Great skiing continues at Mt Rainier!! Those still feeling the need for turns can find them here with the Nisqually Chute (the top of the chute is visible in the center of the photo at left) still offering a continuous descent of 4600 vertical feet from Camp Muir to Paradise (some sidestepping involved). This steep, 35 degree couloir should last through the weekend before exposed rock makes the descent too hazardous. With beautiful blue skies and alpine flowers finally able to show themselves, the Muir Snowfield is a sublime mix of snow and sun.

Despite reported freezing levels of 14,000ft, the Snowfield was cold and firm at 7am all the way to Paradise with ice forming all the way down wherever there is running water. That said, conditions soften up by 11am and make for an easy and stable descent from Camp Muir. Consider taking trekking poles if you are hiking and if you anticipate harvesting the summer corn, please note the melted out areas around Pebble Creek on your way up. The freshly blooming flowers and grasses make for a great respite as you step out of your skis or board for the brief, but mandatory hiking around 7200ft. Please be mindful and stay on the melted out trail and off the fragile flora.

July 4th

On Independence Day the Muir snowfield is still in great shape for hiking, skiing, and approaching Camp Muir and climbing beyond. Most of the trail is still snow-covered barring points near Panorama Point and Pebble Creek, the hike is brilliant.

June 27th

Alas, July is just around the corner, yet we are all still up to our necks in snow around the Paradise area! Skiing conditions remain favorable on the Muir Snowfield with the exception of the couple of mandatory portages mentioned below. As the snow continues to melt, the trail is beginning to show itself mostly in the Pebble Creek area, which has running water by the way. As this annual thaw-out occurs please be respectful and courteous of the alpine vegetation which may be gasping for air beneath what once was the bootpack. The correct trail has been generally wanded by the NPS to keep resource impact to a minimum but there may be slight deviations.

The basecamp scene at Camp Muir has been one of good cheer and good weather as of late. A plethora of parties summitted this past week with the blessing of clear skies and calm winds. Anyone planning a trip to Muir in the near future should pack plenty of sunscreen and possibly your flip flops! Last but not least, please remember that as sweet as Camp Muir is...the same rules still apply of "pack it in, pack it out". Who doesn't appreciate a clean camp? Let's all try to keep it that way.

There are more 2008 winter and spring reports in the archives.