Camp Muir and Muir Snowfield 2012

September 11 - Crevasses

In the last week a crevasses system has opened up at around 9600 feet between Anvil Rock and Moon Rocks.  What do we do about crevasses this time of year?  After 20 years of working at Mt. Rainier, the only crevasses I have fallen in are on the Muir Snowfield and on the Inter Glacier (on the approaches to the high camps).  At this particular time, there is a pretty high danger of punching through the neve and firn snow down into a crevasse that you can't see.  Are the crevasses deep?  Yes.  Some are 20-40 feet and could cause you some serious harm.  Do we rope up now for the Muir "Snowfield"?  Perhaps.  However, the best defense is some good mountain savvy, some attentiveness to your surroundings, and keep looking at the snow for signs of sagging and cracks developing.  Later, when all the last several years of snow have melted, all the crevasses are virtually at the surface.  It is much easier to avoid them when you can see them.  This is just a especially hazardous time to be out up above 9,200 feet.  Pay attention.  Creavasses are opening up all over the place, but today on the way up, here is where I noticed 4 separate crevasses (represented by the red line on the picture above).

September 10 

Sun cups on the upper snowfield have become hip-high, some icy patches are melting out around Moon Rocks (around 9200 feet), and crevasses "glide cracks" have been opening too.  It's definitely late-season conditions on the snowfield.  Please use caution this time of year with the risk of wintery storms becoming more severe.  The picture to the right shows an overview shot of the upper snowfield and Camp Muir.  

August 17
The snow has been melting rapidly with the latest heatwave.  Large suncups have formed making skiing/snowboarding difficult - but the snow has consolidated enough to make boot-travel very efficient. 

Be cautious with crevasses opening up near Camp Muir.  Late season, some crevasses open up just below Camp Muir and can be hazardous.  Also, just on the other side of Camp Muir, on the Cowlitz Glacier, crevasses have started to open near camp.  Some tents have even been set spanning crevasses that are just starting to melt out.  Be aware that by choosing to camp on the Cowlitz Glacier near Camp Muir there is a possibility of a crevasse hazard. 

Talk to the rangers at Camp Muir for help with campsite selection or for more current conditions. 

August 11

Still snowy...Still busy. Come get some!

August 1

The Muir Snowfield has been a very popular place the past week, with many people heading up to enjoy the great weather, and late season turns. The Paradise meadows are mostly melted out at this time, but there are patches of snow that still remain in places. Above Pebble Creek the trail stays on snow all the way to Muir. Please keep to the snow whenever possible and if you are camping on the snowfield remember that you need to camp on snow always. 
Camp Muir has also been a very busy place, filling to capacity on the weekends. Most people have been really good about cleaning up after themselves and others and we really appreciate their efforts. It would be better though if everyone would clean up after themselves and not make others do that for them. Remember there is no trash service at Muir, you need to pack out everything you bring, including unused fuel and food. No one wants to eat the extra mountain house meals you brought but were too lazy to take down. 

July 15

The Muir Snowfield and the Paradise meadows that lay below it are still rather snowy for this time of year. Travelers should expect snow right from the parking lot, although the lower trails have started to melt out creating what we sometimes refer to as "mixed" terrain. Please help out the fragile plants in the meadows by making a big effort to stay on the trails, especially where snow turns to dirt and vice versa.

Above Pebble Creek at 7,200' the actual Muir snowfield starts and travelers are on snow all the way to Muir. The route has been very well traveled lately so on a clear day people should have no trouble finding the "trail". For all you skiers out there, there are plenty of great turns still to be had, but you can no longer ski from Muir to Paradise without taking off your skis, and most rangers would recommend just packing your skis to Pebble Creek and then skinning from there if you so choose.

Don't forget sunscreen, sunglasses and lots of water on your journey, and if you feel the urge to take a little extra for the rangers, we have really enjoyed the fresh fruit and melons that have been donated the past few days! But feel free to stop by and talk to us even if you don't come bearing food gifts. We love meeting everyone that comes up to enjuoy this mountain!

June 28

Trail is melting out in places, but still mostly snow covered. "Bootpack" is well defined. Please stay on Paradise area trails or deeper snow to minimize impacts during the melt-out.

June 15

The Summer trail is now marked to Pan Point.  It is still 99% snow covered,  We have received up to 6 inches of new snow from the last storm.  Snowshoes are definitely optional, with the amount of travel that this route gets the "bootpack" stays beat in.  Be cautious of changing snow conditions - daytime slush can turn to slippery ice when the sun goes behind the mountain.

See the posts below for further information...

June 5

Fresh snow from Muir to Pan Point! There have been some great breaks in the clouds the last couple of days where someone could have slayed the snowfield if they had been ready for it...

June 1

The snowfield was rained on in its entirety over the past couple of days.  Lots of warm air (freezing levels around 10,500 feet) and lots of moisture came together in a tropical sort of way.  Not quite Jamaica, but that's the idea.  This is great for consolidation of snow on the snowfield.  It makes the approach in mountaineering boots more efficient.  With unsettled weather in the forecast, visibility and hard-pack conditions could make for a more challenging ski,.

Meadows, especially around Panorama Point, have been melting out.  Please don't take this as an opportunity to stomp on them with your mountaineering boots.  Your consideration and caution will be paid back to you later in the season as the wild-flowers surrounding the climbing trails on the approach offer inspiration and luck!

May 24

On the 22 an 23 the snowfield got a fresh coat of new snow, greatly  improving the hiking and skiing conditions.  6 to 12 inches of new covered up the old sun-crust making for good traction and smooth turns.  Today it got a little warm and a thin crust formed on top overnight.  This new crust will not take much away from the good conditions as it will not take much to soften it. If you're out for a dawn patrol it will likely be an easily breakable "eggshell" crust up high.

Some vegetation was beginning to poke out before the new snow, so keep an eye out and don't stomp the meadow. The route up to Muir is is great shape with the snow cover allowing for a direct route. You can pick up a bearing sheet at the Climbing Information Center in Paradise.

May 9

Conditions on the snowfield at this time are excellent. With the freeze-thaw action we have had over the past week the spring corn cycles are coming into effect and this skiing is absolutely amazing. Ideal skiing time depends on temperatures or recent snowfall of course, but this past weekend with the hot temps things seemed to be prime in the 11:00 to 1:00 range.

There is of course still snow right from the lot at Paradise, so skis, boards, snowshoes, or some kind of floatation device is definitely recommended. The route to Muir follows the standard "winter route" which goes along the skyline trail through the Paradise Meadows, then climbs Pan Face to the Pan Point Toilet (still closed for winter), and finally heads up the Muir Snowfield staying closer to the east side of the snowfield than the later "summer route" does. Although there is still lots of snow on the trail, there are a few places above Pan Point that are starting to melt down to the ground. Please be careful in these areas and stay on snow whenever possible to avoid damaging the very fragile vegetation this early in the spring. 

Always remember your sunglasses and sunblock and know that conditions can change rapidly.

May 2
Conditions Look Good!

April 22

I went up to Camp Muir today and installed a repaired webcam.  The cam isn't quite working yet.  There are few tricks we can perform from down here once the camera is on the 'network'.  Give us a little while longer.

One of the climbing rangers, Jonathon Bowman took the thing apart.  The autopsy reveals a significant amount of hitting it has happened.  It won't last much longer if people continue to beat on it to de-rime it.  Please, just let the sun melt the rime of.  It will melt off.  Jon had to solder some crucial pieces back onto the server and controller boards.  So thank him for saving us some money.  It worked on the bench here in the ranger station.  So let us make some adjustments and I hope to have it back running within a few weeks.

Other than that, the skiing has been great and the weather was fabulous today.  Depending on the time you got out of the parking lot, the snow was firm enough to stay on, but later the sun and warmth quickly melted the frozen surface to produce some post-hole conditions (ankle to mid-calf in skis).  Check out the solar-radiation at Camp Muir on the telemetry!  Sunny days are giving well over 1,000 watts/meter-squared, which means the sun is more intense than down on the floor of the Mojave Desert.  So bring lots of sun screen and hope for a gentle breeze on the way up.

Today, over 100 people made their way to Camp Muir on this fee-free weekend.  The upper parking lot was completely full during periods in the afternoon.  There's plenty of parking in the lower lot.

The skiing from Camp Muir was pretty good.  There was some soft and small sastrugi features, but one could plow right through them.  The skiing was better towards the west side of the snowfield than straight down the up-track.

Amar, Elliot, and I skied the Nisqually glacier from below Camp Muir to about 7000 feet where I traversed back to Paradise and left them to ski out the rest of the glacier to the bridge.  Bridge runs are still going, but get on it early, especially on a day like today.  Bring some warm wax, too.  It gets deep down low.

This route, staying close to the Nisqually Cliffs, is going to break up soon this year.  There were some narrow bands of snow next to the cliffs we had to side slip down.  I think you could've gone out more on the glacier, but with little crevasse rescue gear,we would've had far greater exposure to crevasses in the deep-melt snow conditions.

Get it while it's still good and passable.

These are deep melt conditions, people, so be careful on the glacier.  There are few crevasses below 6400 feet on the Nisqually, but be very careful above there.  The fan has a ton of debris down it, so it may be better to go up the glacier on the Wilson to get up to the finger during conditions like this.

Here's a link to last year's posts.