Emmons - Winthrop 2013

September 20

Camp Schurman was boarded up and secured for the season.  Besides irregular late-season visits by rangers and maintenance personnel there will not be rangers on duty through the winter.  If you come up to climb (see post below for a still-accurate report on the route) remember to register at the White River Ranger Station.  They are open 07:30 to 17:00 daily - and will be so until they close after Columbus Day.  Once the ranger station closes for the season self-registration will be in place until next spring.  Thanks for all the good climbs and times this last summer.  Have a great winter!

September 12

Stormy weather, followed by beautiful sunny fall skies and a fresh coat of snow is what the Emmons has seen in the past week or so. The storms that moved through all of western Washington last week brought quite a bit of fresh snow to Mt. Rainier. Once the skies cleared, and the snow settled, it revealed beautiful climbing conditions high on the Emmons.

Fresh snow at Camp Schurman and on the Emmons
The approach to Camp Schurman remains largely the same as in the post from August 28th. The largest difference being that the upper Inter Glacier received a few inches of snow, making travel easier. The lower and middle Inter still have many large, exposed ice sections. Climbers choosing to approach this way should still consider crampons, ice axes, and ropes. There have also been a few reports of rockfall from the rock islands on the Inter, so make sure to keep your eyes up, and consider a helmet. 

The Emmons itself, above Camp Schurman, has several options that all work. The past week has seen quite a few successful summit bids via several variations on the route. With the fresh snow, the previous boot track was completely covered, leaving climbers to choose their own route. The very direct route that has been in for the past couple of months is still in, as well as a route that traverses more to the southwest from the top of the corridor. Parties are also finding success by traversing into Liberty Saddle and by crossing the bergschrund directly. The hardest part of the route, currently, is getting out of Camp Schurman itself. This section is quite crevassed, but with care, parties can pick a way through, to the smoother slopes above.

Overall, the Emmons  is in remarkable shape for mid September! For those folks looking for a beautiful fall climb, the Emmons is certainly the route of choice. Remember, as we move farther into fall, the temperatures will be getting lower, and the weather more variable, so come prepared for all weather conditions. Take a look at the forecast, and come join us for fall on the mountain before the winter weather makes its way in!


August 28

The Emmons is certainly holding strong as we head into fall on Mt. Rainier. The recent snow fall has accumulated on the upper mountain, solidifying some of the crevasse bridges, and covering the large sun cup features that climbers were seeing a few weeks ago, creating nice climbing conditions.

Inter Glacier, from Mt. Ruth
The approach to Camp Schurman is beautiful right now, with huckleberries and wild flowers in many places along the glacier basin trail. Once to Glacier Basin camp, the trail leads toward the base of the Inter Glacier and is snow free. The Inter Glacier is quite melted out with exposed ice and crevasses in many locations. This exposed ice is forcing climbers to the west edge of the first pressure ridge, then back to the east to avoid another section of ice. Climbers choosing to use the Inter as their approach should consider crampons and roping up. The Emmons below Camp Curtis also has crevasses melting out, but is straight forward for navigation. 

The climbing route above Camp Schurman remains largely unchanged, and is still quite direct. However, always inspect crevasse bridges, and do not be afraid to go outside the boot track and scout a new way around suspect bridges. See the posts below, or ask your friendly rangers for more detailed route information. 

With the changing seasons, make sure you have your winter clothing in your bag, a GPS with extra batteries, and be prepared for any weather conditions. Conditions can change quickly high on the mountain, with little warning, from sun to full white out. There is still great climbing to be had on the Emmons, so come on up for a late season climb on the quieter side of the mountan!


August 22

The Emmons is still climbing great. The route has changed almost none since the last post and climbers are having very successful trips. This time of year weather is starting to again be a factor with cooler temps, winds and precip changing surface conditions on a daily basis. Be mindful that conditions can change rapidly and be very different at 13,500' than they were at 11,000'. Check in with Rangers to get the latest forecast and route reports.

August 15

This past week brought a significant change in the weather and climbing conditions on the Emmons, Winthrop and Inter Glaciers.

Climbing parties accessing Camp Schurman via the Inter Glacier are encountering ablated ice, glacial surface stream crossings, large open crevasses and challenging route-finding conditions. Consider using crampons and roping up on this section of the route.

Above Camp Schurman the route is still very direct up to the summit.  Expect variable climbing conditions and weather patterns as fall approaches on the mountain. The top 1500 feet remains firm and wind scoured.  Lower down the route received several inches of fresh snow burying previous boot packs.  Come up expecting these conditions and be prepared to make your own route finding decisions. Your climbing party will thank you for this level of preparedness.

Remember that the route does not have established wands, please pull your wands on the descent.  The use of map and compass, GPS, and taking photos on the ascent are good tools to use for navigation but the best tool you have is your ability to make ongoing assessments during your climb.

August is a great month to be on Rainer and it is starting to feel wintery up here.  693

August 7 

The Emmons continues to stay in great shape as the summer wears on providing stellar glacier sights and mountain views. The route is very direct for this time of year and Camp Schurman is always a nice place to spend some time. 

The approach is still easily negotiated up the Inter Glacier, over the ridge at Camp Curtis and up the Emmons a short way to Schurman. Crevasses are starting to open wider on the Inter and the lower parts are becoming a bit icy so roping up and crampons are highly recomended. There is some bear activity in the Glacier Basin area so climbers heading through this area or staying overnight should take proper precautions with food storage. 

Above Camp Schurman the route follow a classic Emmons line to the summit. The route heads up the corridor to around 11,600' and then heads slightly right through some crevasses and into a large open bowl. From there the route continues upward, to around 12,500' where it traverses left to a thinning snow bridge spanning a crevasse. Rangers last week all found this bridge to be acceptable and easily protectable with either running protection or a belay. For those who are uncomfortable with this area rangers also explored around and found a solid alternate route around this crevasse further to the climbers left. The route again continues up and slightly right, crossing the bergschrunds over solid bridges and on up to the summit.

Climbers should note that this route is not wanded and there is the potential that people will need to make route finding decisions for themselves. There is a prominent bootpack up the mountain and most of it is great, but there are times when the route will change due to melting snow bridges and climbers will need to negotiate their way through new terrain. There are definitely a few ways up this route and it is a long way from being "done". Please remember to pick up your wands if you choose to use them while climbing, the Emmons is in the wilderness and leave no trace ethics apply. 

This time of year climbers can expect to potentially encounter hard surface conditions along with new snow, especially on the upper part of the route. Consider the use of running protection is areas with high consequences. 


July 31

Sunshine, fewer climbers, and a great route is what folks have seen recently on the North side of Mt. Rainier. The Emmons is in fine shape as we roll into August, and has seen many successful climbs in the past week.

The approach to Camp Schurman, as noted in the previous post, remains largely the same, with the trail in great shape, and no snow until just before gaining the Inter Glacier. There has been recent bear activity in the Glacier Basin area, but the camp is currently reopened to campers and climbers. Just remember to keep a tidy camp, and use the provided bear bins to store your food if you choose to camp at Glacier Basin.

The Inter Glacier continues to melt out above the first pressure ridge, with exposed ice, and a few crevasses. All of this can be avoided currently, by going climbers left, or right. Use caution if you choose to glissade down the Inter.

Above Camp Schurman, the route is in excellent shape. The route follows its way up to the top of the corridor, and then ascends slightly climbers right, but largely straight up to about 12,500 feet. There are several slightly exposed crevasse crossings, but keep your head up, and don't just follow the boot track, as all of these crossings have a solid alternative slightly up or down hill from the main boot track.

Most parties are choosing to ascend directly to the bergschrund, and cross, continuing on a direct line to the summit. There are several options for crossing the bergschrund at the moment, the main boot track works well, but this track may soon melt out, so feel free to assess other options. Traversing into the Liberty Saddle at approx 13,500 feet is also still a viable option.

Come take advantage of the great shape that the Emmons is in, take a photo of the world famous flamingos, and enjoy spectacular sunsets from Camp Schurman.


July 24
The Emmons is in great condition right now. Stable weather combined with great route conditions have led to many successful climbs lately. The route will definitely stay in good shape for quite a while so come on up for a climb!
The approach to Schurman via Glacir Basin and the Inter glacier is still a good and straightforward route. The trail above Glacier Basin in totally melted out until just before the Inter. Please make sure to stay on the climbers trail and only camp in the snow if you are planning to stay in the Inter alpine zone. Also be aware that bear activity has been increasing in the Glacier Basin backcountry camp. The camp is currently closed to use until a solution to the bear problem can be found. More information is available from the wilderness rangers at White River. The Inter is starting to get icy below 7,000' and crevasses are opening up along the entire route so be careful when ascending and be extra careful if you decide to glissade on your descent.
The route above Schurman is in great shape with a variety of ways climbers can navigate to the summit. Most climbers are going right above the corridor then continuing up and slightly right before taking a direct line over the bergschrund and on to the summit. Alternatives to go directly up or left above the corridor also exist, as does the option to traverse to Liberty Saddle and to the summit. 
Please be aware that the worn boot pack stays in place well after the route changes to avoid dangerous sections. Use your best judgement and don't do things like jump over crevasses when there are very safe alternatives only a few yards away. Please remember to clean up any wands you place on the route, and as always bring plenty of sunscreen. Thanks! 696/697

July 16
Sunny days are starting to become the norm on the Camp Schurman side of the mountain as we move into mid July.  Climbing conditions on the Emmons Winthrop continue to be ideal.  The route is very direct and from Camp Schurman one can see the whole climbing route.  If you are coming up for a climb remember that neither the NPS nor the guiding services wand or maintain the route.  This is a wilderness climb.

Skiers continue to come up for summit bids and ski descents. Expect challenging conditions this time of the year; deep sun cups, penitentes, slush, corn snow, ice, and crusts are just some of the varying snow conditions skiers and climbers will encounter.  
If you are coming up for a climb remember that all these sunny days bring  big change to the mountain. Crevasses continue  to open up and expect boot traffic to lead to cracks that are no longer crossable. Continue to make your own assesments and expect to take your own line both up and down the mountain.  Remember the sunscreen and glacier glasses and climb safe.

July 11

Camp Schurman and the Emmons/Winthrop are business as usual. Crisp mornings, sunny days, great climbing, small crowds, and positive vibes. The route is still in fantastic condition leading to lots of successful summits over the past week. The warm afternoons are softening up the snow so take care and be aware on your decent. Thunderstorms are possible this time of year so remember to monitor the sky for high level cloud formation. The route is still seeing some ski descents but conditions are challenging up high. The freezing level has been bouncing around 12,500' -13,500'. Make sure you bring your "A" game if you plan on skiing, and as always lots of sunscreen and big smiles.  -697

July 4

The Emmons/Winthrop continues to be a great climbing option for those looking to check out the less traveled side of the mountain! Many parties summited recently and there are still, plenty of skiers.  The route is in typical condition for this time of year, with a few crevasse bridges being used.  Remember to pay close attention to these, try to cross them while it's cooler out!

The approach to Glacier Basin is almost entirely snow free.  Skiing on the Inter Glacier just above the Basin still provides great turns.  Keep an eye out for cracks to develop soon.  Also - be bear aware in Glacier Basin.  Though these magnificent beasts are photogenic and look at bit like Yogi - don't approach or feed them.  Talk to the rangers at the White River WIC for the current bear beta.  -692

June 21

The Emmons is in great shape and seeing lots of successful climbs. Despite the weather reports the past week or so, skies have been mostly sunny above 9,000 feet. The trail into Glacier Basin is now mostly snow free to within 3/4 of a mile of the camp. If you are bringing skis, you can begin skinning near Glacier Basin, and ski the rest of the way up to Camp Schurman.

The Inter Glacier is beginning to show signs of summer, with a few cracks opening up, so keep a look out while traveling up and down. Camp Schurman itself is also beginning to melt out, but there remain a large number of already dug out bivy sites just off the rocks from camp. 

The route above Camp Schurman is straight forward and direct right now. There are a few crevasses showing immediately out of camp as you head towards Emmons Flats. There are also a few cracks running parallel to the boot track once on the corridor, so assess where the track is going for yourself, and don't be afraid to put in a different track to avoid crevasses. Once above the corridor the route is still traversing up and climbers right to gain the Winthrop, and then heading up into the Liberty Saddle at approximately 13,700 feet, before ascending the gentle slopes to Columbia Crest. 

All in all the Emmons is in fine form, and a great option for those looking for a less crowded route. Come on up and bring the sunblock, sunglasses, and have a great time!  -691

May 27

The White River road opened to the campground over the weekend making the approach for the Northeast side of Rainier much shorter! The Glacier Basin trail is in good shape for this time of year with no major rock-slides, avalanches or trees blocking the trail. The trail is mostly snow free for the first mile and then intermittent for the next mile. Skiers probably won't find good skinning conditions until they are within a mile of the Glacier Basin camp. The Inter glacier can be straightforward or a slog depending on conditions when you arrive. Early travel is almost always best both for going up and down. Even on cloudy days solar radiation can make the Inter feel like an oven, leading to harsh post-holing and increased avalanche danger. Climbers have been taking the Curtis/Emmons cutoff as well as climbing to the top of Steamboat Prow to access Schurman. 

Schurman itself is a pleasant place with most of the camping sites being fully in the snow. Climbers will need to dig themselves tent platforms...take note when choosing a site and it would be wise to probe the area for moats or crevasses if you are unfamiliar with the area. If a ranger is around they will give you the best information about camping at Schurman along with the current climbing conditions. With the past week of stormy weather we have not heard of any successful ascents of the Emmons lately, but as things settle out and we get some weather breaks we will keep you informed of the current route. 

The recent snows have definitely freshened up the mountain and the skiing on the Inter and Emmons could be really good if you hit it at the right time.

May 11

The journey to camp Schurman starts at the White River Entrance Station. This adds some miles to the usual summer approach so be prepared for a long day. Traveling by ski has its advantages and is the preferred mode of travel with the approach being mostly snow. Bring some extra trail munchies for along the way. Traveling from White River campground is varied with sections of walking on pavement and skinning on snow. The campground has a ranger cabin with a comfortable snow free porch to take a break before starting up the usual summer trail.

The trail up to Glacier Basin is mostly snow with a few sections that will require some walking. There are many places you can stop and get water all the way to Glacier Basin campground, but be sure to fill up before you leave for your final approach up the Inter glacier. There is no water from this point to Schurman unless you're making it. 

With the warm temps. there has been a lot of observed wet snow avalanche activity on both sides of  Glacier Basin up to Saint Elmo's pass. Use caution and travel with an index of suspicion around these slopes during mid-day when the temperatures are increasing. Travel up the Inter glacier is where you gain most of your elevation during the approach so be sure to time it right. If the sun is out and freezing level is above 9,000ft., midday conditions up this can be hot, punchy, and undesirable. Camp Schurman Ranger Station has been opened up for the season and will be staffed on the weekends starting late May. The toilet is open and operational. The climbing routes out of camp Schurman are in good condition with the Winthrop shoulder looking to be the most direct line to the top.