Muir Snowfield 2014

September 11th

A quick update for the snowfield as we rapidly approach fall and shorter daylight hours on the mountain.  This is the time of year when being prepared will really pay off.  If you read the post from September 4th you fill find a story of a day hiker that fell into a crevasse, don't let that happen to you.
 Fall conditions on the snowfield range from hard nieve snow to skeletal glacier ice. If you plan to trek all the way to Camp Muir expect slippery and slick conditions. Crampons and a trekking pole are highly recommended.  Also remember that conditions will change rapidly this time of the year.  All it takes is a bit of cloud cover and or some new snow and the well traveled boot pack will disappear. Route finding skills + a strong 'mountain sense' is what you will need to navigate the snowfield on a challenging day.  Don't be discouraged to come up for a day hike! Be heads up in the mountains and pre plan your trip, bring the ten essentials and travel in a group if possible.  Fall is also the time of year when emergency resources are few and far between as the NPS staff drops to a minimum.  Self rescue becomes the name of the game.  Enjoy fall up on Mt Rainier! The conditions have been phenominal this fall and the mountain is getting quieter by the day.

September 4th

With an excellent forecast for this Friday through Sunday, now is a great time to come up to Mt Rainier and visit the park.  It's still summer and the numbers up here at Camp Muir have dropped. With nice weather over the weekend we should be seeing more people up here. As far as the Muir Snowfield, folks are still making the trek up for the day.  Please keep in mind that when it is late in the season the character of the snowfield changes. Yesterday we had an incident that ended well but could have been a lot worse.
  RMI guides came upon a hiker who had punched into a crevasse on his way down to Paradise.  This hiker was only 50 feet off the boot track. Please be aware that crevasses are opening up on the snowfield.
Most crevasses have been between Camp Muir (10,200ft) and (9,000ft).
                                                                                                    The crevasse that the hiker fell into.

The guides were able to extract the hiker and he suffered a dislocated shoulder which was reduced on site.
The route is not consistently wanded on the snowfield.  In this photo there is a crevasse just below the snow surface and marked with an "X". There are many unmarked crevasses on the snowfield, as well as bare ice which is slick.  Please plan your trip accordingly and bring the appropriate gear. The hiker who fell into the crack was wearing cotton shorts, no shirt, and was freezing cold and wet by the time he got helped to the surface.  The weather can change at any time on the mountain and especially in the fall. Safe travels!

September 1st

To those of you still making your way to Camp Muir this season, please give a huge shout out and thank you to the wonderful carpenters.

The new loo in progress

Through sunshine, wind, rain, sleet and snow they have been hard at work bringing changes to Camp Muir.

July 18

There have been some glorious days on the infamous Muir Snowfield lately. Snow continues to melt rapidly, exposing delicate alpine soil and foliage. A great reason to make the trek right now is to see the amazing variety of wildflowers and alpine grasses. With that in mind, please utilize the zoom feature of your camera rather then leaving the main rock lined and wanded trail. The flora is very delicate at these high elevations and footprints take years to disappear.

The main trail is mostly snow free from Paradise for the first 1-1.5 miles. After that it gets consistently snow covered, and is all snow above Pebble Creek. The skiing is still decent on the snowfield itself, but it's probably not worth trying to link the patches below Pebble Creek (6,800').

Construction has begun on the Skyline Trail, with a detour sending hikers and climbers up the Deadhorse and Waterfall trails shortly after leaving Paradise. Please respect all closures as there is machinery at work for the repaving of the trails system. Bring your sunscreen, map and compass, and camera for a trip up to Camp Muir!

Pebble Creek

July 9

More and more snow continues to melt away from the Pebble Creek, Glacier Vista, and Alta Vista areas.  Try to stay on the established trails and watch out for fragile, short-seasoned, alpine flora.  

Because of the fast melting conditions, wands have been tipping over and blowing away - so don't rely on clear skies or wands for navigation to and from Camp Muir.  Skiers and snowboarders have been finding good corn snow and great turns on the sides of the snow field.  Timing is everything on these hot & high freezing level days. Hiking/skinning up in the cool of the morning, and descending before the snow becomes too mushy makes the trip to and from Muir much more enjoyable.

No hard icy patches or crevasses have opened up yet, but keep an eye out for these potential hazards.  

July 2

The skiing, scenery, hiking, and general atmosphere on the Muir Snowfield are all great right now!

Last weekend brought plenty of fresh snow to even the lower elevations on the Muir Snowfield, and gave the whole thing a winter like coat. This snow event was followed by some warm sunshine, which smoothed everything over, making for prime late season ski conditions. 

The trail to Muir is still mostly snow covered right from the parking lot in Paradise, with the exception of a few sections above Alta Vista, and in the Pan Point area. These areas are roped off, and the trail around them is wanded. Please resist the urge to go into these areas for a rest break, as the freshly melted out meadows are very fragile, and the wild flowers are just beginning to emerge. Along with the emerging wild flowers, many marmots and other small woodland critters are coming out for the summer. Feel free to take photos of these guys, but please do not feed, or get too close to them. 

Above Pan Point, the route to Muir is traveling through Pebble Creek, and is all snow covered, making for quick travel on skis, both up hill and down hill. The majority of the route is wanded, but sporadically in places, so do not rely entirely on these wands, or the vast boot track. As climbers and skiers ascend and descend on sunny days, they travel to all reaches of the broad snowfield. And in foggy conditions many of these tracks can lead travelers astray. Even if it is a sunny day, remember to bring those GPS units, preloaded with some way points, a map and compass, and gear for any weather. The weather on Mt. Rainier can change quickly, but if you are prepared, you can still have a great time! 

The forecast for the weekend looks to be a nice one, so grab the sunscreen, shades, skis if you have em' and come up to Muir to celebrate the good ol' USA on your long weekend. Don't be afraid to stop in and say hello to the climbing rangers, they enjoy visitors and fresh local fruit!


June 22

Wildlife and Wildflowers are starting to show up everywhere. Climbers, hikers, and skiers alike are all out enjoying the great weather hear at Mount Rainier.  Along the hike from Paradise to Camp Muir you will cross bits and pieces of the summer trail all the way to Pebble creek where the Muir Snowfield begins. Please resist the temptation to walk among the new flowers and feed the furry critters. 

View of the Muir Snowfield
The snowfield is wanded all the way to Camp Muir, but the boot tracks go everywhere!  The Snowfield is a huge playground that can become very disorienting if clouds come in so please remember to come prepared even if your only out for the day. It is a good idea to carry a GPS and turn on the tracking function before venturing up the snowfield. There are also maps available at the Climbers Information Center in Paradise that provide navigation information for the snowfield.

Skiing down from Camp Muir
A new layer of snow last week gave way to some outstanding skiing, and there may be another round of fresh snow coming soon. Keep an eye on the weather and check in with your friendly climbing ranger to get up to date information on the snowfield. Just because it looks cloudy from the car doesn't mean that the sun isn't shining at 10,000 feet! Dust off those boots, wax up the skis,  come on up and get out. Your national park is here waiting to give big smiles and great views!

June 12

Panorama Point- Summer trail left / winter trial right
Not to much has changed over the last week on the snowfield. The sunny weather is continuing to melt out the snowpack and has increased the numbers of hikers, climbers and skiers. Bits and pieces of the summer trail are emerging above and below Panorama Point. 

There are new wands in place that mark the summer trail from Paradise to Pebble Creek. Please follow these markers as there are many social trails starting to develop and damage the exposed fragile alpine landscape. 

If you are on skis you will enjoy good turns on the snowfield but plan on clicking out to walk several times on the way up and down. That's all for now, have fun and be safe.


June 6

The Muir Snowfield is in prime shape for a late spring ski! The storms of last week have "reset" the snow field, and smoothed it out. If you enjoy a good corn harvest and lots of sunshine, head up to Camp Muir this weekend and shred back to Paradise in style. Currently you can still keep your skis on from the Muir to the Paradise and back, but that is rapidly changing.

As the snow starts to melt please start following the summer route on your travels up to Muir. Resist the temptation to cruise straight up Panorama Face. Please follow the route of the summer trail, and give those beautiful wild flowers a chance to melt out and enjoy their short summer growing season. The summer route route is also actually more direct! If you are unfamiliar with this route, pop into the Climbing Information Center and the friendly rangers there can give you plenty of maps as well as a compass bearing sheet for the Muir Snowfield itself. Come on up and enjoy spectacular views, and keep the ski season alive! As always, please be prepared for any and all weather, and keep in mind that the weather on Mt. Rainier can change quickly, so be ready for all conditions. 

If you are feeling like visiting the rangers at Muir, I hear that they like fresh fruit and baked goods! 


May 18

Come on up to Mount Rainier National Park and enjoy one of the most well known, historic, and scenic backcountry ski tours (or snowshoe tours, or hiking routes) in Washington ! The Muir snowfield is in excellent condition, with corn being served daily.  There is lots of snow coverage from the parking lot all the way to Camp Muir. The views are amazing from the very beginning, but only get better as you ascend. Panorama Point is a highlight, and cruising on the upper snowfield as you get up close and personal with the volcano is a treat. 

You always want to make sure you're prepped for mountain travel, as weather and conditions can change rapidly. Stop by the Climbing Information Center (open daily from 6am-3pm) for a Muir Snowfield Bearings Sheet that has all the compass bearings you will want if you get stuck in a whiteout. It's a great training trip, and lounging around at Camp Muir in the sunshine is a fine way to spend a day. 

We'll see you on the snowfield, don't forget your sunscreen!


May 12

The weather has cleared up nicely after last weekend's storm. The Muir snowfield was reset and there is plenty of snow coverage up there right now. Expect to travel on snow from the parking lot on as far up as you plan to travel. There are skin tracks and boot packs all over the place, so make sure you know where the track is headed if you choose to follow one. Ski conditions were excellent today all the way down to Paradise. With high freezing levels and clear skies the next few days expect a good corn cycle to dominate. Be careful travelling on steeper terrain and convexities (e.g. Panorama Point area) late in the day as there could be pockets of unstable wet snow. 

The guide services have started their operations for the season and there are plenty of people traveling up and down, making for reasonably good foot travel. The route is not entirely wanded however and weather can change dramatically and fast this time of year. Be sure you've checked the weather forecast and have your map and compass before you come up. 

This is a great time of year for the Muir snowfield, the skiing is good, the scenery is spectacular, and it's excellent conditioning for a possible future ascent of Mt. Rainier!


April 30

Mash potatoes!

The storm cycle a week ago laid down over three feet of new snow at Paradise.  It didn't miss the Muir Snowfield, either.  Conditions were varied on the way up, however the short story reads: breakable crust in the morning and gloppy mash potatoes by noon.  Ski penetration on the way up at 06:00 am was less than 5 cm in most places.  Boot penetration, however, was 30-40 cm.  This was consistent all the way to Camp Muir.  I had more narrow skis and less than full width skins.  I was having more trouble than normal on the way up both where the snow was hard and where I was punching through.  I was slipping and sliding out all over the place. That doesn't usually happen.  Also, I really had trouble sliding out in the early morning frozen skin track up.

After the sun had warmed and softened the snow by late morning, the issue had completely changed.  Ski penetration changed to 10-20 cm, and boot pen?  Wouldn't have even wanted to find out.  What's more, the skiing wasn't that great on the way down, either!  Deepish mash potatoes preferred wider, better waxed skis than what I had.

The bottom line?  I should've waited a few hours to start and braved the sun and I should've brought some wider skis, bigger boots, and some wax for the trip down.

A word on avalanche conditions.  I saw a red sign driving into Paradise that read, "Extreme Avalanche Danger."  I didn't really believe it.  However, by the end of the day as it became very warm, I witnessed a few larger avalanches in the R3D3 range (larger than normal).  I snapped this one from Pan Point looking across to the fan.

Stefan Lofgren

April 25

IMG_0031.JPGLast week and the week prior saw some great weather and a lot of visitation from skiers and hikers. The winter snowpack was stable and easily traveled but this week the road to Camp Muir is paved with new snow! The recent storm cycle has produced up to 36” in the Paradise and surrounding areas, with more snow forecasted in the coming days. Skis or snowshoes are definitely necessary for travel. The recent snowfall has increased the avalanche danger significantly on steeper slopes so take extra caution, especially in the Pan Point area. There has been observed avalanche activity on similar slopes, so come prepared with all the necessary equipment.

IMG_0038.jpgTraveling across the snow field on a bright sunny day might be an ideal goal but remember during this time of year the weather is extremely variable. Clouds can move in quickly and decrease visibility making navigation difficult. With this recent blanket of new snow, rock outcrops and navigational landmarks may be hard to identify. Make sure you have navigation aids (GPS, wands, compass, etc) to help if visible navigation becomes difficult. There has been little travel to Muir since the new snow so don't expect a well worn path.

The temps at Camp Muir over the last week have been in the teens and 20’s while at Paradise it has been bouncing around in the lower to upper 30’s. Telemetry at Camp Muir has reported some high winds so expect scoured and/or wind affected areas high on the snowfield. Some nice sunny days could provide some great corn in the near future. Get up, get out, and happy travels!