Success Cleaver 2014

Aug 3

Hot temps and sunshine have made this route quite a bit rockier.  The approach to Indian Henry's Hunting Grounds have pretty much melted out which makes for a quicker hike to the cleaver itself.  Definitely have a plan to deal with the bugs if you decide to stay in the sub-alpine zone.  

Though rocky, this route still can be pretty fun late into the season.  No recent trip reports to post, but teams summitted via this route in late-July.

June 10

Success Cleaver is in very good shape right now.  Our approach took us from Longmire to Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground.  We were met with continuous snow above 4300' on the Wonderland Trail.  This is the section you will want to hit early due to post-holing, otherwise some form of flotation would be highly recommended.  The cleaver itself is becoming slightly melted out on the ridge, but still provides excellent climbing.  We encountered large penitentes (two feet tall) right around 11,100’.  The traverse off the Success Cleaver to the Kautz Cleaver and upper Kautz headwall is very straight forward and requires minimal route finding.  The traverse is all snow covered with only a few steps of verglassed and naked rock.  This is a very long, scenic route with lots of vertical gain.  The Upper Kautz headwall is in excellent condition, with the last crux step at 13,700' still filled in with snow.  There is a clear separation of snow quality at around 13,750' from softer corn to featured sastrugi up until Columbia Crest.  Be aware of wet slide action on the Kautz head-wall in the afternoon hours.  Due to the southern aspect, this large snow slope can become unstable with increasing temperatures.  There were small visible point releases on the upper headwall that appeared to be rather recent.  Overall, the route is still in very good condition but is melting out quickly with the recent warm weather.  Watch for rock fall, and safe climbing!


Cleaver becoming slightly melted out at approx. 9600', 
but still climbable without too much scrambling.

Success Cleaver from Pyramid Peak northern shelf. 

Melting out...  We'll probably start seeing some wildflowers soon.

Success Cleaver's initial shelf at approx. 8100'.

Some pretty substantial penitentes forming at around 11,100'.  
These were averaging about 1.5-2 feet high.

We had a few run-ins with verglassed rock steps around 
11,500'.  Very easy to maneuver with ice tools, but one
might run into a few issues with a single standard piolet.

June 5

These Photos were around May 25. This route still looks good, but as snow melts it quickly deteriorates into a rubble pile. The large bulges of rime that form around the upper rockbands normally does not seem to be very substantial this year. Hard to say if that will make things easier or harder up near Point Success.

Success Couloirs. Success Cleaver on Left in photo.

Kautz Cleaver and Upper Success

MAY 13-14

The following pictures and brief report are courtesy of Adam Ungar from Alpine Ascent International. 

"On the approach we cut in between Pyramid and Copper peaks instead of following the Wonderland Trail to Mirror Lakes. The Route is entirely on snow at the moment, and the traverses below the gendarmes and onto the headwall were very solid"

April 9

Ptarmigan Ridge 2014

July 6

Thanks to Andrew Steiner for the following report on Ptarmigan. Photo by rangers from same time frame.

We climbed Ptarmigan Ridge June 29-July2. We walked from White River trail head, over St. Elmo's pass and camped on the edge of the Winthrop glacier.  The snow conditions were good (firm enough) for walking even late in the evening.

Day 2: 
We walked from camp to the 10,000 foot base camp.  The snow was firm and fast in the morning, but the upper Russell Glacier was very soft by noon.  We saw no fresh snow.  The glacier was freeze/thaw corn.  There is a good rock camp at 10,000.  We watched the wall from 1 pm until night. There was very little rock fall until sunset, then there was a mild amount of rockfall. There was large serac fall intermittently throughout the day, but it did not cross the route.

Day 3: 
We climbed the route starting at 5 amThere was no fresh snow anywhere on the route. It was easy to cross the bergschrund to access the initial slopes (rather than walking all the way around the bergschrund). The initial slopes, up to the traverse, were firm freeze/thaw crust. Picket's were okay, but not great because there were faceted crystals under the crust.  Some rock pro available.

By 7 am, the traverse was sun affected, and snow was balling in our crampons.  That section takes rock pro up high. After the traverse, the route was in shade and was firm crust again. The ice pitch had good ice, though the surface ice dinner-plated a lot.  The screws were very solid.  Note:  The area just before the ice pitch is a rock fall hazard zone.  There were big rock impacts everywhere in the snow.  We belayed before that danger area.  There was some wind loaded snow above the ice, but nothing especially concerning. From the top of the ice pitch to the bottom of the rock gully, there was crust snow with faceted sugar underneath.  Rock pro was available to the left. The rock step was snow-free, but wet.  The step is not easy, but you can pull on gear for some of it.  There is a fixed pin below the step that makes a good belay.  There is a second fixed pin part of the way up the step. We arrived at the top of the rock step at noon.  From there to the summit, we had soft snow and mild post-holing.  Very tiring.  

We got to the summit at 4pm.  The trip down the Emmons was exhausting due to very deep, soft corn snow.  Note:  The path to start down the Emmons is NOT obvious.  Do some research ahead of time.

Day 4: 
We walked out from Camp Schurman.  The Inter Glacier had good glissading.

We brought four pickets, six screws, and three cams (half inch to 1.5 inches).  That gear seemed about right.  A couple more cams in that size range could be useful.  There is rock pro available on most of the route if needed.  The rock pro was much more secure than the pickets.

June 5

No Climbing reports from Ptarmigan yet but it appears to be in good condition. Photos from May 25.

Curtis Ridge 2014

June 5

Photo from May 25. Serious undertaking.

Kautz Cleaver 2014

Aug 3

Loose rocky slopes and funky moats near the rock/snow interface on this route have definitely added to the objective danger of this route as the sun continues to shine on the mountain.  Definitely no longer 'in-season', this route could still 'go' but not without added hazards.

June 5

These photos from May 25 show the Kautz Cleaver to be in good shape. This route usually stays good a bit longer into the summer.

Kautz Cleaver and Success Couloirs

Upper Kautz and Success Cleavers

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!


Inter Glacier 2014

August 17

Lower Inter Glacier
 The trail up from Glacier Basin is well worn and snow free for quite a ways. As seen in the picture to the left, a good pair of trail shoes could be a good idea for the a fair portion of your travels to Camp Schurman.
Please pay attention to where you are going as there are many social trails still present. Vegetation is fragile in the alpine and take a long time to recover if trampled.
 Make sure and bring rain gear and insulated layers, the seasons are beginning to transition to fall up high and weather can change quickly.

Upper Inter Glacier

The Upper Inter Glacier is showing many patches of ice and open crevasses. If your plans take you up on the glacier be prepared for standard glacier travel with ropes, harnesses, crampons, and ice axe. Remember to look up and not just follow the tracks in front of you as boot packs and conditions are continually changing. Make good decisions and stay safe.

August 15

See the previous post for some good information that still applies to the Inter Glacier approach.

Below we have a photo of the Inter, showing some of that exposed glacial ice and crevasses. Also check out the latest post on the Emmons-Winthrop page for more detailed information about the approach and route conditions.

The Inter Glacier

August 3

Warm weather and a few rain storms over the past few weeks have completely melted out the trail all the way to the toe of the Inter Glacier. Wildflowers are out in abundance and so are the critters. Please stay on the way trail up from Glacier Basin as much as possible and keep a close eye on your food.

Once at the Inter Glacier you will be traveling on exposed glacial ice right away. Mixed snow and ice travel continues up to Camp Curtis so crampons, ice axe and roping up are highly recommended.  Large crevasses are open in several locations on the Inter. Wands mark some of the major crossings but are not maintained by the NPS. The boot path currently passes very near or over several of these cracks. Remember you are not forced to follow the tracks of others! If you don't find a crossing safe or to your liking, find a way around.

A final note, the main route to Camp Schurman crosses over Steam Boat Prow on the climber's left just above Camp Curtis. This provides easy access to the Emmons Glacier and Camp Schurman. Several parties recently got a nasty and loose surprise when then climbed to the top of the Prow and faced a steep 3-4 class decent down to camp. Know your route before you head up.

July 10

The trail to Glacier Basin camp is almost completely melted out (tennis shoe or sandal conditions).  Beware of the river and streams melting out under the snow on your way to the Inter Glacier. Solid snow doesn't start until the base of the Inter Glacier. The crevasses are still just beginning to emerge, keep an eye out for them upon your descent be that via foot, ski, or glissade.

The skiing has been plentiful earlier/later in the day. Take your shoes with you, the caching of shoes, gear etc. is prohibited.

Although it is an unmaintained trail please follow the "trail"from Glacier Basin to the base of the Inter  to avoid any further meadow stomping and erosion issues.

Keep an eye on your gear if you are taking a break, the entire Inter Glacier/Glacier Basin area is a hot spot for bear activity and the marmots are out in full force.

July 2

There has been a lot of activity on the Inter the past few weeks. It's relatively high elevation (topping out at 9,600') and easterly aspect make it a great place to get those July ski turns. The trail to Glacier Basin is almost completely snow free, with a few patches as you near the campsites in Glacier Basin. There is continuous snow from Glacier Basin on.

While the Inter is one of Mt. Rainier's smaller and less active glaciers, it is still a glacier complete with crevasses. One of those has opened up around 7,600 feet, near a large rock knob in the middle of the glacier. Keep this in mind if you are glissading at a high rate of speed down the Inter. The other spot where crevasses typically open up is above the cut-off to Camp Curtis. There are a couple of them starting around 8,600 feet, and they are hard to see from above. Keep this in mind if you are descending from the very top of Steamboat Prow.
The upper Interglacier.

In the photo to the right you can see glissade tracks going directly over a sagging crevasse bridge. This is at about 8,600 feet. You can also see debris from a wet loose avalanche. Remember that avalanches can happen any time of year, and if you are getting lots of penetration (greater than a few inches, or less on steep terrain) into the snow with your boots or skis, you could potentially trigger a wet loose slide.

See the post below for more general information on the Inter, and note the specifics about glacial ice appearing as the season goes on. A trip up the Inter is a special place in Mt. Rainier National Park, and a great training route for your ascent of the upper mountain. Come prepared and start early!


Spring 2014

The Inter Glacier is wedged between the Emmons and Winthrop Glaciers, just below Camp Schurman, on the east side of the mountain.  Climbers and skiers access Camp Schurman by ascending from White River Camp Ground's Climber Parking Lot, along the White River Trail to Glacier Basin (approx. 3 miles), and then up the Inter Glacier toward the top of Steamboat Prow.  Early season conditions can vary widely on the Inter Glacier.  In May and June climbers can expect anything from punchy slushy iso-thermal snow to hard icy "coral reef" conditions.  Timing can make hours of difference for climbers trying to get up the Inter Glacier.  In the heat of the afternoon, climber's can sink up to their knees, but in the middle of the night, crampons and an ice axe can be necessary.

 Later in the season, in July and August, as the weather patterns become more stable, conditions on the Inter Glacier also become more stable.  Glacial ice patches melt out, snow that's still present above the glacial ice consolidates enough to become fairly easy to cross, and crevasses start to appear.  Use caution crossing the icier patches and when crossing crevasses on the glacier.  Consider "roping up" and using glacial crossing techniques.

Views from the Inter Glacier can be breathtaking in mid-summer.  Flowers begin to bloom, Mount Stuart and the Enchantments can be seen, and Sunrise Meadows can be seen from a birds-eye view.  Keep your camera handy!

Gibralter Ledges/Chute 2014

Aug 3

No one has been up the ledges since the first few days in July.  Rock fall, high temps, and crevasses on the Cowlitz Glacier make the route inordinately difficult to climb this time of year.  Check back in the winter months after we get some significant snow!

June 25
Crevasses on the Cowlitz Glacier and rock from the "Beehive" and the arm of Gibraltar Rock have been more active as the temperatures have increased.  Climber's headed up the ledges should expect more objective hazards than previously encountered this season.  Snow on the ledges themselves has begun to totally melt away and leave just scree behind.  Use caution on the steep scree - it's hard to protect and can be difficult to get good footing on.  

Above the ledges on the upper mountain there is still a fairly direct route to the crater rim.  Linking up with the DC's boot pack at about 13,500 can expedite the upper snow slogging if conditions are soft.

June 8

The Ledges 
Rangers climbed Gibralter Ledges yesterday morning. This route ascends the Cowlitz  Glacier straight up from Camp Muir towards the climber's left hand side of Gibralter Rock. Overall the route is still in reasonable condition, and fairly straight forward. Getting an early start for this climb is not necessarily a must, but you will want to get going soon enough that you can pass the ledges while rocks above you are still frozen.
Upper Gibralter Snow Shoot
The lower section of the route between Camp Muir and Gibralter Rock is still all snow with a couple of minor crevasse obstacles to navigate around. The traverse along the ledges is now mostly rock. 
It is not difficult to pass this section, but climbers will need to take care and pay close attention to where and what they are stepping on. There is loose rock, scree, and large objects that can be dislodged easily. The snow ramp at the end of the ledges that leads to the top of Gibralter Rock and Camp Comfort is in good condition. It is steep enough that some parties may want to bring some pickets to protect this short section. The climbing from the top of Gibralter Rock to the summit has a few crevasse crossing challenges. Some of the larger snow bridges are disappearing but there are still several options for climbers to navigate to the summit. If Gib Ledges is on the tick list for this season, then climbers should get it done soon while the gettin' is still good.

June 4

Here are some updates passed on from a party of three from this past week. Pictures were taken by rangers in late May.

The party stayed on the rocky ridge heading out of Muir to avoid the developing moats.
When gaining the ledges on a shorter section of snow one of the party members punched through into the moat. The section between the ledges and Camp Comfort ~12,600 was really fun climbing through some sastrugi.

Key points: beware of the moats, the route will not be in much longer given the recent and forecasted sunshine.

May 17

Rangers got out on a climbing patrol on the Gibralter Ledges route and found excellent snow conditions and fun climbing, leaving Camp Muir far below. Rangers reached Camp Misery around 11,900', where the route begins to traverse around the southwest side of Gibralter Rock to gain the ledges. The ledges are a series of ramps leading to the top of "Gib Chute" and finaly onto the upper Nisqually and Ingraham Glaciers, where climbers continue on to the summit.

Gibralter Ledges is a really fun climb in an airy position. It is also the line of the first recorded ascent of Mount Rainier, way back in 1870! It doesn't stay in shape all season, and the ledges are composed of poor quality rock so it is one of those routes that are best done early in the climbing season. Due to the exposure to rockfall it is also a good route to ascend very early in the morning, before the sun is hitting upper Gib Rock. Another benefit of this route, is that it's very direct. Guidebook author Mike Gauthier claims it is the most direct route up the mountain. So get off the beaten path, repeat history, and come have a great climb of Gibralter Ledges while it's in great shape!

April 9

Ingraham Glacier 2014

June 1

All climbers are choosing to climb the Disappointment Cleaver (DC) instead of the Ingraham Glacier.  Lots of open crevasses and huge serac blocks looming over the route have made it almost impassable. 

May 17

Rangers went for a climb on the Ingraham Direct today. It can be a fast way to get on the upper mountain from Ingragam Flats when conditions permit. Rangers were able climbed to about 12,000 feet before encountering a large crevasse that transects a large part of the Ingraham Glacier. Motivated climbers could probably find a way around it, but it would be spicy!

Large crevasse at 12,000 feet
The guides have stopped using the ID for clients this season and switched fully to the Disappointment Cleaver. There are no wands left and not much of a boot pack either. Expect to do your own route finding if you ascend this route. The ID can be a popular ski route this time of year as well, use good judgment if you choose to ski above some of the large crevasses that are open right now. Most of the rest of the glacier was in typical shape for this time of year and not too broken up yet. In the photo below you can see the Ingraham Glacier on the left, and the Disappointment Cleaver on the right.

Nisqually Glacier 2014

Aug 3

This route has gone out-of-season with jumbled seracs, rockfall, and large crevasse openings.  Usually only in-shape to climb within the first couple months of the climbing season - check back early next year!

June 5

We haven't heard of any climbs recently and it's getting a bit late for these routes, which are usually better in winter and early spring. Here are some photos anyway taken in late May. There seemed to be a really nice route through the Nisqually Icefall.

Mowich Headwall 2014

July 6

A ranger patrol climbed the central route on Mowich Face recently and had this to say...

The west side routes of  Mt.Rainier are still in good shape. If the weather stays warm and the freezing levels stay high these routes will continue to melt out and become more difficult. The access for the Mowich face routes start at Mowich lake. The road up too the lake is expected to open on the 11th of this month. The trail leading out of Mowich to Spray Park is snow free till just after Spray Falls. Past this point the trail turns to snow and there is a fairly good boot track up to 6400'. From this point a climbers trail marked by small rock cairns leads Southeast towards Ptarmigan ridge.

On a clear day Observation and Echo rocks are in view and the climbers trail leads towards the saddle between the two. This trail turns to snow after approx. 1/2 mile around 6800'. There is good camping and snow melt water around 7600'  between Observation and Echo rocks. The descent (at approx.8300') off of Ptarmigan ridge down to the North Mowich Glacier is still holding some snow, but is quickly melting exposing the unstable slope below. Take extreme care when descending this 1000' ridge. There are many large unstable boulders and the scree will slide underfoot very easily. Travel across this slope is recommended in the early morning while conditions are colder and safer. Travel across the North Mowich Glacier is still relatively unbroken. The view from atop Ptarmigan Ridge "before descending" provides the best insight for a travel plan across the glacier. From approx. 7400' on the glacier take a high traverse to the base of the Central Mowich Face. There is a good high camp at 9600' near a small nunatack.

There is a large burgshrund at approximately 10,300' along the base of the face.  Climbers will need to cross a snow covered moat or rock outcrops along the left side of the 'shrund to gain the face. Once on the face the climbing is very consistent steep snow. Changing temperatures will vary the climbing difficulty greatly. Cold nighttime and early morning hours are by far the best to climb. Hot daytime temps and solar radiation will make this route more dangerous. Exiting the face out to the right there is a wind lip where the slope steepens and ice is present. The higher you exit the face (nearest the rock band) the shorter and smaller the lip becomes.

After gaining the top of the face, climb more steep snow to a small apex at 13,400'.  From here traverse left along a wind roll until you reach a broad flat bench. At this point you an make your final climb to Liberty cap.
Weather and snow conditions can very greatly throughout the day and can turn what may seem of minimal concern in the morning into a major objective hazard later in the day. The Emmons is the standard descent  for this route see Emmons post for more details. Climbers should be aware the route from Liberty Cap to the Emmons is not obvious right now, plan accordingly.

Climb prepared for a variety of snow conditions. Read and understand your forecasts. Plan food supply for an extra day out. Remember that it's about the journey not the destination, have fun and be safe!

June 5

Everything over here looks great right now. Long approach but well worth it.