Muir Snowfield 2015

November 2, 2015
Snow finally arrived in a big way at the start of November.  A huge amount of precipitation has fallen, and above 5000 feet it's mostly in the form of snow.  Though the conditions in the Paradise Meadow Area are a bit picky still, the leeward slopes on the upper snow field have been dumped on.  

With the precipitation also came wind.  There are still some places that are bare-bones and wind scoured.  Definitely travel conservatively - especially with limited visibility.  See the Park Access page to find out more information on getting to and from the Paradise area this winter.

October 12, 2015
As we transition into winter, please be aware that weather conditions change extremely rapidly on the mountain, and that a quick hike to Muir in the sun can quickly change into an epic attempt to find the trail due to high winds, blowing snow, and VERY limited visibility. So come prepared! At a minimum, the appropriate equipment would include a GPS with extra batteries and the knowledge to use it. Currently, the Muir Snowfield is in late season condition and there are open crevasses (large enough to fall into) in addition to icy surfaces and lots of running water. Traction devices (crampons or yak trax) and trekking poles are strongly advised. Beware of thinning bridges and icy surfaces.

For skiers this means mixed surfaces and widely variable surface conditions - not blue square skiing.  Ideally, skin up the line you intend to ski and make note of any hidden hazards. There are currently no wands to help delineate the route, so keep your party close together and avoid getting separated, and please consider laying a GPS track on your way up, even if conditions are nice!

The public shelter is open, but it may be snowed in when you get there. You may have to shovel out the entrance, and we've left a shovel hanging by the door. Please return it when done, and please don't leave it inside the shelter. A toilet is open near the public shelter, which may need to be dug out, too.  It may seem obvious, but please remember to shut and secure the doors to the public shelter and bathrooms or they will fill with snow.

September 24th, 2015
Fall is here and is one of the most scenic time of year in the Paradise area on up to Camp Muir. The foliage is full of color up to around Pan Point where the terrain turns to moraine. You might encounter skiers and riders, boards on their back working hard through the dirt to get to the upper elevation snow just below Camp Muir. Most of the recent snow has melted but plan on snowy conditions in the fall because of fast changing conditions and cooler temps.

The 'Snowfield' is very much a glacier. We often don't get to feel its "ablated" nature.  Conditions can be slick on the ablated glacier. That can start around the Pebble Creek area.  Plan ahead and wear sturdy boots with some sort of "spike" on the bottom of the foot. Crampons offer the best holding power.   At around 9000 ft their are open and visible crevasses. Most can be avoided by walking around "end-running" and by paying attention to visual clues. Enjoy the fall weather and get ready for winter!

August 27, 2015


Please travel the Muir Snowfield with caution.  The lower half of the snowfield is predominately glacial ice with crevasses and water runnels.  Once you step onto the snowfield after Pebble Creek, please keep in mind that there are very thin snow bridges covering substantial cracks.  Try to avoid stepping on snow that looks discolored from the surrounding snow (as seen in the picture on the right from the August 22 post).  If we get a light dusting of snow that covers up these visual clues, the snowfield can become a very dangerous zone.  Please keep safety in mind while traveling up and down the Muir Snowfield.

It is highly recommended traveling with some sort of traction devices it order to reduce the hazard of slips and falls on ice.  These will come in very handy while descending from Camp Muir and ease travel through and around cracks and runnels.

August 22, 2015

As warm weather continues into late August, we are beginning to see some changes out on the Muir Snowfield. With last seasons snowpack dwindling, more and more glacial ice is beginning to show itself on a daily basis. A few "cracks" have now begun to open up on the snowfield in between the elevation zone of 8,500-9,800 ft. just west of Moon Rock and Anvil Rock.

 Take particular caution in these icy sections where the footing is slick at best. Be weary when crossing these cracks! Just because the bootpack you are following goes right over them doesn't mean they are still stable/solid. Crampons, yaktrax, deeply treaded boots or some other form of increased traction will prove to be very beneficial as more and more ice becomes exposed on the snowfield.
A well defined crack on the route to Camp Muir
A much larger crack with a hollow snow bridge

August 6, 2015

Currently there are no open cracks on the Muir Snowfield.  The lower portion of the snowfield has seen quite a bit of melt activity over the past week.  Even on a benign hike such as the Muir Snowfield, there are many hazards that persist.  Keep a watchful eye out for water running under the snow or steep glissade tracks that end in rock.  As the evening rolls around, the snow pack becomes harder as the temperatures drop.  Travel down from Camp Muir becomes more difficult as the snow surface firms up.  Keep this in mind if you plan an afternoon ascent/descent and keep an eye out for changing conditions.  Upon your descent from Camp Muir, be courteous to your fellow hikers and avoid walking down the boot pack.  This ruins the well kicked-in steps and makes uphill travel much more difficult.  Think about how nice the steps were coming up, so be kind to the other individuals and descent adjacent to the steps, and not in them.

July 31, 2015

The hike to Camp Muir and the Muir snow field is still in good shape with a little ice and small crevasses exposed along the main boot pack. Snow starts just above pebble creek and is continuous to Camp Muir. Water is available along the route at pebble creek
and a waterfall at 8200ft.

With the snow continuing to melt and more rocks exposed make sure you check you glassade path before you start sliding. Many of the lower glassade chutes end in rock, and that could ruin your day. Beat the heat and enjoy an great hike to Camp Muir over the coming days.

July 19, 2015

A view uphill directly before Pebble Creek, at
the base of the Snowfield
The snowfield has seen a lot of melt over the past month.  The toe of the snowfield is right above Pebble Creek.  The three wind-rolls are still there, but melting out.  There is a small amount of ice starting to poke out on the snowfield at the lower elevations, as well as a few small crevasses showing up an climbers left of the snowfield. 

Since May 26, the Muir Snowfield has seen approximately 3.4 meters of snow melt at 9600'.  On the 26th of May, there was around 6.5 meters of snow over ice.  Now there is around 2.8 meters of snow over ice.  This is about average for this time of year at this elevation.  The 2.8 meters of this remaining snow will most likely melt out before the end of the season, resulting in open crevasses on the upper portion of the Muir Snowfield.

Currently there are no large open cracks along the boot pack, No crampons of ice axes are needed to ascend or descend the snowfield but trekking poles can be very useful to save your knees.  Make sure you are coming up the Snowfield with enough sunscreen and enough food and water (there is no water up at Camp Muir).

June 25, 2015
The south side of the mountain has been receiving lots of solar radiation and heat over the last couple of weeks.  Sun cups are starting to form on the main part of the snowfield making skiing a bit tricky and not as fun.  Southeast aspects seem to have less sun cups, but be cautious if you decide to travel off the main track of the snowfield - crevasses are opening up.  Both the Paradise Glacier (skier's left) and the Nisqually Glacier (skier's right) have significant crevasses that require roping up to travel across.

Since the winter route has melted away, and all the climbers and day hikers are using the summer route, make sure to lessen your impact on the fragile alpine meadows alongside the trail.  Be especially careful around the Pebble Creek area.  Don't be a meadow stomper!

The toilet at Panorama Point is operational - and still quite awesome.  Even if you don't have to use the bathroom, the structure itself is still worth seeing.

Melting and consolidation of the snow on the Muir Snowfield can lead to slick and icy surfaces at night and in the morning.  If you plan on traveling during the cool part of the day consider bringing some traction devices for your shoes.  Trekking poles are always recommended.

June 12, 2015

The Muir snowfield is looking like summer! The trail from Paradise is nearly snow free to Pebble Creek. Skiers grab your tennis shoes for the approach. Be sure and take that needed break to put on sunscreen and sunglasses before getting on the snowfield. Even on cloudy days the suns reflection from the snow can turn that suntan into a sunburn. Mount Rainier National Park visitation continues to increase along with boot tracks up and down the snow.  Hikers, climbers, and skiers travel to Camp Muir daily, so be considerate of your fellow visitor and pack out what you pack in.

June 4, 2015

Its just the beginning of June? The trails out the the paradise parking lot are snow free for the first 1/3 of a mile and then patchy beyond through the upper meadows. Continous snow for skiing does not start until the top of Pan Point. If you just cant wait to ski expect to be taking them off several times. Please try to transition at places where the snow meets the trail. The same goes for the way down. If a snow patch ends in a meadow, walk on the trail instead of skiing and avoid trampling the plants. Pan Face has melted out so plan to be on a trail for a bit either way.

Skiing on the upper Muir Snow Field and Paradise Glacier is still quite good. The cold weather last week set up a nice corn cycle in the morning of 6/4. Some crevasses and moats are opening on the Paradise and the exit is patchy as well. Golden Gate trail and the Edith Creek basin are not skiable.

For those not on skis / boards the trail through snowy areas is well marked and wanded. The trail crew has been doing a great job this year. Above pebble creek their is a large boot pack and wands all the way up to Camp Muir.

Flowers should be starting to bloom soon, its early this year but should be no less spectacular.

May 14th, 2015

Climbing has gotten fully underway on the mountain this season.  Guided trips are regularly headed to Muir everyday which makes for a solid boot pack.  Lower parts of the meadow are starting to melt out.  It's rapidly changing - skiers can skin up on snow and find it's melted out to asphalt on the way back down.

Please be especially careful of meadow stomping during this time - walk on snow or trails and avoid any other surface.  It's still possible to ski all the way from Camp Muir to the parking lot, but not for much longer.

Both pit toilets at Camp Muir are open and one of the solar dehydrating toilets opened over the last weekend.  The toilet at Panorama Point remains closed.

Don't forget the sunscreen and sunglasses!  They're mandatory with all the sunshine reflecting off bright early-season snow.

April 10th, 2015

Spring storms arrive this weekend in the Pacific Northwest: hungry skiers and riders stay heads up.  The conditions have been favorable the past few days with new snow on the Muir snowfield and in the Paradise area in conjunction with low freezing levels (4-6K).  While out on patrol, several point release loose wet avalanches were witnessed on solar aspects. Most ran small, however a slide down the Nisqually Chute ran large. For skiers and riders looking to get into higher consequence terrain remember to be aware of the 5 Red Flags as late season snow and warm spring temperatures create hazardous avalanche conditions. If you are planning to come up to Rainier for a ski or a climb please check NWAC for the latest avalanche conditions. Stay safe and remember your skin wax.

March 17, 2015

Climbing Rangers were able to make a quick patrol up to Camp Muir during the spell of clear, albeit windy weather last week. Firm conditions on the skin up from Paradise to Panorama Point softened later in the day with warming temperatures and sun, allowing for some enjoyable turns on the way down. The public shelter and toilets at Muir were accessible with minimal shoveling. Remember, conditions can change rapidly at this time of year and it is still winter on the mountain. Since our patrol, the mountain has received consistent snow and high winds with poor visibility. If you are planning a trip to Rainier, check the weather and avalanche forecast before you come and be sure to carry appropriate equipment for the current conditions.

January 14th, 2015

Happy New Year from the Mount Rainier Climbing Rangers! A couple climbing rangers are back on duty for the year, so hopefully you will see some more frequent blog posts from us.
Climbing rangers were able to take advantage of the recent high pressure system and get out for a ski up to Camp Muir today. The route to Muir is now entirely snow covered from the parking lot in Paradise, albeit a bit thin in places! The skinning up was excellent with a nice fluffy layer on top of a firm, but grippy layer today. The winter route, directly up Pan Face is in, and on a cool day, or early in the morning ski crampons may be needed if one chooses to not take their skis off and hike up it. Today many folks were choosing both options.
From Pan Point the route continues up over a series of wind rolls, to gain the broad, flat slopes leading to McClure rock and the Sugar Loaf. The most common route by passes Pebble Creek in the winter months and stays on the ridge line above for ease of travel.
The snowfield itself was smooth for the most part, with some large wind features above 8,500 feet to above Moon Rocks.

Camp Muir proper is in fine shape for mid January, with the heli pad melted mostly out, and access to several bathrooms, as well as the public shelter. In case the doors are buried to the public shelter, there is a shovel attached to a rope near the west entrance. If you use this shovel, please reattach it to the rope when you are finished.
If you are planning a trip to Camp Muir, please remember, even if it is warm and sunny when you set out, things change rapidly on the mountain in the winter. So come fully prepared to be self sufficient, and ready for any and all weather conditions. You may see climbing rangers periodically, but we will not be staffing the high camp routinely until well into the spring months.
Get those skis and skins (Or snowboard!), your winter gear, and come enjoy the high altitude snow!