Ptarmigan Ridge 2016

July 27th

Here is a recent photo for 7/23. showing current conditions for the Ptarmigan Ridge.

Wednesday, April 20th

Current photos of the route.  More to come soon.

For 2015 route conditions and information follow this link:  Ptarmigan Ridge 2015

Ptarmigan Ice Cliff

Ptarmigan Ridge 

Mowich Face 2016

July 27th

Some recent photo of the Mowich Face from a independent party.  They reported good conditions on the Central route with some difficulties on the lower glaciers.

Wednesday, April 20th

Current photos of the route. More to come.

For past route conditions and information follow this link: Mowich Face 2014

Upper Mowich Face

Sunset Ridge and Amphitheater 2016

April 20th

Here's some photos of the route from a flight around the mountain early this season.

For 2015 route conditions and information follow this link:  Sunset Ridge 2015

Sunset Amphitheater

Sunset Ridge

Sunset Ridge

Tahoma Glacier 2016

Saturday, June 5th:

Lower Tahoma Glacier from aerial reconnaissance  
The Sickle
Climbing rangers were able to tie in a patrol on the Tahoma Glacier while conducting training on the west side of the mountain this past weekend. Although the character of the Tahoma Glacier seems to be have changed over the last few years, both the Sickle and the Tahoma Glacier routes appear to be a go with a little bit of quality route finding. There has been a lot of ice fall activity on both routes so be sure to move your team wisely through these zones and keep a heads up as conditions continue to warm.

St. Andrews Rock, Sunset Amphitheater, Sickle and Tahoma Glacier.
(10,800 ft. bench on upper right)

 Currently, St. Andrews Rock doesn't seem like a plausible camp for any of the routes surrounding the Puyallup Cleaver. Glacial recession and lack of snow make getting up onto and off of the St. Andrew's saddle sketchy at best. There is however a descent bench around 10,800ft. at the base of the Tahoma Cleaver. Again, watch for ice fall from the Tahoma ice cliffs and rockfall from the Tahoma Cleaver.

Rangers approaching the top of the
Tahoma chute 12,400 ft.

From the bench, routefinding is fairly strait forward with a few larger bridge crossings to gain the steeper terrain around 12,000ft. Conditions were prime at 5am for easy two tooling action and good snow for vertical pickets. As summer rolls on you can most likely expect anything from loose wet snow to glacial ice on this slope depending on your timing. This might be a good zone to extend your ropes and put those lead skills into practice! One or two more hollow bridge crossings gets you to lower angle terrain and the meat of the route with almost 2,000 ft. of 35 degree slogging ahead of you.
Upper Tahoma tracklog

Wednesday, April 20th

Current photos of the route. More to come soon.

For 2015 route conditions and information follow this link:   Tahoma Glacier 2015

Tahoma Glacier

Tahoma Glacier

Success Cleaver 2016

April 20th

Photo from a flight around the mountain early this season.

For 2015 route conditions and information follow this link: Success Cleaver 2015

Upper Success Cleaver

Kautz Cleaver 2016

Wednesday, April 20th

Photos coming soon.

For 2015 route conditions and information follow this link:  Kautz Cleaver 2015

Fuhrer Finger 2016

July 1st

The Finger has melted out near the hour-glass feature right above the Wilson Glacier.  With this rock step and added rock fall from the melting Wilson Headwall, climbers and skiers have been avoiding this route until next the next season.

June 11th

A few photos of the Fuhrer Finger and Wilson headwall from before the latest storm cycle.  The mountain has received up to 8 inches of snow at 11,000ft which could have reset the route for the next few days. This snow came in with significant winds which has elevated the avalanche danger. Notice the extent to which the finger had melted out, and the dirty debris coming off the Wilson headwall.

May 10th,

See the trip report below for good details on this route.  It's still in great shape!  Here's a current photo.  See you on the mountain!

Sunday, May 1st

Whether you're planning on skiing it or climbing it, the Finger is in good condition and is bound to provide a high quality experience.  There are a few cracks poking through in the Nisqually, so keep an eye out, especially with the warm weather we've been having on the lower mountain.  Fairly benign travel from the Wilson Gully up to the Castle.  Watch for rockfall both crossing the Wilson and climbing the Finger as well as coming back.  There is a shrund which limits travel directly up from the finger and forces climbers out (climbers right) towards the Nisqually.  The upper-most bridge directly below the rocks appears the most stable and the most in-tact.  Steep climbing from this point to the Wapowety cleaver, then a bridge crossing and glacier travel up the Nisqually to the summit.

Again watch for rockfall in this zone.  Whether or not parties are above you are not, keep your eyes uphill and on the lookout for falling objects.

Bridge spanning the Wapowety Cleaver and the Nisqually

Head wall above the Nisqually after dropping off the cleaver

View looking down from the top of the Finger (Skier's Left)

View looking down from the top of the Finger (Skier's Right) 
Base of the Finger looking down towards the Wilson.  Note the
Cornice fall which triggered a substantial slab release.  The
dirty debris is from a release from the Wilson Head Wall

Looking down from the Wilson Bench towards
the Nisqually crossing and Paradise

Wednesday, April 20th

Current route photos. More to come soon.

For 2015 route conditions and information follow this link:   Fuhrer Finger 2015

Upper Nisqually and Finger

Upper Finger

Gibraltar Ledges and Chute 2016

October 5th

The ledges are starting to get their winter-coat back on.  Considered the "standard route" in the winter months, Gibraltar Ledges is considerably more challenging than the "standard route" in the summer (the Disappointment Cleaver).

Some of the challenges are due to the season - winter storms are harsh on the upper mountain.  They roll in quick, sometimes without warning, and can kick out the jams for days without letting up.  The days are shorter and thus climbers have less time to navigate up and down from the summit in the daylight.  New, unconsolidated, and deep snow covers the mountain and slows the pace at which climbers can ascend.  Since there's no melt-freeze cycles occurring, like there is in the summer time, climbers can find themselves wallowing waist deep.  Lastly, with the colder temps, higher winds, and more precipitation in the winter months, small human-errors which happen to all climbers (like forgetting your lighter, dropping a glove, breaking your sunglasses/goggles) can have fatal consequences.

Other challenges come from the nature of the route.  The ledges themselves are narrow and portions don't allow time to self-arrest if a climber does slip.  The Cowlitz Glacier approach and the Gibraltar Chute exit is steep and can have high avalanche danger.  And lastly, the upper mountain portion isn't climbed often enough to form a boot-pack and there's no wands.  Climbers must navigate around crevasses and find a route to the summit using their best judgement to avoid hidden crevasses.

When deciding to climb the ledges in the winter, please come prepared, have a good weather forecast, and track the storm cycle history for the two weeks before your climb so you have an idea of the avalanche dangers you'll encounter.  Most likely you'll have the mountain to yourself which means you must have a plan for self-rescue if a member of your team gets hurt.

Though the challenges are many and can be extreme, climbing Rainier in the winter can offer one of the most rewarding experiences.  The solitude is unmatched.  Views in the winter air are at their best.  And the mountain looks its greatest with a fresh white suit.  Enjoy!

August 15th

The Gibraltar Ledges route is currently out of season due to the lack on snow on the south side of Gibraltar Rock, extreme rockfall hazard, and a large bergschrund once you climb to the chute prior to Camp Comfort.

May 10th

 The route is still "in" and climbable, but fading quickly.  The Cowlitz Glacier approach is getting a bit broken just above Camp Muir and the typically snowy ledges used to traverse alongside Gibraltar Rock and up to Gib Chute to access the upper mountain have been melting quickly.  Come climb this route while it's still in shape!

Wednesday, April 20th

Current photo of the route. More to come soon.

For 2015 route conditions and information follow this link:   Gibraltar Ledges 2015

Gibraltar Ledges

Gibraltar Ledges

Ingraham Direct 2016

May 10th

Climbers have already started avoiding the Ingraham Direct due to worsening crevasse crossings and increased chance of rockfall as the route moved closer to Gibraltar Rock.  Guide services have climbed the cleaver and thus a good "kicked-in" trail has been established (for now).  Know your crevasse rescue skills if you choose to attempt the Ingraham Direct and also be cautious of lingering weak layers in the snowpack.  There is no avalanche forecasting for the upper mountain on Rainier so teams must be able to assess avalanche danger themselves. 

For 2015 route conditions, photos, and information follow this link:  Ingraham Direct 2015.

Muir Snowfield 2016

October 5th

Fresh snow and cold weather has definitely taken hold on the snowfield.  There's no longer a boot-pack to and from Camp Muir since the guided climbs have ceased for the summer.  Wands this time of year are sporadic at best.  Please bring and know how to use a GPS and set a track log if you decide to hike to Camp Muir in the winter!  The toilet at Panorama Point is still open, but will close sometime in late-October.

September 15th

Fall is here - and maybe winter too!  If you are headed to Camp Muir, please remember to be prepared for highly variable weather conditions, as the Muir Corridor can be very challenging to descend in low visibility or whiteout conditions.  Get a good forecast before you leave, and take the appropriate equipment to help you navigate back to Paradise.  Setting a GPS track on your way up will ensure you have a track to follow back down.  New snow may obscure the route, and other people's boot/ski tracks may not be headed in the best direction, so don't rely on following others.  It may be beautiful at Camp Muir (see webcam), which is often above a sea of clouds, but it can closely resemble the inside of a pingpong ball lower on the route...

August 19th

Hot weather continues to change the face of Muir snowfield. New rock outcroppings are starting to take shape and become more prominent features of the landscape. This time of year it can become increasing hard to navigate in conditions where poor visibility can make one rock pile look like the next. Make sure you always have a way to navigate home (GPS). If you're a map and compass person, make sure to stop by the CIC to pick up a bearing map sheet of the snowfield.
Muir Snowfield from the upper Mountain

August 15th

With all the recent warm weather the snowfield has become very sun cupped with a nice dusting of volcanic grit on the upper layer.  It's sad to say, but the snowfield has very poor skiing conditions once we hit August.  There are still no crevasses or glacial ice that have made themselves known.  Make sure to pack sunscreen and water up to Camp Muir as there is no source of drinkable water other than melting snow.  If you do get a permit to camp on the snowfield, make sure you are camping an a snow platform rather than on the rocks.

Even with all the recent high pressure, remember that the conditions can change quicker than you can imagine.  Please come prepared with warm clothing and equipment to navigate in a whiteout if visibility decreases.

Please make a point to pack out your blue bags and all your trash.  The Rangers here try their best to pack out the trash they find, but we need your help.  If you find micro trash or wrappers or the like on the Muir Snowfield, please make a point pack it out (even if it is not yours).  Its up to all of us to keep out park free from litter.

July 26th

The Muir Snowfield is still holding together and no crevasses are readily apparent above Pebble Creek, but with the hot temps and sunshine in late-July, they'll be here soon.  Please remember to camp on the snow if your party gets a permit for the "Muir Snowfield" instead of Camp Muir.  Camping on rocks destroys the micro-flora and creates unsightly tent rings and contributes to trash being left behind.

Also - don't forget both hot-weather gear AND cold-weather gear this time of year.  Lots of hikers have been forgetting their sunglasses which can damage eyes!  Please remember to wear sunglasses!  Also, just because the daylight hours are warm - it can still snow in July.  Bring the parka and hat in case a storm rolls in, and a way to navigate back to the parking lot in a white-out. 

July 18th

The approach to Camp Muir and the Muir Snowfield is still slowly melting out. The trail system to pebble creek is mostly dirt but still has some snow patches along the way.
Many social trails develop around these melt out zones and seen in the picture to the right. These trails can cause irreversible damage to flora and fauna and create erosion problems that are difficult to fix. Please be mindful in these melt out zones and look for signs or the best path that will keep you on the trail and cause the lease amount of damage.

The Muir snowfield is well traveled but not always well marked. The guide services maintain wands that can be use to help lead the way during white out type conditions, but they are few and far between.

Other wands can be found on the snowfield as well. Some are from old trails or independent groups, or moved from kids playing in the snow on a sunny day.  Make sure to have your GPS handy and don't assume that the wand you see in the snow is leading you the direction you want to go.

The snow is staring to get down to a level where ice is starting to show up on the surface in some locations. It is not to the point were crampons are needed but be aware of slick spots when coming down hill.

There have been no reports of glide cracks showing up yet. Skiing is still continuous form Muir to Pebble Creek but is rugged and bumpy. Don't forget your sunglasses and sun screen and remember to bring enough water for the trip back down to Paradise

July 7th

The Muir snowfield is still in typical shape for early to mid July. After a very hot month of May, the June storms and cool temperatures slowed the melting on the snowfield. Unfortunately, for all you skiers and boarders out there, the melt off has still been happening quickly in the Paradise meadows.

The trail from the parking lot in Paradise is completely snow free for the first one half to one mile. From this point, up near Alta Vista, the snow is quite patchy with large swaths of the trail being melted out. With that said, please try and stay on the trail as it meanders in and out of the snow. The vegetation is particularly vulnerable when it is first melting out of the snow after a long winter. Above Alta Vista leading to Pan Point and Pebble Creek there are a few large patches of snow hanging in there, but they are going fast.

Once to Pebble Creek, the snow is continuous all the way to Muir, with a well worn boot track much of the way. The snow surface of late is becoming quite textured, with small sun cups developing on much of the snowfield. There are many sporadic wands marking various paths heading to Muir. Please do not rely on these wands for navigation, as you do not know who placed them, or where they were heading. Wands are a great tool for poor weather, but if your team chooses to place wands along the route to Camp Muir, please remove them on your way down!

For those hearty souls that do not want to hang up their skis for the summer, it is still feasible to get a couple thousand vertical in from Camp Muir down to Pebble Creek, and with the current weather pattern the skiing may get a nice little reset back to smooth conditions. Please keep in mind that though it is July, the weather forecast for this weekend calls for freezing levels down to 6500 feet at times, with precipitation, low visibility and winds. A rather winter like weekend! So if you are planning to come search for some summer powder on the Muir Snowfield, please be prepared for a variety of conditions, and have the proper tools to navigate in low visibility conditions. Who knows, maybe winter isn't over just yet on our favorite local volcano!

June 11th

Muir Snowfield from Camp Muir
View of Panorama Point
The Muir Snowfield received some new snow over the past few days. Paradise received about 3" today. Travel from the Paradise parking lot is still mostly snow with occasional trails sections appearing. The summer route is being used now, so please observe trail signs and markers. Navigating the snowfield over the past few days has been challenging with whiteout conditions despite having a well wanded path from pebble creek. Today gave way to some nice weather up high on the mountain. Some additional days of high pressure are forcasted for the next few days.

View of Pebble Creek

June 6th

The snowfield has been holding strong even with all the warm weather early this season,  Small sun cups are starting to develop, but the climber's boot pack has consolidated quite a bit and traveling to and from Camp Muir is practical even without snow-flotation.  Currently wands are few and far between so be sure to bring a GPS unit and know how to use it.

The summer route (the switchback from Glacier Vista back to Panorama Point) has been kicked in and is the current standard route up to Pebble Creek.  Be cautious of fragile meadows just beginning to melt out.  It might just look like a patch of rocks and mud, but by late-July, if the soil patches haven't been trampled, alpine flowers bloom and make the mountain smell much better.

Day-hikers do not need a permit to hike the snowfield.  Hikers who plan on spending the night are required to get a permit in-person at a ranger station.  Climbers need both a permit AND a climbing pass.

May 14th

The consistent sunny days and warm temps has produced some major snow melt. The winter route is still in going up Panorama Point but not for long. Expect to see a change over to the summer route in the next few weeks. Many fragile alpine flora and fauna are now becoming exposed on the approach, so please respect these areas and steer clear. This is the time of year where may of these newly exposed zones get trampled by visitors causing social trails and erosion damaged that can take years to regenerate.

The snowfield from Pan Point to Muir is seeing a lot of ski traffic and for good reason. The snowpack is in good spring condition with many lines like the Nisqually shoot still in. The winter route is changing with the snow melt and tracks are cutting down towards pebble creek. Please observe this trend and stay on the snow.

May 10th

 Skiers and climbers have been out and about on the snowfield over the last couple of weeks due to the GREAT weather we've had.  There's still plenty of snow and skiers can get all the way to and from Muir without taking their skis off to hoof it.  Please be cautious of the fragile meadows as they begin to melt out.  The flowers have such a short growing season that any trampling sets them back more than the flowers you trample on your lawns...

The "winter" route is still the most popular route to get to Camp Muir.  Teams have been ascending directly up Panorama Face and skirting from there over towards McClure Rock and finally up through Moon Rocks to get to Camp Muir.  The "summer" route and switchback to get up to Pebble Creek hasn't been kicked in yet.

Make sure to come prepared - especially with the early season storm potential.  It's still May and the Pacific Northwest can kick out the jams this time of year.  Storms can roll in with little warning so be sure to have a method of getting back to the parking lot (this means have a GPS, extra batteries, set a track log, and be dialed in with how to use it).

Day hikers do not need a permit for the snowfield.  Hiker and skiers that plan to spend the night at Camp Muir do need a permit.  And finally, Climbers need a permit AND a climbing pass.  See the permits and registration link above for more info.  

Wednesday, April 20th

Current photo of the route.  More to come soon.

For 2015 route conditions and information follow this link:   Muir Snowfield 2015

Muir Snowfield

Curtis Ridge 2016

Wednesday, April 20th

Current photo of the route.  More to come soon.

For 2015 route conditions and information follow this link:  Curtis Ridge 2015

Liberty Ridge 2016

October 5th

Only 56 climbers attempted Liberty Ridge this year, down from about 100 two years ago.  Spicy conditions and at least a week of poor weather each month this summer probably added to the lower numbers.  May and June seem to be the best (least hazardous) months to climb this route.  Some climbers have started even earlier, in April, and found decent conditions, albeit a longer approach since the road to White River Campground doesn't open until May most years.  Stay tuned to the park's road and access website to see when the road is predicted to open next season!

July 1st

A recent report from a attempting liberty ridge party indicated that travel across the Winthrop and Carbon glaciers was exceedingly difficult. Heavy wet snow and many large open crevasses on both glaciers significantly slowed their travel and they decided to turn back close to the base of the route.

Strong winds and clouds are predicted for the weekend of 7/1-7/2 but overall weather is improving and Liberty may have a few more climbable days left in the season. The approach sounds challenging and may indicate the existence of wet unconsolidated snow higher on the route as well.  Take note of the previous post before you plan your trip.

June 15th

Liberty Ridge in one of the most sought after climbs on Mt Rainier for the aspiring mountaineer. One of the 50 classic climbs in North America its a beautiful and imposing alpine climb bisecting the Nordwand of the grandest Cascade volcano. Its nature attracts eager individuals to attempt it from around the world.

This attraction, in-spite of conditions and impending weather, resulted in the rescue of two Liberty Ridge climbing parties in the last 5 days.

Both Parties were strong and manged to climb the route only to be trapped on the summit or unable to descend due to the weather they had climbed into. This is an all to common scenario for parties on Liberty Ridge when a chosen weather window proved to be to short compared to the time it may take to climb from Thumb Rock to Liberty Cap.

It is weather, not the technical nature of the  climb that results in the majority of rescues and fatalities associated with this route.  More than one of each per year.

With this in mind if you are planing a trip up liberty ridge in the near future consider a few of these guidelines and tips

-Allow for 48hr window of FANTASTIC weather for your assent from thumb rock to the summit and back down. The route can often take parties 15-20 hours to make it to Liberty Cap where they may be forced to spend the night. With a large enough weather window this becomes an inconvenience that you can walk out of the next morning and navigate your decent through the Emmons or DC routes.

-Consider climbing the Emmons before Liberty. The secondary factor of weather on Liberty Ridge is the need to descend through it. Many parties are able to climb the route in poor conditions only to find themselves unable to navigate and decent the Emmons; which may have been considered trivial. This essentially strands you high on the mountain subject to whatever storm may be on its way.

- Do not discount the thought of descending the route. Many parties have found themselves in trouble on the summit after thinking that the only route to safety is to continue climbing. Yes, descending Liberty will be time consuming, scary and gear intensive, but if it puts you back into a position of strength and safety it may be well worth the effort compared to climbing into a storm. 

There is a nice weather window in the forecast for early next week and if that pans out and the route is allowed to settle from the past 10 days of storms and elevated avalanche hazard it could be a great time to climb Liberty Ridge. Though they may have been rescued both parties reported decent climbing conditions above thumb rock with the major difficulty being a near vertical ice step of 50+ ft at the Liberty Cap bergschrund.

 Take your time, plan your climb in accordance to to conditions and don't push your luck. Liberty ridge is not going anywhere fast. When the time is right it will reward you with the fantastic climb it is.

 April 20th

Current photos of the route. More to come soon.

For 2015 route conditions and information follow this link:  Liberty Ridge 2015

Upper Liberty Ridge

Liberty Ridge

Lower Liberty Ridge and Carbon Glacier

Emmons Winthrop 2016

October 4th:
Self-registration materials are posted on the bulletin board
near the front door.

No climbers made it up the Emmons / Winthrop in September and the winter-like weather we're having in October so far has definitely brought off-season conditions to this route.  Don't expect any wands or boot-pack on route and be prepared for a truly strenuous and remote climb if attempting this route.  It's not the time for a first-climb of Mount Rainier.  Registration for this route is still necessary and can be done in-person at the White River Ranger Station.  After the ranger station closes for the season in mid-October climbers can self-register at a kiosk outside the ranger station near the front door.  Please check the park's roads and access page for details on what type of travel is permitted this winter.  Watch out for snow plows!

Monday, August 29th:

 After multiple days of warm, sunny weather there was a noticeable shift in the weather this past weekend. Lenticular clouds, strong winds, colder temperatures and a  unstable upper atmosphere gave climbers their first taste of fall weather this past weekend. The route remains unchanged, although a few cracks have begun to open up a bit more. What this means for climbers is that the older bootpack may now dead end into an open feature. In most cases, this is easily solved by continuing to end run the features encountered. Climbers have mentioned this to be most notable between 12,200ft.- 13,200 ft. on the Winthrop Shoulder.

As we move into August, climbers should expect a bit more unpredictable weather on the upper mountain. As the weather changes and fewer climbers are on the route each day, the bootpack will become more obsolete and the potential for storms/white outs will increase. All climbers attempting the Emmons should be prepared before and during their climb with the proper tools to deal with bad weather, even when skies are clear. Teams should be outfitted with a proper gps (and know how to use it), possibly wands, shovel, stove, sleeping bag and any other gear that may help you if you were to get stuck in a whiteout/storm for even a short stint.

Wednesday, August 24th:

Looks like it's going to be another beautiful weekend up here at Camp Schurman for the National Park Service Centennial weekend. Come celebrate our 100th birthday with free admittance to the park August 25th-August 28th. You'll still need to get your wilderness permit and purchase a climbing pass but won't have to pay as you enter the park.

With forecasts calling for 12-13,000 ft. and moderate winds up high, it should be an ideal weekend for climbing the Emmons route. Crowds are light this week, with only 4 folks currently in camp. Camp Schurman can hold up to 48 people so come on up and join climbing rangers as we enjoy the tropical weather at 9,500ft.

A view of the current route from camp.
The route has been holding in nicely throughout the season and is still providing many parties with success every week. The majority of larger crevasses are still able to be "end run" rather than crossing hollow bridges. All parties who have summited in the last 3 weeks have been taking the boot pack which bumps out to the Winthrop shoulder and then up to liberty saddle. Rangers will be staffing camp Schurman through the weekend so look for them when you arrive for any daily updates on route conditions.
As the lower Emmons continues to melt out, the approach to Camp Schurman from Camp Curtis is starting to get a little trickier. The current climbers trail that drops on the Emmons from Camp Curtis puts you in a highly crevassed rollover that is forcing climbers further and further out onto the Emmons. A possible alternative may be found by climbing a bit higher from Camp Curtis and then dropping into an older boot pack that avoids the densely crevassed area.
View of the Emmons approach to Camp Schurman. Green line indicates current route with dotted green indicating where route goes out of sight past the rollover. The red line indicates a possible new approach where the older bootpack previously gained the ridge.
Although the inter glacier is beginning to melt out, there is still good snow coverage that even offered ski turns the entire way down for some motivated skiers this past weekend. Use caution when traveling up the inter and keep an eye out for smaller crevasses, moats or rockfall but otherwise it still remains in good shape.
Upper Inter Glacier and Steamboat Prow

Central Inter Glacier

Tuesday, August 16th:

Greetings from Camp Schurman!

Some of the larger features that remain fairly well filled in
just below the liberty Saddle.

It has turned out to be a fantastic week of climbing for both independent climbers and Climbing Rangers alike here on the Emmons. With sunny skies, light winds, warm weather and a filled in route it would be hard to ask for anything better in mid/late August. Although the freezing levels have been quite high, the snow has been staying relatively firm. As things begin to open up a bit on DC route, the Emmons glacier just might be the route to climb late season. Currently, the forecast is calling for continued high pressure and nice weather giving Washington climbers the window we have been waiting for.
Climbing ranger track log of Emmons route as it bumps
to the Winthrop shoulder and Libery Saddle.

Climbers this week were finding success by bumping the route all the way out to the Winthrop shoulder and into Liberty saddle. This seems to be the natural line up the mountain at the moment as you are able to “end run” the majority of the larger cracks and avoid hollow bridge crossings. The Direct route that has been providing success to many parties earlier this season may finally be done due to the opening of larger features.
For those of you contemplating bringing your skis and boards up to Camp Schurman I’ll mention what we observed this week. Currently, the route is fairly sun cupped and penitented. There is a bit of softer snow up above 12,500 to the Liberty saddle but above that, the snow is again bladed out to the summit. The two parties of skiers/snowboarders that “skied” the Emmons this week did quite a bit more side slipping the boot pack than actually linking turns in order to avoid the penitentes. Surprisingly, they descended the route nearly as slow as parties on foot.  If you do decide to bring up your snow sticks, please stay out of the bootpack as you carve those 8's down the mountain.
Rangers dropping into the Liberty Saddle from the crater rim.
Two climbers can be seen just left on center. 

The Inter Glacier remains in good shape for August and is still a straightforward approach to Camp Schurman. Dropping in onto the Emmons from Camp Curtis Is still fairly straight forward and has a good bootpack up to camp from previous parties. Please see out previous post to see the best option navigating the cracks coming into camp.
The Inter Glacier still holding lots of snow. However, there
are still cracks beginning to open up.

Close up of features opening on the Inter Glacier. Glissading
is not recomended as many cracks are hard to see from above.
 Last but not least, all of this mellow weather is bound to come to and end at sompoint and your fellow rangers want to ensure that your gear is properly secured when the weather does decide to "blow" back in. This week, we have observed the majority of parties anchoring their tents with standard tent stakes that are meant for dirt and do not function in snow. Be sure you have proper snow anchors or bollards for securing your tents down. Even on a splitter day, it is not uncommon for cyclical winds to reach 20-30 miles in the saddle of camp Schurman.

Please be sure you actually anchor your tenst before leaving camp.
Standard tent stakes are ment for dirt and do not function in snow.

Here is a prime example of what standard tend stakes do by 10am while
you're out climbing. Even moderate local winds can easily blow your
tent into nearby crevasses.

Wed, August 10

The bottom line:

Come on up!  Because the conditions don't get any better to climb the Emmons Glacier in August!
The whole story:

I just spent three days at Camp Schurman (Mon-Wed).  I was assisting the Glacier Monitoring team.  We put stakes in the glacier in April and May, then monitor the melt over the summer until the final measurement in late September.

I like being a part of these measurements because it always gives me some empirical evidence to corroborate my more anecdotal observations. 

Emmons-Winthrop from Steamboat Prow.
The short story is that there are several more *METERS* of this year's snow still on the surface of the glacier than there normally is for this time of year.

This, of course, backs up what we are seeing on the ground.  By the second week of August over the last two years, the Emmons has been almost 'unclimbable' without an extensive amount of pioneering and routefinding.

This year, there are NO ISSUES until about 12,200 when the route bends north to the Winthrop shoulder to avoid a large crevasse near the top of the 'Alpine Meadows'.  At 13,400, the route splits and you can choose your own adventure between the more direct to the summit route, or an alternate route that traverses to the summit col (13,600) before it turns back and climbs to the crater rim.

The only caveat to cast a shadow of doubt on anything I'm saying here is that there are not daily summit attempts from Schurman.  Yesterday and today, there were only two parties of two at Camp Schurman.  This means that you have far more 'solitude' on the Emmons-Winthrop route than on the Disappointment Cleaver.  Before today, no one had attempted to climb from Schurman in several days.

The greatest challenge or danger may be just getting to Camp Schurman!  Here's a few pictures from the route up:

Glacier Basin: Looking up to the toe of the Inter Glacier
For you skiers, it's a healthy hike to the toe of the Inter Glacier, however, the snow isn't too bad, even this late in the season.  However, please take care on the Inter Glacier.  It isn't common that there is this much snow this late in the year.  Crevasses are still covered up.  There are several developing crevasse systems and you need to pay attention.  Glissading is tempting, but also not recommended on the Inter Glacier now.  Every year, folks giggle and glissade right into crevasses.  In hindsight, everyone agrees that glissading down the glacier was dumb.

From Camp Curtis:  Looking out over the Inter Glacier

Climbers crossing the Alpine Meadow area. A busy day
on the Emmons is still light compared to the DC.

In the picture below you can see the route from Camp Curtis on the Emmons Glacier to Camp Schurman.  There is the first system of crevasses just to the left of center, then the route now goes high - not quite to Emmons Flats - and drops back down to Schurman.

From Camp Curtis:  Looking at the approach to Schurman.

A closer look at the traverse into Schurman.

Flowers, up high, are unusually beautiful this year!

- Stefan

July 30th
We just got back from a climb up the Emmons-Winthrop and I was surprised with how well the route is holding up. If you look at the blog post from the 27th you will find a very detailed climbing report on the route.
Before we get to which crevasses are where I want to tell you that the Inter Glacier is in great shape as is the mountain as a whole.  It turns out that a colder and snowier than normal July created ideal climbing conditions.
 As far as specifics with crevasses I will echo what Sam said below. If you come to a crack that you don't like, even though the boot track went over the crack doesn't mean that you should or have to.  The glacier changes day to day and moves the most in the summer months.  You can always go around the cracks! We use the term "end running"  If you are planing a climb up the Emmons you should employ this skill if you had to. As mentioned in the beginning of this post, the route as a whole is in great shape.

 - Jules

Wendsday July 27th

Climbing on the Emmons-Winthop route has been great over the past few days with many private parties and guided groups achieving a summit. When Rangers first arrived at camp there were many reports of collapsing snow bridges and other difficulties. These were turning a number of parties around and leading to rumors of the route falling out.

However, when rangers climbed they found that all the "difficulties" were easily passable with only minor re-routes. The main message here is that an existing boot pack may not  (and in this case did not)  take you through a glacier in the most appropriate way. It is imperative that each team still navigate their way up the route. If you reach a difficult crevasse crossing, look around first before committing to a dangerous move. Most likely there is a better spot close by.

The GPS route image indicates two different routes that Rangers climbed over the past few days. Both travel up the "Corridor" and into the "Alpine Meadow" area at about 12000ft. The route here is in great shape and climbs very nicely. The first major crevasse crossings are encountered around 12,200ft and are moderate step across moves with the possibility to end run to climbers right.

Route Options for the Winthrop Saddle 
At about 13400ft two routes split apart. The less steep route is highlighted in light blue and travels into the Winthrop Saddle. Here there are many boot packs that lead to dead ends. The picture on the right shows two current paths through the saddle. Please chose your path carefully as this area is subject to change daily. Both the Red and Green lines meet back  up with each other and proceed to the summit.

The Purple route punches almost direct to the summit from 13,600ft and features steeper climbing over several large crevasses at points where they have filled in. This was a route in common use until avalanche conditions pushed people into the Winthrop Saddle. The avalanche hazard has significantly diminished and this route is very climbable again. Due to the steepness and firm conditions, climbing with enough pickets for a running belay is recommended for parties attempting the Direct variation.

Mt Rainier is continuing to experience some of our warmest weather yet this season. While the climbing conditions are quite good they are always subject to change. Keep and eye out for shifts in the route and expect that it may be different than what is described here.  Overall the Rangers found an enjoyable route with many possibilities for the future. This will hopefully keep the Emmons-Winthrop climbing well into August.

Hope to see you up here.


Monday July 24th

The sketchy crevasse at 12,400 has a good way around it now. Rangers went up today to establish a better way over it.  Going up again tonight for a climb.  Will focus on putting the crossing in a little more obvious. 

Right now.  Calm winds and clear skies.  We finally got our summer back. 


Wednesday July 20th
The route changes daily during the hot part of the summer with crevasses opening, lips collapsing, and bridges sinking.  Sometimes it makes the route more circuitous and other times it fills in and the route becomes more direct.  In general, the route is still in great shape.  Last Sunday the track log from Camp Schurman to the summit was only 2.8 miles long - very direct!  

It's still a lot of vert to get to the summit, and some crevasse crossings require all but the most bold climbers to be belayed across, so climbers still need to rise early to be up and down before the snow warms up.  The "corridor" is starting to open up a bit more - be cautious of crevasses opening up parallel to the climber's track - not just perpendicular.  A couple of steep sections - at around 12,800 and around 13,600 - should have climber's considering a belay since it's too high of an angle to arrest a fall with an ice axe. 

Typically the route doesn't last too far into August, so come on up and enjoy the Emmons / Winthrop Glaciers while it's good! 

Tuesday, July 12th
The Emmons Direct route has become a bit more technical as this feature
become more vertical around 12,500ft.

It's been a bit of a wintery summer so far on the Emmons/Winthrop side of the mountain. Upper level low pressure deposited some new snow over the last week which lead to very inconsistant conditions up and down most of the route. Climbing rangers were able to get up on the route this past Sunday and found a wide variety of snow conditions and weather up high.

Super varied conditions were found on the upper mountain.
Here, deep wind slab quickly transitions to a hard ice crust
Track log of a current route from
Camp Schurman to the 'shrund.
Without an accent of nearly 10 days, rangers pushed up during the first break in storms to access snow conditions above the corridor. It was clear that a rain event during the initial wave of the recent storms had turned upper level snow to an unconsolidated mess. Boot-top to mid shin steps were found most of the way to the top of the Corridor. From there, there were patches of deep wind slab (1-2 ft.) mixed in with hard ice layers from the rain event that hadn't had time to penetrate the snow pack.  Although test results showed a mostly stable snow pack, there were certainly some well defined layers that could be reactive given the wrong conditions/loading or the right trigger. We saw results that that were much more indicative of a winter snow pack rather than mid July conditions.

Looking upward from the alpine meadows

That being said, the last 2 days of sun have certainly helped to stabilize the snow and a few parties have found success up to the summit. It seems that the original route put in this season has become a bit more technical as a glacial fin becomes more vertical.
Many parties were pushing out in the "Alpine Meadows" a bit further and crossing a bridge around 12,300ft. From there, up the Winthrop shoulder and across the schrund at 13,600 ft. or a bit more traversing into the liberty saddle with gain you access to Columbia Crest.

Tuesday, June 28th
Approach up the Inter Glacier

Conditions on the Emmons/Winthrop Route got a huge reset after the mid-to-late-June storm.  Lots of new snow and cold temps held the route together and climbers have been making it to the summit via a direct and relatively path.  

The Glacier Basin Trail has mostly melted out, with a few lingering snow patches just before Glacier Basin.  Skiers are able to access snow just on the other side of Glacier Basin Camp and tour all the way to Camp Curtis.  The last bit of running water was just at the top of "yellow hill" which is about a quarter mile beyond Glacier Basin Camp.

Crevasses are not yet visible on the Inter Glacier, but with the high temps and lots of sun in the forecast, be cautious and treat the approach to Camp Schurman as though it is a glacier.  Unroped crevasse falls are extremely hazardous.

Climbers have been traversing off the Steamboat Prow on to the Emmons Glacier near Camp Curtis and though it's not totally snow covered, the climber's trail is easy and short enough to do in ski boots.  Please remember that camping between Glacier Basin and Camp Curtis is only allowed on snow.  If your party decides to take an extra night between these two camps, you'll have to dig a platform on snow somewhere on the Inter Glacier to stay the night.  There's no camping allowed on the rocky outcroppings or at the top of the Steamboat Prow.  

The Emmons and Winthrop Glaciers
From Schurman, the route follows what has been the standard route on the Emmons/Winthrop for the last couple years.  Climbers head directly up to Emmons Flats at about 10,000 and even a ways beyond that before traversing climber's left to the "corridor" and ascending that to about 11,500 feet.  A traverse back right at the large crack that blocks further travel up the corridor puts climbers out onto the "Alpine Meadow" and from there the route ascends straight up, with more traverses to the right as further cracks impede progress. 

As the newer, softer snow melts away, and skeletal ice starts to appear below, it becomes safest to end-run crevasses rather than try to "leap" over a small portion.  Though it's tempting to try and save energy by jumping instead of walking around - this is the cause of many lower leg bone fractures.  Please be cautious.  

All in all, the route looks to be in amazing shape as summer really kicks off in July on the mountain.  Be sure to check with the rangers at White River for the most up-to-date info and weather forecast.  See you on the mountain!

Saturday, June 25th

Today marks the first day of a high pressure system that is expected to hang around through early next week. There has been no reports of the Emmons being climbed in since last week. Rangers went up today to assess snow conditions and found instabilities in the upper snowpack that could be human triggered and are recommending that climbers travel with caution on unsupported slopes and terrain convexities. The freezing level is rising over the next few days and will help to consolidate the upper snowpack. Remember to bring your beacon, shovel,proble.

Wednesday, June 22nd

Avalanche hazard? 

So the weather hasn't been great for the last couple of weeks.  It's hard to tell if there have been ANY 'good' days to climb, although people have summited on the route.  I was at Camp Schurman on Monday and Tuesday and got a chance to look at the snow and speak with the guided IMG party and their attempt up the Emmons-Winthrop on Tuesday 6/21.

There is about 50cm of recent snow on the route.  It is consolidating quickly at Camp Schurman (9460').  The IMG guide turned around their summit climb at about 11,500 at the top of the corridor.  At that point the route traverses climbers left through 'the alpine meadows'.  Upon performing stability tests, the guide got easy to moderate failures on all tests.  So they spun.  The Disappointment Cleaver route was climbed on this day, but snow may have been better on the SW side of the mountain and had been more wind-swept.

The snow is deep.  I recommend skis on the approach to Camp Schurman, especially for the descent from Camp Schurman down, albeit not very good skiing, at least you're not post holing all the way down.  I anticipate that the guided AAI party today made a bid for the summit.  Otherwise there has not been much activity above that altitude on the route.

Below: The red line is the 3-year average on the Emmons-Withrop route in climbers / week.  The blue line is the 2016 climbers.

Sunday, June 19th

Emmons-Winthrop Glacier on 6/19/2016
The past 4 days on the Emmons have been seasonably unseasonable. Conditions the past couple of weeks have been more like summer time vs. spring. June finally showed it's true colors while it hammered the mountain with high winds and lots of new snow.
The spring storm past to the South East on Saturday night leaving behind fantastic views of the mountain and high avalanche hazards on Sunday. A high pressure is expected to remain in the area over Monday with another upper level low pressure moving in some time on Tuesday.

Stormy conditions on the Emmons w/ Steamboat Prow in the background
The Emmons received a considerable amount of new snow. Total accumulations were difficult to determine due to the high amount of wind transported snow. Areas like the corridor were more scoured vs. wind deposition zones like the snow field leading up to the corridor that had 70cm (waist deep) of new snow.
Avalanche conditions will be high over the next 24-48 hours while the new snowpack settles and consolidates. Areas of concern on the route will be these wind loaded pockets of snow. No one has been on the route for several days so travel with caution and watch out for whumphing sounds, shooting cracks, or avalanche debree coming down from above.

Interglacer on the first sunny day after the big spring storm. 
The interglacier was a skiers paradise on Sunday. Rangers counted 30+ skiers skinning up in the afternoon with 40+ new ski descent tracks already layed down that morning. The skiable snow line ends just above glacier basin at the base of the yellow hill.
The trail to glacier basin still has some lingering snow pockets over the last mile to glacier basin. Because of this hiking boots vs. tennis shoes may be worth wearing if you don't want to get wet feet. Don't forget to check-in and check-out at the White River Ranger Station.

Thursday, June 2nd

It was a busy Memorial Day weekend up at Camp Schurman and on the Emmons glacier as folks came up to climb and ski the route. Despite high winds for the majority of the the week, many people had success topping out on the route. As the weather trends continue to be quite polar, timing is crucial for having good conditions on the route. Although conditions were firm this past week, the forecast is calling for record high temperatures this weekend after a long, cool trend. Be sure to get an early start to avoid the sloppy snow and oppressive heat.

Final bergschrund crossing at 13,800 ft.
Climbing rangers were able to get up on the route this weekend and poked around to try and find a direct line up the mountain. Several large bridges that remain filled were crossed along with two thinner bridge crossings near the bergschrund around 13,800 ft. These smaller bridges might not last much longer with the forecasted temperatures but many other options are available. As seen in the gps track, rangers were able to top out more directly on the Emmons but descended the bootpack from liberty saddle, onto the Winthrop shoulder and back to the top of the Corridor.

GPS track of route up/down the rounte

With some 50-60 mph winds over the last week, light snow and cooler temperatures, route conditions were a bit varied across the mountain. Almost everything from shin deep deposited snow to firm wind crust and ice were seen on the route. Most folks who decided to ski the route reported challenging skiing up high with better conditions from the Corridor down. Please make sound decisions based on personal ability, team fitness, conditions and weather. 

As of yesterday, it was possible to ski out to the base of glacier basin switchback (5,600 ft.) and regain the trail after a crossing of the White River. Currently, the only remaining snow crossing of the river is near the Tea Gardens at 6,300 ft. Beyond that, the Inter glacier has been getting a lot of traffic despite very wet snow conditions. Boot packing is strenuous and has been taking most parties longer than expected. Give yourself enough time to tackle the 3,000 ft. push up the Inter and onto camp. While some parties are accessing Camp Schurman from the prow, most folks are still descending onto the lower Emmons via Camp Curtis. At this point, there are a few cracks/motes opening up but they are still quite manageable. Lastly, please take care to store your food in camp as the ravens have been busy getting into peoples food/trash and making a mess around camp. There is a large, brown plastic bucket on the north side of the hut for folks to securely store their food.

Access to the lower Emmons from Camp Curtis

Enjoy the sunshine this weekend and safe climbing from the 
Mount Rainier Climbing Rangers!

Monday , May 30th

Happy Memorial Day from your Camp Schurman climbing rangers!
The forecast high pressure everyone has been expecting arrived today. Several independent climbing parties gained the summit with sunny conditions and mild winds. The route has few crevasses to navigate with many options to get to the top. Check back soon for an up to date GPS track.

Saturday , May 28th

The mountain received high winds overnight. Light snowfall yesterday and today has produced just a dusting of fresh white on the surface. There are two main cloud layers. A low level marine layer that ends around the level of Glacier Basin and an upper cloud deck that has been slowing rising over the last 24hrs giving way to some sunny conditions in between. The winds are forecasted to continue throughout today with weather improving over the next couple of days.

Wednesday, May 11th

Although access to White River Campground and the Glacier Basin trailhead remain closed to motorized traffic, those willing to peddle in from 410 will be rewarded with great early season conditions. At the moment, the White River Rd. is scheduled to open up on May 20th to the White River Campground only. Climbers can look for a self registration station outside the White River Ranger Station until it is opened/staffed later this summer.
One of many bridge crossings on the glacier
basin trail. Use caution around hollow snow.

Climbing rangers were able to get up to Camp Schurman earlier this week to scout out conditions. Although snow coverage is still holding strong from Glacier Basin and up, the first 2.5 miles of trail from White River are patchy and/or dry. Snow level on the trail is around 5,400ft. for those planning to ski. As things continue to melt out along the trail, water access is available nearly every quarter to half mile. However, that same snowmelt can create hollow snow hazards along many of the foot bridges and stream crossings so be suspect of thin snow.

River crossing slowly starting to melt out
at Glacier Basin.

The lower river crossing at the base of Glacier Basin is currently not recommended as the snowbanks are 3-5 ft. tall and the snow bridges across the river are gone. If you head up the switchbacks and into Glacier basin, there is still currently a viable river crossing towards the base of Mt. Ruth. When these snow bridges melt out, climbers will have to continue up the basin towards the tea gardens or even the base of St. Elmo's pass.

Down the inter glacier from 8,500ft.

After crossing the river and heading up the drainage, climbers will be pleased to find fairly straight forward route finding up the inter glacier and towards Camp Curtis/the Prow. Although none of the larger features have opened up yet, use caution near the base of any rock features and or sagging snow.

Access to the Emmons glacier from Camp Curtis

After gaining the ridge/Camp Curtis at 8,700 ft. you can continue up to the Prow and downclimb to camp Schurman or simply drop onto the Emmons Glacier and finish the hike into camp. Getting off of Curtis Ridge and onto the Emmons is still fully on snow and fairly straightforward. Again, although most things are still fairly filled in, good route skills and timing of wet snow travel is key.
Emmons glacier between Camp Curtis and Camp Schurman

Camp Schurman is melted out and has easy access up to the Emmons Flatts. Although no rangers were able to get up on the route itself, it looks like the Emmons got a good amount of snow this winter and is holding in. Fresh ski turns down the corridor were proof of pleasant conditions up high. 

Emmons Glacier Route from Camp Schurman
Wednesday, April 20th

Current photos of the route. More to come soon

For 2015 route conditions and information follow this link:   Emmons Winthrop 2015

Emmons Winthrop

Lower Emmons approach to Camp Schurman