Mount Rainier saw the first summit in seven days (that I'm aware of) yesterday, by a NPS Climbing Ranger team and a former RMI employee apparently just back from Denali. Traveling in teams of two, they were able to travel fast and get higher than our 13,600' point (which I believe is the highest guided party point in the last week). Here's what we found:
- I recorded track/route and waypoint info, but am unable to attach such files in Wordpress. Contact me if you'd like that sent to you. Don't follow that route too closely though, as it ended in a crevasse punch through at 13,300'! The waypoints labeled C1,2,3 indicate the 3 major crevasses on the route.
- Crevasses 1&2 are still very crossable (in the 12-12,500' zone). C3 (13,100') has a fixed line, but the actual bridge over is pretty much done (I've attached pictures so you can see how quickly it decayed even in the process of our climb), so if you are following what is currently the wanded route, you will end up at a point where you'll need to step over the crack and be ready for a ~10' climb up unstable powdery snow (and be familiar with how to lower back over it). In short, this crossing won't last long (if it's even still there)--you may need to start investigating a route north, more onto the Emmons.
- Above the 13,100' crack, be wary of following the wands, which currently lead to a 2' crack. Instead, trend upward after crossing the crack, looking for a stronger snow bridge. I didn't get a close look at this bridge, but the climbing rangers who crossed the bridge didn't anticipate that it would last long; however, a bit further up from there is a stronger snowbridge that is reportedly pretty solid--so don't necessarily just follow the existing footprints.
- The Ingraham Headwall appeared to be stable, but both our snowpack tests and those of other guide services indicated variable results. There is definitely many distinct layers to this snowpack and with enough solar, slides are possible. On a similar note, the DC appears to be laden with snow and ready to go (one guide termed it "pregnant death"!). Given the current route, some solar and sliding on the DC would be helpful in the near future, so as to open that avenue.
- The Muir Snowfield continues to be very well wanded. The snowpack consistency varies with the day, but snowshoes and/or crampons are definitely not needed (though some people still seem to insist upon wearing them).
- There is a fox prowling around Muir that has marauded packs there and at tent sites lower on the Muir. Store all your food in some "fox-proof" manner.
You can find more pictures of the current route at the Adventure Spirit Rock + Ice + Alpine Experiences Facebook site: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Adventure-Spirit-Rock-Ice-Alpine-Experiences/274868172890?ref=ts .
Mountain conditions are subject to quick changes--particularly this year!--so use the info above as only one piece of your overall decision-making process. Some other helpful links to aid you in making the best decision for you and your party can be found at:
- Rainier Specific Weather Forecast-- http://www.atmos.washington.edu/data/rainier_report.html
- Rainier Weather History (Telemetry) -- http://www.nwac.us/weatherdata/campmuir/now/
- Avalanche Safety-- http://www.nwac.us/forecast/avalanche/current/zone/7/
- NPS Ranger Rainier Blog-- http://mountrainierclimbing.blogspot.com/ (though often hopelessly out-of-date, like now)