Under bluebird skies, I went with a team of climbers over to Rainier's "Wilder Side"--the Emmons Route--during the June 30-July 3rd period.
Here are some notes regarding the current climbing conditions:
- It is hot up there--the freezing level has been well over 14,500' for the past several days and the forecast predicts this to continue, so route conditions will change quickly. Please bear that in mind in reading any of the below notes.
- The Glacier Basin Camp is mostly melted out. Some sides are pretty damp still. There is at least one bear active there--we saw a pretty fearless juvenile bear. It didn't appear to buggy there during our brief stop.
- Following the thin moraine rib is now the best way onto the Inter Glacier.
- Water is available at several of the rock islands on the right as you ascend the Inter Glacier. We camped at about 8,400'. Whatever camp you choose, scout out carefully to make sure you're not in the firing line of rockfall from above.
- Crossing from the Inter to the Emmons is trouble free, followed by a hard zag to east, then up to Schurman Camp.
- Schurman Camp is melted out on the ridge, with a few dirt spots available, but most spots will still be on the snow. We didn't find any real steady supply of running water--just a few drips--so we melted snow.
- From Schurman the route runs up in its usual direction. The route isn't wanded very much, so you may choose to bring your own. Be careful about following others' wands--with the mountain conditions changing quickly you might just follow a line right into a weak snow bridge. Make your own decisions.
- We encountered our first substantial crack around 11K, followed by a 2' crack at 11.5K that necessitated stepping over then climbing up about 5' of ice on the far side. This path will last for a few more days, then likely change. It looked like a route 300' climbers' left of this current step would work.
- A few more cracks traveling above 11.5K, but all currently quite manageable.The route is very direct. We traveled at a very casual pace and summited in less than 7 hours, with about 3 hours for descent.
- Things were getting super mushy by the time we returned to camp at 11am. Coming down, we ran into a party going up that were at about 12K at 10am.They wisely decided to turn around not long after that. Plan your departure time to be home well before the day warms up.
- We glissaded most of the Inter Glacier--but again be very cautious about following others' paths: one glissage tube ran right over a very thin and soft snow bridge on the prominent crevasses around 8800'.
Connect with me if you'd like a GPS file with the route (can't be attached here).
Some additional important info:
- Pay attention to double wanding (indicating hard turns), "X"ed wands (indicating don't go that way) and use your mountain sense. Make sure you are up to speed on your navigation skills and don’t just rely on “connecting the dots”--many of the wands on the Emmons are old and don't indicate a currently viable route. Exercise the "freedom of the hills": make your own decisions.
- The route requires a fair bit of switchbacking--be sure that you're team is efficient in this technique, so as to ensure smooth and safe travel and summit times.
- I heard a party planning out their climb and discussing whether they needed snowshoes or not. Definitely not--yes the snow is soft, but good gaiters will keep the snow out and snowshoes will only slow your travel up to Camp Schurman.
As always, you can find more pictures of the current route at the Adventure Spirit Rock + Ice + Alpine Experiences Facebook site.
Mountain conditions are subject to quick changes and the conditions reported above are one subjective view. The information provided above is only one small piece of information you need to use in you and your team's overall decision-making process.
Some other helpful links to aid you in making the best decision for you and your team can be found at:
- Rainier Mountaineering Incorporated's route updates -- http://www.rmiguides.com/rainier/route_info.php
- 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/