|istorically speaking, 2006 was good to climbers on Mount Rainier. Many changes were made in way the National Park Service (NPS) interacts with climbers. A primary example is a new Mount Rainier climbing blog, which features a significantly improved way of delivering climber specific information over the internet. Found at www.mountrainierclimbing.blogspot.com, updated route and climbing information about Mount Rainier is regularly posted by climbing rangers. |
More climbers attempted the summit in 2006 than in 2005, a notable reverse of the decreasing trend observed between 2000 and 2005. And of those, a higher percentage also summited.
No Fatalities or Serious Accidents
More exciting than summit attempts and success is the fact that we had no major rescues on the upper mountain in 2006 — no fatalities or serious accidents above 10,000 feet. This is a remarkable accomplishment, and the NPS would like to thank all the climbers for making safe decisions that contributed to this amazing statistic. No serious accidents are a trend we would like to see continued in 2007.
The construction projects at Camp Muir continue to bump along. The latest improvement is a newly installed weather telemetry station at 10,080 feet. With just a click of the mouse, climbers, skiers, day hikers and anyone else can see the current temps, winds, and other weather data at the high camp. This new weather station, like the blog, has proved very popular with web savvy fans of the mountain.
Guide Service Contracts
After many years of public planning and participation, the NPS awarded the new guiding concession contracts in October 2006. Alpine Ascents International, International Mountain Guides, and Rainier Mountaineering Inc. all received 10 year contracts to lead mountaineering trips to the summit. This begins a new phase of guiding on Mount Rainier and will likely affect the standard of guiding around the region. Look for the new guide services on the mountain in 2007.
9,154 climbers registered in 2006. Of those, 4,132 were part of a guided trip, while the other 5,022 climbed independently. The table below lists those statistics in comparison to previous years. The overall success rate in 2006 (63%) increased substantially.
Mountaineering Patrols, High Camps and Ranger Stations
The 2006 Climbing Ranger Program consisted of ten seasonal rangers that worked between Camp Schurman and Camp Muir. In addition, five full time volunteers, numerous part-time volunteers and one high camp laborer supported the program. Two lead climbing rangers guided the team and one supervisor managed the program.
Together, rangers worked a total of 449 field days. Field days included 314 days at high camp and 135 days on non-standard routes or climbing patrols.
Climbing rangers patrolled over 13 routes this year maintaining a strong NPS presence around the park. During these trips, rangers monitor the climbing routes for conditions, activity and compliance, while also being prepared and positioned in the event of an incident. The average patrol includes tasks such as: resource and impact monitoring; restroom maintenance; dismantling rock walls, cairns, and camps; climber contacts, concession monitoring, and responding to emergencies as needed.
With few exceptions, Camp Muir and Camp Schurman were staffed daily with at least one ranger throughout June, July, and August. Rangers at high camps provided updated route, weather, and safety information to the public and the guide services. Climbing rangers traditionally provide this information during “evening rounds.” Evening rounds allow rangers to note the plans of individual teams, which can prove invaluable should the party encounter problems during the climb.
Climbing rangers also routinely maintain and repair facilities at the high camps. They also assist with projects such as rebuilding retaining walls, painting, minor structure repair (like reattaching doors that continually blow off) fixing leaky roofs, and other amendments to the high camp toilets.
Improvements and renovations at Camp Muir continue on the public hut and historic menís pit toilet. Some work remains to be completed in 2007, involving finishing touches on the public shelter and clean-up of construction debris.
Climbing rangers worked over 210 “person-days” between the White River Wilderness Information Center and Jackson Visitor Center. They are generally available during the mornings until noon and are an excellent resource for route conditions and the latest safety information. Climbing rangers also post updated route reports and other climber related information at: www.mountrainierclimbing.blogspot.com. For pre-recorded information in the summer, call 360-569-2211, ext. 6009.
Annual climbing passes are $30 and are required for all climbing trips. In the summer, climbing passes may be purchased in person at the Jackson Visitor Center, White River Wilderness Information Center, Longmire Wilderness Information Center, and at Carbon River Ranger Station. For most of the year, climbing passes are purchased by mail. Monies collected fund the climbing ranger program, the human waste program, and support preventative rescue measures.
Easy access to glaciers and alpine terrain make Mount Rainier one of North America’s most popular mountaineering destinations. An important part of the climbing program is to ensure the preservation of the mountain. Minimizing human impacts in fragile alpine areas is achieved by:
When toilets are not available, climbers collect their waste in “blue bags”. Mount Rainier’s blue bags are a light system for safely packing out human waste. Blue bags are distributed during registration. Visitors can deposit used blue bags into 55-gallon barrels located at high camps or at select trailheads.
In 2006, over 22 barrels of human waste (four and a half tons) were collected from high camps and Panorama Point. We regretfully report an increased number of displaced blue bags and piles of human waste, 122. Climbing rangers also carried down more trash from high camps than ever before, almost 700 lbs. Along the way, they also dismantled 71 rock walls and newly established campsites.
We anticipate a very busy summer in 2007. On the mountain, Alpine Ascents International and International Mountain Guides will be leading trips through Camp Muir and up the Kautz Glacier. In addition, Rainier Mountaineering Inc. can now guide the Emmons/Winthrop Glaciers. No commercial guiding, however, is allowed from the Success Cleaver to Ptarmigan Ridge (clockwise and inclusive) and along the Kautz and Emmons Glaciers on Friday and Saturday nights.
On the park’s roads, climbers should prepare for traffic during the day and an increased demand for parking spots. Paradise will surely be a busy place in June, July and August. Construction of the new visitor center and the remodel of the Paradise Inn will continue. Because the park has been closed for over six months because of last fall’s massive flood damage, more people will likely be eager to visit Mount Rainier to see the changes.
If you are coming to climb in 2007, we strongly recommended that you arrive at your intended trailhead early (before 10 a.m.). We also suggest that climbers check in for the latest information at: www.mountrainierclimbing.blogspot.com.
|©2007 Northwest Mountaineering Journal|
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