was a unique year of climbing on Mount Rainier. The winter was marked
by extended stretches of clear and stable weather with very little snowfall.
This provided incredible winter mountaineering opportunities, of which
some climbers took advantage. We found that winter registration grew threefold
in 2004/2005 to over 375.
The stable weather pattern changed in the spring, however, when a series
of cold and wet storms blanketed the upper mountain with snow. This precipitation
revitalized the glaciers and the alpine meadows for the summer season.
Aesthetically and botanically, the meadows were simply amazing. They melted
out early and many Mount Rainier aficionados found the abundant alpine
wildflowers in 2005 to be some of the most spectacular in recent memory.
Another high point in 2005 was the reopening of the Paradise Guide House,
now the best place to get a climbing permit. The newly remodeled facility
houses climbing, alpine ecology, and rescue exhibits. During the summer,
climbing rangers staff the Climbing Information Center each morning and
help with registration. The Guide House has become a great venue for information
about the upper mountain.
||High on the Tahoma Glacier. Photo © Ben Bottoms
Similarly, the renovation of historic Camp Muir that started in 2004
was finally completed in the summer of 2005. The contractors did an outstanding
job restoring the Cook Shack, Public Shelter, and Historic Men’s
Toilet. In particular, the work on the Public Shelter was exceptional.
Visitors staying at Camp Muir will appreciate the enhanced appearance,
lighting, and livability of the remodeled interior.
On the climbing front, the season was intense and short. Most notably,
the total number of climbers registered decreased. Though the winter climbing
season was successful, formidable spring weather denied climbers reliable
access until July. In addition, 2005 had numerous rescues and three recoveries;
spring was especially difficult.
8,972 climbers registered in 2005. We again see a continued trend in
climber registration numbers. Over the past five years, those numbers
have been steadily decreasing (see table below). Of the total registered, 3,879
were part of a guided trip, while 5,093 climbed independently. Independent
climbers have a 44% success rate; guide services average a 60% success
|Guides and Clients
The Disappointment Cleaver remains Mount Rainier’s most popular
route with over 2,049 attempts. The registration statistics for the most
popular routes are in the sidebar.
Climbing rangers patrolled 12 routes this year, maintaining a strong
National Park Service (NPS) presence on the upper mountain. The average
patrol included tasks such as: resource monitoring; restroom duties; dismantling
of rock walls, cairns, and camps; climber contacts, concession monitoring,
and responding to emergencies as needed.
The 2005 seasonal Climbing Ranger Program consisted of four rangers at
Camp Schurman and White River and six at Camp Muir and Paradise. In addition,
the program welcomed six full-time volunteers and two part-time volunteers.
Those 18 rangers were led by two lead climbing rangers and one supervisor.
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 also allow rangers
to note the plans of climbing groups, which can prove invaluable should
the party encounter problems during the climb.
Climbing rangers regularly cleaned and maintained the pit and solar dehydrating
toilets. It is incredibly beneficial to have the dedicated maintenance
manager at Camp Muir from Thursday to Sunday. Climbing rangers also provided
routine maintenance and repair at both camps.
A restoration crew focused on the Camp Muir Public Shelter and Men’s
Pit Toilet in August and September. In the Public Shelter, new bunks,
new cooking surfaces, another sun light, an active ventilation system,
and a new concrete floor were installed. Contractors moved and reconstructed
the Men’s Pit Toilet, which was collapsing into the Cowlitz Glacier,
farther south, enabling its return as a storage building.
||On Ptarmigan Ridge. Photo © Marcus Donaldson
Climbing rangers staffed the White River Ranger Station and the Climbing
Information Center at Paradise. They are available during the mornings
and some evenings and are excellent resources for route and weather information
as well as the latest safety information. These reports and other climbing
information can also be found at: http://www.nps.gov/mora/climb/climb.htm.
For pre-recorded information in the spring and summer, call (360) 569-2211,
Annual climbing passes are $30 and are required for climbing trips. In
the summer, climbing passes may be purchased in person at the Paradise
Climbing Information 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 or by using
the form available on the park web site (listed above). Monies collected
fund the climbing ranger program, the human waste program, and preventative
Search and Rescue (SAR).
The Mount Rainier climbing rangers responded to over 20 major rescues
and four fatalities in 2005. They also assisted numerous visitors in routine
events such as carry-outs, minor medical incidents, and short searches
for overdue teams. Some of the more noteworthy rescues are summarized
in the sidebar.
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:
• Properly disposing of human waste
• Camping on snow or durable surfaces
• Avoiding creating new rock walls or tent platforms
• Traveling on established trails
• Packing out all trash
• Leaving no trace
Solid human waste should be disposed by one of two methods: using the established
toilets at Camp Schurman and Camp Muir, or by using and packing out blue
bags. In 2005, over 36 barrels of human waste (five-and-a-half tons)
from high camps and Panorama Point. In good news, we report that fewer
climbers this year improperly disposed of their human waste. Climbing
rangers, however, still carried down hundreds of pounds of trash from
high camps. They also dismantled rock walls, newly established camp sites,
and contacted parties who were camping illegally. The vast majority of
climbers do their part to leave no trace, and it’s greatly appreciated.
||On Liberty Ridge. Photo © David Gottlieb
Climbing rangers will staff the Climber Information Center at the Paradise
Guide House in 2006. Paradise will be a busy place, as the NPS
expects a number of large scale construction projects to be occurring in
the summer. We ask that climbers check in with the NPS before coming to the
park. You can find the latest information on our web site:
The Camp Muir Public Shelter is also ready to serve climbers once again.
It now accommodates 20 people (more in a pinch) and will remain first-come
In closing, we would like to welcome back our longest-returning seasonal
climbing ranger, David Gottlieb. David has served Mount Rainier National
Park at Camp Schurman for the past 10 summers. Many climbers may recognize
David as the tall thin climbing ranger with the beard. Last winter, David
and Jeremy Shank (another long-standing seasonal Camp Schurman climbing
ranger) both received the American Red Cross’s Hero Award for rescue
work on the mountain. Congratulate them both at Camp Schurman this summer.
|Climbers on Popular Routes
2,049 - Disappointment Cleaver
1,478 - Emmons/Winthrop Glacier
928 - Ingraham Glacier Direct
276 - Kautz Glacier & Fuhrer Finger
94 - Liberty Ridge
100 - Gibraltar Ledges
106 - Little Tahoma
54 - Tahoma Glacier
531 - Other Routes
|Search & Rescue Highlights
• Two climbers (ages 25 and 28) departed
February 1 to ascend Ptarmigan Ridge in 3 days. On day 4, overdue,
the party reported by radio that they
were continuing despite difficulties. They required 2 more days to
summit, where they camped in a severe storm and ran out of food. They
descended in storm and poor visibility “by Braille,” requiring
another 3 days before being met by rescuers. One frostbitten climber
was flown from Camp Muir and one descended with rangers.
• On May 23 two hikers who had reached Camp Muir
on May 21 were reported overdue. A search found their bodies on the
Paradise Glacier at nearly 8,500 feet. The pair apparently wandered
off route while descending in storm and poor visibility. They attempted
to set up a shelter, but abandoned it. In the ensuing storm, the improperly
dressed team succumbed to hypothermia.
• On June 10, a two-person team was climbing the Gibraltar
Ledges route unroped. While ascending at 12,000 feet, one climber
slipped in an icy chute, falling 900 feet. The second climber descended
to his partner and called 911. The injured climber was without respiration
but had a weak pulse. CPR was given until rangers arrived a few hours
later although the pulse was lost after 10 minutes. Resuscitation
efforts were not successful.
• While ascending the Fuhrer Finger route on June 29,
an RMI client was hit by rockfall and sustained an open tibia/fibula
fracture. The party provided first aid on the scene, and rangers were
contacted. Three RMI guides
were dispatched to the accident from Camp Muir with a litter. The
patient was lowered down the route, arriving at
a prepared landing zone on the Wilson Glacier at midday, from which
he was evacuated by air.
• On June 29, a three-person climbing
team at 13,500 feet on the Tahoma Glacier called rangers to request
a rescue, feeling they could not continue or descend the route because
it was too dangerous. They had no tent or stove, only one sleeping
bag, and did not think
they could survive the night without help in below freezing temperatures
and 20-mph winds. Climbing rangers left Camp Schurman at 6:00 p.m.,
reached the summit at midnight, and retrieved an emergency cache
left by helicopter. They found the climbers and
escorted them down the Emmons Glacier to the White River Campground.
• On July 7, an RMI client fell on the
icy slope at 12,800 feet on the Ingraham Glacier. An RMI guide arrested
the client’s fall and then attempted to place a picket for an
anchor, but was pulled off his feet when the client slipped
again. The guide and client fell past their two teammates,
pulling them off too, falling 150-200 feet before hitting a
crevasse. The guide, with lacerations and a head injury, radioed
for assistance to other RMI parties. Within minutes,
a helicopter working nearby was diverted to pick up climbing
rangers who were flown one-by-one to the scene. The four climbers,
with femur fractures, serious head wounds, and spinal injuries,
• On July 12, four members of a seven-person
group were descending the Emmons when one member tripped and fell,
pulling two off an icy slope near 13,500 feet. The fourth caught
the teammates with a self-arrest. The fall injured two. The rest of
the party stabilized the injured as a nearby party descended to
Camp Schurman and requested assistance. When the party determined
they could not remain the night without bivy gear, they descended
to Camp Schurman leaving the party leader to stay with the two
injured. Rangers at Camp Schurman departed with supplies
for the party. They found hypothermic climbers in
severe conditions. Early the next morning, the two most injured
were airlifted off the mountain, and the leader was escorted down.