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kakeandjelly

Lets make Rainier more climber friendly.

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I have read many posts that complain about the gate hours. I have been forced to start climbs late on many ocasions due to late gate openings, and I have had problems getting reistered for a climb due to hours held by park officials. For me it is extremely frustrating that it is so hard to get on the mountain while following all of the parks rules due to the limited winter access.

 

I would pose two changes.

 

1: 24 hour park access for climbers to camp Muir. This may be a "good luck getting up the road" type access, and they may need to require a climbing permit and registration to get through, or something, but having to wait for the gate to open makes for way to late of starts

 

2: Rigistration for climbing somewhere other than the Museum. As a 9-5er, It is nearly impossible for me to get down to the park on Friday (or Thursday) night to register for a Saturday climb. This means that I will have to go down Saturday Morning, wait till 9:00am when the Museum opens, register, get to Paradise at 10:00, hit the trail at 10:30, not get to Muir till 3:00pm...

 

It seems to me that these are not terribly difficult things to change, and If I am paying my $30.00 per year, I want it to work for me.

 

I talked to a ranger, and she suggested emailing issues to the park and these things are read and considered, maybe if we all send in a note, we can work something out.

 

Here is a link to the page: http://www.nps.gov/mora/pphtml/contact.html

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and how exactly do you propose road access to paradise for 'climbers' and no one else? and is the special treatment just for 'climbers'...what about skiers who want to get an early start to their day but their activites don't require a climbing permit?

 

I doubt the park service has the money for a 24 hour a day attendant to deal with climbers wanting to get an alpine start. And I imagine the park service would be setting themselves up for a lot of liability if they left the road open and unmaintained after-hours. (ie- Joe Public sues the park service cause he launched his SUV off a cliff because he was trying to drive up to paradise on a road with a foot of unplowed snow on it).

 

just my two cents but I think the park service does a pretty darn good job with their limited resources.

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First of all, I think that Rainier does a GREAT job of keeping the park. I have met a number of the rangers, and found all of them to be friendly and helpfull. A number of them have gone above and beyond on a number of occasions, and I do appreciate that. It is not like this is a bitch session on Rainier.

 

Fact is, however that some of the activities that Rainier is exclusively well suited for, are made dificult by current operating procedures. I would like to open a dialog about changing some of those procedures.

 

As far as liability with regards to someone launching their SUV off a cliff on icy roads, that is Darwin at work. I lived most of my life in Alaska, and a closed road was one that there was too much snow to get past, rarely was there a gate to stop you. If the US government spent less time trying to protect idiots from themselves, maybe some of these morons would learn some personal responsibility, and we wouldn't have to worry about the park getting sued.

 

No, I think back country skiers (aparently the majority of winter park users) have the same issue as climbers. Maybe they to should pipe in.

 

Many states(I'm sure that it happens in Washington) do road maintnance at night. maybe the park could shift the schedule so that they could open the gate consistantly at 5:00 am. I should think that would work.

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I thought this thread was going to be about putting in a chair lift in to the top...like the lifts they put in down in Moab. yellaf.gif

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I sent them my two sense.

 

Maybe they could be flexible. The days that conditions don't require roadwork they might be able to open the gate earlier. Doesn't hurt to ask. Good job bringing it up. Thanks.

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If I understand your post correctly, you are proposing that the NPS open the gate for climbers, but not other visitors? Do you think the skiers, snow-shoers, sledders and general Mount Rainier enthusiast might be upset by this? Almost everyone going to Paradise is recreating in some fashion.

 

I think that the road to Paradise is the highest maintained road in Washington State during the winter (I can’t think of any higher paved/plowed road?). Also remember that Paradise is noted for exceptional amounts of snowfall (more than Snoqualmie, Stevens, White, Blewett, etc, etc...) My understanding is that it’s very, very expensive to finance a 24/7 plow operation for recreation, and you can't stop plowing the road during the day when folks need it most. I will also say that the NPS is very concerned about public safety (especially on icy, steep, curvey roads at high elevation where we invite the public to bring their families.)

 

As for climber registration... you don’t have to register at the Longmire Museum if you don’t want to. Many people do however as they can get updated weather information from the ranger. If you arrive late and the station is closed and the road to Paradise is still open, you can SELF REGISTER on the front porch of the Paradise Old Station. Climbers have been able to self registration for decades. That information is posted on the park web and is on the pre-recorded information line.

 

http://www.nps.gov/mora/climb/climb_cd.htm

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Mike,

 

As I said earlier Skiers (and snowshoers) are in the same boat as climbers, I have been to the park on ski trips myself and had the same issue. As far as sledders, hikers, ect. I would invite them to join the discussion, but I don't expect that they care as much. How many sledders start at 6:00 am?

 

I also know that if Rainier were to suspend road maintnence for the winter, winter ascents of Rainier would be few and far between due to the extended aproach, so I fully apreciate the value of the work that the park is currently doing.

 

I am not sure that 24 hour access is even necessary, but, as I said before, maybe opening the gate reliably at 5:00 or 6:00 am. I think that would work for the vast majority of climbs. Then, in the winter climbers could go to Paradise and self register early on the morning, similar to hood.

 

The bigger problem with registration comes in the summer, when registration must be done at the park during buisness hours, and when early starts are even more important.

 

Not that it matters, but Sherman pass is at 5575ft, and still open, not shure if it stays open year round or not, and it is east so likely gets much less snow...

 

I am not trying to pick a fight with the park service, or slander the rangers in any way, I think that all climbers with their head on straight apperciate you guys. What I do see is a common frustration among many climbers, including myself, and think it is worth discussing.

 

Do you have any thoughts as to how we might eliminate this frustration?

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The situation with the road plows is really rather complicated. The issue includes equipment maintenance, employee schedules, erratic snowfall, joe-average driver, etc, etc. It’s just not as simple as go plow the road at 5 am so it’s open by 6 am. But trust me, I empathize with the "waiting anxiety," as I have to wait just like you do! The only benefit is that I get to drink coffee on my couch instead of in my car.

 

As for registration, for 9 months of the year, you can self register. Self registration just doesn’t work in the summer for a number of reasons. Not only will the camps overflow, but some climbers really need the face time with a climbing ranger. It's not just about "permits," the registration process is about safety, resource protection, waste management and general information. Yes, long time returning climbers know the drill, but many climbers visiting Mount Rainier are rather new to it all.

 

There is a reservation system and many people use it and appreciate it. That’s one way to get your camp reserved early. You can also drive the park and get your permit the day before (I know, that’s a pain, but it is an option). And if you’ve really have a special case, call ahead of time and let us know. We’ll do what we can to help get you through the bureaucracy and competing interests.

 

Also, I didn’t think you were bashing the park. You’re asking very reasonable and logical questions; and ones I’ve heard many times before.

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I am not sure that 24 hour access is even necessary, but, as I said before, maybe opening the gate reliably at 5:00 or 6:00 am. I think that would work for the vast majority of climbs. Then, in the winter climbers could go to Paradise and self register early on the morning, similar to hood.

 

Consider that Mt. Hood has a Lodge and Ski area... Think commercial, think revenue. If Paradise looked like Crystal Mountain resort, things would be different.

 

Also with plows, if you don't continually plow the road, then you run the risk of falling behind. So if no one plows from 4 pm till 5 am, it can EASILY snow 2 feet and that takes HOURS to remove and make safe for joe-average driver. Even if it snows a few inches, it takes time to plow 2 wide lanes and the parking lot (which is another story altogether...)

 

I've become all to familiar with the difficulties of opening the Paradise road. Over the years, I've changed my position and now feel lucky to have such access, even if it is late.

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For those who choose to snowcamp around Paradise during the winter, the morning gate opening can even be a blessing...I've had more than a few ski trips on Rainier where we've camped near Mazama Ridge and had the entire morning to yoyo the best lines before the day trippers can get up there.

 

Although Timberline doesn't gate their road, there is a sign about a mile from the parking lot that says the road is closed from midnight till 6am (I think) due to plowing activites or lack thereof. Don't know if that has ever really stopped anyone from driving up...probably not.

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Here's the response I got from my query:

 

Dear Mike:

 

Mike Gauthier has answered this question on the forum. Thanks for your interest in Mt Rainier National park.

 

Curt Jacquot

Park Ranger

 

Oh well. Good to see he's not wasting our tax dollars with superfluous verbage. More time for coffee waiting for the gate to open. bigdrink.gif

 

Mike

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Yeah, I got the same response from my Query.

I now also find it frustrating that the people that I pay, not only from climbing fees, but also tax dolors are so willing to close the book and be done with it.

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k&j, i think mike's response was pretty thorough (not to mention timely). "the people that I pay, not only from climbing fees, but also tax dolors" are taking the time to respond to you, individually, multiple times, on an internet forum, within 24 hours of your original post. what more do you want?

 

in regards to the road. it sounds to me like no one has an objection to the road opening early per se (after all, when it doesn't snow, the gate is often open all night), but that they have looked at the issue and don't have the resources to expand the opening by plowing more. what more is there to say? you may be willing to accept "drive at your own risk" but do you really think the park service is going to sit on their hands if you drive off a cliff?

 

the issue that i have a bone with is the hours for climber registration in summer. this wouldn't require huge infrastructure changes, just scheduling a few more hours for a ranger to be on duty until later (9 or 10 pm) on friday nights for maybe 10-12 weeks from early june through august or so. extra 4 hours x 12 weeks x $25/hr = $1,200/year, seems like that could be reasonably accommodated, even assuming that you would have to tack on 50% of additional administrative costs and other overhead.

 

(since i try to climb rainier like once every 2 or 3 years, this is not at the top of my personal list of pressing issues...)

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At seems to me that Mike & Co. are just presenting a single interface for you to have a dialogue with. Mike has, in this thread, made multiple attempts to answers questions and provide information. It doesn't seem like the door has been closed on this thread, and I'm betting if you have something further to say about an issue Mike will respond.

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Dear Mike:

 

Mike Gauthier has answered this question on the forum. Thanks for your interest in Mt Rainier National park.

 

Curt Jacquot

Park Ranger

 

Oh well. Good to see he's not wasting our tax dollars with superfluous verbage. More time for coffee waiting for the gate to open.

 

HA! My office is in Longmire; I wait for the gate on my days off and weekends too.

 

I saw the post yesterday and knew the questions would be forwarded to me. The park receives a lot of email so I don’t blame Curt for referring you to my response here, especially since the comments were all generated here.

 

Public agencies have limited resources to serve a number of complex and competing needs. I know that the climbing rangers work very hard to serve climbers. I also know that the road crew works very hard to clear the road for everyone.

 

RE: Registration. As stated, you can self-register for much of the year. If you need some extra help registering next summer b/c you’re coming in late, call us and we’ll do what we can to help. Remember, that there is a reservation system and it works quite well.

 

As for the suggestion of late hours: White River Ranger Station (closer to Seattle and Tacoma than Paradise) is open till 8 PM on Thursday and Friday nights. For many years, we kept the Paradise Ranger Station open late too. But to be honest, very few (often NO) climbers would actually register… most late arrivals actually show up REALLY late (i.e. 10 PM to 2 AM). Also consider that the Paradise Ranger Station opens at 6 AM on Saturday and 7 AM other days. Keeping the station open from 6 AM to 10 PM becomes expensive, especially when so few climbers actually register between 6 PM and 10 PM.

 

If you have suggestions, draft a letter with your ideas and send it to the park. You’ll get a letter back. If you want to talk with someone, I’ll happily listen to your suggestions and try to provide answers to your questions. Send me your number and I’ll call. I also invite you to stop by my office in Longmire (weekdays.)

 

I’m listening.

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I frequent a photography forum where Kodak reps will chime in occasionally. I've learned to look for that "Rochester" location as an indicator. I see I should consider "Longmire" in a similar fashion.

 

Mike, I've read your book cover to cover a couple of times, (not much of a plot, but definitely stirs the passions)and I recognize your authority but it never occured to me you would be the contact regarding this gate issue.

 

I am not an informed user. I barely know when the gate is open and closed. I just checked and it's 9 and 4:30. Is that long enough for a slowpoke like me to go to Muir and back? Is that both directions? What happens if I get stuck at Paradise because the gate is closed? Will I get in trouble for sleeping in my car? What about Forrest_M's comment about the gate not always being closed if it doesn't snow? That was my suggestion. Personally, I'm not going up there if it's snowing hard. Call me a sissy.

 

Thanks for getting involved.

Mike

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I’m definitely not the gate authority, but I have to deal with the gate just like everyone else. In fact EVERYONE who works are Rainier deals with the gate when recreating...

 

I hear what you’re saying about round trip Muir time, but that doesn’t change those operational constraints I've referenced. A point of clarification, the gate closes to UPHILL traffic at 4:30; the down hill gate closes 90 minutes later (6 PM.) Keep in mind that the gate times slowly push back as the days get longer. So in Feb, the uphill gate may close at 5:30, the downhill gate at 7 PM.

 

If you get locked behind the gate, you get a million dollar fine and are required the help clean the bathrooms at Camp Muir. Actually, the rangers leave a combo for the lock on your vehicle at Paradise. The combo will get you out from behind the gate at Longmire. And so everyone knows, the combo is changed very frequently.

 

To be very clear, there ISN'T a million dollar fine and we wont make you clean the Camp Muir Bathroom.

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Michael, you're a softy. Forgive the million-dollar fine if you want, but at least stick'im with the latrine duty.

 

But you didn't answer "Forrest_M's comment about the gate not always being closed if it doesn't snow?" I can certainly understand the crew's need for time to clear roads and the parking lot if it snows. (and BTW, they do a great job.) But if it didn't, why not open the gate earlier?

 

Also, did I hear correctly that you've been promoted? Hope so; you deserve it.

 

Dan L.

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Since we seem to have Mike's ear on this thread, I'll wander a bit off the original question/gripe. (I don't feel toooo bad about it since nothing in this thread has to do with "trip reports", but there still is some anal retentive guilt associated with the thread hijack.)

 

How about better editing of the "Current Climbing Conditions" page on the MORA website? I don't mean updating it more often... just removing the stuff that doesn't apply anymore. For example, in early July of this year, there was a blurb put up about conditions on Little Tahoma. If you look at the website today, that same EXACT blurb is still there. It's never changed. Granted... you probably haven't had a patrol up there since July, but I'm *pretty* sure the conditions have changed a bit since then. In fact, all the east side climbing routes seem to be the same verbage used since late July.

 

I've learned over the last couple years that to *really* get a feel for conditions up there, you have to read the "current" conditions page on a weekly basis... then filter out the stuff that you remember from previous reports, when it's obvious it probably doesn't apply anymore.

 

For visitors outside of the local area that don't have a clue what our weather has been like, they might look at the "current" conditions page one whole time before heading out here, and be under a VERY buggered-up concept of what conditions are truly like.

 

Like I said, that's just my nickel's worth. And by the way, I'm quite happy the road is plowed at all during the winter. Yes... I grumble when I have to wait at the gate. But there have been plenty of days when I've showed up early (7:30ish?) and it's been open. So it's not like it's ALWAYS a late opening. It's just late on nasty, blustery, whiteout days... grin.gif

 

-kurt

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The short term answer to the original question: Go one day earlier for your planned itinerary and park at the overnight section at Paradise.

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Hell, let's just put a (climber's only, of course) gondola to the top and be done with it.

wink.gif

 

Can I set a new official human-dog speed record if I use a gondola? laugh.gif

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Mike, what's the reason behind closing the 'out' gate at 6pm? It is possible to drive thru anyway by getting the combination at the inn... Just additional hassle of getting from the warm car and walking back and forth...?

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