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rperitore

winter on Rainier

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Hey there,

A winter ascent of Rainier can be pretty serious- just getting a weather window may be the hardest part.

The following is not meant to discourage or to be overly grim, just a reality check:

The experience can vary greatly. On one hand, I once climbed it in late January in calm, sunny weather, and it was hardly distinguishable from a summer climb except no one was around and it was a colder.

On the OTHER hand...Another attempt in January never got beyond Camp Muir and I was, no lie, lifted completely OFF my feet by a wind gust at 9000 feet on the Muir snowfield. I've also managed several mandatory compass navigation descents from Muir in winter, one of which involved wading through armpit deep drifts of snow near McClure Rock!

Take note that an alarming number of hikers and climbers' bodies still remain unfound in this "bermuda triangle" of Rainier- three of them were added in 1999, and nearly a fourth, who was discovered 4 months after disappearing.

Fuhrer Finger is the fastest route to the summit- but beware of avalanches. The route has killed in winter! Get a good assessment before you go. For any route, take a map and compass and know how to use them masterfully. While on the mountain, if weather is obviously rolling in, beat feet before the whiteout comes or you will regret it. It might snow and blow for a week without letup.

If the weather is just heinous when you arrive, do not bother leaving the parking lot. Resistance will be futile. Attempts to climb into a Rainier lenticular cloud cap will end in carnage!

I don't know if you're coming from out of state- if so allow yourself at least a week, more if possible. Good weather spells are hard to come by in winter, though not unheard of.

A winter ascent, or even an attempt, of Rainier can be considered almost a prerequisite training outing for an attempt on Denali, because the conditions on the upper mountain in winter are not too dissimilar.

All this said, just go prepared and enjoy! Rainier in winter is a great experience and a superlative place to learn.

 

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Interested in getting info from people on winter ascents on Mt. Rainier. Thinking of Fuhrer Finger rout...anyone with comments suggestions or info reply

thanks

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I agree with everything Yeti has to say... just thought I'd add another weather note, if you're more interested in the tick rather than the denali-simulator, the weather pattern to look for is the winter inversion. Two out of the last three winters have included a 1.5 - 3 week long period of cold and rain in seattle while above 5,000 feet it was clear and actually warmer. (60 deg. at paradise, 40 at 10,000') Many, many people made "winter" ascents under these conditions. They are hard to predict, but usually stick around for quite a while. I'm not sure of the exact mechanics, but I believe that the upper level high pressure system actually pushes incoming lows underneath itself (thus the poor weather in the lowlands). But the point is that a seattle forecast is not always a good indicator of conditions on the mountain.

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You might consider taking the Gibraltar ledge route rather than Fuhrer Finger. The route is about the same length, and you can use the Muir shelter for high camp. The main avalanche hazard area on the Gibraltar route is between Muir and the ledge. You can minimize the hazard by hugging the left edge of this snowfield. Beware of cross-loaded avalanche slopes on the Fuhrer route, especially near the top of the finger.

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