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Theodore

Rainier in May?

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Sorry for the basic ?, what are typical conditions on Rainier like in mid/late May? Obviously it will change from year to year due to weather. I'm guessing still pretty cold and lower crevasse fall risk, sound about right? Most likely sticking to one of the more basic/well travelled routes for our first try at the mountain.

 

I was planning on a trip later in the summer, but my climbing partner was just accepted to a nurse anesthetist program and needs to have our "big" annual trip done by 5/31.

 

Thanks for any help!

 

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Conditions in May are like you describe; colder but with solid snow bridges and such. Weather in May, however, is still very much a crap shoot. The weather can be localized and Rainier is like a magnet for storms. You can plan for anytime in May, but to improve your chances plan as long a trip as possible and 'chase' the weather be it alpine climbing in the Enchantments or rock climbing in the desert until the weather on Rainier is good enough for an attempt. Also, be aware that in May the only likely viable approach will be via the south side/Paradise so plan your route accordingly.

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Good idea on the "chase". Something from Muir is pretty much a given with the bump up in dates. I was hoping to take a full week off of work to gain us some flexibility. If nothing else, I'd like to also get some other Cascade summits, and St. Helens and Adams aren't too far...

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St. Helens and Adams aren't too far...

The roads to the thrailheads will not be melted out by then.

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Fark... you're probably right on that one. Maybe I'll do Hood again if that's the case. He hasn't done it yet.

 

Do you have guesstimates at temp ranges? Trying to figure out what sleeping bag to bring.

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Fark... you're probably right on that one. Maybe I'll do Hood again if that's the case. He hasn't done it yet.

 

Do you have guesstimates at temp ranges? Trying to figure out what sleeping bag to bring.

 

Hood is a good choice, the weather is sometimes better down south. I would bring a quality three season/20 degree bag.

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the 'road' to st helens will in high likelihood be 'open', unless that is it snows a tremendous amount at lower elevations starting in early May (unlikely)

 

The main thing with that is after May 1st I think they start selling permits or some dumbshit, and after May 15th they limit the # of permits to 100/day. The road to the highest 'climber' TH won't likely be open but Marble Mt Snow park/TH will be and you can still climb from there (adds something paltry like 2miles and 1000ft extra--it is the defacto 'winter' route). Chances are you can say screw-it to the permit esp if not on a weekend.

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There are no typical conditions in May on Rainier. It can go from blue bird to shit hitting the fan and running home to mommy. That is typical. Planning from Muir is a good choice for a first trip especially if there are nasty winds as one can retreat in to the shelter. Make sure you know the way down from Muir to Paradise I know of several people who have taken the long way down via the Nisqualy.

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Thanks guys! I think we'll start looking at Ingrahm/Gib Ledges/DC and learn all we can from here on about the routes/landmarks. Commiting to a Muir climb helps narrow things down considerably. Hoping to make it a 6 day trip or so to maximize weather opportunities.

 

Any thoughts on whether it is better to try to get a spot in the hut or maybe try to camp a bit higher? (Beehive or Ingrahm Flats depending on the route)

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My preferance is to stay in the shelter, others prefer to tent it. If you are planning on a longer trip and have the weather window, spending the first night at Muir and a second night at Ingraham Flats can aid in acclimatization. Then again, spending a day to move camp will only save you like 90 minutes on summit day and you eat an entire day to shelp all your crap another 1,000 vertical feet. The Beehive is an exposed, small spot and is inconvient unless you are descending the Gib Ledges, not recommended in May due to rockfall late morning.

Edited by DPS

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I've been on Ranier in May and been postholing to my waist. Other years, easy walking on consolidated spring snow. Depending on the spring weather, you may want to bring skis. Or not.

 

 

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May can be pretty rough around here but, for a spring trip on Rainier, you want it not to have snowed for ten days and you'd be better off if it is not a warming trend but a cooling one.

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Dredging this one back up.... since this year is looking to be a lower snowfall year so far; (full well knowing it could nuke in spring) do you all think Gib ledges would still be in in late May? From what I've gathered, it seems to go out of shape pretty early in the season in normal snow years. I'd love to tick something non-cattle, but I don't want to push it on my first crack at Rainer.

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My last time on Rainier was 2 years ago last week in May and we saw some groups heading for Gib ledges. We went Ingraham Direct. Ya never can predict the route conditions till you get on the mountain. The rangers can give you a report when you get the permit. And if you see a ranger at Muir they know for sure.

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Commiting to a Muir climb helps narrow things down considerably.

I'd love to tick something non-cattle...
I was going to suggest my go-to route, Kautz, if you were looking for a little less bovine traffic, but it sounds like you're set on heading to Muir. But in case you were interested, the Kautz's crevasse risk is minimal in my mind. There's some as you cross the Nisqually, but then it's clear sailing until you top out on the upper Kautz Glacier. Then you gotta start watching out again as you move toward Columbia Crest. BTW, there's no hut over that-a-way...

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Minimizing crevasse danger is always a plus, but I think Kautz may be pushing it a bit. Neither of us have 2nd tools, and while I'd love to get to that point, I'm not sure about a multi-belay steepish snow/ice route for my first try. Sounds like a recipe for slow going. I've also always had a thing for the Fuhrer Finger for some odd reason. Decisions decisions...

 

As a few of you have alluded to, I'll just have to keep an eye on conditions and try to be as prepared as possible for what the mountain has available for us at that time!

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You don't need a second tool for Kautz in May, and I've done FF and Fuhrer's Thumb with only an ice axe and crampons, too.

Not sure where you're coming up with the second tool line of thought...

 

But like you said, it's your comfort level, and it's your trip. Be prepared, have fun, and watch the weather.

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Probably late season trip reports... those make it look a bit icy. I just need to relax and realize that I don't have to decide today on which routes will be in shape 100 days from now. :grin: Flatlander gets a little excited when I start thinking about trips to higher places.

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I did Kautz Memorial Day WE 1999, as well as FF and Fuhrer Thumb over different years. If fact, that is the first time I met Sobo - he was doing a recon for Pete Rikke. Pete's wife mildly chided me for wearing shorts and gaitors with no sun block behind my knees and called me 'Dear'. But I digress. I used a single axe and walked straight down when descending Kautz and FF. Having read trip reports and seen photos of late season conditions on the Kautz, I can easily see using two tools, ice screws, and belayed climbing.

Edited by DPS

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Thank dog Pete divorced that little red-headed troll! Couldn't stand her much meseff. She seemed to think that climbing experience was passed by osmosis by being married to Pete... :rolleyes:

 

PS: Did I make an ass of myself to you, too, back then Dan?? :blush:

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PS: Did I make an ass of myself to you, too, back then Dan?? :blush:

Not that I recall. I've always liked you. I'm pretty sure I cornered the market on making an ass out of myself from years 1990 through, well currently.

Edited by DPS

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PS: Did I make an ass of myself to you, too, back then Dan?? :blush:
Not that I recall.
Whew! Dodged yet another bullet!

 

 

I'm pretty sure I cornered the market on making an ass out of myself from years 1990 through, well currently.
Nah, I think that's a niche market, and I've got it sewn up. :)

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Thanks again, guys! I appreciate the help and first hand knowledge. Kautz or FF would be preferable for me, but we shall see when the time comes.

 

WRT the permits, you indicate route and days out etc... What if you change your mind? Are there places for alternate routes, or am I over thinking it?

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Both you and Dan are right about a second tool on Kautz later in the season - it does get pretty icy. But since you're planning your trip for late May, two tools is overkill, which is why I said you wouldn't need them.

 

RE plan changes en route, I've never had to do that, but I would suspect that it's not a wise thing to do (without telling a ranger) nor particulary easy to do unless (you're on a route that passes a ranger's hut). Since there are only two ranger huts (Muir and Shurman), you'd have to be doing a route that passes by or near one of them. If so, I expect that you could just waltz right in and talk to a ranger about it.

 

So that would put you either in the conga line out of Muir, or likely the Emmons Glacier route if you head out of Camp Shurman. I say Emmons because you said above that this will be your first Rainier trip, and you probably wouldn't want to get on anything bigger than that on your first time to the mountain. But bear in mind that access to that side of the mountain in May may be problematic... Some years, you can be shlepping your gear an extra two-dozen miles or so. Other years, you can drive right into the parking lot.

 

Dan (or others here) probably knows more about how to inform the rangers that you're changing your trip plans than I do, since I've never had to revise a plan en route other than to bail and just retrace the route.

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The changes I was thinking of would be something more along the lines of wanting to do Gib Ledges, seeing it's out of condition when recon-ing above Muir, then deciding to do Ingrahm Dir. instead.

 

But, like you said, chances are there would be a ranger at Muir to speak with.

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