Mowich Face and Emmons Glacier on Mount Rainier.
So…for the past few weeks I’ve been planning a ski trip to Mount Rainer for later this week, with potential ski days being Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The plan was to leave Jackson late on Wednesday and arrive at Rainier on Thursday in time to get permits to climb. Thoughts of potential climbing/ski routes have included the Fuhrer Finger, Kautz Cleaver, Emmons Glacier and the steep Mowich face, which I heard was skied last week car-to-car in one long push. I figured we could hopefully get in two routes if the weather was good, hammering one out in a one day push and maybe camping for another route which might have a longer approach. Unfortunately, the weather forecast is looking iffy for the area and I’m contemplating bailing on the trip altogether.
Now, I often try to live by the mantra “you don’t know, if you don’t go”, but in a place known as the Pacific NorthWET, it’s hard to get fired up for probably a less than 50% chance of sunny skies. I’ve been shut down on Rainier before (prior to even getting on the trail) due to weather, so it would totally bite to get denied again considering it’s a 13-14 hour drive from Jackson. But also considering that I’ve already got the time off from work, it sure would be nice to get out of town and get in some skiing under the sun.
Clouds teasing Mount Rainier. Photo: Ashley Yakeley.
I’ve been weighting my options, trying to come to a decision. One option is to head to Rainier anyway with the hopes of the long term forecast being wrong. Unsettled, spotty weather would most likely lure us into camping for a few days (instead of hammering out some routes in a day) and praying for a good timed weather window to allow for a shot at the summit. Full glacier kits or GPS navigation would be on hand and travel would most likely come to a snails pace in the event of a whiteout on the glacier…which I heard can happen sometimes up there. Fun stuff aye?
I’ve been hammering the weather forecasts for mountain ranges throughout the west trying to put together a Plan B, but most are calling for unsettle weather this weekend. My options seem to be limited and I’m thinking about staying local and heading into the Winds for more familiar terrain, or staying home and breaking in a big new couch that is arriving on Wednesday. Decisions, decisions…what would you do? Local Rainier weather knowledge appreciated.
this site is my favorite resource for rainier weather conditions. it’s updated at least daily and sometimes twice.
there’s always the chance that you get above the weather too. i’ve climbed to muir in no visibility only to pop out of the clouds around 10K to sunny and calm conditions. i’d still give it a shot! 🙂
i havent really looked at the forecast but it has been sunny here for quite a while now and we are overdue for a change in the weather. and as you know, you really want clear skies on rainier. hope that helps.
any more details on the one-day push of the Mowich face?
Lets see, what would I do if:
1. I did not have children
2. Had a job I could depart from without too much headache
3. Did not have a wife
4. Had a partner willing to go on a roadtrip:
I would go, even if that meant trail running in rain by day, and boozing at taverns by night. For christ’s sake, most of us would dream to be tasked with making such difficult decisions as to road trips.
I would go to the Winds.
thanks for putting it into perspective gmon.
so…one vote rainier…one vote winds.
If I had the time and resources I’d choose Rainier…something new and different from the standard (not to say boring) GYE fare. Just my .02…
Just lost a longer comment I’d typed up for you. Here’s a summary:
North side routes often like it hot in order to corn up:
The weather may not be conducive to skiing the high peaks, but the whole range has gems and adventure to be had at lower elevations as well. The East side of the range is sunny and drier. My read of the present forecast discussion: Almost certainly grey at some elevation, quite possibly unstable. Not super likely to change.
Consider an Oregon volcano raid – lots of shorter routes that you can use to exploit shorter/daily weather windows. Hood is less logistically committing but steep, glaciated, unstable, and burly. Washington is nearby if the forecast turns out to be happily erroneous. The weather will get better up here, if you can wait a week or two.
Careful forcing things through on Rainier – I’m lying in bed waiting for my fibula to stitch itself together from a fatigue-enhanced tumble after skiing the Finger from the summit a couple weeks ago.
No matter where you go, you’ll have to go to know…
Eddie Would Go!
Cloudy weather is pretty common for June in Seattle, but often times the cloud cover is relatively low. The pea soup in the Paradise parking lot often results in spectacular views. Just imagine the expansive pillowy, white blanket punctuated North to South by the taller peaks of the Cascade range.
Come out in July or August and you’ll be able to see off the top. It has been very good weather the last couple of weeks. Seems unusually dry this spring. This weekend looks questionable for mountaineering. Partly cloudy chance of showers with possible thunder storms and maybe some clearing with sun (all within a few hours). If you make the trip checkout Baker,St. Helens, or Hood too.
I’ve spent at least a dozen days in the Puget Sound area on a half dozen different visits, and the total number of minutes I have gazed upon Mt. Rainier remains zero. Spend a week in the Sierras, Utah, Wyoming, or Colorado and you’re bound to get a window of opportunity, but not necessarily in the PNW. When the weather is good in the PNW, it might be better than anywhere else in the 48, but it sure seems like a local’s game to get it when it’s right. I won’t be going back without a good forecast, but I’ve also already done the sit and wait in Seattle thing.
On the other hand, “you don’t know unless you go” is true as well. I wanted to leave Jackson a couple of weeks ago when the forecast looked like hell, and ended up climbing above the cloud deck on the Middle Teton which was pretty sweet and capped off a great weekend in your ‘hood.
Trev would do it!
Do you think? I’m not totally sure exactly where Trevor lived, but I would guess it was a lot closer to Rainier than me…and would have most likely been able to put a trip to Rainier together upon much shorter notice and within a much shorter time frame…timing it with a high pressure weather window.
(The obvious response to your statement will be kept to myself…in respect to Trevor.)
Just got home from Rainier and things were hot up there. Temps were so warm all sorts of shit was falling down the Willis Wall and Liberty Wall. Anyway it may be good for the Mowich. There is plenty of good corn up there!
Thanks Dav. Forecast is for snow to 8500′ by Sunday.
Weather looks like it could provide a well planned epic for Rainer. As a couple people said before, the University of Washington website has a very good forecast for multiple elevations on Rainier. Not that it matters so much for the forecast below, but the wind speeds given are for free air conditions, which would exclude any orographic effects. As you can imagine, this is quite significant for Rainier and I bet there is a correlation between the summit windspeed and the formation of a lenticular cloud over the upper mountain.
WED WED THU THU FRI
SUMMIT (14411 FT) 13 14 14 14 14
NE 5 E 4 E 6 SE 9 SE 11
CAMP MUIR(10188 FT) 37 31 36 33 34
SE 4 SE 1 SE 5 S 7 SE 7
PARADISE (5420 FT) 58 45 55 43 53
SE 3 N 5 SW 3 N 6 S 4
LONGMIRE (2700 FT) 66 49 66 47 62
SW 4 N 5 W 4 N 6 S 4
++ TEMPERATURES AND WIND FOR THE SUMMIT AND CAMP MUIR ARE AVERAGE
CONDITIONS EXPECTED IN THE FREE AIR AT THOSE ELEVATIONS.
++ TEMPERATURES FOR PARADISE AND LONGMIRE ARE THE EXPECTED HIGHS AND
LOWS. WIND IS THE AVERAGE WIND EXPECTED DURING THAT PERIOD.
.FRIDAY NIGHT…MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF SHOWERS AND EVENING
THUNDERSTORMS. SNOW LEVEL 9500 FEET.
.SATURDAY…MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF SHOWERS AND AFTERNOON
THUNDERSTORMS. SNOW LEVEL 9500 FEET.
.SATURDAY NIGHT…MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF SHOWERS AND
EVENING THUNDERSTORMS. SNOW LEVEL 9000 FEET.
.SUNDAY THROUGH MONDAY…MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF SHOWERS.
SNOW LEVEL 8500 FEET.
As another person mentioned, high freezing levels are desirable for anything north or east facing since they will be slower to corn up than the south facing routes. With little sun in the forecast and freezing levels around Muir, corn on any north or east aspect would be suprising. I’d go to the Winds.
Your headline Rainier photo is of (left to right) Curtis Ridge on the left skyline, Liberty Ridge barley visible behind Ptarmigan Ridge, Ptarmigan Ridge dropping from Point Success and making the entire left boundary of the Mowich Face, Mowich Face, Tahoma Glacier, and South Tahoma Headwall. Emmons Glacier is behind Curtis Ridge and not visible in the photo. Thanks for the great blog, I’m always happy to plan my trips to the Tetons while I read your TRs,
My buddy and I just got back from a week up there. It was freakin warm…freezing level was pretty much 12k the whole time. Had intentions of skiing the Finger but opted out due to surface instability and wet slides. Also, the approach/climb up it would have sucked in the thigh deep post-holing conditions. We skied the lower “apron” of it and it was challenging due to rotten snow.
Ended up skiing over on the Muir side and summiting via the Ingraham, which was falling apart pretty quick with the warm temps.
Would like to go back and attempt the Finger again in better conditions for sure. Maybe Canada eh?
Thanks for all the info guys. I think she may have to wait for a visit from Randosteve until some other time. Maybe it’s an accumulation of too many times being shut down in the mountains (comes with age) and the long approach from JH with a limited amount of time to spend in the area, but the weather just looks too iffy for the experience I’m looking for up there. Of course those Paradise webcams will torture me all weekend.
Good luck with Rainier weather! My sorry score has been three times stormed off with only one summit. One time driving 14 hours, after a positive forecast, only to arrive at TR in a blizzard that lasted 2 days. (damn talking heads – I’d’ve been fired years ago for such failure). The up side was early AM powder in July – all to myself – the mountain was deserted, which lasted about 1 hour til the sun turned everything to wet sand, but still skied a run of about 5000 vert. On the way home the Yakimanians said it had been summer weather the whole time. The mountain definitley has creative power.
had a similiar expirence on rainer in may. tent bound for 2 days low on the mountain then wammo 3 in the morning on day 3 the moon was up and the mountain was big and clear. Go to rainer and wait for the weather to clear.
Jun 9th, 2009 at 11:53 am
Eddie Would Go!"
Eddies already there mayyn 😉
Steve if you don’t make it out this weekend, consider a early/mid july trip out here; there should still be plenty of snow in the NCs and Baker.
does any1 no how many routes there are on mount rainier…. whats the most common route