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Author Topic: April 19, Mt Rainier  (Read 17780 times)
David_Coleman
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Re: April 19, Mt Rainier
« Reply #25 on: 04/22/09, 04:12 PM »

Maybe you didn't notice, but I put etcetera after conditioning to be all inclusive (i.e. weather included).
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sadoalpinist
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Re: April 19, Mt Rainier
« Reply #26 on: 04/23/09, 11:22 AM »

Amar - thanks for the weather info.  I'd also be very interested in a primer on how to use the UW atmospheric sciences forecast.  I've tried to use it a few times and had limited success.
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Amar Andalkar
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Re: April 19, Mt Rainier
« Reply #27 on: 04/23/09, 03:50 PM »

I think Longmire has a weather station; is this data/telemetry available online?  This info would be very handy for me, since my records show that the Longmire gate did not open on at least 25 days between mid December & mid-April.

Gary, I'm not sure if there is an automated weather station at Longmire, if there is I'd like to find that data too. But the weather info collected by the rangers each day is available online.  Here is a link to the last 30 days of data for Longmire: http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mesowest/getobext.php?wfo=sew&sid=RLGW1&num=744&raw=0

Similar data for Paradise: http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mesowest/getobext.php?wfo=sew&sid=ASFW1&num=744&raw=0
Unfortunately, the Paradise data usually has lots of missing values, even on days when I know that the rangers have made measurements. Note that the manually measured snowdepth at the Paradise snow stake differs from the depth at the automated NWAC telemetry site, often by 10-20" or more.

Longer-term data for Longmire and Paradise are available from the National Climatic Data Center.  The past few months of preliminary data are available for free here: http://cdo.ncdc.noaa.gov/dlyp/DLYP  Look for stations LONGMIRE RAINIER NPS and RAINIER PARADISE RS.

Older data (scanned PDFs of the original typed or handwritten weather observer forms) are available for free here: http://www7.ncdc.noaa.gov/IPS/coop/coop.html

Older data in machine-readable form (more complete data and somewhat error-checked) are available from the NCDC website too, but not for free unless you are using a computer with an edu or gov or mil IP address.


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vogtski
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Re: April 19, Mt Rainier
« Reply #28 on: 04/23/09, 06:12 PM »

Amar, thanks for the additional links!  I'm not much interested in the older data.  However, the first link's temperature & snowfall readings appear to be posted early enough each morning to help decide if starting from Longmire might be enjoyable on days when the phone message says Paradise will not open.  I owe you bigtime, so send a PM if a shuttle would expedite your future adventures, such as leaving your vehicle at the planned finish...also, apologies to CE for the thread drift.
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I feel like I'm diagonally parked in a parallel universe.
Amar Andalkar
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Re: April 19, Mt Rainier
« Reply #29 on: 04/23/09, 06:37 PM »

I thought you might use the data as ammunition in fighting against the park's efforts to keep the road closed on days when in shouldn't be closed. In which case older data might be useful, too.

As for the daily data, as usual there is a fly in the ointment: even though the time says 7:30 or 8am, it is often not actually available online until a few hours later. Which might make it too late to be useful for day-of-trip decisions.

Thanks for the shuttle offer (and thanks again for turning around and driving me and H back up to Paradise that time in February, as sunset neared and uphill traffic was almost non-existent).

And I'm the one who's guilty of completely hijacking this thread . . . sorry CE.


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Garth_Ferber
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Re: April 19, Mt Rainier
« Reply #30 on: 04/27/09, 12:07 PM »

I thought I should add my 2 cents worth.

Good job Amar of taking the time to explain some of the ins and outs of weather forecast information. I think it is a good guess that the forecast of light winds that started this discussion was from a point forecast product. I understand that the NWS point forecasts off their web page use data averaged over 2.5 x 2.5 km grid boxes. The NWS Mt Rainier Recreational Forecast of temps and winds should be much better for Rainier.

It so happens that a NWS forecaster here at the Seattle office is interested in comparing the Mt R Rec Forecast Muir winds with those from our NWAC Muir weather station. So we may undertake this project and see what comes of it.

To answer David G's question: I think NOAA in the main collector of weather observations on a large scale for the US. NOAA also produces the regional to global scale model data for the US. Local scale modeling is often done by universities for example the WRF and MM5. Other organizations may do local scale modeling.

Fortunately there is a lot of international collaboration when it comes to weather information including between the US and Canada. Canada has its own suite of weather models as well.

Smiley
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Amar Andalkar
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Re: April 19, Mt Rainier
« Reply #31 on: 04/27/09, 02:49 PM »

Thanks for the input, Garth. I'd be interested in the results of that comparison between forecast winds and the Muir telemetry. But it's hard to compare forecasts and telemetry without the telemetry, though Wink  I'm glad to see that the Muir telemetry is back online today after a lengthy outage since April 8. It's gotta be tough to keep that station functioning in such a severe environment.


Finally, as it has come up in varying shades of directness, in the thread here and elsewhere,  I am amazed by the number of people who have apparently skied/ridden Rainier from the summit.  A short while ago I may have guessed that one or two may have.  Am I the only person blown away by this?  Does anyone know how many and who they are?  This seasons' posts have found at least a half dozen or so.  What a feat this is, in my view.  I do wonder, though, if such posts and discussion amps up folks to give it a go who perhaps shouldn't...

Regarding skiing from the summit of Rainier: it's something I've spent a lot of time pondering during the past decade. When I first skied from the top in July 1999 (via the Emmons-Winthrop), it was still a fairly uncommon feat, and felt like a major accomplishment at the time. That was one of the greatest days of my life, and the high lasted for weeks, as I stared towards the Mountain and the route I had skied throughout the rest of the summer. Other high Cascade volcanoes such as Shasta, Adams, Hood, Baker (the 2nd-5th highest volcanoes in the range) plus Lassen and South Sister (8th and 9th highest) were commonly skied from their summits even in the late 1990s, but there was something about Rainier which kept most backcountry skiers / ski mountaineers from attempting to ski from its summit: perhaps crevasse hazard, or altitude, or mystique? I don't know.

Based on observation and what scanty reports were available back then (with no TAY or Mt Rainier rangers blog), I guesstimated that much less than 1% of the roughly 6000 annual summiters in the late 1990s skied or snowboarded from the top, only a few dozen per year (not counting descents by climbing rangers or guides). If you skied off the top back then, you were usually the only party doing so on that day, and everyone else was climbing/descending on foot. Most who skied off the top did so via the Emmons-Winthrop in June-July, with much smaller numbers skiing the Fuhrer Finger or the Ingraham Direct earlier in the spring. Descents of other routes were rare. However, a number of climbing rangers, including Mike Gauthier and David Gottlieb, were already skiing/boarding semi-regularly from the summit and had completed ski/board descents of multiple routes each by then (like 8-10 routes, if I recall correctly).

Over the past decade, the number of Rainier summits (and attempts) has not increased at all, in fact drifting downwards from a high of over 7000 successful summits in 1999 to roughly 5000 per year during the past several years (see this PDF of official NPS stats). However, the number of those skiing or boarding from the "top" (meaning from one of the three 14000+ ft summits, Columbia Crest, Point Success, or Liberty Cap, or from the crater rim which has a minimum elevation of 14180 ft) has increased very substantially: I would estimate by nearly a factor of 10, from much less than 1% to perhaps as much as 5%, or about 200-300 summit skiers/boarders per year. Of course, this is just my own guesstimate, since the Park Service makes no attempt to collect stats on how many skied or boarded from the summit (I really wish they did). And those skiing/boarding from the top tend to take a wider variety of routes these days, with a half-dozen or more routes being skied each year (although the Emmons-Winthrop remains the most common, followed by ID and Finger). Skiing from the top of Rainier has now become fairly routine.

In addition, many more people are now skiing from above the high camps (above 10000 ft), mainly from Camp Hazard at the top of Turtle (11600 ft), the top of Fuhrer Finger (11500 ft), or the top of the Emmons corridor (12000+ ft). These descents are done either without summiting at all, or while summiting but without taking their skis/snowboard higher up.

So the natural question is, why are so many more people skiing off the summit of Rainier now than a decade ago?? The percentage of skiers versus climbers on other high Cascade volcanoes (Shasta, Adams, Hood, Baker, Lassen, South Sister) has increased too over this decade since 2000, but not by much and not nearly as visibly and substantially as on Rainier. Most of the increase in skier percentage on those other volcanoes happened during the 1990s, but on Rainier it happened a decade later.

One element which I think is not a major factor in the Rainier increase: backcountry ski/binding/boot technology. At least in regards to what is relevant to skiing Rainier from the summit, it has not improved substantially over the past decade, compared to the huge leaps made during the 1990s. Most notably the introduction and widespread adoption of Fritschi and Dynafit AT bindings, along with stiff but lightweight boots and thermoformable liners. The AT setups that I use today to ski off the summit of Rainier (Volkl Norbert Joos or K2 Baker Superlight skis, Dynafit Comfort or Vertical FT bindings, Garmont Megaride boots) are only incrementally better and lighter than the gear I used in 1999 (Tua Excalibur skis, Fritschi Diamir bindings, Scarpa Denali boots). But a decade earlier in 1989, my choices would have been far worse in terms of both performance and weight.

I'm sure that numerous positive trip reports on sites like TAY during the 2000s have encouraged many skiers to give Rainier a go, who might otherwise not take the risk. But I think that other more cautionary reports (such as my Fuhrer Thumb trip of May 2008 or  another skier's crevasse fall the same day we started that trip, or the sketchy descent of Gib Chute three weeks ago) would in contrast give pause to those on the fence. Rainier still tends to weed out many of those who don't belong on skis/snowboard on the upper mountain, before they get themselves in trouble up there. But a few people will always overestimate their own abilities to ski/snowboard the rough icy gnar which is all too common on the upper mountain, and those same people may tend to go up there in inappropriate conditions which exacerbate that iciness issue (when the freezing level is not high enough to soften things), resulting in some scary falls and slides-for-life on skis/boards over the past few years. Thankfully and luckily, I think there have been no serious injuries and no fatalities while skiing on the upper mountain since 1999.

But inevitably, there will be. Ski mountaineering is dangerous, and far more so on the upper mountain of Rainier than almost anywhere else in the lower 48. No one should undertake a ski descent from the summit lightly, without considering the possibility that it could easily be their last ascent or descent. I hope that my positive reports don't convey a false sense of safety or lack of hazard to anyone considering such a trip. After nine summit ski descents, I'm much more experienced, cautious, and calculating than I was a decade ago, and have much greater respect (perhaps even fear) of the Mountain and what can go wrong up there. And much more likely to turn around or not even leave camp when things are not just right. Even so, the Mountain could easily claim me on my next attempt, although I hope it never will.

Sorry for getting so verbose (again) and spraying out my thoughts. But it's an interesting topic, one near to my heart and I could talk about it all day. Better stop now.


(Edited to add a couple of short phrases this morning.)
« Last Edit: 04/28/09, 09:58 AM by Amar Andalkar » Logged

Stugie
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Re: April 19, Mt Rainier
« Reply #32 on: 04/27/09, 03:44 PM »

I know that one of the guys I was talking to at the Centennial celebration that Lowell put together last month explained to me that he had skied many of the lines on Rainier, from the summit, that are common ski descents now (ID, E-W, the finger) like 20 years ago. 

I think the primary reason is that more people are hearing about this stuff via internet or other "fast news" media sources and say, "Hey, that sounds like fun.  I can do that."  I think people were pioneering descents from the summit on skis, just not in as great of number.  Where few will lead, many will follow.  There was just no internet to spread the word as fast as what is possible today.  We watched a video of some ski mountaineers who were using canvas skins to ascend Rainier...and that must have been in the 1960's.  Lowell would have some good information.

« Last Edit: 04/27/09, 04:03 PM by Stugie » Logged

"The mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals; the houses where I practice my religion." - Anatoli Boukreev
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