Archived Climbing Report - May 19, 2004
These reports were summaries based on reports from climbers and skiers, weather and avalanche reports, and prior experiences. Observations are sparse and conditions vary widely throughout the Cascades as well as with elevation and aspect on any particular mountain. The intent of these reports is to give a starting point for what to expect - but your safety and that of your partners relies on your own observations and decisions!
These reports are archives and are saved for reference only - they do not apply at this time!!!
Wednesday May 19, 2004
Still few reports from the mountains. A report from a traverse of North Sister on Sunday indicated generally firm snow underneath with a bit of fresh on top, and generally good climbing conditions with little rockfall noted. The weather was highly variable with periods of snow and whiteout, biting wind, and sunshine at various times.
The unsettled weather has had an effect on a few situations which are worth keeping in mind. On Mt Shasta a climber separated from their group, descended the north side instead of the south, and showed up on his own on highway 97 even though there was some effort to locate him by helicopter. On Mt Rainier there was a rescue on Liberty Ridge. There is no indication that weather caused the fall (resulting in head injuries) but it did prevent a helicopter evacuation for a couple days during which the patient deteriorated. He was air evacuated during a break in weather but passed away en route to the medical facility from his injuries. There was also a crevasse fall rescue on Mt Hood in which helicopter assistance was not used due to weather conditions. The patient was extricated and then evacuated by ground to the Timberline boundary and snowcat from there.
In this unsettled spring weather keep in mind that it is easy to become lost and/or separated from your partners or group. Take care not to lose a partner or group member, you will all be much better off with each other than alone in poor visibility and difficult conditions. (Are you a team, or a collection of solo climbers?) Also keep in mind that if assistance is required for some reason it may be much slower in arriving via ground when conditions prohibit safe air travel. This is especially of concern on more committing routes where an outside response may take days or even be impossible.
The crevasse fall on Mt Hood also brings up another point worth keeping in mind. The climber fell 60 ft into a crevasse where he was wedged with injuries for quite some time before he could be removed. He was not traveling roped up. This occurred in an area where it is rare to rope up and rare to have crevasses of this magnitude. It was along the edge of White River Glacier. It seems the marginal crevasses which have always approached the climbers route and the corner of the ski field have grown significantly larger. It is being recommended to travel further to the west on "triangle morraine" to avoid these, and if visibility is poor you may wish to rope up all the way to the ski field in case you inadvertently cross this area. One report from the scene indicated the crevasse extended further than the point where the fall occurred and is thinly bridged. On mountains other than Mt Hood (or other glaciers on that mountain) keep in mind that glacial retreat over recent years has been altering crevasse patterns. This is something which is true in many regions of the world right now.
The weather forecast through the weekend is for more of the same. Unsettled conditions including cold air aloft and solar heating below will maintain showery weather and chances of thunderstorms along and over the Cascades. On Friday afternoon or evening a cold front will drop south from BC and continue this pattern as well as introducing the possibility of some consistent rain/snow (rather than scattered showers). The snow levels on Saturday are predicted to drop to 5000 feet or so, although accumulations (if any) may vary widely if isolated heavy convective showers occur here and there. This new low pressure system dropping out of the north late Friday is expected to be slow to clear out, although next weeks forecast does begin to mention sunshine again.