Monday, June 29, 2009

Couple of notes

The Sunday Tacoma News Tribune (6/28/09) had two excellent articles on Mt. Rainier NP. The first, about the climbing rangers who help the search and rescue climbers, is excellent to show the importance and value of these experienced folks, especially wining the Andrew Clark Hecht Public Safety Achievement Award. While you, like me, may never climb the moutain, it's always good to know if you did, there's help.

The second was about Liberty Ridge climbing route and the story of a pair of climbers five years ago. One died being evacuated after being injured in a fall. It's the history of that route, as all of them, death is part of the risk, and sometimes part of the results.

And it's always the two issues about the stories of the situations when climbers are in need of search and rescue. The first is about the people, the very same climbing rangers and the NPS staff who have the experience and risk their lives to rescue climbers. And it's about the effort of local National Guard with the helicopters and crew who brave the weather in the worst conditions to retrieve climbers in the most dangerous situations, some described here

And the second is about the costs. Not just in lost lives which is a reality of climbing Mt. Rainier, but the money. The information about climbing Mt. Rainier doesn't mention rescues. That's because the public picks up the costs, which is often well into the low-to-middle five figures. In short, they're not cheap, and a courtesy of the taxpayers.

This has been one of the often discussed and argued issues, usually after an extensive or massive search and rescure effort. To date the NPS does not require climbers post bonds for or try to recover search and rescue costs. Some cite the former will inhibit climbers from trying and the latter is inappropriate to families of injured or fallen climbers. And some cite it's only reasonable to expect the public recover in times of increasing costs on taxpayers.

The arugment for either is simply that climbing Mt. Rainier, usually about 10,000 a year now with about half successful, is restricted to the few who can afford the equipment, guide service and travel/lodging expenses and therefore have the money to pay either way (and a bond is refundable if the climb is successful). I won't argue against the merits of their case, it's valid on its face.

But most of the climbers are young(er) people who are after the experience and really scraped the funds to make the climb. Having to post a bond or worse, pay for a rescue is an unfair financial burden. The opponents argue it's about reality. They know the risks of the climb, why not know the reality of the costs. That's a tough question to answer. I don't have one.

My point? Not sure, except that many people who have to be rescued haven't spoken of their gratitude to the public. They'll more than talk about the people and effort to rescue and treat them. That's normal and expected. But few thank the public and our checkbook for paying the bill. And no one can argue against the tremendous personal value of climbing Mt. Rainier. But do these same people understand the public cost having the rescue and emergency services available should events not work out?

And the argument about the many other similar services providing by public funds that many people don't use or need? True. So why or how is a search and rescue service any different? It's not in most respects, but it's also different in the limited of people necessitating the service constantly be available. Remember only 10,000 people attempt a climb per year. Weighed against the costs of the 24/7 search and rescue by the NPS and the NG, the costs become real.

And then there are the obvious cases where the climbers were clearly out of their league or they simply underestimated the situation and conditions. How many climbers like to take risks, no matter how small it appears to them, but in hindsight was obviously beyond reasonable? it's the nature of them? Somehow and sometimes it seems so, they were simply outmatched by the mountain and the weather.

I won't argue the cases where circumstances changed. Even with the best guides, there will always be situations that overwhelm them and their group. But the second story suggests these two, however experienced, simply found themselves in a hard situation. They may have had the skills to suceed, but an accident cut it short and cost one of them their life. It's fair to argue they have the right to try. But don't also they have the responsibility to pay when they don't, beside one life, but to us?

Anyway, I'm only thinking out loud while reading the articles. These issues always arise in the aftermath of climbing tragedies.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Taking a break

I've spent much of the past 6 months on the photo guide, to the detriment of my other projects and especially my photography. The cameras didn't collect dust but they also weren't used as much as I normally use them. And with the photo guide work and some health issues, I'm need to take a mental break for awhile, and get back doing photography and really get up into the mountains, like my home page quotes John Muir.

I realize I'm far from caught up on on even the initial Web pages for the photo guide, see the "forthcoming" or "in preparation" in the photo guide, but the last sets of description and map Web pages took 2-3 weeks or longer for each set. And with the normal twice monthly reviews and updates, I've spent a lot of time and energy there and not elsewhere.

So, it's time to step away and walk out the door for awhile. I realize I promised the five area photo guides this summer, and it's like some will be done by Labor Day weekend. Like that helps you with this year's visit. I apologize. Two, Paradise and northwest areas, are framed and researched, and needing only writing, so now and then I'll work on them. The other two, the southeast and northeast areas, are just framed.

All of the other description and maps Web pages sets are also framed, meaning outlined with notes, but nothing else. Each of those will take 2-3 weeks for each set so those are likely fall into winter projects for now. After that, I'll focus on a book outline for the photo guide. The plan was to have a near-complete draft within 3-5 years of starting. It will likely be more the latter as I've learned there is too much to research and decide what to present.

And there is the early NP-years history project. That will really take longer as the research is harder to find all the old material. The goal was to turn the 1896 expedition into some type of article, but there's far more research left for it and around it. It wasn't done in a vacuum, so it effected events and events effected it. And it's key in the NP effort, especially the people, was critical for the designation.

Without all three efforts for the national park designation from the outdoor recreation community, the scientific community and the local commercial interests, it would have been far harder and taken far longer to achieve through Congress. The reality is that it wasn't just the work of the mountain climbing and outdoor recreation groups that made it happen, it was the weight of the scientific community and government agencies which made the difference.

And as you can see, nothing has left my mind about the photo guide and history projects. It's just my brain is a bit tired of the cycle of work with the Web pages work and needs something different. I have no idea when new Web page sets will appear. I will keep the Web pages updated with the latest news, information, and conditions about the NP, but aside from that, I can't promise anything except, "I'll work on it."

So, for now, go out and enjoy Mt. Rainier and the NP. It's ours. The lower trails are open. The snow is melting. And soon the wildflower will bloom. So go and enjoy it. And remember, leave no trace.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

First USGS map

The first topographic map of Mt. Rainier NP was produced by the US Geological Survey (USGS) in 1915 from two traverse surveys from Kaposwin or Eatonville to McClure Rock in Mt. Rainier NP (northeast of Jackson Visitors Center at Paradise) in 1910-11 and 1913 and from plane-table surverys of the peaks in 1911-12.

In addition a rconnaissance was done to establish the extent of the glaciers on Mt. Rainier down their respective river valleys. This was part of the observations and monitoring of the glaciers, beginning with the Nisqually Glacier, and which has been continued by the USGS and the National Park Service (NPS) along with research into the other glaciers of Mt. Rainier.

The 1915 topographic map established the base map for future editions and research studies of Mt. Rainier NP, including the later updates in 1938 and 1971 with intervening revised editions of the map when the boundaries of the NP were remapped for new lands included in the NP and the latest extent of the glaciers was established.

You can get the complete description and map of the sites used for the map on Web page.

Hiking book updated

Finally the hiking books for Mt. Rainier NP are getting updated for the latest trails conditions, especially the closing of the Carbon River Road at the NP entrance. It is now a hike and bike trail to Ipsut camground requiring a backcountry permit to stay overnight. And along with this change from the storm and flood damage of November 2006 and subsequent years, other trails have had minor changes to their configration in the NP. But to date, none of the books have accounted for this change which I've noted on the day hikes Web page.

Sasquatch Press has finally updated Ron Judd's Day Hike! Mount Rainier to reflect the changes in the NP trail system with updated mileage and maps. This won't necessarily require you to replace your copy of this book, as you can easily calculate the additional distances and note the trail changes, but the new book won't hurt to have.

Ok, a plug for the latest information. Why not? It's a good book along with the other two books on the trails in the NP, see the Mt. Rainier book resources Web page and the resource on the day hike description and map Web pages. You can just toss it in the car for the hiking season, and pass it on when you done using it to someone who wants to or is hiking in the NP.

Shuttle Service

The NPS at Mt. Rainier has started the shuttle service from Ashford to Paradise. Their news release says,

"Mount Rainier Acting Superintendent Randy King advises that park visitors will once again be able to utilize the free visitor shuttle for transportation into the park from Ashford, Longmire and Paradise during the 2009 summer season. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday the shuttle will run daily between Longmire and Paradise with stops at Cougar Rock and Narada Falls on the uphill run, and stopping at Comet Falls and Cougar Rock on the downhill run. At Longmire, visitors will board the shuttle at the historic Longmire Gas Station. On Saturday and Sunday, only, visitors can board the shuttle in Ashford at Whittaker’s Summit Haus(on SR 161), connecting with the Paradise Shuttle in Longmire."

"Since parking at Paradise will be limited again this summer due to construction work on the lower parking area adjacent to the old Jackson Visitor Center, an additional shuttle will transport visitors to and from the Paradise Valley Road, where overflow parking will be directed."

"The shuttle service will run through September 6, 2009."

You can get information and the complete shuttle schedule from the NPS summer newsletter (PDF).

Friday, June 12, 2009

ImagePro Website

The folks at Photo Net finally got their ImagePro user Website package operating again with complete revamped software. You can find mine at WSR Photography, like it would be a different name? Anyway, it's focused on Mt. Rainier NP but is more an brief introduction and photo gallery than anything, and has links back to my Website and the Mt. Rainier NP photo guide.

Many thanks to the folks at for their hard work on the package for subscribers. It's appreciated.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Year Apart

Or thereabout. Below are images from the Mt. Rainier Web camera for the morning of a day in early June for the last three years. So, what important here? Not much except the snowpack, especially what is poking through. Yes, the trees are a little taller each succeeding year, but they still have to have the snowmelt enough to unbend from the overlying snow and straighten.

First, June 8, 2007

Second, June 1, 2008

And third, June 5, 2009

In the end, it's mostly just a curiosity than anything, but still interesting.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

June Reports updated

The news and conditions reports for June have been updated from the latest news and conditions reports from people, the NPS, etc. etal. are coming in. In short, the lower elevations, below 4,000 feet are now snow-free except for shaded areas, north facing slopes, etc. where snow persists from colder temperatures and lack of direct sunlight. This means many trails are now open for hikers and photographers.

And while there are warmer daytime temperatures, the night time temperatures and shaded areas are still near normal for the NP this time of year, meaning low to mid 40's. So dress according and take extra clothing for the nights and colder areas during hikes. And remember, the weather can suddenly change during the day or overnight, including rain.

Everything else in the June news and conditions still applies as June is this year's transistion month from winter-spring snow conditions to summer conditions. It's a good time to be out there when the bugs haven't come out yet, still a few weeks away from the peak, but only if the warmer weather persists and the snow continues it's melting timeline.

Either way, enjoy the NP and take care of it during your visit. It belongs to all of us, we'd like to enjoy it too.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sun and Moon Information

I've updated the sun and moon information Web page for the tmes and azimuth of the sunrise and sunset and moonrise and moonset for July through December 2009. In additon to the sun/moon tool I mentioned in a previous post here, you should have enough information to plan or recover the information.

A word of caution with this information, and really any sun and moon information about Mt. Rainier NP, it's doesn't and can't account for the local terrain in the NP. Simply put it's different depending on where you are, and only relatively accurate when you're above treeline with a clear east or west view, especially with the Mt. Rainier itself. This means in the lowland forests and river valleys, you'll have to adjust for the terrain, a later sunrise and moonrise and an earlier sunset and moonset.

That's it for this post, just an addition of new information for the rest of 2009. And as always, please let me know if you have problems or corrections with these Web pages or the information therein.

Cool photo tool

It's not a computer tool specifically for Mt. Rainier NP, but Stephen Trainor has developed a cool sun/moon information program for Mac's (ok, PC's too). It's at his tools Web page. You need to install Adobe Air, available here. You have to install it before installing "The Photographer's Ephemeris" program.

It has an good display and some nice features not commonly found on other sun/moon information Websites, such as saving locations and display the full suite of information with a map location. That alone is worth the tool. And in comparing it to other Websites which calculate sun and moon rise and set times, it's within a minute or so of them.

What's not, and can't be, accounted for is local terrain. The calculation have to use some basic rules for the calculations, namely a relatively flat earth surface, which means the differences for local terrain is lost, and you have to either know or estimate an adjustments. This is important in Mt. Rainier NP due to the mountainous varying size, shape, direction, etc. of the river valleys.

If this program has a downside it's the lack of use in the field. I tried to make my sun and moon information fit a print page so you can simply fold and take it. This is common with some other Websites where portability of the information helps, but for planning purposes, his tool is hard to beat and worth installing and using.