Friday, May 20, 2011

Hwy 410 & WR Entrance

This photo was taken by the NPS of the White River entrance May 18th. They are expecting to open the White River entrance the week of May 23rd before the Memorial Day holiday. The White River campground, however, may take longer as they have to clear the snow, inspect and repair any facilities and get the water running. The access will stop there as they won't clear the road to Sunrise until later in June.

The Washington State DOT is reporting they expect to get highway 410 open over Cayuse Pass to Highway 123 by May 26th, also just before the Memorial Day weekend. No word yet if the highway will open over Chinook Pass to Yakima, but likely not long after the opening to Cayuse Pass.

So, the spring openings continue, and while access is there for visitors, you can expect a lot of snow from the higher than normal snowpack and delayed snowmelt this season. Be prepared and plan accordingly.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Paradise Advisory

This is more a personal advisory but will likely be a public one later as the snow melts in June. Last year a visitor was hurt when a snowbridge over the power transformer south of the road across from the new visitors center collapsed and she had to be airlifted to a hospital. The NPS staff hadn't marked the areas with poles and flagging since they tested the snowbridge earlier to think it was strong and stable.

The heat of the day(s) weakened it. You can see the location of it in the indentations and poles. So a word of warning to stay clear of it. The NPS will likely mark it when the snow melts more but for now all there are to identify it are the two poles. Since there is over 16 feet of snow, it's not a hazard yet, but it only pays to be safe as the snow is softer from the warmth of the transformer under the snow.

Nothing else, just stay alert for warnings and advisories around the Paradise areas. With the higher snowpack and delayed snowmelt, soft snow is now and will be a problem as the weather warms and the snows melts. Enjoy and take care.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Maps Revisited

Well, all the Web pages using Google maps to display information about Mt. Rainier NP are updated with the NP boundary identified as a blue line. The boundary incorporates the original 1899 designation, the 1933, 1987 and 2003 additions, the last being the small exclave of land outside the Carbon River entrance in the northwest corner.

This land was approved by Congress and signed by President Bush in 2003 but took years to get the agreements for the exchange of land between the land owners and the NPS. The intervening land between the Carbon River entrance and the new NP land is under the USFS ownership so it will be protected for visitors to the NP.

So, if you encounter a map without the NP boundary, a boundary that looks obviously wrong, or just have questions about the NP boundary, please ask or let me know via e-mail.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Snow Anyone

It seems the snow just keeps on coming, or falling, this year in Mt. Rainier NP. Above is the snow water equivalent (SWE) for May 9th, 2011 (link goes to NRCS Web page for the SWE for the site), and as you can see even in early May when snowmelt normally starts, it's just keep adding to the snowpack, shown on the road at Paradise below.

Those are about 18 foot poles in the photo. When the snow is usually considerably less and melting, the snow this year is melting and refreezing, compacting each cycle so the snow to water equivalent decreases, from a normal of 2.5 to 3 inches of snow for an inch of water, meaning 4 to 5 inches of water per foot of snow, it's down to just over 2 inches of snow per inch of water.

That's not only a lot of snow but a lot of water. And from soon when the temperatures consistently get warmer and the seasonal snowmelt actually starts, the water will go into the streams and the rivers, and eventually to the reservoirs and the Puget Sound (White, Puyallup and Nisqually Rivers) and Columbia River (Cowlitz River). We will have higher than normal summer streamflows later this summer and likely into fall.

Until then, it's snow in Mt. Rainier and will be into July, meaning, after the lower elevation snow melts in the NP, the mid and upper elevations will still have snow on the trails and in the backcountry. Take heart if you like snow and prepare if you don't.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Paradise News

This reported from the NPS:

"As of tonight, the road between Longmire and Paradise will be kept open at night, unless there is imminent foul weather that causes poor driving conditions.

All hikers, climbers, and employees needing overnight parking need to be directed to the lower lot only. The overnight hiker/climber parking near the Paradise Inn is closed while the Park and GSI work on snow removal around the Inn and work is underway to open the Inn.

Please continue to use caution when driving between Longmire and Paradise. Melting snow is sloughing off the slopes and onto the roadway and is bringing with it lots of rocks. Also, icy conditions may still be present during morning/evening commutes."

This means you can drive to Paradise anytime now, only be careful on the road where the snowbanks line the road.

In addition do not park in the upper (visitors center and Paradise Inn) parking lot if you plan to camp overnight. Use the lower parking lot. This is to allow any road and lot clearning to be done in the mornings and the preparation for opening of the Paradise Inn May 20th.

In addition the visitors center opens every day beginning this Friday (May 6th) until this fall, hours are 10 am to 5 pm.

Monday, May 2, 2011

May Reports

The latest news, access and conditions, and monthly report are now available and you can find more at the photo guide for the NP. May is a strange month because the weather can be very dynamic from cool and cold to warm, with a variety of clear, cloudy, rain and yes snow at the upper elevations, especially this year with the late April snowfall and higher than normal snowpack.

The snowmelt normally starts around May 5-7th, but with the 125% and higher snowpack, it's expected to a be a long snowmelt with snow well through June and into July, with significant snow at the mid-to-upper elevations throughout the NP. This is especially important since many trailheads will be snow-free but you'll will encounter snow at the higher elevations.

So May is the month to be prepared for the full range of conditions. As of May 1st (photo above) there was about 20 feet of snow at Paradise, so that snow isn't going away very fast this year. This has also created hazardous conditions along roads and near snowbanks where the NPS is warning folks to be aware that the bank can easily collapse.

Otherwise, it's a great month to go. Visitors are increasing but not much outside the visitors centers, so opportunities are still there to get away from crowds, find a lot of snow, and see some really beautiful country. I will be working on the additional Web pages which need updates for the spring, and the improvement in the maps. This will take place through May.