Monday, January 5, 2015

Post-holiday updates

Happy New Year from Mount Rainier National Park!

Your humble Volunteer Program Manager was on vacation over the holidays, but of course life on The Mountain continued without a break. Here's a sampling of what's in my in box on my return to the office:

Climate Friendly Parks Internship Posted

(December 22) I have sent the announcement out to a few of my contacts to get the word out. It is a fairly quick turnaround, so if anyone knows of a good spot to post.... 

Margaret Anderson Remembered:

Webcam capture, January 1, 2015, 10:44 a.m.
(December 28) As we approach January 1, 2015, we will mark three years since the murder of US Park Ranger Margaret Anderson.  On January 1, 2015, all Mount Rainier National Park employees are authorized to wear black mourning bands across their badges in honor of Ranger Anderson's sacrifice. 

At 10:42AM, Mount Rainier National Park Communications Center will request a moment of silence in honor of Ranger Anderson.  Additionally, rangers will lower the flags at the Jackson Visitor Center and Old Station to half mast at this time.  If the road to Paradise is closed due to weather or other issues, the flag at the Longmire Admin building will be alternative location.

Dave Keltner, West District Ranger

Tragic Conclusion to Search Efforts:

(December 29) Search crews located an unresponsive male fitting the description of an overdue snowshoer at 11:57 this morning. The Pierce County Medical Examiner will make the final determination and identification. The body was found by ground searchers next to Edith Creek in the Paradise area.

The missing snowshoer, a 37 year old male from Puyallup, Washington, disappeared during Saturday evening’s winter storm that dropped 20 inches of snow in 48 hours. He intended to overnight at Camp Muir, but was forced to descend due to formidable winter storm conditions. A second party took him into their shelter at Panorama Point, but when the shelter was destroyed by the extreme conditions they attempted to complete their descent to Paradise together. During the descent the individual separated from the party in the vicinity of Edith Creek.

Members of the Nordic Patrol, and Tacoma, Everett, Seattle, and Olympic Mountain Rescues [all volunteers] conducted the ground search. The US Army Reserve 214th Air Division out of Joint Base Lewis McChord and park climbing rangers aboard searched the avalanche prone areas by air. Approximately 30 personnel were assigned to the incident.

The Paradise River in Winter:

NPS Photo by Steve Olson
(December 31) Photography volunteer Steve Olson sent several photos for our official NPS collection, taken along the Paradise River after the Winter Operations Training on December 13. Here's a sample to enjoy!

Update on Drone Policy:

(January 1) Below is the latest statement from the FAA regarding the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS, aka drones).  Please steer those looking for guidance (employees, volunteers, cooperators and public) to the website.

“Last week, drone industry trade groups teamed up with the FAA and model aircraft hobbyists to launch a safety campaign aimed at amateur drone operations. The campaign includes a website, , where operators can find FAA regulations and advice on how to fly safely. The trade groups said they also plan to distribute safety pamphlets at industry events and are working with manufacturers to see that safety information is enclosed inside the package of new drones.”

Glenn Kessler, Park Aviation Manager

Calling All Snow Rover Volunteers!

(January 2) Now that everyone has had time to recover from holiday festivities (which for some was volunteering!), it is time to take a look at our schedules and set up dates to be a snow rover.

Don't forget that you are asked to volunteer once a month (8 hrs) to be considered an active volunteer!

Email me back at to set up your volunteering dates; I'm looking forward to hearing from you all.


Taryn O'Connell, Snow Rover Coordinator

Thanks again, Nordic Patrol:

(January 3) The volunteer Nordic Ski Patrol has finished marking all the Paradise winter ski trails, the Nisqually Vista snowshoe trail was completed yesterday. Thanks for everyone's patience this year with the late start due to the marginal snow pack. The Nordic Patrol will maintain the trails through the last weekend in March, conditions permitting.

Please bring any deficiencies or needs with the marked winter trail system to myself and/or Jeff Gardner's attention. Jeff is supervising the Nordic Patrol operation again this winter.

Kraig Snure, Wilderness District Ranger

Winter Trail Report:
(January 4) Please note the date for reports and recognize changes may have occurred since report. If a trail or area does not have a specific report, conditions are unknown as of the date of this summary. Check the Northwest Avalanche Center Report and the Mount Rainier Recreational Weather Report before heading out. Avalanche assessment and route-finding skills are needed for many winter activities in the park this time of year. Call the Longmire Information Center between 9:00 AM and 4:30 PM if you have questions (360-569-6575).

Weather Report Link:

Avalanche Report Link:

Southwest Summary Report, 01/04/15: There are only a few more inches of snow in the park at all elevations since the last report. The snow from the previous storm has consolidated and a high freeze level with rain will likely consolidate the snow further. Watch for icy roads.

Longmire Area Trails, 01/04/15: There are only a few inches of snow on the ground in Longmire, expect less once you get under the canopy of the old growth forests. Multiple downed trees persist on the trails in the Longmire area. All trails can be hiked with good boots with not quite enough snow for snowshoes. The foot bridge over the Nisqually to Carter Falls (near Cougar Rock campground) is washed out, no report on the trail beyond that point. Remember everyone is responsible for their own navigation when snow covers the trails.

Longmire Winter Trails PDF:

Paradise Area Trails, 01/04/15: Paradise 5400’ the snow is a compact 4‘. Please use extreme caution around the Pan Point area; it is very icy and experienced back-country users have reported the most heavily travelled tracks going through the avalanche terrain. Three of our winter routes have been marked with orange and black poles. Please refer to the Paradise Winter Recreation PDF for marked routes and suggested routes to avoid avalanche terrain in the Paradise area. Remember navigation is your responsibility and tracks in the snow is not a trail.

East Side Area Update, 12/3/14: SR 123 and 410 are closed at the park boundary. Silver Creek sno-park is not up and running yet, but parking lot is accessible. No report on trail conditions, use the southwest area conditions as an estimate. There is self-registration set up at the north boundary arch bulletin board for wilderness backpacking. There is also self-registration set up at the White River Ranger Station for backpacking and climbing. (Climbers are directed to fill out a climbing card and to pay the fee utilizing a pre-addressed envelope when they return from their climb).

Carbon/Mowich Area Update 12/3/14:

Call (360) 829-9639 for the Carbon River Ranch Ranger Station hours. There is self-registration for climbing and backpacking set up outside when the Carbon River Ranch Ranger Station is not staffed. There is light snow on the ground near the Carbon River entrance, the warming trend and rain will likely melt this snow. There is snow and ice on the road to Mowich outside of the park boundary with approximately 1.5’ of snow at Mowich Lake itself. The lower elevation trails can be quite icy, traction devices recommended but without enough depth for snowshoes yet. The old road bed to Isput Creek campground has sections washed out with the remainder being very muddy. Recent flooding has created numerous hazards and difficulties in the Carbon River/Mowich area. Bridges are washed out to Chenius Falls, over the Mowich Rivers on the Wonderland and on the approach to Carbon Glacier on the Wonderland. The trail to Carbon Glacier also had sections wash out and other areas blocked by landslides. With bridges and sections of trail washed out, sections of trail blocked by landslides, and icy conditions elsewhere, this trip would be very hazardous. For any experienced back-country user who still is considering this hike please use extreme caution.

Casey Overturf, Park Guide

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