Camp Muir via Paradise – Conditions Report
This is copied from a report on the Washington Hikers & Climbers group on Facebook. It looks like Camp Muir won’t be a “walk in the park” for the remainder of this season.
Paradise to Camp Muir 8/19/21
Above 9000ft is real glacier travel/mountaineering. Exposed glacier ice, large/deep crevasses, sketchy snow bridges and non-trivial route finding. Bring poles and traction at a minimum, as well as somebody who knows how to navigate crevassed terrain. If you don’t have those things, consider waiting until next season. Please check out my pictures if you plan to go up there, as the line may be difficult to recognize between safe glacier ice and ticking-time-bomb snow bridges. Don’t blindly follow boot packs, they went over some of the sketchiest spots and I saw several knee-deep holes where people punched through.
It looks like the Blue Glacier up there, lots of gravel-covered bare ice, surface streams and holes, crevasses with rivers at the bottom, etc. We were early so there were very few footprints on the way up but eventually a few sections of boot pack formed but it was horrifying where they went. Our path was rather circuitous, end running multiple crevasses and avoiding almost all the snow bridges, even ones people walked over. There were a few scattered wands standing upright but they were next to sketch snow bridges we opted out of, and the guides didn’t seem to be following the wands anyway. There were dozens of broken wands laying all over the place so don’t rely on them, do your own route finding.
Trekking pole probing on basically every snow bridge went straight through up to the handle. We were just day tripping to Muir so we didn’t have a rope, harnesses or any climbing gear and we didn’t feel comfortable rolling the dice on those bridges unroped. I’ve happily roped up on tamer glaciers than this, and we talked to a half dozen people at Muir who were all sketched out by the crevasse crossings. It was basically glacier soloing, nobody we saw roped up (including a few guide groups). Have a talk with your group (or yourself) about your acceptable risk tolerance just for a day trip to Muir. If you’re doing the DC, consider using your glacier gear (and judgment) approaching Muir. Practice is good, right?
Snow starts a bit above pebble creek, but you have to pass through 3 or 4 rocky sections. Started at 545 and it was pretty firm going up, wore microspikes on all the snow and ice. Surface streams got huge in the afternoon and made for some sludge trudging on descent. In typical Tahoma fashion, ended up in a foggy white out coming down, but fortunately after we had reversed the crevasse navigation. Glissading is mostly out, just a couple short chutes covered in dirt and ending in rocks so we didn’t bother. Saw one guy carrying skis up through the crevasse field who said he might take a few turns down lower but was pretty freaked out at the moment.
There is quite a lot of running water on top of the glacier ice, some clean ish, some filthy & brown. We brought 3-4L each and that was enough to avoid refilling, but it was also foggy and cool most of the way down. Don’t forget your 10 essentials, we saw plenty of people up on the snow with barely any gear with them.
Stay safe out there, y’all!
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