Rainier’s Missing Glaciers

Emmons Glacier and Willis Wall on Mt. Rainier

A Year of Records

Last Friday my friend Carrie and I went for a full moon sunset hike. We started at the far NE corner of Mt. Rainier at the Sunrise parking lot of Mt. Rainier National Park, elevation 6200′. We then hiked about 3 miles gaining 1200′ elevation.

It wasn’t a difficult hike but we decided to carry 3 liters of water, a bottle of wine, our dinner, a JetBoil, fuel and then a bunch of camera equipment and then there was the workout I had done earlier, a circuit class and then 12.5 miles of hill climbing on a bike.

My legs were toast.

As we made our way to the Mt. Fremont Fire Lookout, it was more than obvious our mountain had shed its winter layer early and now looked like end of summer. The Emmons glacier, the largest on the mountain seen on the left of the photo, looked rather normal but it was the ice cap that is 300 ft. thick that was throwing a punch down the Willis Wall to the right. One of the park volunteers we stopped to chat with mentioned the rock and ice fall that had been happening all day.

That is an important piece.

Rainier is made of many glaciers. Some no longer exist. Enormous rocks the size of your neighborhood are what remain as a reminder to evidence of our changing world. Two observable areas no longer in existence, Paradise Ice Caves and the area just south of Forest Lake. In my life time lost ice and gained giant boulders with fresh evidence of not being a part of the landscape for long.

This one photo shows how these two extremes; extreme snowfall and extreme heat can create sudden mixed change that is stark and unrecognizable. Most of us PNW people are now calling the mountain naked so early in the summer season.

The Good News

Mt. Rainier is truly beautiful. The alpine meadows are beginning to reach their peak. The hills are visible and a wonderful place to experience. The starkness of the tundra and pumice. Many people from all over the world visit here for its meadows, frolicking wildlife and the fresh air and the forever changing landscape that can be experienced in a day.

We are lucky to have such a monument to nature.

My Take Away

The challenge is to take it all in. That can be a difficult task. Younger people seem to get it. Nature gives back more than it receives.

Our evening at Mt. Fremont Lookout let us experience just that. Take in what others take in. Don’t let the endless trail lock you into a way to do it fast or for time.

Taking it in is the take away.

For our video go here.

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