Mount Rainier Snow Slab

March 18, 2010

20100318 – Thursday - Mt. Rainier Snow Slab TOP
20100318 – Thursday - Mt. Rainier Snow Slab BOTTOM
John Race (top), Jay Brazzell (bottom)
Summary Author: Jay Brazzell 

The photos above were taken while ascending Mount Rainier, Washington on February 18, 2010. The wind scalloped snow slab, shown at top, was waist deep. On the upper reaches of this slab a fracture could be detected and our lead guide, J.R. (John Race) said the slab could fail at any time. Our elevation was just over 11,000 feet (3,350 m). We had climbed to inspect a route to the summit, but as it turned out the avalanche risks were too high and we had to abort the summit bid. Up on the Ingraham Glacier there had been an avalanche earlier in the day.

I don’t know exactly when this beautifully scalloped slab broke off; however, the angle of the slope and the size of the fracture were indicative of an imminent slide. I'm just glad we got off this section of the mountain when we did. As shown in the bottom photo, some huge glacier blocks were holding back an immense snow field – out of the picture at upper left. If we caused even a small avalanche it could trigger those blocks to go and the result could have been disastrous. It was simply too dangerous to do anything but descend. Shown on the bottom photo are J.R. and Aaron Mainor, the lead guides inspecting the route. Brian Florence is looking back toward the camera.