ASHFORD — Deep cracks on Mount Rainier’s Muir Snowfield have prompted park rangers to warn hikers of the dangers the crevasses present.
The gaps, called glide cracks, cross a boot path that hundreds of hikers use each weekend to reach Camp Muir at the 10,080-foot level.
Dozens of hikers have already fallen into the cracks but no one has been hurt or needed rescuing.
"There have been people who have gone in all the way to their armpits," said Glenn Kessler, one of Camp Muir’s lead climbing rangers.
Seven cracks stretch across the last 1,000 feet of the Muir Snowfield. Four seemingly bottomless crevasses, open a foot or more, appear to be widening with the recent heat.
Limited visibility due to cloud coverage could increase the number of accidents, rangers said.
"People really need to keep their eyes open and decide whether they want to walk that section," Kessler said.
Normally, a few small cracks open on the edges of the Muir Snowfield by late summer.
Bronka Sundstrom, of Ashford, has hiked to Camp Muir almost every year since 1967 and she said she’s never seen the snowfield in its current condition. Park rangers agree, blaming the cracks on the heat that has melted off most of last winter’s below-normal snowpack.
Rangers aren’t planning to close the snowfield but are warning climbers when they register for summit attempts on the 14,411-foot peak. Signs also were installed last week to warn hikers.
They also may recommend that groups rope together or carry rescue equipment when crossing the snowfield if cracks continue to widen.
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