Rangers from North Cascades National Park responded to 13 incidents in 2000 involving injured or lost persons. Total un-programmed or emergency cost to the National Park Service was $12,743. The Park also received significant response from voluntary and military search and rescue programs in 2000, whose costs are not included in this total. Five of the incidents involving climbers are summarized here:
Mount Shuksan, July 3
Depot Creek, July 15
Mount Shuksan, August 7
Mount Shuksan, September 16
Forbidden Peak, October 7
Northwest-based climbers are well aware that the pleasant, sunny weather of the past winter resulted in a record low snowpack in the Cascades. Snow surveys conducted in late April showed that sites ranged from 50 to 60% of normal April conditions. Records kept on road and trail conditions for previous years show a spring meltout approximately 4-6 weeks ahead of most years. The North Cascades Highway opened on March 22, which was the earliest ever opening.
For climbing this means an early season, with some routes getting "out of shape" possibly as early as mid-late July. In an average snowpack season, climbers begin to have difficulty in August in notable areas such as Cache Col, the couloir access to Forbidden Peak's west ridge and Mount Shuksan's Hell's Highway due to bergshrund openings. These routes will be safer with an early season attempt.
The Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount keeps a log of climber and ranger comments on conditions. The voluntary climbing register is also available to obtain condition information. Please check these for updates and to leave information as you return.
Two popular areas for climbing in North Cascades National Park are Eldorado and Inspiration cross-country zones. In the 2000 season, the Eldorado and Inspiration zones saw a total of 1369 visitor nights (number of people times number of nights stayed). Unfortunately, notoriety often results in impact and damage, and one of the most striking impacts in these areas has been the accumulation of human waste on the glaciers.
The average adult produces 100 to 200 grams of human waste each day. Using the visitation figures times the potential waste per climber reveals that as much as 136 to 273 kilograms (approximately 300 to 600 lbs) of solid human waste could have been left in these two cross-country zones in the 2000 season alone!
North Cascades National Park has addressed the issue of human waste in the high country by maintaining compost toilets in certain high-use areas such as Boston Basin, Sahale Glacier and the Sulphide Glacier. In all, there are 18 of these unique toilets in the Park. Issues such as snow accumulation, access and dispersed camping have precluded the introduction of toilets in the Eldorado and Inspiration areas.
In popular high country areas where toilets are not available, the "blue bag" (or alternative WAG bag, see below) is the recommended method of waste management. Blue bags, as well as instructions for their use and disposal, can be obtained at ranger stations that issue wilderness permits for North Cascades National Park.
Climbers who do not carry blue bags or choose not to use them dispose of their waste by smearing it on rocks or simply burying it in the snow. These methods are not appropriate in heavily visited areas such as Eldorado, especially in the rock outcrops on the Inspiration and Eldorado glaciers, as these are the best camp/cooking areas.
To say the least, the presence of human waste smeared or buried on the rocks at these camps is visually offensive and unpleasant. It is possibly a serious health hazard. Please use the composting tiolets whenever possible. And in areas without toilets such as Eldorado and Inspiration glaciers, use bags and dispose of them in a trash receptacle after leaving the wilderness.
Last Updated: 28-Oct-1998