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New Webcam Debuts At Mount Rainier National Park


A recently activated webcam will provide views from Camp Muir on the flanks of Mount Rainier, though, as this image snagged Tuesday shows, those views won't always be spectacular.

Technology (sadly, perhaps) means you no longer need to climb Mount Rainier to get a good view from near the roof of Mount Rainier National Park.

The other day they flipped the switch in the park and a webcam came to life at Camp Muir on the mountain's flanks. Park officials say that not only is the webcam the highest to be found in Washington state, but also one of the most remote in the United States.

Helping the Park Service make this possible were the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center and Dan Howlett of NoHow, Inc.

"The design and installation of this webcam involved some difficult technical challenges, for which Dan “Howie” Howlett created a solution on the backbone of the park’s existing weather telemetry equipment," a park release says.

"Think of the webcam image as another weather parameter like temperature or wind speed. The image is transmitted down in the same data bursts as the weather information. After the initial installation by climbing ranger Stefan Lofgren in mid-May, several unanticipated issues were hammered out. Mark Moore of the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center helped troubleshoot some of these problems, coordinate the new data acquisition, and dissemination."

Along with the curious, park officials expect the webcam shots to be viewed by climbers and hikers with plans to head up the mountain, as the shots will let them know where the clouds are, and whether, when it's raining or snowing down below at Paradise, it's sunny higher up on the mountain.

Weather forecasting centers such as the National Weather Service will also be able to use the images and data for forecasting purposes both for the public and for pilots. There are scientific opportunities associated with the images as well regarding snowmelt, glacier mass-balance, and air quality, to name a few.


How crisp will the webcam's images be? That, of course, depends on the weather.  

"It will be common when there are clouds and/or blowing snow that the camera will rime and the images will show only white," park officials say. "This is expected to be the case for much of the winter. There is not enough power at Camp Muir to operate any heating elements that could keep the camera shedding rime ice."

Currently, the image is set to a resolution of 1024 x 786 and it is slightly pixelated. Park officials hope to be able to increase the resolution so greater detail can be shown. However, don't expect constantly changing  views from the camera as it's fixed in position and can't be moved remotely.


All technology has done with the outdoors is to lie about it. 
It makes even the remote, difficult-to-reach places seem close, cheap (in terms of effort and reward), boring and devoid of smells, feels, and truly great things to see. 
I hope there are no web cams and computers or cell phones with GPS in Heaven. 

I'd say this is great.  While it would be great if we could all climb Mt. Ranier, let's face it.  Relatively few of us have the capacity to do so.  We're too out of shape, too far away, too poor, or too intimidated by the danger.  These limitations are what make it so special that a relatively few people actually do get there.  That said, I don't any implications that the vast majority of us who can't get there should be denied the little bit of access to the experience of being there that we can get.  And let's face it - if everyone could get to the top of Mt. Ranier, it wouldn't be much of an accomplishment anymore, and we would likely physically degrade the place in the same way that overcrowding has degraded so many other places.  So, to my mind, the only thing sad about having a webcam up there is the incremental dent it makes in the notions of "wilderness" and "frontier."

Which way is that cam pointed?
At times, especially on sunny weekends, the 'trail' (at least half of it a boot beaten path across the Muir Snowfield) to Camp Muir can be quite the social day hike.
The views on the way up to and from the Camp Muir environs surpass the effort to get there, though more often than not this is what one will see:

Wow, This morning's shot is looking mighty fine.
Looks south, bet that is Adams on the left and Saint Helens on the right..

This webcam is the best thing since peanut butter.  If Adams is on the left and Helens on the right, what is the one way way off in the distance just left of center?

Dottie, I believe that would be Mt Hood in Oregon.

Maybe it's not all about you. Maybe it's for people like me, a guy that lived in the shadow of the mountain for 30 years but now, thanks to an illegal crashing in to my bike without any insurance, I will never be able to snowshoe at Paradise, or walk the woods around Cat Creek and Ashford  again. Anyone that can look at that view and think it's cheap wouldn't have a clue anyway.

The Camp Muir webcam has not worked since last November, and will not be repaired for "a month or more." It appears visitors trying to chip away ice are responsible, not the harsh environment:

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