The National Park Service has approved long-awaited upgrades to Mount Rainier’s Camp Muir, park superintendant Randy King announced Thursday.
Pacific West Region director Chris Lehnertz determined that rehabilitating the climbing high camp would have no significant impact on the park. The decision permits the park to move forward with its plans to replace the 1.1-acre camp’s nonhistoric structures.
The project will cost an estimated $700,000, King told The News Tribune in August, and will take three to five years.
Camp Muir is 10,188 feet above sea level, making it the Northwest’s highest backcountry camp. As many as 500 climbers and hikers visit it on summer days. About two-thirds of the 9,000 to 11,000 climbers per year use it as a base camp.
Camp Muir was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 and the park’s National Historic Landmark District in 1997.
The camp’s popularity, coupled with extreme weather, have left Muir in need of improvements, said King and chief ranger Chuck Young.
The plan for Muir includes replacing the Butler Shelter and the large black box that serves as a large guided client shelter. Four new toilets will replace five existing toilets. The new toilets will get a less prominent home on the eastern side of the ridge rather than the center.
The new shelters will be designed to match the stone-faade design of historic structures such as the Public Shelter. Inside the Public Shelter, a ventilated cooking area will be partitioned off from the sleeping quarters.
Many regulars on the southern slopes of Mount Rainier have been waiting for years to see upgrades at Camp Muir.
In August, longtime guide George Dunn of International Mountain Guides described the guide shelter as “ugly” and “a cross between a hospital room and a barracks.”
The park’s environmental assessment of the Camp Muir upgrades stated that the current toilets, notorious in climbing circles for their aroma, “do not process waste efficiently.”
The plan calls for building dry-laid stone walls to direct pedestrian traffic and stabilize pathways. The park has decided not to import crushed rock to Camp Muir because of natural resource concerns and to reduce the number of helicopter flights needed to deliver material to the ridge.
In August, King said the $700,000 project would be funded primarily by franchise fees paid by concession companies, including the guide services.
A scenario for construction phasing listed in the “Finding of No Significant Impact” report suggested starting work this summer with the construction of new toilets, replacing the client shelter in 2015-16 before finishing the upgrades in 2017.Craig Hill: 253-597-8497 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/Adventure