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Ski Touring Mt Rainier

Camp Muir (10,000ft)

December 11, 2008

I was needing to Feed the Rat so I found some like minded back country enthusiasts, Matt and Tyson, and we headed up to Paradise for some fun in the snow. Matt hails from Jackson Hole, WY, where his parents still live. I work with Tyson at the store and he has gradually made his way out west from Illinois with several years living in Aspen.

We left Seattle around 6am and were snowshoeing/skinning up from Paradise a little after 9:30am. It had been cloudy on the drive in, but once we got into the park we climbed above the clouds and had spectacular views the entire day. There were several other cars in the parking lot as we geared up. I could feel the excitement and energy in the air from the anticipation of the day ahead.

Matt and I lead the way for the first few hundred feet as we wound up and around Alta Vista. The snow was very firm on the trail with many trees still poking their tops up off the trail. Above Alta Vista the winds picked up and the temperature dropped considerably. We followed some other skiers up to Glacier Vista where they were putting on their skis, having decided this was their turnaround point. As we were chatting with them we heard two skiers scraping their way down the slopes above. Very firm conditions indeed!

It was still clear and the sun shining on the upper mountain so we decided to continue up to Panarama Point to see what we could see. There were many rocks still showing on the face. We snowshoed/skinned up the switchbacks and soon found ourselves on top with a great view of Mt St Helens, Mt Hood, and Mt Adams. There were two other parties of two still heading up as well so we figured we weren't the only ones that were hopeful of finding better conditions higher!

We hiked for a few hundred feet above Panarama Point because it was so rocky. Where there was snow, it appeared to have a 1" rain crust on top of some nice soft snow. But as we climbed higher the snow did get softer. We finally made it to Camp Muir around 3pm and enjoyed some trail mix, a great "melded" PBH sandwich, Emmentaler Swiss cheese, Summer Sausage and three Fat Tire Ales in cans! We were the only ones at the camp as the other skiers had already arrived and descended.

The ride down was really fun for the first 1500 ft or so. I was really kicking myself for not getting the correct battery for my camera. Matt and Tyson were making some really nice turns with one of the most stunning backdrops anywhere. Once we dropped below 8000' the snow became really firm. It actually wasn't that bad where the snow hadn't been tracked out because it was relatively smooth. I did have one rough crash below Pebble Creek when I tried to schuss a flat spot and caught an edge and did a face first body slam. It was kind of funny as I looked back and saw the outline of my chest where it crushed through the crust. With no damage done, I put my ski back on and continued down to catch up with the guys.

A nearly full moon was just cresting over the ridge to the east and we were able to ski all the way back down with out the need for headlamps. Our car was the last one left in the parking lot and we quickly changed and loaded up our equipment so we could get back down to Longmire before they locked the gate. Three foxes came up to us while we were taking off our boots and got very close. Two had dark coats and one still had it's red coat. Very beautiful animals, but it was very apparent that they were expecting to be fed. We tried to scare them away and shoo them off, but they would always come back to a 10' perimeter.

Skiers be warned, we arrived early at 5:54pm only to find the gate locked! I knew the drill from previous encounters with the locked gate, so I walked down to the Inn and gave them my name, address, phone number, make and model of my car and my license plate number. Seems a little excessive, eh? They gave us the combo 2277 and I made the 200 yard walk back to the car and we were back on our way.

Hungry for some dinner, we stopped at the new Ram Brewery in South Hill and were treated to some well earned food and beers. Thanks Matt and Tyson for a GREAT day in the mountains!