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Paradise Glacier Ski/Splitboard Tour

Mt Rainier National Park

September 21, 2012

Today I got to introduce my niece and nephew, Caitlin and Blake, to one of my favorite places in the world: Paradise at Mount Rainier National Park! They just got married earlier this month in Iowa and are now living with me while looking for work in the Seattle area. It was cloudy when we left Seattle and as we entered the Park, but as we made the last turn below Paradise, we popped out of the cloudlayer and saw the mountain in all it's glory!

So Blake and Caitlin hiked the Skyline trail stopping occaisionally to take great pictures of flowers and wildlife (a black mama bear with her two cubs!). I took the opportunity to break in my new splitboard on the Paradise Glacier with the help of my friends, Andy King, and Todd Kilcup. I was super excited when I picked up the Icelantic Gemini board earlier this summer but I didn't have a chance to use it until now. I had brought it up to Whistler in August with aspirations of touring the Blackcomb Glacier but ski operations and conditions pretty much shut down at the end of July.

We all started up the trail to Alta Vista but then went our separate ways above Panarama Point. The forest fires in the Wenatchee area had produced a heavy smoke layer that could be seen right above the cloud layer. This prevented us from seeing Mt Adams and Mt Hood but we were able to barely make out Mt St Helens.

Andy, Todd and I took the Muir Snowfield up to where we branched off just below Anvil Rock. I had never been on the Paradise Glacier so I was really amazed at how easy it was to access. We took a break near some rocks on the edge of the glacier for a bite to eat and to enjoy Todd's Nishiki Tricerahops IPA he packed up and Andy's Red Hook IPA! Andy was telemark skiing, Todd had his AT setup, and I had my splitboard so we made quite the well rounded backcountry touring group.

I apologized in advance for holding these two avid skiers back with my limited snowboarding experience but in the end we were able to keep together pretty well with Todd and Andy scoping out the route down the glacier. For the most part the snow was pretty decent and not terribly suncupped. The upper glacier was mostly flat moguls while the lower sections actually had some relatively flat terrain.

As we dropped over the steep section near the bottom Todd realized he didn't have his camera so he hiked back up to look for it. While he was doing this, I spooked myself on some steeper icy sections and thought it would be best to take my board off and kick steps over to easier terrain. This proved to be a mistake since my AT boots offered much less purchase than the edge of my board. So after about 20 minutes of tenuous traversing above some crevasses, and some timely assitance by Todd on his way back down from successfully finding his camera, I was able to get to softer snow and ride back down to Andy.

We had a few "portages" where we had to take off our boards and hike for a bit, but we were able make lot's of more turns before finally hitting the Paradise Glacier trail. On our way back down to Paradise we saw lot's of marmots, deer, and even a black bear! At the Paradise Inn we met up with Blake and Caitlin and shared our adventures over drinks! Thanks everyone for a great day in the mountains!