Camp Muir Ski

(Does the world really need another trip report for the hike to Muir? Not really… but here is one anyway 🙂 )

This past Sunday, June 29th, 2014, Eric, Gerry, Jarred, Jon, Ben and I skinned up to Camp Muir on Mt Rainier and then skied down. We had originally planned on doing it on Saturday but weather reports on Friday were calling for rain/snow on Sat and cloudy skies on Sunday so we moved our date. Turns out it was a big mistake to listed to the weather report, as Sat ended up having no rain and Sunday turned out to by foggy and misty mixed with patches of rain. We left Seattle at 6am and started from Paradise (elevation 5,400 ft) around 9:30 am.

Setting Out at Paradise

Setting Out at Paradise

Since the snow reached the parking lot we were able to start out skinning from the very start and we were able to make some pretty good time until we reached Panorama Point (elevation 6,700 ft, distance from paradise 2.5 mi). At this point there were a series of 3 short ski carries, but each transition took some time. Once we were over all 3 transitions it was about noon and we were fully on the Muir Snowfeild. We were also very much ready for lunch. We were also a little over half way up at this point, so refueling was a good idea. Eric and Gerry found a good rock pile and we sat down to nom away. Lunch didn’t last too long, since it was misty and oh so cold, and we got moving after only 20 min. But not too soon for Gerry to not take a short nap 🙂 While eating lunch we saw one of the guided groups (which we had been leap-frogging with all day) slogging up.

Ben going though the first snow to rock transition

Ben going though the first snow to rock transition

Jarred in the fog

Jarred in the fog

Guided group chugging up the mountain

Guided group chugging up the mountain while we eat lunch

After lunch it was a pretty straight shot of about 2000 vertical feet up to Muir. We started running into the early birds who were already descending and kept hearing promises of blue skies at Muir, this was definitely the motivation we needed! Since it was easy going up from our lunch point the group broke up into the fast and slower folks, Gerry, Eric and Jarred reach Camp Muir (elevation 10080 ft) around 2:30, while Jon, Ben and I reach it around 3 (to find Gerry taking his 3rd? nap of the day). The clouds broke maybe 100ft before the camp and we got a few glorious views.

Andrea with Muir in the background

Andrea with Muir in the background

Gerry already napping as Ben arrives at Muir

Gerry already napping as Ben arrives at Muir

View from Muir

View from Muir

Eric had scouted out an additional add-on that that provided some steep skiing above Muir, and Gerry was up for scoping it out with him. They skinned up the side of the glacier and then dropped back down right below Muir, giving the rest of us about 30 extra minutes to take in the view, chat with climbers milling about, and have a rest. We were ready to roll once they got back down, the clouds were rolling in and the wind was picking up.

Heading down right below Camp Muir

Heading down right below Camp Muir

The first 200ft of skiing were fantastic, we were able to ski in some untouched snow before descending into the clouds and fog. The next 2000ft were near whiteout conditions, and we had to stop and regroup about every 100ft, sometimes calling out to one another when we could no longer see. We followed the flags down pretty closely, not wanting to get off route knowing there was a glacier to our right side. By this point the rain had really started to pick up and we stopped and put on rain pants and extra rain gear.

Shortly after while regrouping for maybe the 15th time we heard a voice calling out from the rocks to our left (the ones that are the barrier between the Muir snowfield and yet another glacier) but with the visibility so low we could not see the source of the voice. When we first heard his calls through the fog and rain we thought we heard him calling out that he had broken his leg. We stopped and Jarred and I took off our skis to boot back up to the rocks, then fortunately we heard the voice coming towards us. It turned out to be a solo hiker who had gotten off route and was very lost. We got him back onto the route, pointing out the flags and boot path to follow. We also took his name, details and cellphone number and agreed that we would turn this info over to the ranger station at Paradise and he would check in there when he got down (so they would know a solo hiker was out there.) He wasn’t disoriented and was carry emergency gear (from the size of his pack probably a lot of emergency gear) so we felt o.k. leaving him to hike down alone.

Shorty thereafter we hit the 3 rocky areas with the ski-boot-ski transitions, and at the end of the 3rd the lost hiker had caught up to us. We were all very relived to see him, and at this point the fog had lifted and visibility was much better. There was only about 1000ft to go, so we talked to him and agreed we would not stop at the ranger station.

The last 1000 feet of skiing was super fun, and to make it even more fun Eric broke out his GPS and we split from the trail to ski through the trees and all the way down to the lower parking lot (much more preferable that booting it down from the upper lot!) Once in the lot we changed into dry clothes and we headed to Copper Creek Inn for some dinner, beer, and pie. All in all it was a pretty awesome day with great snow conditions, the only thing that would have made it better was increased visibility… guess we will just have to do it again soon 🙂

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Haney Meadow Loop (Well, kinda)

This weekend was one of a lot of firsts for our group; one person’s first time snow-shoeing, three people’s first time snow camping, and Ben and my first time on our backcountry skis with overnight packs. Originally we had planned to do a trip down by Mt. Rainier, but the weather made us change the plans last minute, so we chose a route out by Blewett pass on the east side of the cascades where it was forecasted to be a bit drier (and that proved to be true!!) So we headed out to Haney Meadow, which was not at all like described in the WTA trip report (which was very old.) The area is covered with well marked cross country ski trails, so make sure you take a map of the trail system or at least take a snapshot of the trails at the snow-park where the map is posted! We would have saved ourselves a lot of guessing had we done at least the later (though then we would not have been able to test our navigation skills!) Note, the signed Haney Meadow XC Ski trail is an out and back, not sure if you can make it a loop with the XC trail system, I assume you probably can. We ended up navigating about half a mile from our campsite to a forest service road to make it a loop.

We started out from the Blewett Pass Sno-Park around 10:30am on Forest Service Road 9716, we didn’t find the left turn-off as described in the WTA trip report, the first 0.25 miles there was actually a steep drop-off to the left of the road. A little over a quarter mile in we came across the summer parking lot, about another quarter mile from there (so about half a mile from the snow park) there is a bend in the road and a “no snowmobile” sign. We followed this, and about 100ft from the road there is a Haney Meadow XC ski trail sign. The next several miles were well signed.

Haney Meadow Sign

Haney Meadow XC15 Trail Sign

The trail was beautiful, the first several miles were in the forest, with the occasional meadow, and then we broke out the trees and went up a pass that gave us spectacular views.

Haney Meadow XC Ski Trail

Haney Meadow XC Ski Trail

Taking in the view right before going over the pass

Taking in the view right before going over the pass

Heading up the pass

Heading up the pass

We lost the well marked blazes less than a quarter mile from the meadow. We ended up in what turned out later not to be the meadow (but close enough). We set about making up camp on the edge of a little clearing. We were able to get a couple of fun turns in on our slightly sloping meadow while we made dinner. The moon came out and made for some beautiful pictures.

Our Camp

Our Camp

Snow Kitchen!

Snow Kitchen!

The moon over our meadow

The moon over our meadow

The next day we decided we still wanted to make a loop out of this trail. We navigated the 0.6 miles from camp to the forest service roads that we followed out. It was steep through very dense forest, so Ben and I ended up having to take off our skis and boot it down the hill.

Booting down from the meadow to the Forest Service Road

Booting down from the meadow to the Forest Service Road

On the Forest Service Road

On the Forest Service Road

Ben and I got about 2 good miles of skiing down the forest service road, perfect practice for the first time skiing with a heavy pack on! After that the road was fairly flat and we were about as fast as the snowshoers. On the road out we only saw 1 group of 4 snowmobilers, so it wasn’t a bad way to go.

Resources:

  • XC Trail system map: http://www.cascadesingletrack.com/WenatcheeNF/Blewett/trail.html
  • GPS of what we did
Day 1

Day 1

Day 2

Day 2

Winchester

First turns of the year! Aditya and I decided to try to make it to the Winchester fire lookout, up by Mt Baker. Originally the plan was the stay the night, but we both had birthday parties to go to Saturday evening.

IMG_3051

I got up at 5:15am to take my housemate to the airport, came home, packed the car, and left Seattle at 7, and got skinning at 11. Those four hours of travel time included the time it took to 1) buy a sandwich 2) put on chains 3) dig the car out of snowbank. While putting on chains, we were passed by a convoy of 12 jeeps, which put me in a moral quandary: 

  1. The jeeps are loud and disturb the peaceful experience I was hoping for
  2. I want to respect others’ choice of recreation
  3. One had a bumper sticker staying “Yeah, I’m killing the ozone!” (that’s a different environmental problem, but whatever)
  4. Me driving a normal car up here pollutes too
  5. Another had a search and rescue sticker, so I’ve gotta respect that, if one of them ends up saving my ass someday
  6. The jeeps seem like seem like so much of a better winter travel vehicle than my old Camry. I almost wanted to ask them for a ride up the road to Twin Lakes.

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Inter Glacier Ski

Garrett, Eric, Lauren, and I, seeing that the conditions at Ruth Mountain (by Rainier) looked good the previous weekend, headed up there and ended up skiing Inter Glacier. Here’s Garrett’s TAY writeup. The highlight was definitely seeing a chopper land next to us. Read the trip report to find out why!

I treated this trip as a trial for how well REI rental mountaineering books fit me. With two pairs of socks on, I’m happy to report that they weren’t painful, they were just  uncomfortable, especially when on bare snow-free trail. But I expected that. A little hot spot on my right inner ankle.

On a sad note, when we got back to the car, a guy came up to us and asked whether we had been down to the river. We replied that we hadn’t, and the guy told us that 15 minutes ago a kid feel into the river. There were rangers and S&R looking for him. We found out later on that it was a family from Saudi Arabia (a riverless country) and the kid didn’t make it.