Saturday, June 8, 2013

Skiing Mt. Rainer

It had been years since my last attempt on Rainer, but with a weather forecast matching up perfectly with my schedule, I thought; “What the hell, I’ll try it again, but this time ski down.”

Muir snowfields 

Camp Muir

With all the success I’ve had around the world climbing, Rainer’s summit has always eluded me.  Several attempts ended with poor weather and I never really gave the mountain much thought afterwards.  Yeah it would be cool to stand on top, but it really didn’t matter much to me.  Last week when the weather forecast looked great, Ben suggested we try to ski Rainer.  It sounded like a fine idea.  Even if it didn’t happen we would still have a good time.

Sunset and sunrise from camp

Our friend Blake joined us and after a quick pack job Sunday, we were on the road.  We spent the night at Rimrock Lake then drove into the park the next morning.  Neither Ben nor Blake had been to Rainer before and both were psyched at the magnitude of the mountain.   We got the necessary permits and casually packed for the ascent.  It was around noon when we finally left the car and began the slow climb to Camp Muir.

Blake working his way up

It’s a casual ascent up the Muir snowfields to camp at around 10,000ft.  We got up there with plenty of time to relax, cooking dinner and watching the sunset from above the clouds.  Since we were planning to ski down, it wasn’t necessary for an early ascent so we set our alarms for 5am and hit the bags. 

Summit pic

In the morning we watched the sunrise and casually had breakfast while getting our gear together.  It was 7am when we left camp and the day was looking amazing.  Light winds and blue skies.  The snow was still firm so we put our crampon on and started up.  One foot in front of the other, we slowly made out was up.  Sections of the climb were steep and the guide services had fixed ropes, but overall it was pretty chill hiking.  After many small steps, and a few crevasse crossings, we found ourselves at the summit crater.  It was a short distance to the summit and soon we were standing on top.  The slight breeze on top had a bite to it so we quickly clicked into our skies and dropped it to a more sheltered position.  After a quick bite, the fun began.

Blake skiing the top of the cleaver

The snow up high was a bit icy, but still soft enough to get an edge in.  Since the slopes weren’t too steep, it made for some really fun skiing.  We worked our way down the variable snow, crossing crevasses and following our ascent trail.  Icy sections gave way to soft snow and we occasionally got some excellent turns in.  Eventually we made it to a spot where we felt it safer to boot down towards a more mellow section.  Once near the Ingram flats, we clicked back in and continued our ski descent back to camp.

Ben sneaking through the rocks

Once at camp we all refueled with some food, water and took a nap.  Eventually we broke down camp and started the next section back to the car.  The Muir snowfields were a blast.  We casually made turns having a blast all the way back to the car and the warm temps.  We got back down in the early evening and enjoyed some cold beers before beginning the journey home. 

It was nice to finally stand on top of that mountain and wonderful to have descended on skies.  After being shut down by weather so many times, it was nice to finally get a break.  5th time’s a charm….