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Mt. Rainier, WA – Sunrise OPEN, Mowich tomorrow

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Artist Point, WA – Summer Skiing

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Mt. Rainier, WA – Inter Glacier

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Mt. Rainier, WA – Return to Paradise 2

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30
Jun

UPDATE 7/1/16: definitely not enough snow at Sunrise parking lot to skin from there. See 2nd photo below- taken from the park’s webcam today. ORIGINAL POST: Sunrise Road in Mt. Rainier National Park is OPEN – one day earlier than the originally scheduled date. As of last week, rangers reported several feet of snow at Sunrise Day Lodge (which opens tomorrow). There is still snow at the parking lot/lodge at 6,400 ft elevation but we couldn’t confirm if it is sufficiently continuous to skin from there (we’re waiting for the web cams to go live). The below photo of Burroughs Mountains (as seen from Steamboat Prow) rising about the Sunrise parking lot shows the extent of snow coverage on June 19, 2016. If there’s enough snow, accessing the ski lines in this area is about as easy as it gets. Snow aside, this area serves up some of the best views of Mount Rainier and the Emmons glacier from its northeast location in the park. For those looking to camp nearby, the White River campground is already open and snow free.

 

Mowich Lake Road opens tomorrow. This road in the northwest, Carbon River side of the park leads to Mowich Lake (4929 ft elevation), the deepest lake in Mt. Rainier NP. The Mowich campground will also be open and is snow free. From there, the trail leads to to Spray Park (and beyond). The Carbon River Ranger Station reported that patchy snow begins at about 3 miles towards Spray Park. Spray Park and Seattle Park are about 90% snow covered and upper Spray Park is 100% snow. Below is a video from last year’s trip out to that zone.

 

Reminder that there’s no need to start too early as our sun doesn’t set until after 9pm now. Happy summer skiing and Live to ski another day!

Here’s the photo of Burroughs Mountain from June 19, 2016 as seen from Steamboat Prow

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30
Jun

Inter Glacier on Mt. Rainier

Mount Rainier National Park is experiencing a busy start to the summer season with six Search and Rescues (SARs), three of them being helicopter rescues in three weeks. In the 24-hour period during which the most recent helicopter rescue took place, three other ground-based rescues of injured parties were also accomplished.  The most recent event involved two climbers rescued by National Park Service helicopter on Tuesday, June 28, after one fell ill. The ill 23-year-old climber was a member of a team that departed Camp Schurman via the Emmons Glacier route before midnight on Monday. The patient was then successfully transported off the mountain by helicopter. That was the third upper mountain helicopter rescue evacuation at Mount Rainier in the last three weeks. On June 10, two climbers were evacuated from the summit after they became disoriented, spent several unplanned nights on the mountain and signaled for assistance. On June 19, another pair of climbers was rescued from unstable storm-snow-laden slopes at 13,000 feet, having climbed into a storm two days prior. That was the same day we skied Steamboat Prow just below Camp Sherman – video report here. We originally had Mt. Ruth in mind but reassessed and changed our objective after seeing all the new snow and avalanche risks.

 

This is the second year Mount Rainier and North Cascades National Parks have shared a dedicated short-haul rescue helicopter for the climbing season. The Mount Rainier-based National Park Service Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopter is in addition to Chinook helicopters operated by the B-Company 1-214th United States Army Reserve with members of the 22nd Special Tactical Squadron of the US Air Force, which regularly performs helicopter rescues on Mount Rainier year-round and served as contingency resources during the recent rescues. The NPS reserves helicopter search and rescue for special cases demanding this high-powered resource. Ground-based search and rescue events outnumber helicopter-based events annually.

 

Mount Rainier Superintendent Randy King remarked that, “It takes a large team of dedicated employees, partners, and volunteers to support the more than 50 Search and Rescues the park has each year. Having the right tools like a dedicated and high altitude-capable park SAR helicopter, and the assistance of the 214th and our many volunteer rescue organizations, improves patient outcomes and rescuer safety.”

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28
Jun

Sunday at Artist Point was picture perfect. The 360 degree views of Mt. Shuksan, Mt. Baker and the surrounding North Cascades mountain range were endless under clear blue skies. The snow banks around the parking lot were at least 15 ft deep (5100 ft elevation). Temps were in the hi 50s – mid 60s all day. Our group (Kam Chan, Dave Leffman, Tara Minotti, Brian Smith, Mark Melman, Adam and Seth) rallied last minute when we heard Artist Point had opened for the 1st weekend of summer. We began skinning from the Chain Lakes trailhead located at the far end of the Artist Point parking lot. We lost snow at the first set of trees -where the trail turns below the start of Table Mountain and continues underneath the back of Table Mountain’s cliffs. From there, we had to carry skis across alternating snow & bare patches below Table Mountain. Continuous snow resumes after about ¾ of the way below Table Mountain. At that point, we skied down and skinned back up to the saddle where the trail splits off (right for Chain Lakes) left for Ptarmigan Ridge. Then, we continued to the top of Ptarmigan Ridge (~6000 ft elevation) until we were just below Coleman Pinnacle. We were rewarded with a long ski down to the valley (~4200 ft elevation). We yo yo’ed that zone all day. In total, the group maxed out the day with 8 transitions (long day) – just as my skins started failing. We didn’t see anyone else beyond the Chain Lakes-Ptarmigan Ridge trail junction all day. We arrived back at our cars around 8pm and were greeted by Mt. Baker’s Annual Slush Cup party going strong in the parking lot. We heard that it was a huge success with about 30 people competing. On our return trip, the sun cups were getting pretty big. With hot temps this week, they’re only going to get bigger and the Chain Lakes-Ptarmigan Ridge trail below Table Mountain could be fully melted out by July 4th (as could some of the valley that we skied). It’s hard to tell if the ski routes off Table Mountain’s face to Heather Meadows Visitor Center (which are presently snow covered) will hold out (we didn’t ski those this time but many others left tracks). If you’ve never ski toured this area, add it to your bucket list. Artist Point is one of Washington’s most magical places. The power of nature’s beauty is overwhelming here – it is truly spectacular and not to be missed.

 

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23
Jun

The final 2.7 miles of the Mount Baker Highway (SR 542), the road to Artist Point, is OPEN for the summer. That’s earlier than the originally anticipated opening for July 4th weekend. Located at over 5,000 ft above sea level, Artist Point serves up commanding views of Mount Shuksan, Mount Baker and the North Cascades mountain range. This is one of our favorite zones for easy access to backcountry skiing so you know we’ll be there soon. See you there.

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20
Jun

Kam on Inter Glacier under sun halo

On the other side of Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park, there is another paradise for ski tourers and climbers: Inter Glacier. This is on the way to Camp Shurman, the jumping off point for climbers summiting via the Emmons Glacier. We love this route not only for the grand vistas of the Emmons Glacier -the largest glacier in the lower 48- but also for the wide open and long 5000′+ vert, continuous pitches for skiing down. So, after a week of wild wintry weather in our Cascades and new snow, we spent Father’s Day back in Mt. Rainier NP. TNT and I were joined by Kam Chan, Dave Leffmann (telemarkers), Peggy Vert and Tara Minotti – and a parking lot full of others who had the same idea. We started out from the White River Campground (4400 ft. elevation). The campground is presently closed (no restrooms) so the road ends at the main campground parking lot. From there, we hiked the Glacier Basin trail the entire 3.5 miles. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough continuous snow to skin. From Glacier Basin (patchy snow still), we crossed over to Inter Glacier to begin skinning. With warm temperatures (the forecast high was mid-50s on the lower glacier), several inches of new snow at the base of Inter Glacier (approx. 5600 ft elevation) and reports of 2 ft or more at higher elevations, we saw a lot of sloughing and slides on the sides of Mt. Ruth onto Inter Glacier. We made it up to about 9500 ft. on Steamboat Prow. We decided to skip the last stretch to the top (9702 ft. elevation) given the high sustained winds. As we’ve experienced with past trips, the upper part of Steamboat Prow was crusty. This time, it was 2+ inches of breakable crust over a ft or more of settled new snow – not fun. But once we got down to the upper Wedge, the snow softened and there was a deep enough layer of corn to reward TNT for schlepping the fat boards this time. We also saw some amazing sun halos and sun spikes. With sunset after 9pm, a full moon and no bugs, we maxed out the day – took our time chilling afterwards and didn’t pack up until after 10pm – so stoked to be summer skiing in June.

 

 

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18
Jun

We are experiencing some serious winter weather in Washington’s Cascades this week. Another 8-14″ of new snow is forecast for today at higher elevations (over 9200 ft or so) on Mt. Rainier. That’s on top of the 2-4 ft that already fell this week. With sun and high temperatures returning tomorrow for our ski tour, we were discussing and assessing avalanche dangers. It may be summer but NWAC still issues special reports and news whenever there is major snowfall. Be sure to read Northwest Avalanche Center’s current report before heading out. Live to ski another day!

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16
Jun

Photo courtesy of www.mtbaker.us

Snow fell this week in Washington’s Cascade mountains above the 4500 ft elevation. Photo above is from Austin Pass (~4600ft elevation), over a mile before Mt. Baker ski area. The caption reminds us of NOAA’s outlook for La Niña. As of their most recent June 9, 2016 Advisory: “La Nina is favored to develop during the Northern Hemisphere summer 2016, with about a 75% chance of La Niña during the fall and winter 2016-17″. This is GOOD news as La Nina brings heavier snowfall for the Pacific Northwest. We’ll be watching La Nina developments closely.

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15
Jun

6/17/16 UPDATE: Paradise Valley Rd. opens tomorrow, Sat. 6/18 so it’s possible to park near Fourth Crossing for this skin/ski trip. ORIGINAL POST: Here’s the video that goes along with yesterday’s post. Telemarker Kam Chan and splitboarder Brett Hlavka joined the Snow Troopers’ TNT and Sting for a sunny ski down from the Paradise Glacier to the Fourth Crossing trailhead in Mt. Rainier National Park – fresh, untracked snow in June 2016. There’s even more fresh snow on Mt. Rainier today after yesterday’s snow storm. Hope you can get out there to enjoy it.

 


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14
Jun

Winter returns to Paradise: 4-8″ of new snow is expected by tomorrow above 5000′ (ie, below the Paradise Visitor Center @ 5940′ elevation) and over a foot by Thursday is expected at higher elevations above 9000′. The Paradise parking lot is already blanketed with snow today – see webcam here. TNT, Kam Chan, Brett Hlavka and I made it up this past Sunday during a break in this storm system. It was full on blue bird so temps warmed quickly to mid-50s by late morning. By afternoon, it was hot enough under the sun for shorts, even at around 8600′ on the glacier. We were able to skin on the Skyline trail a mere 50-100′ from the steps outside the visitor center. Snow coverage is still excellent and the couple of bare stretches on the paved trail below Alta Vista (5940’ elevation) were easily dodged by staying off trail. Above Pebble Creek and McClure Rock at about 7789’, we crossed over to Paradise Glacier. There appeared to be an estimated 4” or more of new, settled snow at glacier level. We skied down from just below Anvil Rock at about 8600′ on perfect, untracked corn snow down to the Fourth Crossing trailhead on Paradise Valley Road at 5200’ (see map to left). The Paradise Valley Road is still closed (estimated to open 6/24/16) so if you go that route, be prepared to walk about half a mile back to the Paradise lot — although it could be possible to skin part way after this week’s snow. Below are photos from our day – video to follow soon.

 

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08
Jun

Among the countless backcountry ski gems in Washington’s North Cascades, many would consider the area around Sahale Mountain one of its finest. Marc Fendel, Kam Chan and Steve Macfarlane made it their destination for last weekend’s ski tour. Here’s Marc’s report:

Our Sahale Arm ski touring trip was amazing. As for the trip itself. The trail is a beautiful grade of switchbacks to Cascade Pass. As a long distance hiker you learn to really appreciate good trail. Combine that with huge granite walls of hanging glaciers, cascading waterfalls, and views of the Cascade River headwaters, the journey is splendid! The trail itself is almost snow free now until you get to Cascade Pass. There you can easily walk from Cascade Pass via the Sahale Arm or ski tour to Glacier Camp. In case you missed it Backpacker Magazine has an amazing photo from that exact spot in the current issue. From Glacier Camp the ski tour was a fairly simple 1000ft tour to the peak. The last 60 feet is steep and easier just to boot pack. Lots of climbers doing the last pitch to the summit and rappelling back to where I was chillin’ and taking in the views, and thinking about skiing (not snowboarding). Kam and Steve free climbed to the summit. There’s a few moves with exposure, and I am no rock climber. The snow was very soft making it easy for the skis to bite into the snow, that and a bit of encouragement from Steve, I instantly regained my confidence. It is certainly one of the most breath taking ski descents in the Northwest, many say that it’s the best view of the North Cascades. I believe it! One last thing. You don’t have to be a crazy drunk skier willing to hike 10 miles with skis, or hardcore climber trying to climb the peak in under one day. The views are the same if you just hike the trail. Go see it for yourself!

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