Mount Rainier National Park-Mazama Ridge Tour

After receiving a few emails asking why there hasn't been a trip report since early last November, I felt compelled to write one. A bit of explanation might be in order but probably isn't. On my last trip report, Andy Johnson (AJ) and I headed for Ingalls Peak, hoping to climb the North Peak, but settling for the South Peak. I wasn't sure what caused it, but by the time we reached the col between the north and south peaks of Ingalls, I had a sharp pain in my knee. This had nothing to do with our decision to climb the south peak rather than the north. I limped back to the trailhead. I have had occasional problems such as this before and always found that a combination of rest and exercise quickly led to full recovery. After about 3 weeks, I headed up to the Baker area with Sergio Verdina, Andy Ball and Jerry Sanchez for some early season skiing. I turned back before the rest of the group, my knee still giving me some trouble. In another couple of weeks, my knee was feeling good and the ski season was looking great! All in all I have skied more than 30 days since then with more than half being backcountry trips, mostly in the Crystal Mountain area. I reached the "I've been skiing for four years" mark in January. When I wasn't skiing in the backcountry I was skiing area, always a good way to improve my technique. Here are a few photos from some of the backcountry trips.

Uncle Tom...somewhere in the Crystal backcountry

Mount Rainier from somewhere in the Crystal backcountry

Uncle Tom...somewhere in the Crystal backcountry
(A little blurry but you get the idea)

This trip wasn't all that noteworthy but wasn't a bad trip either. I met AJ early...5:30AM to be more precise. With AJ, living on Vashon Island, our schedule always seems to depend on the ferry schedule. We were heading for the south side of Mt. Rainier. We arrived at Longmire around 7:30 and found that the gate was still closed. We waited until sometime between 8:00 and 8:30 until the gate was finally opened. The upper mountain had been visible on the drive to Longmire, but the top 2500 feet was now clouding in. We wondered if the storm front that was predicted to arrive late in the day wasn't ahead of schedule. We had no solid plan of where we were going to ski, but Camp Muir wasn't on our list. The is a lot more to explore in the Paradise area than Camp Muir and the freezing level was predicted to between 5,000 and 6,000 feet so we figured the skiing would be better lower down. Skinning up to Panorama Point seemed like a good start (we took the stairs the last 200 feet up). Once at the abandoned building near Pan Point, we headed up another 100 feet to get around a cornice then traversed east to some exposed rocks where we took a break. The weather was improving.

Mount Adams and Mount Hood from near Pan Point

Mount Saint Helens from near Pan Point

An easy descending traverse (although the sun had not yet melted the...mmmm, corny snow) got us to another steep drop with a cornice at the top. From here we headed south on gentle slopes until we could drop to the east to cross the main fork of the Paradise River then side stepped up about 20 feet to the top of a small SE bowl. We decided to ski down about 300-400 feet even though it was moderately steep at the top and the snow was still frozen at the top. I went first and took a quick turn expecting it to be icy, but it wasn't. It was perfect. Andy soon joined me at the bottom and we began skinning back up to the crest of Mazama Ridge immediately north of a +5920' knoll. We crossed the broad, flat ridge crest and skied down to reach the Paradise valley road near 5200'. We returned to Paradise at noon and wanted more skiing.

Andy on Mazama Ridge

Andy skiing into the Stevens Creek Drainage

Me...still working on my technique

We decided to drop most of our gear at the car and take a run into the Edith Creek drainage from the top of Alta Vista. More good skiing! We couldn't quit now. We put the skins on and climbed NE on a gentle slope to reach the minor ridge on the south side of Edith Creek. We stopped at c.5800 feet but should have continued east and up another 200 hundred feet. Oh well, the run was great but we had to traverse (east) to avoid ending up in a steep narrow gully. We hit the Paradise Valley Road again and skinned back to Paradise. These are just two options in the area, there are plenty more.

Edith Creek Basin and here come the masses

USGS, Mount Rainier East 7.5 Minute Quadrangle

Map Courtesy of Topo!