Skiing on the Russell and Flett Glaciers

Okay, I have managed to keep my computer from crashing for 3 days now. I guess it is time to catch up on the back log of grammatically incorrect trip reports littered with spelling errors. Here goes...

Well, September was a wet cold month with unseasonably low temperature. Occasionally, a partly sunny day would come along and I would get a glimpse of Rainier from the 3rd floor of the office. Damn, another nice weekday. Then there was hope. A forcast for good weather... on a weekend. Since it had felt more like winter than summer most of the month, skiing somehow seemed like a logical choice of activities.

I had been to the area before and my skis were conveniently located in the kitchen so the logistics were simple. I drove up to Mowich Lake (c.4900') on the north side of Mount Rainier, arriving in the crowded parking area around 8:30am. I got a few looks as I pulled my pack out of the back of my car with my skis already attached.

There are a couple ways to reach Spray Park from Mowich Lake. You can take the Wonderland trail then the appropriately named Spray Park Trail or take a only slightly less traveled route over Knapsack Pass. Neither way is particularly faster or less effort so I usually go in on one trail then out on the other.

Today I would take the trail through Knapsack Pass that begins at the Ranger cabin. The trail reaches the pass in 1.5 to 2 miles then descends scree before disappearing in talus. After traversing the basin the trail can again be located left of the talus slope on the north side of Mount Pleasant. The trail, if located, crosses the NE spur of Mount Pleasant at c.6200' then descends into Spray Park. Open hiking to the ESE reaches the Spray Park Trail which can be followed east to a small saddle in the divide between Spray and Seattle Park. From here a path follows the divide to the Flett Glacier between Echo and Observation Rocks (c.7000').

Mount Rainier from near Knapsack Pass

A Spray Park black bear

Lookin back toward Knapsack Pass

Mount Rainier from the Spray-Seattle Park Divide

From the bottom of the Flett Glacier (inactive) moderate snow reaches the divide between the Flett and Russell Glaciers. Avoiding a few small crevasses, I descended onto the Russell before heading up. The Russell Glacier is largely low angled in the middle with only a couple crevasses to avoid even this late in the season. The snow was corn to about 9000' were it became wind blown with patches of hard ice and slabby new snow. I decided to call it good there and made my way to the top of a local high point on Ptarmigan Ridge. It was near 1:00pm when I arrived here.

Sluiskin Mountain and Old Desolate from the Russell Glacier

Mount Rainier from the Russell Glacier

I tuned my AM radio in to catch the kick-off of the Seahawk-49'r game. By the time I stuffed down some food the Seahawks were already ahead. I started down early in the first quarter.

First turns of the 2004-2005 season

By the time I reached the bottom of the Russell the Seahawks where ahead 17 to 0. I hiked back up to the Flett-Russell saddle then skied down the Flett, which was the best skiing of the day...hmmm, all that effort. I returned to Mowich Lake just as the Seahawks sealed the deal on a 49'r shut out, breaking their 420 game streak. The season was off to a good start...

USGS 7.5 Minute Series, Mowich Lake Quadrangle; 1971