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Matt

Ski to Muir Hut

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On Saturday 1/17/04 I went skiing on Rainier from Paradise to Muir Hut. The gate at Longmire is said to have opened at 0830. We left Low Rentistan at 0730 so we did not arrive at Longmire until 0930. Temps were 35F at Paradise, sunny and warm to very cold up high. Snow conditions varied from cascade cement with 2 to 3 inches of fluff on top to patches of bullet proof ice at around 7000' (guestimate). The skiing wasn't great, but my only comment was people pay to ski in these kinds of conditions back east. Challenging, but still interesting. Both my partner and I had tele gear on and we were able to skin most of the way up. It was almost icy enough to want crampons; some people wore them but ours were in the car and I was glad I didn't have the weight. If I went back the next day I might bring them. At approximately 9500' we ran into a wall of cloud, a total whiteout and decided to take off our skins and turn around. Great day, got some sunshine and many turns. If you are learning to ski or are not comfortable with icy conditions, I suggest you wait until more snow falls before going up to Paradise.

 

As a side note, an amazing thing happenned on the way home from Raindog. My partner lost his wallet while skiing down. It must have fallen out of his pack when he took off his skins. After searching the car and all of our belongings three times we left Paradise with him in a tempered rage. As we approached Puyallup on the drive home a message popped up on his cell phone. Another climber had found his wallet and was calling to return it. Good karma followed us home! bigdrink.gif

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We stayed overnight in the castle-saddle in the Tatoosh - and a good 5-6 inches of new snow fell by Sunday morning. Should be pretty good right now.

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Sounds like a fun time! thumbs_up.gif What time are they closing the gate in the evening?

Edited by Doug

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I believe the gate at longmire is closed to uphill traffic at 1630 and downhill traffic at 1800, though I have heard rumors that some rangers will leave the combo to the gate under your windshield wiper. I can't verify this with personal experience. With the way my winter forays go, I always leave a sleeping bag and pad in the back of my car *just in case* I get back late.

 

Good to hear there was some snowfall on Sunday. Avy danger?

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I set off about a dozen sloughs that ran 2-3" deep and 5-30 meters on the descent from the Castle Col back to the lake, but these would only have been fatal to someone the size of a lawn-gnome.

 

That being said - we decided to bail Sunday morning instead of sticking around to ski the whole day after sizing up the conditions. All of the new snow was sliding off of the refrozen crust below extremely easily, and it seemed to us that several more inches plus wind-loading could generate some legit slides.

 

It was a fun run back to the lake though - some nice steeps that'll be fun to visit in the spring.

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Me and a buddy were up there too that day. It was our second bc experience (newbies) and we were moving slow both up and down in those conditions. We did not have crampons but would have happily carried them along had we known. We did make it up to the hut. Got in there around 2 PM in 'breaking' clouds. When we left the hut at 2:30 PM (for the record, no, we weren't mushsmile.gif) we were in a total whiteout. We skied down about 500 vertical feet of the snowfield with about 10 feet of vis. We followed our tracks very closely. It was freaking cold too until we got out of the clouds. We both lost the feeling in our fingers for a while. The icy descent was, er, interesting for us. Okay, it down right sucked for a while. I have a new found respect for people that rip it up in those kinds of conditions. I felt like it was my second time skiing ever.

 

By the way, my buddy grew up skiing back east and he said this was definitely much worse.

 

Good times though, great weather (except for the whiteout). Windy too; got taken down to my knees by a microburst when I was on a ridge above Pan Point.

 

Note to self - 5k feet of gain in winter is harder than in summer... wazzup.gif

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Last year I was hell bent to get all the way to Muir and needed crampons for the last icefield. I can pretty much say if you need crampons to get up, the skiing will suck on that section! So leave the crampons in the car and stop going up when you can't skin anymore (if you intend to ski what you climb) unless you are doing a section early in the am that you know will soften up later in the day.

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Last year I was hell bent to get all the way to Muir and needed crampons for the last icefield. I can pretty much say if you need crampons to get up, the skiing will suck on that section! So leave the crampons in the car and stop going up when you can't skin anymore (if you intend to ski what you climb) unless you are doing a section early in the am that you know will soften up later in the day.

I thought you east coaster all learned on ice. You must be getting soft in the slush. grin.gif

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I believe the gate at longmire is closed to uphill traffic at 1630 and downhill traffic at 1800, though I have heard rumors that some rangers will leave the combo to the gate under your windshield wiper. I can't verify this with personal experience.

 

Every time I've come back late from climbing Rainier in the winter the ranger has left the combo to the gate on my windshield wave.gif

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I was up there on Sunday and tried to ski paradise valley. went up to panorama point and the skiing down sucked. It actually would have tolerable if I could have seen more than 36 inches in front of me. I fell off cornices 4 or 5 times due to not being able to see them. THat got old real quick. The vertigo was awful in the sections without trees.

 

On Monday I went up to blewett pass and skied up and down diamond head. That was pretty fun aside from the moron-mobiliers and their noise. The skiing wasn't great but the nice conditions and visibility made it fun. thumbs_up.gif

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I had my ultimate experience skiing to Muir on Saturday a few years back. I figured I would never top it, so I haven't been back. mushsmile.gif

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Conditions such as this are pretty common on the upper Muir this time of year.That's one hell of an exposed,windy place up there,and it seldom gets any heavy show buildup to last long before it gets windpacked or is completely blown off.Boilerplate is more the rule rather than the exception,and I've almost always carried crampons;the few times I left them home,the slowed travel time wasn't worth the weight saved.

 

Prevailing storm winds come sailing across the Wilson and Nisqually and are really cooking by the time they hit the Muir,which is higher.Any cloud or precip bashes up against the west face of Gibraltar and Cathedral Rocks,backs up down over the upper Muir,and it makes that whole pocket up there a dandy little cauldron.

 

It's well worth taking some time to study and observe over time,the localized behavior of weather in places like this.Not only does the entire mountain make its own weather,but the ridges and glacial troughs and headwalls intensify local conditions with all sorts of eddies and whorls as the winds come piling into the mountain.The Muir hut is where it is for some very good reasons besides the fact that it's convenient to the continuation of routes to the upper mountain.These conditions have been very consistent over many years of observation on the mountain.Muir looks very simple and close,and in fine weather,it is.But it can be one of the worst places to get caught out,and in very short order,too.Absolutely nothing on Rainier should ever be taken for granted.

 

wave.gif

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I'll hopefully be up there tomorrow. I'm praying for a little sun softened goodness since the winds aren't looking to be high, but if I don't luck out I'll retreat to the protected slopes of paradise valley.

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Hey Norman. Yeah, it was gorgeous! Really nice day. Beautiful blue skys and actually very good snow. Adams, Helens and Hood were all lookin' good and the tatooshies looked awesome! As a bonus, something like 17 people summited today! I was surprised, because it was otherwise very quiet on the snowfield.

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