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[TR] Mt. Rainier - DC - Single car-summit push + ski descent (solo) 7/7/2013

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Trip: Mt. Rainier - DC - Single car-summit push + ski descent (solo)


Date: 7/7/2013


Trip Report:



Some cell phone videos I took while heading up/down the mountain, put together in what I hope is a slightly interesting way. I didn’t feel comfortable skiiing while holding a phone on the upper mountain, however.


NOTE: All pics/video are from my phone.


For a while now I’ve wanted to do a) A single push from car-to-summit on Rainier, and b) a snowboard or ski descent of Rainier.


I finally did both—sort of casually—this past Sunday, adding a twist of making it a solo mission. I wasn’t going for speed—and I’m def. not in the shape I was in last year. I injured my ankle pretty badly in Oct and have only done a couple climbs since, so really I’m just glad to be climbing again.


I snowboard—not ski—so I’ve been learning by watching youtube videos and going the last 2 days at Alpental, and the last-ish 2 days at Crystal and doing laps. I bought a mountaineering ski setup because my snowboard/splitboard setup is just too heavy and not as flexible. Typically I’m carrying a ton of heavy camera gear, adding a 12-13 pound splitboard + binding + skin setup isn’t practical. After the 9th or 10th youtube video I felt like I got good enough as to not kill myself in the backcountry. I skied down a chunk of Baker and from the summit of Adams over the past month to warm up for the big daddy, Rainier.


Saturday afternoon I drove out to Paradise to get a permit before the ranger station closed. I had a solo permit from last year, but I think you have to renew each year. Anyway the young ranger couldn’t get into the computer system for solo permits, so after cursing at every computer in the place he just let me go. The guy looked really young and seemed really nice/shy, so it was kind of entertaining listening to his frustrated “fucks” and “goddamns” as he fumbled around on the keyboard.




My route - left parking lot at ~1am, arrived at the crater rim at approx 9am. Took my time getting down (I suck at skiiing).



Park pass I buy almost every year.


I tried to sleep in the back of my rig listening to comedy CDs from Todd Barry, Steven Wright, and Anthony Jeselnik. The comedy actually helps calm the fear and negative thoughts about doing something that sounds kind of crazy and dangerous to a lot of people (well I guess to non-climbers/mountaineers). I couldn’t sleep and almost considered bailing in self-doubt, fear, and rationalizations that Sunday would be much better spent in more casual, relaxed ways. But I knew when Sunday night came around and I hadn’t done anything truly interesting with my 4-day weekend, I’d regret it. I also knew I solo’d the route last year around this time and it was pretty straightforward. I pushed everything else down and finally fell asleep sometime around 10 PM.


Midnight arrived and I snoozed a bit more, then drove from the overnight to the to the day parking lot, right up front (I’m lazy). It felt a bit surreal putting skis on my back and walking out into the dark woods—alone—at 1AM. Feelings of fear and loneliness are contrasted with feelings of confidence and pride from conjuring up the self-motivation to try something like this. Those feelings then fade and are replaced with the sensations that go along with being out in nature, under the stars, facing a towering silhouette of rock, ice, and that sense of fleeting freedom. Those feelings dull and you’re left with the sound of your footsteps in the snow, one-thousand times. I see headlamps up near Camp Hazard on the Kautz route, a route I’d rather be on. Then ski skins against snow. Then at 8,000 ft ski crampons and skins scraping the snow. It’s getting really icy. I pass a tent. I hear two people glissading down from Muir at 3AM. I’m happy because this is strange and interesting and abnormal and other things I could’ve done are not, like watching golf or something painful like that.


I reach Muir at 4am – 3 hours with a ~15 pound pack wasn’t breaking any speed records. I did that last year with 60 pounds. Who cares, the light from the sun is coming out and I’m now on the Cowlitz skinning across a few deep, but very narrow cracks in the glacier. I didn’t grow up knowing much about mountains, skis, or any of this. It’s still very new and exciting for me and I’m really enjoying being here for the first time with barely any weight on my back to slow me down.



Cathedral Rocks, 4:30 AM, 10,500ft.



Top of cathedral rocks.



In the most rockfall-prone place on the route, right before taking the Disappointment Cleaver in “the bowling alley".




Sunrise behind the DC and shines on the Emmons, Ingraham, and Little Tahoma (11,200 ft).



Emmons Glacier.



Icefall on the Ingraham Glacier above the DC. The most interesting part of this route terrain/visual-wise. I met another French solo climber on the route who took scary fall a few minutes later in this section, but was able to grab a fixed line.


I jumped the second largest crevasse on the route around 12,500ft, then made my way through the “crux” of the route – a large icefall that is visually a bit stunning. I caved and put on crampons, traded pole for axe, just to be safe due to exposure and some uphill crevasse crossings. The route went close to the top of Gibraltar Rock, and I was tempted to actually go out on top of the rock to the very edge. There was a knife-edge ridge that looked doable, and I wondered if anyone had actually ever done that. I’m sure they have. I’m a bit fascinated with Gibraltar Rock due to the stories about Cadaver gap, and from witnessing some humbling, giant boulders fall off of it while on the Ingraham. The most intimidating rockfall I’ve ever seen that close. I’m in awe of things I fear the most.



Tents on Ingraham Flats.


13,000ft to the crater rim was tough, it always is for me. Half the oxygen vs. sea-level + fatigue def. slows you down a bit. I reached the crater rim just after 9am and immediately tried to nap behind some rocks to wait for the snow to soften. The wind was cutting, and even after putting on all of my layers I couldn’t stay warm. At 10:30 AM I finally said f-it, put on the skis, and started to descend. I still had to get some “work work” done that night, so I couldn’t be back too late.



Crater rim 8 hours after leaving the car. After putting on all my clothing, I was still cold so I eventually headed down on rock hard snow.



Lightweight ski boots with lightweight crampons while I try to nap—unsuccessfully—on the summit crater. I love these crampons.



I didn’t bring a lot of food, and I ate even less. Little Tillamook Cheese blocks and almond butter saved me, I couldn’t eat much else.


The snow was rock hard and sun-cupped, making holding an edge close to impossible for me. Once the snow steepened and emptied into a crevasse crossing, I knew I had to climb a bit lower or die. As I descend I kept poking at the snow, waiting to get to an elevation where it would be soft enough to put the skis back on. Somewhere above 13,000 ft it seemed doable again, so I re-mounted and was off. The snow was still hard, crusty, and bumpy, and I skied it without much grace (read: I probably looked like a complete idiot to good skiers). I skied over a snow bridge on a crevasse and made it to the “crux” I mentioned earlier, which was not skiable. After climbing through that short section and jumping the route’s second biggest crevasse again, I put the skis back on and headed down the DC. It gets pretty steep here and the snow was much softer, but it still had all of those reverse-tear drop shapes that didn’t always cut nicely against my edges. It continues to get steep until it cliffs out, so I skied down the whole thing with no poles, clutching my ice axe, until the route turns to rock again about 2/3rd -3/4th the way down. I remember thinking that I should’ve practiced turning right more at Crystal, I’m not as comfortable that direction on the steep stuff. Like Derek Zoolander I’m not an ambi-turner.



Upper mountain, skiiing down in crappy snow that made me look like the noob I am.


Back on the lower Ingraham I meet an AAI and IMG guide. They just put in a ladder on the first largest crevasse crossing at about 11k ft. on the Ingraham. I felt really cool that I did not need the ladder going up and I told them that ladders are for p#$$@, pounded a mountain dew, then ran away (ok I’m lying I didn’t feel cool and I didn’t say that to them – having a mountain dew would’ve been nice though). I did, however, strip to a t-shirt as the heat was dialing up. I walked across the ladder a couple times for novelty video, then skied down to the Cathedral Rocks, somehow avoiding falling into the comically large Ingraham crevasses and rock fall debris despite my lack of ski chops.



Upon returning to this crevasse at 11,000ft, a ladder had been installed so I had to test it out.



Skiiing on the flats avoiding rocks and crevasses. My Cowlitz run where the snow actually got nice and corny was coming up.


Once I reached the Cowlitz the real fun began. I pretty much just tucked and made it across that thing in what felt like 20 seconds. Dodging rocks and cruising over crevasses too narrow to swallow me up. Easily the highlight of the trip was rocketing across this glacier! My dream of a ski decent of Rainier was finally getting really fun. The snow past camp Muir was even better. I actually felt like I knew how to ski on this snow, and I cruised down to the top of Panorama Point in no time where I immediately lost a glove messing with my pack at the creek crossing (black OR stormtracker if you find it). Once at the bottom of Panorama Point you can still ski almost to the parking lot, which is awesome because I hate walking back to the car. I turned in my permit stub at the climbing station and headed back to the Issaquah to refuel on a Chipotle burrito.


I can’t imagine anyone read this whole thing, but anyway…it was an experience I’m still feeling a bit high on happiness and satisfaction from.


Gear Notes:

Skis and hardware


La Sportiva GT Skis 184 and RT bindings (7 lb, 14oz)


Skins/crampons (~1lb for skins, 77g/crampon)


Sportiva Spitfire boots (6 lbs for the pair)


Grivel Air-tech light crampons (switched from Stubai, happy I did)


Camp Corsa Nanotech Ice Axe (~9oz)


Didn’t use cramps/axe until close to 13k.




Camp Rapid 260 backpack (awesome ski carry system that doesn’t require pack removal, I’m super lazy so this is nice, but probably also easy to build onto any pack with 2 slings and 2 biners)


Full pack w/o skis/skins and only 1 L of H20 was about 12.5 pounds. Add skis and the extra water and maybe closer to 25 lb.




This is the first time on Rainier I brought lightweight puffy vs. a huge Denali-ish puffy. I wasn’t warm enough to take a real break on the summit, or any break on the upper mountain until after maybe 9am though.




3 Tillamook cheese squares, 1 pack of Almond butter, a few packets of Gu (or the Cliff version), and a bunch of Cliff blocks, 1 Snickers, 1 Milkyway (the candy bar not the galaxy full of billions of stars). I ate maybe a quarter of this.


Live chicken (let go in the wild around 9000 ft).




1 liter to the river above Panorama Point, then 4 liters to the summit, bringing almost 2 back down to Ingraham Flats :S, Camelbak Elixir added for electrolytes, taste.


Camera equipment: Cell phone


Reading materials: 2 large hardcover Holy Bibles.


Approach Notes:

Snow all the way to parking lot, skiable to a quarter mile-ish from the parking lot with a few places you must take off skis.


Copied from my blog.

Edited by lukeh

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Damn kids these days, think they can watch some youtube videos and practice at the ski area for a couple days and then ski Mt. Rainier! Nice job dude! ;-)

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Live chicken (let go in the wild around 9000 ft).


Reading materials: 2 large hardcover Holy Bibles.



Chicken and bibles, upper reaches of Ranier. Just launches the imagination.


Aren't hardcover bibles part of the ten essentials for many groups up there? Did you read the chicken relevant biblical passages before setting it loose? And why not set the bibles free, too? Why did the chicken climb Ranier? So it could get away from the bibles... And on and on.



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Where are these ski instructional videos on Youtube?! I just switched over this past season and need some work. Skinning up and skiing down beats the hell out of slogging up in boots.

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tcweiskopf - No, mostly they were just videos of skiers hucking off cliffs to heavy metal :). JK yes they were. Forgot which ones, a few series, one with a dude with an Australian accent in France. Just search "ski lessons" on youtube and you'll find plenty. I think I'll probably take a lesson this season though so that someone can watch/correct me on form. Good luck!

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