While we were able to get a few fun turns without feeling like we were trapped inside a ping pong ball whiteout, now ain’t the time for skiing Mount Rainier. The conditions ranged from full on, can’t-see-my-own-skis whiteout from Pardise trailhead to clear visibility with 30 mph winds at 10,000′ Camp Muir. 1,500′ above Muir was solidly socked in with clouds.
- A view of the Turtle Snowfield from the Muir Snowfield. Clouds building above the Kautz Glacier.
Starting our tour from Paradise at 5,400′ was like trying to navigate the Squaw Valley’s Chicken Bowl on a zero visibility day. Having spent a good deal of time here I navigated mostly by brail, but we were definitely psyched to have the whiteout navigation package along. Map, compass, altimeter and a GPS were essential to add a margin of safety to this pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey style ascent. A wrong turn here could spit a skier off into the abyss of the Nisqually Glacier, a place you wouldn’t want to be cruising around unroped without visibility. The snow at these elevations was mushy. Great for skinning, but not amazing skiing.
Poking out above 8,000′ a brief clearing of clouds allowed us to catch a glimpse of the most glaciated peak in the lower 48. Here the snow developed a crust that became rock solid above 9,000′. Fortuntalely the snow surface was smooth enough to provide a few reasonable turns. We made it to Muir, had some quick food and were treated to a warm drink by International Mountain Guides who were running a mountaineering seminar.
The visibility on our descent was short lived, but enough to get in a few reasonably smooth turns. What the mountain needs is a fresh top of of new snow, and that’s what it looks like it will get. Here’s today’s satellite: