June-uary on Rainier

For the first time of my life, I’ve skied a volcano.  It’s a cool thought, although many people make the trip to Rainier, and yesterday was no exception.  After eye-balling topo-maps, NWAC, and talking with a local shop, I decided to head to Rainier solo and see what it’s all about.

I’ve learned that even when conditions in the PNW are lame, Rainier can still be good, and it was awesome corn skiing…in January.  NWAC was reporting green light conditions due to warm temps and consolidation, along with blue skies.

Upon arriving, I learned the stories I’d heard were true.  The Paradise gate is locked until 9 a.m.  A bit unfortunate, but it gave me time to gear and wake up.  My intended trip plan was to stick to the classic Muir Snowfield route, and follow some people up.  It begins at the Paradise parking lot, which is at ~5400′.  Luckily I met Jeff and John who were great company and we veered slightly off the beaten path onto some variations of the route.  It was also the maiden voyage for my Movement Response-X skis, which I was quite fond of by the end of the day.

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Our first look up at Panorama Point. Our route took us left around behind the rocks and shrubs to the climb.

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Booting up. Almost broke out the boot crampons here. Ski crampons were used later.

Jeff and John on the point.  Snack time.

Jeff and John on the point. Snack time.

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The views were pretty good, too.  Mt. Hood is visible on the far right.

More booting.  I switched back to skins + crampons.

More booting. I switched back to skins + crampons.

It was a gorgeous day, and by the afternoon temps on the mountain were ~50 degrees.

Rainier, up close and personal.

Rainier, up close and personal.  The Nisqually glacier is front and center with the chutes on lookers right.  It was great to finally get a closer look than staring at it in the distance from the city, or even Crystal.

Things were looking good as we neared 8600′, give or take a bit.

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Adams as the backdrop as we neared our transition. We also got a good look at Mount St. Helens.

One more look at Rainier.

One more look at Rainier.

We hugged the other side of the ridge from the Muir Snowfield up-track, away from the masses, careful not to dive too far skier’s left down into glaciers.  Suddenly the views we’d been getting sank in and I realized, man, Rainier is huge!

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John, with some incredible relief behind.

The first few hundred vertical were decent, though the Movements made for a bit of a bumpy ride on uneven wind-scour.  Then it turned to sweet corn and it was grins all the way down.

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McClure Rock face. I quickly measured it with the ol’ inclinometer at 52 degrees +/- human error from where this photo was taken.  Steepest face I’ve skied in awhile at least.  You couldn’t see much but the bottom while looking down on it.

John and Jeff had some fun on a steep face, which may have been slightly iffy, if there hadn’t been a few tracks and a snowboarder landing into it sideways, then side-slipping half of it.

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The Movement’s performed excellently on steeps, corn and firmer snow.  I almost forgot what it’s like to lay over a ski narrower than 100mm underfoot.  I was able to ski confidently on them at speed, and the flex didn’t feel weak or too soft.  We’ll have to see how they perform in powder, whenever we get some more snow in the PNW.  And another thing, the mixed skins from Movement felt great.

The trip took us approximately from 9:45 – 3ish.  Jeff broke out his goPro so there may be some footage out there in the works.

An awesome introduction to Rainier!

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