Mt. Rainier: Ski Touring in December
The week of winter solstice was filled with sun, great attitudes and a wonderful time spent in the mountains. We started our Intro to Ski Mountaineering Seminar with a day of basic touring skills, equipment function and packing along with harness, rope, and avalanche transceiver drills. This was a great start to the trip with two young boys from New York and Ohio looking for adventure and building their mountaineering and ski touring skill sets. The mountain days were full of exciting new learning. Our first day on the hill we parked at Paradise and ski toured toward Edith Creek drainage and found a nice, secluded and well snow-covered area to camp for the evening, allowing us to make a run down a great slope in the basin. We covered kick turns and transitions along with many other key maneuvers while traveling the mountains with skis on, whether it be up or on the way down. Our camp experience was good practical winter camping… Cold…ish but clear and star filled nights.
The second day we awoke to fog filled air. We leisurely packed camp and dropped some extra overnight equipment in the van. Around 10 a.m. we stepped in to our skis and started our ski to Camp Muir, 4,500’ above at 10,000’. On our way to Muir we encountered firm crust and rime ice requiring us to make use of the crampons a few times and used them a good amount on a section of the upper snow field when our skins would just not grip. In late afternoon we arrived at Muir feeling the days work. We brewed up some hot drinks, had dinner and settled in the bunkhouse for the evening. The third day we covered loads of skills in the region of Muir including ice axes, ropes, cramponing, rope rescue and then followed with many of my other teaching tangents. We had the best weather we could ask for on the true winter solstice day in the Northwest. In our evening lecture we went over frostbite, hypothermia, and altitude illnesses. Today, our fourth day, we made our decent from Muir . We traveled a section with crampons due to poor snow conditions but still managed to get 3,200’ of descent. In my eyes, any skiing is good skiing. We closed the week’s journey back in Ashford over a refreshing beverage and a burger. The week of ski touring has been one to remember and I look forward to teaching more ski-based mountaineering trips on one of the lower 48’s best and biggest ski hills, Mount Rainier.
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