Sunday, July 1, 2012

PNW for another great late April

With time on my hands and fit legs from the season in La Grave I got out on a number of nice tours in Rainier national park. I skied on Lane peak, the south side of Rainier, and a bonus of my sixth ski off the pin on Rainier. I had some rain filled office days in the bustling town of Ashford, WA (joke) and settled in for some recovery day after 79 days of skiing in the Alps.
Summit Ridge of Lane Pk. The 4hr tour from Ashford to Ashford 

 I went for a climb up the zipper to the summit of Lane Pk.
 "There is never bad snow, there's just bad skiers". Doug Coombs
1st time I skied off the true pin of Lane! sweet tour  ok snow. good and steep. 
Laura and I took a day tour to the base of Gib ledges at 12k in April. It was one of those days when the weather, conditions, body, and mind all wanted the same thing: to go higher, and what goes up must come down. Laura and I set off around 8am and cruised to muir in 3hrs, checked in with Ranger Stephen for a cafe and continued on skins most of the way up Cowlitz headwall. This was remarkably the first time in a dozen climbs of the feature that I've skinned almost all the way to the base of gib. We had perfect sun soft hot pow. The descent was brilliant and smack in the middle of the fall line. As Laur and I reached 10,200ft our motivation for up and feeling the flow we skinned up and headed East for the Cathedral Crescent cooler. This is one of the best runs within 30 minutes of camp Muir. The decent was on great corn snow and we took the cowlitz/ paradise glaciers to 8,700ft. We then traversed the snow field and descended the skiers' far right side Nissqually chute and continued on to 3,700ft at the Nisqually view bridge.  This day that seemed for us both to be light exercise out on a tour wound up having 9,000ft down and 7,000ft up. It is fascinating to me how much all the conditions matter to the ease of a day in the mountains. Guides say in the mountains it depends........"on what?" on a lot. We were fortunate to have all the elements perfect on this very fine April day.    

LJR skinning at 11,300ft on cowlitz headwall. 

The Nisqually Ice cliff last April 2011 compare to this season!

The Nisqually Ice cliff one year later Ouch! Taken from entrance to the gib ledges. 

LJR Ripping turns from the base of Gib.

Faint corn tracks down the center 

LJ Ripping The Cathedral Crescent 

Nisqually chute far Right.

Lower Cowlitz: from the Paradise gl. Colwlitz gl. divide.

The lower tatoosh range from 5,000 on the Nissqually Glaicer 

The bridge!
A few days of poor weather dropped some new snow in the lower elevations so on the next days Laura and I had free we went with Nick P., the recently unemployed by choice to Lane peak tatoosh range in Rainier park. We started the skin with minimal optimism on having good snow from 3,800ft but soon in to the main climb from valley bottom we discovered the north terrain was a bit colder and the snow from the steep walls had sluffed in to the run known as the Fly couloir.  As we booted the upper 45 degree section all we could think was sweet 30cm, of new and light and stable powder. Thanks LJ and NP for a awesome day.
First run off Lane peak

Photo Nick P Laura climbing down from the view point 

Nick schralping the goods.

Photo Nick P. Getting my ski on.

Laura and Nick Return from Lane Pk.
The Fly and The Zipper Lane Peak.
The following day Nick and I headed to Muir where we planned to stay the night and climb Rainier by the Gib ledges route. We would decide later what to use the skis on for when we got on top. The walk to muir was brutal with high temps and no wind, we were cooking like eggs on reflective asphalt. We made good time despite the fatigue and dehydration.  We had a good evening of hot drinks and a stomach full of torts and cheese. Nick and I woke to a perfect sunrise and with some wind, we departed camp muir at a leisurely 8:30 to climb GL to the summit.  We made it up in 4:30hr for a great day of walking in the high mountains with bluebird sky. After 30 min on top we clicked in to our skis on the pin and descended to the upper Nisqually ice fall Glacier to near 12k and skied some of the best corn fall line we ever had done, crossing right to Fuhrer's finger, on to the Wilson glacier, and out to the Nisqually Bridge; 10,500ft of uninterrupted down hill bliss!
Nick sending the Gibraltar Ledges. 

Top of GIB

Nick and I on The PIN

Nick slicing Chalky turn just off the summit

Upper Nisqually Glaicer Turns 
The long slide down from upper Nisqually 

Nick skiing Corn to the Finger 

Photo Nick P. Slaying corn in the Finger 
Photo Nick P.

Nice Blocks of Ice Wilson
photo Nick P Big fresh rock fall near the Fan

The hour and a half descent form the top was followed by a hundred cars passing us as we hitched for two hours, trading positions with our thumb out. Then we pullout the throw your hands in the air trick for the last 30 or so cars until finally a guy passed and I this time added the hands folded in prayer mode and tossed the hands up but he just drove by.  At this point I was ready to just walk out like a traffic cop and stop a car in the middle of the road to kindly ask for a ride to paradise. Three min later the guy I folded my hands and gave the quick tossed hand, had turned around and pulled up asked "Need a ride?" Clearly! I hopped in and had a great ride to our whip. So, I suppose when hitch hiking for longer then it took to ski down, use the hands in prayer mode, give them the old toss the hands up, and show the awh man look... and they will feel guilty and return for you.... or  bring a lady and pull the old fashioned bait and switch... Ah, and it is illegal to hitch in the Rainier park.

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