Saturday, December 3, 2011

First Rainier Ski Trip of the Season

With the first days of December, a record setting high pressure system settled over the Pacific Northwest and promised up to a week or more of good weather (and smog in the lowlands). My brother Alex and I decided to take advantage of the good weather and get in our first ski trip of the season to Camp Muir.

On Saturday December 3, we started out at 6 AM, arriving at the mountain 9:30. When we got to the parking lot we realized there were quite a few other people with the same idea. From the parking lot to just below Panorama Point we set a pretty good pace. But as we looked up the climb to Panorama Point it was clear all the other skiers were struggling. At first the climb was easy. Alex stated that he was going to try and skin all the was up. A couple minutes later Alex, who was ahead of me, yelled back to me to put on my ski crampons. A minute later he was hiking with skis over his shoulder. As I approached the area where he had given up skinning I thought I might be able to make it with my ski crampons, and I probably could have, but it would have been a long way to slide down if the crampons didn't hold, so following my brothers example, I put the skis over my shoulder and headed up hill.

After the climb up to and above Panorama Point, the skinning went well up to about 8,000' where the travel required navigating patches of ice with strong gusts of wind coming from all different directions. A couple of the gusts were strong enough that I had to stop and make sure I was well balanced against the wind. Around 8,800' the wind was just too strong, and most of the downhill skiers had warned us that it was extremely icy higher up, and most all other uphill skiers had turned around. So at that point Alex and I decided to turn around. So with high winds, and on an inch of snow on top of blue ice we carefully transitioned and headed down.

Here our GPS tracks from the day's adventure.

Navigating Panorama Point on the downhill turned out to be not as bad as going up. The skiing down was not great, but overall it was a fun trip.

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