Category Archives: Cascade Volcanoes

Flett Glacier Summer Skiing

I’m in the hunt for my first year of Turns All Year (getting 12 consecutive months with at least one day of skiing) and August/September are always tough. Fortunately, I may have found my new summer stash (a HUGE upgrade from the crowded, suncupped Muir Snowfield) – namely, the Flett Glacier in the Mowich Lake area of MRNP.

Our group of four arrived at Mowich Lake around 9am on a busy summer Sunday, loaded the skis on packs, and hiked the very pleasant 4.5 miles along the Spray Park trail (and off trail) to the toe of the Flett Glacier.

The glacier appeared to be more like a permanent snowfield, at least from the headwall straight down. To the right there were some crevasses on one of the lobes of the glacier. We didn’t bring glacier gear though.

After a pleasant skin up fairly smooth August snow, we evaluated conditions on the 45 degree headwall. There was some rockfall coming down from the cliffs on the left and right so pay attention to where you hang out and consider a helmet for the scramble to the top.

I stayed behind while the others braved a loose scree slope to traverse up to the headwall (looped around to the east, passing in front of Observation Rock before gaining the top of the face). There were some melted out rocks which everyone shredded around with some ease (but don’t fall right now…)

The view down into Spray Park above Cateye Lake was stunning. How have I never been in this corner of the park before?

The headwall skiers reported that the skiing lower down on the glacier was the most fun and I agree. These were good turns, period – not just “good for August.”

We happily lapped 1000′ of the lower glacier (to the foot of the headwall) again and snow conditions remained smooth and fast for us in the late afternoon. Then came 4.5 more miles of very pleasant ski carrying through Spray Park. Please be kind to the meadow!

 

The mountain sure looks pretty from this angle.

Thanks Brian for organizing a great trip!

Mount Rainier via the Disappointment Cleaver

Mount Rainier via Disappointment Cleaver route

14,410′

9000’+ gain

This post represents two milestones: I recently had the opportunity to summit Mt. Rainier for the first time, and this is my 100th post on the Blog! I couldn’t have picked a more fitting trip.

We ascended via the easiest route on the mountain (the DC route) but Rainier is not an easy mountain and it was a significant challenge I’ll remember for a long time.

My team of 4 independent climbers geared up at the Wilderness Information Center at Paradise on Friday morning at 6am in order to get in line for a permit on the Ingraham Glacier – which we scored the last of!

We set off from Paradise at 7:30am or so, gaining over 2500′ on dry ground until we hit the Muir Snowfield for the last few thousand feet to our first rest stop, at Camp Muir (elevation 10,200′). We grabbed some food, rested for a bit, then roped up for travel across the mellow traverse on the Cowlitz Glacier.

After reaching the dry rocks on the other side (Cathedral Gap) we shortened the rope with Kiwi coils and continued up the loose but manageable switchbacks. Soon we stepped onto the heavily crevassed Ingraham Glacier for the final couple hundred feet to camp.

Continue reading Mount Rainier via the Disappointment Cleaver

Mount Adams ski descent

Mt. Adams

12,280′

6700′ gain

I’ve done Adams twice before and its outstanding south ski slopes have turned it into what I hope is an annual pilgrimage for me. Both times I chose to climb/ski it in a day instead of camping over – both of these are brutal due to the long drive from Seattle and the very large amount of gain. This time we elected to camp and I think it was a good variation.

David and I arrived at Cold Springs campground in the early afternoon on a Saturday and struggled to find parking, per usual. I think backcountry skiing has gotten more popular even in the short time I’ve been doing it myself. We lifted our heavy packs and started out walking on dry ground, for around an hour until we hit the around the mountain trail. We transitioned shortly after and started skinning up Suksdorf Ridge (the winter route, skiers right). We gained, gained gained elevation  and I could tell my conditioning wasn’t what it was last year – thankful that we were breaking up the climb into two days. However, my new Dynafit Denali touring skis and bindings were a huge weight improvement over my old set. It was especially apparent on such a long ascent.

After a few hours we made it to our campsite at around 9000′ on Suksdorf Ridge, among rocks overlooking the ‘lunch counter’ area. We could see the massive south slopes that we would ascend the following day. We also considered descending the Southwest Chutes route, but that would involve carrying over our overnight gear and the high snow level made the traverse back to the trailhead a bit of an unknown.

The campsite was gloriously scenic as the sun set that night.

St. Helens:

Continue reading Mount Adams ski descent

Winter Awaits – Paradise Tour

After watching the Snotel telemetry like a hawk for a few days, I bet that the recent torrential downpour in the Cascades wouldn’t beat up the early season snowpack too badly above Paradise. With a few inches of snow forecast following a nice cold front, we headed down to Rainier for our first turns of the year.

As we passed through Puyallup, we saw a thin layer of snow on the trees and fields and our spirits rose. I don’t remember seeing that at all even in the depth of winter last year! The hills around Ashford were beautiful in white and green.

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Conditions at Paradise were windy with an inch or two of fresh snow drifting considerably. We skinned up to the slope below Pan Face but the wind picked up and scoured the slopes clean to the icy rain crust, so we turned around. The best snow was in the trees just above the parking lot. Coverage was OK – large rocks and creeks were still quite open. Edith Creek valley needs more snow.

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Edith Creek from below Alta Vista
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Powder in the trees below Alta Vista. Yummy.

The mountain even came out for a little while and we got a bit of sun.

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Mt. Baker Ski Ascent via Squak Glacier

Mt. Baker via Squak Glacer

10,781’

7000′ gain

5200’ skiable vert

Mt. Baker has been staring me in the face for months, ever since I started hiking Central Cascades peaks again. Rising almost straight out of the ocean from some viewpoints, Baker towers over the North Cascades with one of the most extensive glacier systems in the lower 48 states. While nearly 4,000’ lower than its neighbor Mt. Rainier, prodigious snowfall more than makes up for the difference when it comes to ice and snow.

Baker’s south side

This trip was lead by Radka and Chris, a couple of instructors with the Mountaineers glacier ski and snowboard travel course. This was the second year that they had agreed to lead a trip for recent graduates of the course like myself, and I had to take advantage of the opportunity. (See C&R’s turns-all-year trip report)

Mt. Baker made me a little nervous as a ski objective. There were a lot of “news” associated with this trip: first time summiting a glaciated peak, first time skiing on a glacier unroped, first time wearing crampons with my ski boots, first time climbing on steep snow as a rope team. Most of all, I was concerned about my admittedly not awesome skiing ability when considering the “Roman Wall” on the upper mountain. I had skied to 30 degrees steepness on Mt. Adams with no trouble, but under icy or hard snow conditions, the 35 to 40 degree Roman Wall would be some of the tougher skiing I’d ever done outside the resort, and with pretty terrible consequences in the event of a fall. This kept me thinking twice about whether I should join the trip, but ultimately I resolved to go along, knowing that I could hang out at the summit crater and wait for the rest of the group to summit and come back down if I didn’t like the looks of the conditions.

Continue reading Mt. Baker Ski Ascent via Squak Glacier