Category Archives: National Parks

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 fourĀ 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!

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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 mountainĀ (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

Cutthroat Pass and Winthrop

In early July, my friend from Michigan, Nick, came to Seattle for a visit on a long road trip. Last time we hiked together was on Mt. Timanogos in Utah! I figured since he already had plans to visit Olympic and Mount Rainier National Park, I’d show him a little bit of our least-visited, third national park: North Cascades.

Unfortunately the weather was a little bit cloudy for us as we climbed toward Cutthroat Pass, a high mountain pass with trail access located just east of Washington Pass on SR-20. I didn’t realize until the trailhead that the Cutthroat area is not really in the park boundary. Nevertheless, any day in the North Cascades is a good one. We hiked along easy trail to Cutthroat Lake, occupying the head of the valley, and snapped a couple of photos before beginning the well-graded switchbacks up to the pass.

We soon broke out into the open, alpine terrain that makes north central Washington so beautiful. This area would be ridiculous in fall – I’ll need to come back and visit or maybe move a little bit east to the Pasayten Wilderness for a more extended trip.

We met up with the PCT at the pass and walked along it for a mile or so before encountering some lingering firm snow slopes that we elected not to cross over. Instead, we enjoyed the views with lunch and watched as the cloud deck pulled up a little bit and afforded some views of the local granite peaks.

Continue reading Cutthroat Pass and Winthrop

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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Lake District National Park

After one full day on the Isle of Man, we departed Douglas via the ferry to Heysham on the mainland. We used the 3 hour ferry ride to relax in the lounge area, since there wasn’t a ton to see in the empty Irish Sea – except for a huge wind farm.

Upon landing in Heysham, we attempted to catch a bus to Windermere. Unfortunately, the money we had gathered in change on the Isle of Man was Manx money, not widely accepted on the mainland. But of course they will take Sterling on the island… traveler beware! We were able to scrape together enough to get to Lancaster nearby. It seems like a town worth visiting, based on our brief glance as we sat down to lunch prior to catching a train the rest of the way to the Lake District.

The Lake District has lakes, it is true, but also England’s largest mountains. Windermere, the entry point to the central Lakes, is a small town with a resort feel. There are a variety of outdoor shops, our clue that this is a walker’s paradise. “Walking”, the British term for hiking, is how the locals connect with the “fells” (hills/peaks).

After our arrival we walked a short distance from the train station to a viewpoint called Orrest Head. Most of the trails in the National Park are actually on privately owned sheep rangeland, and a variety of creatively engineered self-closing gates keep the sheep where they’re supposed to stay.

Lake Windermere from Orrest Head

Continue reading Lake District National Park