April 29, 2012 | Posted in:Uncategorized
One thing you should know about me, if you haven’t already figured it out. I like adventures. Especially the spontaneous, unplanned variety. I tend to use the term adventure liberally, like “I’m going on an adventure to the grocery store!” It helps get me in a good mindset for mundane tasks, for instance if this paper I am writing were truly an adventure, perhaps I would find the writing process entertaining.
I do however think that my latest escapades in to the mountains fit well within the realm of “adventure” in a more traditional sense of the word. This weekend has been no exception.
Franklin, one of my roommates, is moving down to California this summer to start a new badass job. Before he leaves, he made a bucket list of things that he wants to do. I am not entirely sure of the full details of his list, but spending time in the mountains is definitely a part of it. So, early last week, Franklin approached me about going hiking this weekend. Fortunately for him, it was not long after returning from the Tatoosh’s, and Rainier was on my mind. In fact, I think I had just finished hanging up the map of Rainier on my wall. Half joking, half serious, I threw out the idea of hiking up to Camp Muir. After spending a few minutes chatting about it, the half serious idea was transforming into a half serious plan. Somewhere over the next couple of days we convinced Ethan to join us (though the plan was still minimal). So, this weeks foray into the mountains, while something I have been wanting to do for some time, was for Franklin and was a HUGE check mark on his bucket list.
To start, none of us were particularly fond of the idea of waking up super early to drive to Mt Rainier so that we could get a reasonable start. We came up with the brilliant plan of camping. In the park, camping is relatively lax while the snow is deep. The only real requirements are you have to be over a half mile from the trails and roads (it gets a little more strict in high traffic areas like on the Muir Snowfield, but for our sake, we could camp pretty much wherever we wanted). This brilliant plan came about before we all realized we had obligations in Seattle on Friday. Thursday night, we made a half-assed attempt at packing and opted to just throw everything in the car Friday evening. We had a strict deadline to make. The park gate closes at 8:30pm. We made it through the gate a little past 8:20, so we were cutting it close.
Fortunate for us, by the time we rolled up to paradise lodge, a thick fog had set in and it was starting to snow. We spent a good half hour actually packing our gear (about 2/3 of it was probably mine) and getting our bearings since it was a little tough to see anything considering it was night and foggy. We eventually hopped on a trail, followed it for a ways and to the best of our ability ventured off of the trail, to the top of a small hill that was far enough away from the trail and hidden from any hikers, but not too far that we would get lost. Again, not necessarily the most ideal situation to be in.
We set up our tents and decided to call it a night early (well, not that early), what with it snowing and all. Some of us were a little more equipped for camping in the snow than others, making the night a little unpleasant for at least one of us (not going to mention any names here). In fact, none of us had ever camped in the snow, so I think we all learned a lot. We ended up waking up early, breaking camp and heading back to the car. This was sort of the plan we had worked out, directed by our lack of preparation and organization.
I had been following the weather and so far, it was exactly what I was expecting for the weekend. As we were getting ready to start the hike, visibility was limited and it looked like the mountain was pretty socked in. Fortunately as we were getting ready, the clouds started to dissipate and visibility was improving. It was still a chilly morning and from what we could tell, it was going to be a chilly hike up to the camp.
We couldn’t have been more wrong on our weather prediction. Not more than 20 minutes in to the hike we got above the clouds and realized how incredibly lucky we were. Yet again, it was going to be another sunny day on the mountain.
Soon, we were starting to regret the miscalculation of the weather as above the clouds, it was actually quite warm. We stopped at a scenic point for a few pics and to adjust for the newly discovered sun.
Rainier is an absolutely stunning mountain and a view that I will never get tired of. I should point out that no, we did not hike shirtless. As one girl pointed out on the way up, “you don’t want to do that because sunburnt nipples aren’t fun.” So, after putting clothes back on, lathering on the sunscreen, and taking a few more random pictures, we continued on.
On the hike up, we stopped periodically for food, sunscreen, and to take in the spectacular views.
We made great time, getting to the top of Camp Muir around 1pm. Since we weren’t in any hurry, we took our time and enjoyed ourselves up at 10,400′.
Some of us enjoyed ourselves just a little more than others….
I took my split, Franklin and Ethan both just hiked. So we parted ways on the way down. I ended up joining a group of skiers on the way down. The snow was, well not the best. But I don’t think anyone does Muir at this time of year just for the riding. The storm from this past week had left a few inches of snow that has not had time to settle. For the most part, the Muir Snowfield is mellow terrain and the snow wasn’t reacting. It made for some spectacular turns.
Instead of following the snowfield the whole way down, I joined a group that was dropping a chute into the Nisqually Glacier in hopes of finding some steeper, more technical terrain to ride down. We ended up in a bowl where the snow just didn’t want to stick. We set off 5 or 6 point-release slides that all funneled down to the same spot. It was only a couple of inches that were reacting on top of the bed surface and it was all predictably sliding, so we were safe, but it made for an interesting ride down. By the time we got to the toe of the debris pile, it had built up a solid 7-8 feet tall.
After that one section, the terrain mellowed out and we got in a few more fun pitches before having to skin back up to the main trail back to paradise. (None of us were particularly fond of the idea of riding all the way out the Nisqually to the bridge. That turned out to be a good decision, because the snow was incredibly wet and slow at the lower elevations.
With my short stint off of the Muir snowfield, I ended up getting back to the car not much sooner than Franklin and Ethan, who were both a little cold and very wet from the long hike down.
It was definitely an adventure and a somewhat impromptu one at that. I really enjoyed getting to take Ethan and Franklin out in to the mountains with me, so that some of my friends get a chance to see what I do when I disappear of the weekends. The pictures and these posts really don’t do justice to the beauty, serenity, and sense of adventure you get by being out in the mountains.