Muir Snowfield BC skiing, Mt Rainier
Eric and Aaron
December 24, 2016
We drove up to Rainier National Park Saturday morning and reached the Longmire gate just after it opened at 9am. After putting on the chains we drove up the snowy road to Paradise and were soon hiking up toward Camp Muir. Surprisingly there were only five other cars in the lot.
We got excellent views of Mt Rainier as it passed in and out of the clouds, and we were soon the only hikers above Panorama Point. By 3pm we reached Camp Muir at 10,000ft and were treated to an amazing undercast with sunny skies above. Mt Adams was the only object sticking above the clouds to the south.
Soon after we started skiing back down we entered the clouds and it started snowing. Visibility dropped to 15ft and we were in a whiteout. It was difficult to distinguish the ground from the air, and I took a few falls down small snow cliffs while trying to follow our drifted-over tracks. Luckily we had GPS maps to help in navigation.
After a few delays we got back to the car at 4:45pm, and down to the gate at 5:15pm, just seconds after the ranger pulled away locking it! I ran down and found some rangers, who were not interested in helping me get out. Then I talked to a guy in the Longmire Inn, who had a spare key. He acted angry, and made me fill out some paperwork, but then gave me the key and I got us out. We made it back to Seattle a few hours later, in time for me to catch my flight home for Christmas.
At the Genesis I wall in Hyalite canyon
Dec 16-21, 2016
Eric and Katie
We drove out of Seattle Friday morning after I submitted my final grades, and were in Bozeman 10 hours later. The forecast was for -22F that night in Bozeman, but -31F in West Yellowstone. The choice of where to sleep that night was obvious – West Yellowstone.
Weather.gov page showing -40F on the morning of Dec 17 for the West Yellowstone airport, a mile north of us.
After 2 more hours of driving on icy/snowy roads we reached west yellowstone at 1:30am and the temperature was already -22F. We drove around for a while looking for a place to camp, and by 2am we were sleeping in the car a mile outside of town. We brought extra blankets on top of our sleeping bags so the cold wasn’t too bad. I got up at 8am and the car thermometer said -22F, but we figured out that it must bottom out at -22F since weather.gov showed west yellowstone currently at -40F, and we could see the town from our camping place. (Subsequent research showed indeed one weather station at the West Yellowstone airport recorded a low of -40F, and another on the edge of town recorded -43F).
A weather station in town recorded a low of -43F that morning, which was the nation’s lowest temperature that day according to weather.gov
I walked around for an hour outside enjoying a new personal best cold temperature. For fun I boiled a pot of water outside, then threw it in the air and it turned to snow before it hit the ground. Check out the video here.
We eventually drove back to Bozeman then up into Hyalite Canyon. The road was snowy enough to require chains on the tires, but not too bad. That day we scouted out some climbs, then over the next four days climbed a bunch of ice in the Genesis and Mummy Cooler areas. My crampon actually broke on the next-to-last day, and I suspect it was related to it being exposed to -43F, then +30F.
By the next wednesday we finished our last climb and started the long drive back to Seattle.
Little Si – 1,560ft
December 10, 2016
On the summit of Little Si
I was trying to drive to the trailhead for Dog Mountain, but with the recent snow all the way down to sea level, the roads were extremely snowy. I got about 20 miles from North Bend on snowy logging roads, but about 4 miles from the trailhead got stuck in the snow. Some friendly guys helped me out, so I turned around and drove back to North Bend. I still wanted to get a hike in for the day, so with an hour of daylight left and light rain starting I quickly hiked up and down Little Si mountain.
Quartz Mountain (4,641 ft)
The pointy summit
December 3, 2016
It was forecast to be snowy all day so I went for a below-treeline peak on the Homecourt 100 list. Quartz mountain is actually the lowest one on the list, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy – there’s no trail to the summit. I had actually tried unsuccessfully to climb Quartz last weekend, but hadn’t started hiking until noon and turned around early since I didn’t want to be bushwhacking in the dark.
This time I started out at 8:15am on the CCC trail along the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River. After hiking up the trail for about 15 minutes, I cut left into the woods between the yellow geological survey marker sign and the bridge with the hand railings.
The bushwhacking started out pretty dens in fern and bush-filled trees. I scrambled up a gully in a short cliff band, and then the forest opened up more. I generally aimed for the ridge extending due south from Bessequartz mountain, walking through mostly open forest down low, which got denser up high. Snowline started around 2,000ft, and got deeper and deeper. The ridge itself got quite steep, with cliffs on both sides at times and some scrambling required.
When I reached the elevation of the Bessequartz-Quartz pass (around 3,900ft) I traversed right, below some cliffs, to reach the pass. From the pass it was an easy walk up to the summit, though the snow was quite deep, around 5ft in some places. Luckily I had snowshoes, so this was no problem, and I reached the top by 11:45am.
The summit itself is an extremely steep pyramid of snow on top of a big rock outcrop. I couldn’t tell if it was a cornice, so from the side I chopped off the top foot of snow so I could touch the top with my hand without having to get too close.
The hike back down was easy since I could follow my tracks in the snow most of the way, and I got back to the car by 2:15pm for a 6-hour round trip.