Alas, winter in the PNW is slowly arriving. Louie and I have been patiently waiting for more snow over the past few weeks, but our excitement got the best of us. On Saturday, November 7th, we headed for the beloved Muir snowfield on Mount Rainier.
The tour up to Camp Muir is a popular destination on Rainier for anyone looking for a mountain adventure, be that early or late season. The tour starts at about 5400 feet out of the Paradise parking lot, with Camp Muir topping out at about 10,000 feet. A big bonus is the high probability of being able to skin and ski car to car. The snowfield is for the most part fairly low angle and offers spectacular views when the clouds allow.
I’ve been watching the weather (mostly Paradise webcams if I am being honest. The weather seems all over the place these days) all week, so I felt like the stars may align for some good skiing. In typical PNW fashion, we were greeted with perfect ping pong ball conditions. We could see Rainier clearly on our drive in the morning, but arrived to see a socked in parking lot.
We timed the drive perfectly, checking Paradise gate opening estimate via twitter. Big thanks to Rainier Park service for getting the gate open exactly at 9 a.m.!
We skinned in pea-soup-freezing-fog conditions for what seemed like forever. With the thermometer showing 32F at the car, I had all my layers on for the first hour. Coverage was variable down low, but allowed us to skin directly from the car. We were hoping to get up to camp Muir and enjoy some sun (as the forecast had promised), but I didn’t feel too optimistic.
I kept hoping for a “Muir miracle” and right about when I completely gave up, somewhere at ~9000 feet, it happened. Blue sky, sun and Rainier in all her glory. What a day!
The top portion of Muir was pretty wind blasted as usual, but the mid/lower portions of the snowfield held some amazing pow. Everything around and below Panorama point was still basically a rock garden. We skied to the car, but was it really worth it?
Looking at my bases at the end of the day, I concluded that it was worth it. No core shots! No walking in ski boots on the first day of the season! Plus an exciting ski down the Paradise stairs and scaring the tourist who came to check out the snow.
With the upcoming forecast for the week, all the rocks will be covered in no time.
WildSnow Girl, Julia Dubinina, is a weekend warrior chasing snow in winter and sun in summer. A lover of long tours and steep skin tracks, she explores the Pacific Northwest and beyond. When she is not out adventuring, she is working away at her corporate desk job for a software company to make her next adventure happen.