Shred and I headed up from Paradise on the Disappointment Cleaver route at 1 a.m. Saturday after sleeping in the parking lot. Conditions were perfect skinning to Muir and we enjoyed the sunrise just below the camp.
Dawn on the Muir Snowfield
Sunrise skinning to Muir
We rested there for a while, used the potty (gotta get our money's worth out of the $30 fee!) and headed out across the glacier feeling great.
Raven and Little Tahoma
Sunrise from Muir
Climbing The Cleaver we were starting to wonder about carrying the skis - the frozen penitentes on the steep snow faces to the side of the climbing route where we were hoping to ski did not look like fun.
Penitentes on Cleaver
The altitude was slowing us down on the long up and down zig zags above the cleaver and again we wondered why we choose this damn route (ease of access) since descending we would have to take the skis off and carry them back up a number of times. When we passed the last major crevasses and the angle kicked back I put my skis back on and found my ski crampons to be a god send. Jeff didn't have any and went slower than his usual blistering pace when his feet started to get sore from cramponing, and the now gusty wind hit his skis and pushed him back down the hill.
Mt. Adams from The Cleaver
I got to the crater rim first and found a boulder to huddle behind out of the wind to wait. When Jeff arrived we both agreed to forego the true summit since we'd been there before and it was too cold to hang out for more than a few minutes with the wind chill (temps were not that low, but it was gusting over 40 mph).
Jeff at the Crater Rim
After a drink and quick snack we clicked into the skis and skidded down the frozen sastrugi. It wasn't fun or pretty, but it was faster than walking so now we were glad for the skis.
Skidding down the summit slopes
A thousand feet down we got out of the wind and the snow started to improve so we could actually carve a few turns.
We were happily surprised to find the snow on the cleaver to be perfectly softened so that we could confidently cut down the steep exposed slopes, and even slice through the penitentes. This section made the skis worth while.
Coming down from Muir wasn't as good, the snow is starting to suncup, and it was a bit grabby. We headed over to the Nisqually Chute (after my typical detour down to look at the upper sucker chute). The snow was pretty good, especially in areas already smoothed off by previous skiers.
Climbing up out of the Nisqually in the heat of the afternoon was the toughest part of a long day, but skiing down to the parking lot from there was an easy cruise.
We had a mediocre dinner at the lodge (don't get the crab macaroni and cheese if you're hungy) and crashed in the van for a good sleep.
After a leisurely breakfast we debated our options. We had planned on continuing south to the north side of Adams, but had seen from the climb that the snow didn't look good on the routes we wanted to ski, so we finally decided to just spend an afternoon in the Tatoosh, then head home for other plans.
Jeff beat me to the Castle-Pinnacle saddle and called down asking about the climbing route. By the time I got there he was out of sight on the scramble and I sat down for a nice rest. After half an hour I got a bored so I made a little cairn. Another 15 min. and I made a bigger one up on the ridge.
Saint Helens from The Tatoosh
When Jeff got back we skied down on good corn and climbed back up to the ridge east of Castle where we enjoyed a couple of cold PBRs.
Skiing from Pinnacle-Castle saddle
Jeff had to one up me with his own excellent cairn.
Skiing down from here wasn't as steep, so we didn't get in many good turns, but it was fun dodging the shadows.
The drive through the endless stop lights (synchronized to stop you at every one) of the Grahm-Puyallup stip-mall hell was tedious, but traffic wasn't as bad as we were worried it would be. We stopped at The Olive Garden by the Mall (turn left on 39th Ave just before the mall to find it on the west side). After an excellent meal (mass quantities of salad) we cruised home in light traffic.
Wow, Jim! I'm speechless. Your photographic prowess is unparalleled, unlike your turns, I'm sure . This sounds like it was a really cool trip. I would like to venture into the AT skiing eventually, but for now, I will be sticking to whatever I can hike to off a chair. Thanks for the inspiration!
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