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Tom_Sjolseth
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Tom_Sjolseth
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PostTue Feb 09, 2010 8:05 pm 
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Sometimes the journey is just as sweet as the destination.

Jason Hummel and I finally connected for a great trip up Mt. Rainier on Tuesday.  Our plan was to climb the Wilson Glacier Headwall in one single push.  With hasty arrangements made through Facebook and numerous phonecalls, we were on our way Monday evening to the Longmire Museum to secure a climbing permit.

The Ranger at the museum informed us that groups had been turning back due to deep wallowing on route.  The groups turning around were headed for the Gib Ledges (SE Facing).  We held out hope that our S-facing route would be wind scoured and, thus, free of wallowing (well, at least I was - Jason was hoping for good skiing conditions!).  I then asked the Ranger how many teams had summitted this Winter season, and he said 3 (one of which was Franklin and I on the day after Christmas).

With permit in hand, we drove up to the Paradise parking lot and sorted gear.  We ran into Amar Andalkar and Greg who had been up skiing around camp Muir.  They said the snow was excellent (for skiing).  This might bode well for Jason (who was on skis), but not so well for me (on snowshoes).

We retired for the night in an uber secret honeycomb hideout somewhere in the vicinity of the Paradise Parking Lot.  We set the alarm for 1:20, and got about 2 hours of sleep before it went off as scheduled.

By 1:50, we were on the move up to the Nisqually Glacier crossing.  We were grateful for the bootpack since the surrounding snow was soft.  After gaining ~1000' to Glacier Vista, we dropped down onto the Nisqually Glacier in very soft snow.  Already I was postholing 12" with snowshoes on.  Jason, on skis, seemed to do OK, but he was still sinking in the fresh snow.

In the darkness, we weaved our way through the glacier and Jason (who has done the crossing before) chose a great route.  The postholing became worse and worse, and we were both breaking trail, Jason breaking his own ski trail, and I breaking my own snowshoe trail.  It was exhausting, to say the least.  We eventually gained a ridge above the Wilson Glacier and sat down to take a rest.  We were moving painfully slow due to the tough snow conditions (750'/hr).  The temperatures at our rest spot were easily in the single digits, if not colder.

After rehydrating and eating, Jason and I set off again up the ridge towards the Wilson Glacier Headwall in increasing light.  As dawn came, the colors were spectacular.  We spent a lot of time getting photos and admiring the views.  The wallowing was getting silly at this point, and I was sinking in up to my knees in snowshoes.  Still, we pressed on hoping that the steepening route would be scoured from avalanches of the previous day (there was a lot of debris).  The sun was now blazing in full force and, although we were experiencing temperatures in the single digits not one hour before, it was already starting to heat up dramatically.  This did not bode well for the snow conditions.

At this point, we needed to make a decision.  With so much wallowing, the Wilson Glacier Headwall looked to be more of the same, while the Fuhrer Thumb (just adjacent) looked scoured by avalanches and possibly firm.  With that, we chose to ascend the Fuhrer Thumb.

We stepped onto the debris and were delighted to find that it was firm enough to boot.  At this time, Jason took off his skis, and put them on his pack.  About 200' higher, the wallowing ensued.  Jason put his skis back on and tried to skin the 45 degree slope while I continued to snowshoe it.  Progress at this point was slowing, and we were averaging 500'/hr.  Unable to skin the deep, steep slope, Jason again put his skis on his pack and booted up the couloir in knee to waist-deep snow!

I was getting frustrated with the soft snow, so I tried to circumvent it by climbing out of the couloir to the right onto steep ice and rock.  This worked for about 200', but soon I was wallowing again.

Jason joined up with me at the top of the Fuhrer Thumb (11,400').  We then pressed onwards to 12,000' (which took about another 45 minutes).  The snow was so soft, it was getting ridiculous - we were waist deep and there were no signs of a crust on the upper mountain.  The temperatures were so warm (upper 30s?) that we sat around in T-Shirts.  In February!  We were both exhausted and needed a break.  We discussed the possibility of pressing on, but given our rate of ascent, we just didn't have enough time to summit safely.  So we both agreed we had a great day already, and it would be a great ski down (for him!).

So while Jason was preparing to ski down, I glissaded the Fuhrer Finger and met him at the bottom.  Jason skied the Thumb and looked like he was having a blast!

I put on my snowshoes again and headed back while Jason skiied all the way back down to the Nisqually in about 10 minutes.  It took me about 50 minutes to get back to where he was on the Nisqually, and we both ascended the last 500' together to the Muir Snowfield.  From there, it was a short 1000' descent back to the parking lot.

So while we didn't summit, we enjoyed a beautiful February day on a beautiful mountain.  It was good to meet a new climbing partner, and I look forward to getting out on another trip with Jason in the near future.

Jason also took photos which he will share soon..

Stats

10 miles
7700' gain
12.5 hours RT


A gorgeous sunrise!
A gorgeous sunrise!
Morning glow.
Morning glow.
Iron's dream.
Iron's dream.
Jason skinning up the ridge.
Jason skinning up the ridge.
The view ahead to the routes (Wilson Glacier Headwall, Fuhrer Thumb, Fuhrer Finger).
5 labels
The view ahead to the routes (Wilson Glacier Headwall, Fuhrer Thumb, Fuhrer Finger).
Sunrise again..
Sunrise again..
Looking South towards Mt. Adams.
Looking South towards Mt. Adams.
The view up at Fuhrer Thumb.
The view up at Fuhrer Thumb.
Low clouds fill the valley below.
Low clouds fill the valley below.
More views.
More views.
Jason traverses out of the Thumb on the only firm snow in the entire couloir.
Jason traverses out of the Thumb on the only firm snow in the entire couloir.
Looking down the route.
Looking down the route.
The exit from the Fuhrer Thumb at 11,400' as seen from high on the route.
The exit from the Fuhrer Thumb at 11,400' as seen from high on the route.
Jason taking a break at 12,000'.
Jason taking a break at 12,000'.
The view back down from our turn-around point.
The view back down from our turn-around point.
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silence
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silence
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PostTue Feb 09, 2010 8:28 pm 
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bummer about the summit ... but what a workout .. you exhausted me just reading it ... amazing you guys had that much stamina left after the climbs this weekend  .. way to go .. waiting not so patiently for the sunrise photos  biggrin.gif

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PHOTOS: https://www.flickr.com/photos/33792231@N00/sets
FILMMAKING: http://www.crestpictures.com/

Keep a good head and always carry a light bulb. Bob Dylan
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hitda peakz
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hitda peakz
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PostTue Feb 09, 2010 8:34 pm 
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Wow! Sounds like tons of fun!  up.gif

Can't wait to see the photos.

edit: and there they are!
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Tazz
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PostTue Feb 09, 2010 8:41 pm 
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nice hook up you two!!  can't wait for the pics.
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EastKing
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EastKing
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PostTue Feb 09, 2010 8:46 pm 
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Damn!! Keep kickin a$$ Tom and Jason! up.gif  up.gif  up.gif

Killer workout, Killer views, Awesome TR!! Shame about the summit but you made the right call turning around. Both have you have been on Rainier a number of times already and will be on the summit many more times in future.

--------------
I am addicted to summits! I can't eat, drink or breath without them. Life without mountains would really suck.

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Justus S.
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Justus S.
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PostTue Feb 09, 2010 8:51 pm 
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cool.gif  looks really nice too bad about the conditions.
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Go Jo
of the lykkens



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Go Jo
of the lykkens
PostTue Feb 09, 2010 9:09 pm 
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Outrageous!! slobber.gif And totally outstanding work in tough snow conditions. Thanks for busting your b*tts to bring us these beautiful pics ~Jo
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Layback
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Layback
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PostTue Feb 09, 2010 9:45 pm 
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Jiminy Cricket...  I can't even keep up with reading the sheer amount of trips you are doing these days...   up.gif  up.gif
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twodogdad
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PostTue Feb 09, 2010 9:58 pm 
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Where were you at 11:55? There was a substantial avalanche in the Nisqually Ice Cliff area; the entire cirque under the Ice cliff was affected, including lower Gib Chute. I watched it from above Pan Pt and took some pics but haven't had time to post them. Count your blessings you chose the FF route this time. N
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Josh Lewis
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Josh Lewis
Up up and away!
PostTue Feb 09, 2010 10:19 pm 
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Awwwww Man, you are going big I see!  up.gif  up.gif Man am I getting jelous! Well looks like I'm gonna have to step it up my training for this year. Way to go, also I'm glad you guys had good judgement!  up.gif I say that making calls like that is being more of a hero than pushing on towards potential danger.  cool.gif
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Mark Griffith
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Mark Griffith
(Embrace yourself)
PostWed Feb 10, 2010 7:50 am 
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Gorgeous photos. I think there are few things as tiring as breaking trail in the snow, gorgeous pictures
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BirdDog
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PostWed Feb 10, 2010 7:57 am 
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For the wallowing, you got some really nice photos! Nice work.

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"There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country."
Teddy Roosevelt August 6, 1912
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Tom_Sjolseth
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Tom_Sjolseth
Born Yesterday
PostWed Feb 10, 2010 8:14 am 
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twodogdad wrote:
Where were you at 11:55? There was a substantial avalanche in the Nisqually Ice Cliff area; the entire cirque under the Ice cliff was affected, including lower Gib Chute. I watched it from above Pan Pt and took some pics but haven't had time to post them. Count your blessings you chose the FF route this time. N

TDD.. we heard that avalanche as we were coming down.  I have been asked to do the Nisqually Ice Cliff route and I refuse.  I was even telling Jason this weekend that it is one route I'd never do.  I know how dangerous it is - every time I am near it I heard it rumble.
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Jason Hummel
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Jason Hummel
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PostWed Feb 10, 2010 8:59 am 
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Thanks for the invite Tom. It was an amazing trip! I'll be sure to add photos as soon as I get done with a few.

Man,,,,I still can't get that ski off of my mind. What an epic descent.

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Photography: Alpine State Of Mind! | Trip Reports: Cascade Crusades! | FACEBOOK
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Mtn Man
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Mtn Man
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PostWed Feb 10, 2010 10:03 am 
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Noice!  I'll have to add Furher to my list!  Sounds like a great ski line.

B)

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Mmmmm, backcountry...
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