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awilsondc
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awilsondc
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PostWed Feb 12, 2020 11:00 pm 
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What a winter we've been having!  With the poor weather, this trip was my first venture into the snow this winter.  Yeah...

I did my usual abnormally early start and hit the trail around 3:30am.  Down low the trail was melted out, but became mostly snow after a half mile or so.  There had been lots of traffic on the trail and it was a nice solid boot pack right up until the turn to Talpus Lake.  The boot packed trail continued down to Talpus, but nobody had ventured north towards Pratt Lake leaving me to break trail the rest of the way.  It's difficult enough to try to follow the summer trail in winter with fresh snow.  It's even harder in the middle of the night.  I knew this was a popular trail and was pretty sure there would be people blindly following my tracks which added to the pressure to try to stay on course and set a good track.  I think I managed to follow the official trail for a tenth of a mile or so before getting off course.  haha.  Still, I picked a good line through the forest until a creek crossing gave me some difficulty.  When I came upon it, there was a steep bank down fifty feet or so to the creek.  I searched high and low and scouted 3-4 different potential crossings before I found one that looked easy enough to cross.  It was 10 feet or so on each side, with a conveniently placed tree on each side of the creek to help get up and down.  From there it was cross country to the west ridge.  As the forest gradually opened up, the increasing glow of the full moon filled the open spaces in the trees providing a magical ambiance for the ascent.

Bright Moonlight
Bright Moonlight
Moonlit Corridor
Moonlit Corridor
Starry Night and Moonlight
Starry Night and Moonlight
Full Moon Glow
Full Moon Glow

Trail breaking was loads of fun.  In easy sections it was 7 inches of snow over a supportive crust.  In diffucult sections it was 18 inches of soft powder.  It was actually fun and fairly enjoyable, I just wish I could have been moving faster.  But... it was hard and I was going slow.  It soon became clear I wasn't going to reach the summit by sunrise as planned.  Whatever.  I just embraced the opportunity to enjoy each moment of the ascent, and there were plenty of magical moments along the way.

First there was blue hour with the first views opening up towards Kaleetan and Chair.  The moon was setting behind Pratt and Defiance and soon pink hues emerged in the sky as dawn broke.  The west ridge can be tricky with some steep sections to navigate which added some pizzazz to the ascent at times.  Rainier came into view as I climbed higher and the wind picked up.  It got really cold at times, but I kept warm with movement and hand warmers.

Blue Swirl
Blue Swirl
Setting Moon
Setting Moon
Rainier at Dawn
Rainier at Dawn
Colors Emerge
Colors Emerge
Dawn Panorama - West Granite West Ridge
Dawn Panorama - West Granite West Ridge
Dawn
Dawn

Soon the sun was up, illuminating the tip of Mount Defiance followed by Pratt and Bandera.  I tried to take photos as I ascended, but I somehow managed to miss the best of the morning light on the mountains while hiking up the steep and at times icy west ridge.  It was well into golden hour as I neared the false summit.  Ahead through the forest I saw snow covered trees on the ridge basking in the morning sun, their backs to me and their front / side ablaze in golden light.  I don't think I had seen anything like that before and I was grateful for the experience.

Just the Tip
Just the Tip
First light
First light
First Light on Kaleetan and Chair
First Light on Kaleetan and Chair
Up the West Ridge
Up the West Ridge
Illuminated Trees
Illuminated Trees
Illuminated 1
Illuminated 1
Illuminated 2
Illuminated 2

You may be familiar to with the terms blue hour and golden hour, blue hour being roughly the hour before sunrise or after sunset and golden hour being roughly the hour after sunrise or before sunset.  But... it seems to me that there is another phase in the changing of the light during the winter months, a time between golden hour and daylight... a time where any color in the light is mostly absent and yet the contrast between the shadows created by the low angle of the sun meets the reflection of the light off the snow creates a silvery iridescence.  I really became aware of this brief period of the changing of the light while on Mount Dickerman last year and it's becoming one of my favorite times to marvel at the natural beauty of the mountains when I'm in the high country.  I guess I'll call it silver hour, or maybe silver 10 minutes although that doesn't have the same ring to it.  Silver hour it is.

Silver Hour 1
Silver Hour 1
Silver Hour 2
Silver Hour 2
Silver Hour 3
Silver Hour 3
Silver Hour 4
Silver Hour 4
Snowy Tree Monster
Snowy Tree Monster

Ok, so I reached the summit.  Yay.  Views were good, I enjoyed them.  I made myself some tea and drank it and then headed back down.

West Granite Summit
West Granite Summit
Mount Rainier from the Summit
Mount Rainier from the Summit
Rainier Through the Window
Rainier Through the Window
Summit Ridge
Summit Ridge
Granite Mountain
Granite Mountain
Kaleetan and Chair
Kaleetan and Chair
Snowy Trees
Snowy Trees

The descent was a bit dicey in spots, and I had to downclimb facing in a couple times which was a bit awkward in snowshoes but not all that bad.  A bit below the ridge I ran into my first people of the day.  They were pretty happy to have a track to follow and not have to break trail.  I passed several more parties on the way down and was relatively pleased with the line I had picked through forest on my way up, now given the benefit of daylight to observe my surroundings.  I can't tell you how nice it was to actually have a sunny day in the mountains for once.

Basin
Basin
West Granite West Ridge Pano
West Granite West Ridge Pano
Blue Swirl 2
Blue Swirl 2
Tiny Tree
Tiny Tree
Branch
Branch
The way back
The way back
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Stefan
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PostThu Feb 13, 2020 9:33 am 
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Sunrise!  Good on you!

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Art is an adventure.
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iron
getting old



Joined: 10 Aug 2008
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iron
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getting old
PostThu Feb 13, 2020 10:51 am 
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Stefan wrote:
Sunrise!  Good on you!

you should've joined.
#repeatsare4winners

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man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

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RichP
here and there



Joined: 13 Jul 2006
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here and there
PostThu Feb 13, 2020 5:13 pm 
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Lovely. Classic work from you.
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Brushwork
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Food truck
PostThu Feb 13, 2020 5:24 pm 
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Beautiful  pictures!   Just lovely!   Thanks!

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When I grow up I wanna play.
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geyer
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PostThu Feb 13, 2020 5:33 pm 
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A good week on NWH! It's almost as if sunlight and trip reports are correlated or something  nerd.gif
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MtnManic
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PostThu Feb 13, 2020 9:22 pm 
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Way to many fantastic pictures to pick just one.  Beautiful!

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Backpacking: limited to one pack at a time.  Cameras: limited to as many as I can carry.
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puzzlr
Mid Fork Rocks



Joined: 13 Feb 2007
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Mid Fork Rocks
PostThu Feb 13, 2020 9:24 pm 
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awilsondc wrote:
Snowy Tree Monster
Snowy Tree Monster

Great photo. In spite of not getting out much you must have kept your fitness up somehow. Breaking trail all that way would have turned me back half way up.

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Mid Fork Rocks flickr
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silence
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PostFri Feb 21, 2020 6:39 am 
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Talk about magical moments ... stunning!

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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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OdinPNW
Odin



Joined: 23 Feb 2020
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Odin
PostMon Feb 24, 2020 6:11 pm 
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What great weather you had!
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