Forum Index > Trip Reports > Camp Muir Feb 11th 2023
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peter707
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peter707
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PostSun Feb 12, 2023 12:58 pm 
Winter access in MRNP has been tricky this year. The stars really have to align for this to work, and I had never successfully got to Camp Muir in the winter season until today. There will be more of an emphasis on time than normal this TR, because the 9:00am - 4:00pm Longmire Gate forces a late start 9:40am and early turn around time of 2 - 2:30pm.
About the Route The winter route to Camp Muir (~10,000') is similar to the summer route, except for skipping the switchbacks underneath a steep avalanche slope, preferring the 31 degree "panorama face". https://fatmap.com/routeid/3150379/winter-route-camp-muir?fmid=cp, https://www.strava.com/activities/8545601879 has the route I took. The route gains ~4.6k vertical feet in about ~4.5 miles.
Constraints 1) Saturday & Sunday only (removes 5/7 days) 2) Some days are rejected due to poor weather forecast 3) Some days are rejected due to poor avalanche conditions 4) Gate opens at 9:00am - 4:00pm at Longmire, meaning 9:30am to 3:30pm at the Paradise lot (plus any chains / other trickyness necessary). 4b) At times, the gate opens a bit late say, 9:30-10:00am, or perhaps not at all 4c) If conditions are poor on the descent, it's necessary to set an earlier turnaround time of like 2pm, rather than 2:30pm, since whiteouts require slower skiing and frequent GPS checks (or compass/map/altimeter checks). Gaining 5k vert is very hard before 2pm. 5) For me personally, I choose to carry overnight bivy equipment, that make say ~20F survivable, or 0F survivable inside the camp muir emergency hut. This adds about 8 lb of jackets, sleeping bags, foam, bivy sack. The Climb On 02/11/2023, the stars align and Claire and I decided to make an attempt. I awakened at 5am, packed, and left Seattle by 6am and arrived at Longmire at 8:30am or so. The weather was as good as it gets, ~30 degrees at paradise and ~22 degrees at 10,000', with hot sun and no wind. Avalanche conditions were at 1 in treeline, 2 at treeline and 2 above treeline. The sky was blue the entire day, it was possible to see MSH, Adams, and even Mt. Hood from the snowfield. The gate opened at 9am, and after letting most of the crowd dissipate crossed the gate at 9:10am. The 2wd non-winter-tires sedan was coaxed up to paradise by 9:40am (didn't have to use the chains this time). I put on my AT skis (skins were put on at Longmire), Claire put on snowshoes and put the downhill snowboard in the backpack, and off we went at 9:49am. Conditions were great for ascending, and after ~40 minutes we were staring down an untracked panorama face. The youtube video on kick turns paid off and 12/12 successful kick-turns later, we had efficiently climbed to Panorama Point in about 70 minutes.
Claire's photo of panorama face
Claire's photo of panorama face
The Muir snowfield is a straightforward ascent, and it's a bit of a grind. Up for 3200 vertical feet'.
Ascending the Muir snowfield took about 3 hours, and the massive throngs had diminished to about 10-20 folks up there. Claire was the only snowshoe user up there (carried a downhill board as well!), and might have been highest elevation snowshoer in WA on 02/11/2023. We spent about 20 minutes at Muir, during which I checked out the public emergency hut (which had some snow inside, but was still usable). Much too soon, it was 2:30pm and time to ski/snowboard down. At 3:30pm we arrived at the upper parking lot, and dutifully exited the Longmire gate at ~4:05pm. This was a perfect winter backcountry ski day, and accomplished a goal of mine that has turned me back many times (including one at 9400'). However, I prefer a bit more slack in the schedule with more time hanging out, and have attempted to go to Muir ~7 times by now (4/4 success in the summer, 1/3 success in the winter), so if I go back to MRNP in winter I'll start at Longmire with a proper alpine start, and check out some other regions of the park. winksmile.gif Total Elapsed Time car2car: 5:46:44

call-151, fourteen410, vogtski, LukeHelgeson, day_hike_mike, John Mac, uww, reststep, Now I Fly, The Ghost of Bear 380, Tom
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cascadeclimber
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PostMon Feb 13, 2023 7:35 pm 
Looked like a glorious, sunny, relatively calm day up there. Congrats!
peter707 wrote:
and dutifully exited the Longmire gate at ~4:05pm.
The last time I got to the gate at 4:05 PM in winter, there was an ass#### ranger writing down license plates and reading everyone who was 'late' to the 4:00 PM close the riot act. It was so over the top and unnecessary I called the park and spent an hour on the phone with the then asst. superintendent. We had come from the summit that day and when I explained that the ranger told us we should have planned better rolleyes.gif Ugh.

If not now, when?

peter707
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peter707
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peter707
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PostMon Feb 13, 2023 9:21 pm 
They were quite relaxed and friendly this time, there were 30-60 cars up there past 4pm. And no SAR that I saw unlike the last two times. Just curious, I assume it's unreasonable to summit and ski it from 9:40am-3:30pm for 99.999% of folks out there in the winter - is it easy to get permits / overnight parking?

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KascadeFlat
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KascadeFlat
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PostTue Feb 14, 2023 8:01 am 
Nice work! Muir in winter is definitely a challenge. Glad you finally got up there.

For a good time call: 1-800-SLD-ALDR.

peter707
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hbb
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hbb
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PostTue Feb 14, 2023 6:44 pm 
peter707 wrote:
is it easy to get permits / overnight parking?
Yep, couldn't be easier. I don't think I've ever spent more than 5 minutes trying to get an overnight permit in winter, and much of that time is the ranger confirming your understanding of LNT principles.

peter707
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cascadeclimber
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PostThu Feb 16, 2023 2:58 pm 
peter707 wrote:
is it easy to get permits / overnight parking?
This year, no. Only allowed on Saturday night for reasons hashed about elsewhere. In the fairly recent past, also no. Required summer-like registration with park staff, with very limited staff hours/access. That was changed maybe ten years ago to allow self-registration in the winter. I actually don't know if it's still like that. Given the tiny number of people climbing in winter, self-registration was a rare, rare bit of sane decision making by park management. And, for the record, we didn't go car to car on that trip. When I was chasing those last few months. we'd leave Seattle just in time to make the gate close at Longmire, get to Muir after dark, sleep a few hours, then try for the summit.

If not now, when?

peter707
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peter707
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peter707
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PostThu Feb 16, 2023 8:45 pm 
Sounds like a great way to climb Rainier! Once I saw someone heading up the snowfield at like 5pm in the summer, i guess they were doing the same thing as you.
cascadeclimber wrote:
This year, no. Only allowed on Saturday night for reasons hashed about elsewhere
Is the Saturday night requirement a permit requirement, or a practical requirement of the road closure?

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