Turns All Year Trip Reports

2009 Backcountry Trip Reports => May 2009 Backcountry Trip Reports => Topic started by: Stugie on 06/01/09, 07:45 PM



Title: Tahoma Glacier/Fuhrer Finger - MRNP - 5.29-5.31
Post by: Stugie on 06/01/09, 07:45 PM
Our plans started with hearing the the sickle might be playing up at Sunset Ampitheater.  We figured the best way to see the Sickle would be to get a backstage pass at St. Andrew's Rock...a great show.  However, ambitious trips require flexibility, and more importantly, backup plans.

Matt (non TAY), Brad (Muscawulf), and myself had decided that the Sunset Amphitheater HW Coulior would be a great climb for a first ascent of Rainier.  Although Matt had Ptarmigan Ridge and DC route under his belt, being a fellow climber first and foremost he was all in.  We figured skiing the sickle would be a great end to an awesome trip.

Plans change, and ours did before we left.  Thanks to Monika and Ryan's trip report about the Traverse to Tahoma (http://www.turns-all-year.com/skiing_snowboarding/trip_reports/index.php?topic=13455.0) which helped us greatly.  We decided upon the traverse rather than the WS road...which was definitely a better choice.

Upon arriving at Paradise Thursday night, we camped in the lower lot and began our traverse Friday morning.  Monika gave me some GREAT beta on elevations during the traverse, which we tried to follow with altimeters.  It became apparent early on that much of the snow we were hoping for had melted out.  Almost every aspect of the south side of Rainier had some major wetslide action (point release (http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss238/stugelmeyer/Baker034.jpg?t=1243906782) and wetslab (http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss238/stugelmeyer/Baker061.jpg?t=1243906854)), some of which we witnessed, few of which we triggered, none of which we were in (thankfully).  Props to Monika and Ryan for their traverse - we called it an "end" to Friday after crossing the Success Glacier and we set up a bomber bivy site at 8000' on the Success Cleaver for the night.

Starting to traverse...
(http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss238/stugelmeyer/Baker031.jpg?t=1243910264)

Brad with a thankful smile after traversing above the Kautz icefall...
(http://www.turns-all-year.com/skiing_snowboarding/trip_reports/thumbnail.php?url=http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss238/stugelmeyer/Baker040.jpg?t=1243908500) (http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss238/stugelmeyer/Baker040.jpg?t=1243908500)

Rock Carin marks our bivy site for anyone caring to try it out...
(http://www.turns-all-year.com/skiing_snowboarding/trip_reports/thumbnail.php?url=http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss238/stugelmeyer/Baker003-1.jpg?t=1243906611) (http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss238/stugelmeyer/Baker003-1.jpg?t=1243906611)

Sunset over the South Tahoma Glacier with Olympics and the Puget Sound...
(http://www.turns-all-year.com/skiing_snowboarding/trip_reports/thumbnail.php?url=http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss238/stugelmeyer/Baker004-1.jpg?t=1243906663) (http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss238/stugelmeyer/Baker004-1.jpg?t=1243906663)

Again, our plans had changed.  That night we discussed viable options, and we all agreed that we could still summit the SAHWC, but we did not want to traverse back.  A carry-over was a must.  This also gave us a leisurely Saturday to cross the South Tahoma and the Tahoma Glacier to arrive at our destination, high camp near St. Andrew's Rock.

Crossing the Tahoma proved to be more a feat than we had originally thought.  Because of the recently high temperatures, much of the glacier was opening up, and the headwalls above often filled the canyons with the echoing booms of their thunderous avalanches.  The faint trace of bootpack leading up the glacier was often interrupted by a growing number of open crevasses, some spanning enormously, sending us zig-zagging through the glacier. At one point we debated a lead over a crazy snow bridge (http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss238/stugelmeyer/Baker068.jpg?t=1243907768) to a small gap and 4' climb up to the other side of the crevasse, but after trying to exercise all of our options, we found a much safer route.  Although longer and more time consuming, the risk of injury in a fall when unnecessary was not acceptable in our book.  We finally arrived at our high camp, setting up just below the furthest span of debris from the headwall.

Preparing to bootpack and quickly transitioning...for obvious reasons...
(http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss238/stugelmeyer/Baker005-1.jpg?t=1243908063)

Entrance to Sunset Amp. HW Coulior...
(http://www.turns-all-year.com/skiing_snowboarding/trip_reports/thumbnail.php?url=http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss238/stugelmeyer/Baker070.jpg?t=1243908314) (http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss238/stugelmeyer/Baker070.jpg?t=1243908314)

Unfortunately (fortunately) we good views of the coulior from on the Tahoma.  Brad and Matt made a quick jaunt across the snow to confirm our suspicions...the "backstage pass" was a no go.  We didn't feel comfortable with the amount of snow that had melted from a section we had thought would have good ice.  The sickle also apparently would not be playing at the amphitheater..it too had melted beyond what we were willing to risk.  Our backup was a go though, so we agreed upon a good alpine start and we would summit via the Tahoma Glacier and then ski the Fuhrer Finger back to the car. 

The next day we were up and climbing (partly due to an incredibly loud avalanche from the headwall above).  We post-holed horribly in some spots early on, but no one punched through.  Soon after though, we were glad to have our 'pons and axes as the climbing became steeper and the snow was frozen solid.  We arrived below the crater rim, dropped our gear, and headed up the last 400 ft. or so.

The Tahoma
(http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss238/stugelmeyer/Baker013.jpg?t=1243910195)

Quick summit shot (we need Matt to post our GOOD summit shot...)...
(http://www.turns-all-year.com/skiing_snowboarding/trip_reports/thumbnail.php?url=http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss238/stugelmeyer/Baker076.jpg?t=1243909361) (http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss238/stugelmeyer/Baker076.jpg?t=1243909361)

1/3 of the trip was done.  Now it was to ski down then drive home.  We debated a bit about our ski down, but since the Finger was direct we opted for it.  We weren't sure quite where to head to enter it, but we met PeteA and Ross on the summit, and they were gracious enough to help us find our way in.  After we arrived at the numerous ski tracks though, it became obvious.  Definitely moguled up.  However, we still had GREAT snow through the Finger and some rewarding turns were had.  We followed the Nisqually out and headed back to the car.  Words and pictures do nothing to give the views any justice.  We hurriedly packed our gear and grabbed beer at the lodge.  2/3 done.  The drive home was fine, and with memories of the trip burned into our heads, seemed to fly by.  Thanks Matt and Brad for a great trip up an amazing mountain.

Brad gives it the finger...
(http://www.turns-all-year.com/skiing_snowboarding/trip_reports/thumbnail.php?url=http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss238/stugelmeyer/Baker088.jpg?t=1243910382) (http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss238/stugelmeyer/Baker088.jpg?t=1243910382)

PeteA and Ross (http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss238/stugelmeyer/Baker018.jpg?t=1243910514)

Group Shot (http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss238/stugelmeyer/Baker019.jpg?t=1243910564)

And yes, Scotsman, I did wear nylons (http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss238/stugelmeyer/Baker023.jpg?t=1243910618).  :D

Edited because of overstepping pic limit...oops!


Title: Re: Tahoma Glacier/Fuhrer Finger - MRNP - 5.29-5.31
Post by: Jason_H. on 06/01/09, 07:52 PM
Cool. That approach up the creek was a pain in heavy wet snow when I was up there this winter. Next time I will also traverse over. Great link up too. Way to be flexible. I notice skiers tend to be more so than climbers. 


Title: Re: Tahoma Glacier/Fuhrer Finger - MRNP - 5.29-5.3
Post by: Scotsman on 06/01/09, 07:56 PM
Congratulations Stugie and Brad and Matt, very nice trip on a side of the mountain we rarely see.


Title: Re: Tahoma Glacier/Fuhrer Finger - MRNP - 5.29-5.3
Post by: Teleskichica on 06/01/09, 09:52 PM
Nice work guys. Looks like an incredible trip on many levels. Especially liked that 1/3 of the trip was the drive home... glad you made it safely up AND back on all counts! :)


Title: Re: Tahoma Glacier/Fuhrer Finger - MRNP - 5.29-5.31
Post by: jwplotz on 06/02/09, 12:00 AM
Very nicely done Stugie!  What a cool link-up and carryover!


Title: Re: Tahoma Glacier/Fuhrer Finger - MRNP - 5.29-5.31
Post by: Pete A on 06/02/09, 07:01 AM
Great to read the adventure y'all had before meeting you up top.  Nice job!


Title: Re: Tahoma Glacier/Fuhrer Finger - MRNP - 5.29-5.31
Post by: Monika on 06/02/09, 08:46 AM


Great job out there!! -and being flexible to have to modify your plans as much.  Sorry for you the traverse got so melted out.  Glad you still found it better than the West side road approach.  and sure nice you met up with Pete A and Ross to simplify the way down.

Wow, what a difference just a week makes.  When Ryan and were on the Tahoma, the route finding was pretty straight-forward, made the ski a fun, pretty direct way down.


Title: Re: Tahoma Glacier/Fuhrer Finger - MRNP - 5.29-5.31
Post by: Kyle Miller on 06/02/09, 11:18 AM
Nice work mang
The west side is a amazing place


Title: Re: Tahoma Glacier/Fuhrer Finger - MRNP - 5.29-5.31
Post by: danhelmstadter on 06/02/09, 01:22 PM
Awesome! way to get; ripper report.


Title: Re: Tahoma Glacier/Fuhrer Finger - MRNP - 5.29-5.31
Post by: Stugie on 06/02/09, 09:05 PM
Thx all, twas a fun trip indeed with a lot of laughter.  In fact, sometimes our laughter was louder than the cascading ice and rocks from the upper ice falls...but not usually. ;)
Quote from: Monika on 06/02/09, 08:46 AM
Sorry for you the traverse got so melted out.  Glad you still found it better than the West side road approach.

Wow, what a difference just a week makes.


Even in such conditions, I would have preferred the traverse to WS road...thanks for all your great beta.  I was curious though...did you two navigate the Kautz between the upper and lower ice falls as depicted in our pics, or did you drop below the lower ice fall and then back up?  This looked like another viable variation, but it was only obvious to us through hindsight.


Title: Re: Tahoma Glacier/Fuhrer Finger - MRNP - 5.29-5.31
Post by: ryanl on 06/02/09, 10:12 PM
Quote from: Stugie on 06/02/09, 09:05 PM
I was curious though...did you two navigate the Kautz between the upper and lower ice falls as depicted in our pics, or did you drop below the lower ice fall and then back up?  This looked like another viable variation, but it was only obvious to us through hindsight.


Nice trip Stugie! I'm glad none of those seracs fell on you in that "quickly transitioning" photo.  I was sketched out of my mind the first time we went thru that.

As for the Kautz, if we're thinking of the same spot, we stayed high.  I was amazed at how much that traverse had melted out, though, when Reed and I used it to get to the ESGC. When Monika and I did it was a no-branier.


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