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2004 Backcountry Trip Reports => Sept.-Oct. 2004 Backcountry Trip Reports => Topic started by: Lowell_Skoog on 10/28/04, 07:23 AM

Title: October 27, 2004, Muir by moonlight
Post by: Lowell_Skoog on 10/28/04, 07:23 AM
or, Chilling out during the total lunar eclipse  

On the spur of the moment, I headed for Mt Rainier yesterday to take advantage of the beautiful day.  During the drive down, I realized there would be a full moon overnight.  My brother Carl and I skied from Camp Muir by moonlight a few years ago and I've been a fan of moonlight skiing ever since.  So I stopped in Ashford and left a phone message for my wife saying I'd be staying at Muir until the moon came out and arriving home late. I hoped she wouldn't worry too much, since I was alone.  

I saw about twenty skiers and snowboarders above Paradise.  On the Muir snowfield I met eight-year-old Kate the Great, her brother Nathan, and their dad.  Kate's dad said there would be a lunar eclipse that night.  I thought that sounded cool (without thinking much about what it implied) and after chatting with them a few moments, I continued on my way.  At Muir it was warm and calm, so I lazed in the sun for a while, then retired to the cabin when the sun lost its warmth.  

Thus began the "chilling out" part of the trip.  The Muir cabin is like a refrigerator even on a nice day.  I hadn't brought a sleeping bag or pad, so I put on all my clothes, removed the foam insert from my pack to lie on, and curled up inside my little Zdarsky tent on one of the bunks.  I was actually pretty warm--except for my feet.  I tried wearing my boot liners, putting mittens on my toes, and massaging my feet, but they just got colder.  Finally I took my jacket off and put my feet inside it and that seemed to stabilize things.  

I thought the moon would rise around 7:30 p.m.  so I set my watch to beep and tried (without much luck) to take a nap.  At 7:30 I stepped outside and there was no moon, just stars and the glow of Portland's city lights behind Mt Hood.  So I set my watch a half-hour later and chilled out some more.  

8:00 p.m.  - No moon.  The Milky Way is awesome, but you can't ski by it.  

8:30 p.m.  - Finally, the moon is up.  But it's obscured by clouds and the eclipse is starting.  As I curled up in the cabin again, I finally thought about how a lunar eclipse works and realized this might take a while.  

9:00 p.m.  - The clouds are gone, but the moon is a thin sliver. The eclipse is nearly complete.  It's beautiful but chilly outside, so I don't watch for long.  I wonder when my wife will start worrying about me.  The eclipse is proving to be interesting, but not helpful.  

9:30 p.m.  - Oops.  I didn't hear my watch beep.  At 9:45 p.m.  I stepped out and found the eclipse nearly over.  I packed away my things, laced my mountain boots tight, and began skiing down around 10 p.m.  

Sir Arnold Lunn once wrote: "Skiing by moonlight is the most delightful of all forms of ski-ing.  Every detail of crag and glacier is revealed with distinctness." As I skied down the Muir snowfield, an old Cat Stevens song ran through my head:  

"I'm being followed by a moon shadow.
Moon shadow, moon shadow."  

At Panorama Point I paused to admire The Mountain.  I didn't have a camera, so I've posted here a photo from the 1999 winter solstice trip with my brother Carl.  


Below Panorama, the snow cover was thin but well frozen, and I was able to ski within a few hundred feet of the parking lot, arriving at 11 p.m.  I called my wife right away on the pay phone, and the concern in her voice soon gave way to laughter.  She couldn't wait to tell a friend of ours about another of my slightly boneheaded adventures.  Leave it to me to go moonlight skiing on a night when Mother Nature turns the lights out.   ;)

Title: Re: October 27, 2004, Muir by moonlight
Post by: ron j on 10/28/04, 08:16 AM
Nice adventure, Lowell.
Thanks for sharing it.
I, too am a great fan of moonlight skiing.  But "lunar eclipse skiing" is a new one on me.   :)

Title: Re: October 27, 2004, Muir by moonlight
Post by: Jason_H. on 10/28/04, 10:07 AM
Nice TR lowell. That cabin can be really cold. I spent part :) of one of the most miserable nights there during a trip. The funniest part was when morning came around, tents shook and their inhabitants exclaimed, "Man that was a cold night." The rest of which I spent up on top of that little peak with the monument waiting for the sun to come up wishing the whole time I had a sleeping bag or even a mat (or better yet went down). Boy when that moon went down and the sun came up though, that was quite somethin'. Ha. I'd like to think I'm smarter than that now. The lesson is, don't forget your pons :)

Title: Re: October 27, 2004, Muir by moonlight
Post by: Kenji on 10/28/04, 10:34 AM
We were the first two from Muir, and would have seen you normally.  But we skied through backdoor, did not see a soul until reached the parking lot.

Never thought of skiing Muir at night...

Title: Re: October 27, 2004, Muir by moonlight
Post by: bcpinhead on 10/28/04, 11:22 AM
That sounds great!!!!
Thanks for sharing.
I recently moved here from Utah and we had a group of people that would ski on every full moon during the ski season. It is truly the most amazing time to ski. The best is if it is very clear and cold and the snow recrystalizes(sp?) ???
I am not sure if that happens here, but I would definitely like to check it out someday.
We even got a couple New Years moonlight adventures.
Lunar eclipse definitely had to make things "interesting"

Title: Re: October 27, 2004, Muir by moonlight
Post by: Joedabaker on 10/28/04, 02:10 PM
Great Trip Lowell-While watching the eclipse I pondered about how many full moon ski opportunities I have squandered. How great it is that you were able to do that in late Oct! Way to look out side the box.

Title: Re: October 27, 2004, Muir by moonlight
Post by: Sam Avaiusini on 10/28/04, 05:20 PM
I've skied the SW chutes on Adams by moonlight...a real treat ;D.  That particular time however, there was no eclipse.  I just remember the warm breeze and the strong shadows...oh, yeah the corn was pretty sweet too.  That must have been a wicked clear night up there!  Thanks for sharing!

Title: Re: October 27, 2004, Muir by moonlight
Post by: wolfs on 10/29/04, 04:50 PM
SW Chutes by moonlight? That must have been interesting ... I'd imagine would take a good long time for the moon to get high enough over the shoulder given that those chutes really do face SW. Muir at least is pretty open to the sky and more or less S facing with even a little E.

Title: Re: October 27, 2004, Muir by moonlight
Post by: ron j on 10/30/04, 01:02 AM
Yeah Wolfs, I was thinking the same thing.  'Course unlike the sun, I guess the moon will rise/fall in a more random time of day/night.  My guess is Sam must have hit the positioning just right.
Sam, I imagine the moonlight bush whack to the RTM trail must have been different, as well, or did you just camp at the bottom of the chutes?

Title: Re: October 27, 2004, Muir by moonlight
Post by: Sam Avaiusini on 10/30/04, 06:42 AM
Being that this is Lowell's thread, I wasn't intending to steal his thunder... ???  It is a thread about moonlight skiing, however, and I thought why not share?
This was a kinda crazy solo trip back in early summer of 1998.  I climbed to the summit late in the day and waited for sunset.  Around maybe 11pm, I moved to the top of the chutes and waited some more...Ron and Wolfs, you are both right.  The slope positioning meant that I had to wait a while (til 1 or 2 am, I think) before I could start down the chutes.  I just brought light bivy gear and rested at the bottom until morning.  I'd love to do it again sometime, but I certainly wouldn't do it solo again!

Title: Re: October 27, 2004, Muir by moonlight
Post by: Lowell_Skoog on 10/30/04, 06:57 AM
Your Mt Adams ski sounds great Sam!

My worry about skiing Adams at night is that the snow would refreeze before the moon came up and you'd be stuck either walking down or waiting until morning. It must have been a very warm night if you still had corn snow at 1 or 2 am. I wouldn't count on that.

Muir is flat enough that refreezing is not much of a problem.

Title: Re: October 27, 2004, Muir by moonlight
Post by: Sam Avaiusini on 10/30/04, 07:05 AM
As I recall, there was a pretty warm wind.  It was a little crusty in places, I guess, but virtually no refreezing. :)  6 years later and a good deal more experience under my belt, I wouldn't count on that kind of snow either.

Title: Re: October 27, 2004, Muir by moonlight
Post by: Lowell_Skoog on 10/31/04, 07:14 AM
At a neighborhood Halloween party last night I chatted with Charles about Wednesday's eclipse.  Charles watched it from home and helped me explain what I saw from Camp Muir.

7:30 p.m - When the moon rose over the horizon after 7:30 it was already starting to eclipse.

8:00 p.m - The moon was up, and the eclipse was well under way.  For me the moon was hidden by the 10188' peak next to Camp Muir.  Because of the eclipse there was no moonshine on the mountain that I could see.

8:30 p.m - What I thought was the moon "obscured by clouds" was actually the full eclipse.  The yellowish moon was illuminated by light refracted by the Earth's atmosphere.

9:00 p.m - I saw the bright disc of the moon start to reappear during the second half of the eclipse.

9:30 p.m - The eclipse was over some time between 9:30 and 10 p.m. So the entire process lasted over two hours.  Good to know the next time it happens!

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