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2007 Backcountry Trip Reports => May 2007 Backcountry Trip Reports => Topic started by: AndyMartin on 05/14/07, 09:58 PM

Title: May 12&13 - Rainier - Fuhrer Finger Fiasco
Post by: AndyMartin on 05/14/07, 09:58 PM
Three of the Shuksan White Salmon crew (April TR) plus new recruit Claudius Loth decided to ignore their own advice and attempt to ski Rainier despite a less than perfect forecast. Mention of occasional showers and increasing onshore flow didn’t sound too threatening, so by 9:30 am we were off on the yellow brick road towards Panorama Point. Parting company with the hordes at about 6,400 feet we dropped down on to the Nisqually, roped up and started up the route. The going was easy on corn snow, but there was evidence of quite a few slides, one a classic natural point release on the skiers left side. Staying away from these and picking our way around a few open crevasses we worked our way on to the Wilson glacier. Instead of the “usual” camp spot over on the Wapowety cleaver we opted for a snow shelf in the lee of a cliff near the start of the Fuhrer finger at about 9,900 feet. This spot seemed pretty safe from rockfall and avalanche, and was a good 45 minutes or more up the route from the usual spot. We failed to note the potential funneling effect of the cliffs above, and later discovered that we had camped in Rainier’s equivalent of the Blowhole on Blackcomb! However, all was well at first and we completed the usual ritual of melting snow for the morrow and getting prepped for the climb. The weather had gradually thickened during the day, and a skiff of snow had fallen, but nothing too terrible seemed imminent. Around midnight it stared snowing steadily and pretty soon the tent was coated. The snow was wet and there was no wind, but I remembered the sailor’s doggerel “when the rain’s before the wind, then your sheets and halyards mind!” Sure enough at 3 am the wind started and quickly built to a gusty crescendo. Later checking of the Muir telemetry show sustained winds of 49 mph with gusts to 55, and certainly life in my one season (summer) REI tent became quite eventful! Gradually our ambitions receded from the summit, to maybe skiing the Finger to “let’s get the hell outta here!” After a brutal packing up session in the banshee wind we were off at about 8:30 am. After an initial hardscrabble slope we ripped through fields of windblown powder and old ice, and eventually a couple of thousand feet of REALLY nice new snow on a firm base. The weather had one last trick to play, and we dropped on to the Nisqually again in a thick, whiteout fog. Picking our way gingerly through the murk, avoiding the occasional grinning crevasse, we eventually reached our roping up spot and breathed a sigh of relief. Even then, we still had a few eventful moments in near zero visibility before we reconnected with the milk run back to Paradise. We were astonished to find 4 inches of new snow on everything, the trees looking pretty as a Christmas card. Older, but only minimally wiser, we vowed to never try this trick again without a cast-iron guarantee of high pressure and offshore flow!

Title: Re: May 12&13 - Rainier - Fuhrer Finger Fiasco
Post by: korup on 05/15/07, 03:34 PM
Well, that looks more than gorgeous enough to make up for the "marginal" weather!

Title: Re: May 12&13 - Rainier - Fuhrer Finger Fiasco
Post by: skykilo on 05/16/07, 05:28 PM
Saw yer tracks.  At least you got to ski some good snow.

Title: Re: May 12&13 - Rainier - Fuhrer Finger Fiasco
Post by: AndyMartin on 05/20/07, 05:34 PM
Nice work on the Fuhrer Thumb Sky - great job! Waiting on the weather to go finish the Finger.

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