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2003 Backcountry Trip Reports => July-August 2003 Backcountry Trip Reports => Topic started by: markharf on 07/09/03, 06:25 AM

Title: July 6, 2003, Muir Snowfield/Nisqually Chute
Post by: markharf on 07/09/03, 06:25 AM
All day I am running errands, returning calls, crossing items off an endless list of stuff I should have done weeks ago.  It is late when I finally leave Bellingham: a bit after 9:00 at night, the hills still shining gold in remnant sunshine .  I am listening to a very energetic homemade tape which features lots of lush disco music interspersed with 60's soul ("Hi there! We're Archie Bell and the Drells...."), and the time passes swiftly.  This is my favorite time for negotiating the hellish vortex that is Seattle/Tacoma traffic.
Near midnight, approaching the Longmire entrance to the national park, I pick up a hitchhiker—a big, lumbering guy, somewhat tipsy, dressed in torn rags and some sort of Road Warrior/Braveheart leather wrap, featuring lots of body paint which has now run into an unappealing, congealed mess.  How easy can it be to thumb a ride, dressed like this in the middle of a moonless night on a deserted local road?  He seems glad to see me, and talks unintelligibly (but happily) at a high rate of speed until I drop him off fifteen minutes later.  I arrive at the Paradise parking lot, select a parking spot, and promptly collapse into a deep sleep in the back of my van.  
In the morning, while I'm still guzzling coffee and gathering my gear, an interesting assortment of folks drive up and introduce themselves: first Dana, visiting from the east; then Ivo and Peter, snowboarders both; then Ron Jarvis himself, to whom I owe my presence here.  Within a reasonable amount of time we are shuffling up the trail, eventually hitting sustained snow above Pebble Creek.  Along the way, Andy and Regine overtake us easily from behind, and we are suddenly a substantial group, spread out over a mile or so of snowfield.  I busy myself struggling to keep up with Regine, who easily holds up her end of a spirited conversation, graciously making room for my inserted monosyllabic gasps and affirmative wheezes.  Strangely, I've had the identical experience with her son, who can pull away from me on uphills or downs without apparent effort.  Fortunately, I am too hypoxic to consider the implications.  
Under Ron's guidance we gather at the entrance to the couloir, which is easily located by following climber's left to precisely 8200 feet.  More accurately, it is only those among us older than, say, forty-five who gather at first; our young snowboarders are lagging oddly far behind, so we old folks sit around competing to describe ourselves as the most decrepit, crippled, despondent, traumatized or inept of our group.....while waiting for the younger team members to catch up.  Throughout the day, they will look increasingly flustered at always being behind, but by unspoken agreement we do not tell them how much we value these mandatory rest stops—how necessary, in fact, they really are.  In this light, perhaps it is not so strange that no one leaps up to join me when I suggest a warm-up run higher on the Muir while we wait at the couloir entrance.  So, while the rest of the group basks and preens in the sun I lumber uphill for another 20 minutes, turning around at 8800 feet and ricocheting down almost randomly among dirty suncups and postholes to rejoin them.  Conditions on the Muir Snowfield are, by my standards, abysmal, and I am not feeling very confident as we get ready to drop into the couloir.  
The entrance is, in truth, intimidating.  Though Ron measures a perfectly reasonable 40-45 degrees, there is something about standing at the top of a narrow stripe of snow, facing 2000 vertical feet of runnelled fall line speckled with rocks which brings out the Bert Lahr in me.  Once I convince myself to commit to a turn, however, it becomes apparent that it will ski with relative ease; the rocks are easily avoided, the surface corn not even sluffing on its perfectly consolidated base.   Once past the bottleneck of the entrance, smooth snow is available on one side or the other, and we all acquit ourselves well; Dana linking jump turns, Ron modeling a relaxed parallel, Regine carving perfect, round telemarks, and the snowboarders....well, the snowboarders are doing whatever it is that snowboarders do in such situations.  Somewhat mysteriously, they are lagging far behind again, and I scarcely see them at all except as tiny dots, hardly moving, far upslope.  A few other skiers come blasting through on randonné gear, managing to make this disadvantaged state, too, look well-favored and graceful.  
At the bottom of the debris apron we follow the Nisqually's lateral moraine, de-skiing at the obvious, boot-packed ramp and clambering back up to Glacier Vista.  We are well-rested indeed when our snowboarding contingent rejoins us at last, and under Ron's capable guidance we select the specific snow fingers by which, with just a single, quick carry, we ski to the trail near the parking lot.  There are crowds of people like unwashed barbarian hordes, but all are friendly, and we are brimming with the jubilation of a great tour, completed in agreeable company on a fine, summer day.  The huge Paradise parking lot is packed full; there are cars circling endlessly, waiting for parking spaces to open; there are whining children and feuding couples.  Such things do not concern me.  Life is good.  
Our snowboarder friends are eager for burgers, so four of us caravan to the Tall Timber Restaurant and Lounge, where Ron is apparently well-known and highly appreciated.  He and I try to outdo each other by issuing the most piteous possible groans each time we sit or stand, with the youngsters looking on quizzically; we assure them they will someday understand this phenomenon.  Ivo and Peter insist on paying for the burgers and liquid refreshments, and I extract from them a promise that I will someday be granted the opportunity to repay the favor.  Properly fortified with baconburgers and multiple cans of Rainier Beer, we go our separate ways.  
There are still several hours of full daylight remaining, and I will ski here again tomorrow, so I busy myself wandering around the northwest edges of the park, an area with which I am unfamiliar.  Just outside the park boundaries are the rudest kinds of steep-slope logging, with fat-tired 4x4 blasting up and down the gravel roads, the hills shaved bare, the bones of the landscape clearly visible.  Within the national park there is majestic old growth: huge firs, cedars and hemlocks standing silent and wise.  Walking in the twilight among their trunks I almost forget that these are the few which remain, the tattered remnants of one of the world's great forests.  The petty irritations of the world retreat, and shrink to appropriate dimensions; from the trees I am able to borrow a sense of proportion and a measure of dignity, and I feel myself relaxed and at peace.



(Ron has kindly posted photos from this trip at http://groups.msn.com/WildHeartsSkiing/nisquallychutes7603.msnw)

(Edit: I fixed the link - Charles)

Title: Re: July 6, 2003, Muir Snowfield/Nisqually Chute
Post by: ron j on 07/09/03, 07:09 AM
Nice report, Mark.
You lived up to your stellar reputation as one that creates a great read.
It seems only appropriate that you be granted the "one picture only" honors in giving others a preview of the visual part of our tour:

There's likely other shots floating around out there in Dana and Ivo's cameras.  I'll add them to the link above if the find their way my way or provide a link to them, as appropriate.

Title: Re: July 6, 2003, Muir Snowfield/Nisqually Chute
Post by: Mad_Dog on 07/09/03, 08:06 AM
Mark, nice report, sorry I missed the ski, and meeting you and the new kids on the block.  Heard through the grapevine that you passed the necessary test for "secrecy".   8)  Ivo and Peter, hope to see you in the future, and Dana see ya next year, I'm gonna try really hard to not be tied up for this particular ski  ;D  ;D  Did get lots of great bike riding in though, so all was not lost.  The ski pictures do make me smile!!  ;D

Title: Re: July 6, 2003, Muir Snowfield/Nisqually Chute
Post by: Charles on 07/09/03, 10:56 AM
Yes indeed, another great story - thanks Mark! Great photos, too, Ron.

I have a question about the text display, in Mark's post and occasionally in other posts: the spaces between most sentences and paragraphs show a " " character, at least to me, viewing from a Mac with IE5. Do others see this too?

My experience has been that this character often shows up when the poster composes in a text program, then copy/pastes into the TR posting window. It seems to be due to having too much space between sentences (or, that there is an invisible character), because it can be eliminated by editing the gap between sentences down to one space (space bar).

It's not a big deal, especially if most people don't see the character, but it is something to keep in mind.

Title: Re: July 6, 2003, Muir Snowfield/Nisqually Chute
Post by: Michael on 07/09/03, 01:45 PM
Hey Ron, Mark,

Corinne and I are actually the "phantom" skiers you saw skiing down on Sunday. Sorry, we did not stop on our way down...the ski was just too good and I wish there had been a lift to give us a second descent  :). We are french but are still usually not as rude and a bit more social then that :-).

Ron: thanks for the photo! I saw it on your site. It's pretty funny, I had read the various reports on TAY on Saturday and only once we were back at the parking lot I realized it was probably you guys that we saw up there. Well I guess we met "briefly" :-) Maybe some other time on similar snow?

Title: Re: July 6, 2003, Muir Snowfield/Nisqually Chute
Post by: markharf on 07/09/03, 06:59 PM
Thanks, Ron. You got some great action photos considering you were clinging by your fingernails to that icy precipice we were skiing at the time. Thanks also to Charles for repairing faulty links and suffering through the bizarre formatting. I don't know what the problem might be, especially as my own Mac (OS 9.2) and IE (5.1) do not show the superfluous symbols. Maybe we can run some tests? This reply, for example, is composed in MS Word with only one space between sentences. Better?

I hope to meet Corinne, Michael and certainly Mad Dog sooner rather than later. There's plenty of skiing left before the onset of bike-and-kayak season. In fact, it suddenly looks like I might not be headed for Mt. Hood this weekend...which suggests a Saturday trip to the Flett Glaciers or the SW Chutes on Adams.  



Title: Re: July 6, 2003, Muir Snowfield/Nisqually Chute
Post by: ron j on 07/10/03, 04:31 AM
Michael - I'm pleased and amused that you happened to see your picture in conjunction with Mark's TR.  The world's getting smaller by the hour. eh?
I sent you a higher resolution copy of the picture via email.
Hope to run into you again sometime in the mtns.  Next time, if I recognize you in time, I'll at least wave as you flash by  :-)

Mark - We'll be getting out again this weekend, most likely to one of the destinations you mentioned. And as far as I know, MadDog's frothin' at the mouth to go...

Title: Re: July 6, 2003, Muir Snowfield/Nisqually Chute
Post by: Charles on 07/10/03, 05:01 AM
Mark, there are none of those characters in your latest reply - thanks for testing. If anyone else sees those characters in Mark's original post, I'd be interested to know what OS and browser you are using.

Title: Re: July 6, 2003, Muir Snowfield/Nisqually Chute
Post by: ron j on 07/10/03, 05:16 AM
The only irregularities I see in the text of Mark's original post are two squares instead of the expected spaces.
The first is after the word "hitchhiker" in the second paragraph and the second is after the word "stop" (as in "rest stop") in the middle of the forth paragraph.
WinXp & IE6.

Title: Re: July 6, 2003, Muir Snowfield/Nisqually Chute
Post by: Paul_S on 07/10/03, 07:18 AM
Mark Once again an excellent report! A seemingly innocent tour is turned into the first chapter of of a 'Ken Keeseyesq" road trip novel! The reference to Bert Lahr rings a bell for this Roman Catholic boy from jersey, and is more then appropriate the free heelers in the group [sorry Ron, Mad Dog];  

First you get down on your knees
And fumble with your rosaries
Now bow your head in great respect
And you genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!

You can do the steps you want if
You have cleared them with the Pontif
Ava Maria, Gee we're glad to see ya
Doin' the Vatican,
Doin' the Vatican,
Doin' the Vatican R-a-a-a-a-g

I believe that Todd and I saw you guys in the chute,although it looked like Boarders from Anvil rock, but I could have been mistaken. It's on my to do list, if I get there in time this year.  8)


Title: Re: July 6, 2003, Muir Snowfield/Nisqually Chute
Post by: markharf on 07/10/03, 07:59 AM
Eh, Bert Lahr, Tom Lehrer....what's the difference?  


(Just wishing I'd thought of working "The Vatican Rag" into a trip report at some point)

Title: Re: July 6, 2003, Muir Snowfield/Nisqually Chute
Post by: David_Lowry on 07/10/03, 08:07 AM
I see it with Mac OS 9, Netscape Communicator 4.73.

I just assumed it was an expression of faith. ;D

Title: Re: July 6, 2003, Muir Snowfield/Nisqually Chute
Post by: Paul_S on 07/10/03, 11:39 AM
Hey Ya know what they say,with age the first thing to go is your memory, ah sight, er..... what was I saying?  ;D

Title: Re: July 6, 2003, Muir Snowfield/Nisqually Chute
Post by: Mad_Dog on 07/10/03, 12:22 PM
Paul, your eye sight wasn't tricking ya, there were a couple of boarders in Ron's group, Ivo from Florida and Peter, from, I think Bellevue, but then what would I know cause I wasn't there either.   ;D  ;D  ;D  Just remember, mom's always watching!!

Title: Re: July 6, 2003, Muir Snowfield/Nisqually Chute
Post by: Paul_S on 07/14/03, 06:26 AM
So early Saturday morning 6am or so, I'm barely conscious with NPR only slightly registering. The reporter is talking a new book about cutting edge comics of the 50's and 60's, next thing I hear is a rousing rendition of the Vatician Rag by Bert er... Tom Lehrer. Coincidence? Or strange premonition? :D


Title: Re: July 6, 2003, Muir Snowfield/Nisqually Chute
Post by: beaversmackdown on 07/24/03, 08:50 AM
CAN SOMEBODY TELL ME WHERE SOME GOOD SNOW IS?  I've read a lot of reports and I live over in Spokane and I really want to go snowboarding again.  I just got back from Skyline Divide and I want to try and avoid ice picks and all that.  Please Help Me!

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