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+  Turns All Year Trip Reports
|-+  2008 Backcountry Trip Reports
| |-+  June 2008 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  June 28-29, Mt Rainier, Fuhrer Finger
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Author Topic: June 28-29, Mt Rainier, Fuhrer Finger  (Read 2431 times)

Posts: 65

June 28-29, Mt Rainier, Fuhrer Finger
« on: 06/30/08, 12:57 PM »

I had been eyeing this line for a while. Ever since climbing the Emmons and walking back down (oh the horror), I had decided I needed to come back to Rainier and descend the mountain properly, on skis. After seeing all of the trip reports from folks skiing the Fuhrer Finger, I decided that it would be the way to do it. My friend Andrew was still trying for his first summit so I convinced him to skip the easy routes and bring his skis.

The weather forecast was stellar, but really too hot. Freezing levels were above 14K and the ranger informed us that the snow hadn't been freezing up very well. The lower Nisqually was an oven, though the occasional breeze helped. We skinned directly up the left side of the Nisqually. This worked great except for a small detour past some large crevasses where we pulled out the rope. We set up a snow bivy on the Wilson Glacier below the finger. We enjoyed crystal clear views of Adams, Hood and St Helens as we ate our dehydros.

We awoke at midnight. The snow was still soft and bolts of lightning occasionally illuminated the skies over Oregon. Hmm. We decided to go check out the route, hoping it had firmed up higher on the mountain. As we entered the Finger, things were eerily quite. No artillery barrage of falling rocks. The snow hadn't frozen up very well, so we put in a bootrack up the couloir. Tiring work with skis on the pack!

Five or six parties attempted the route on Sunday, and one of them graciously finished up the bootpack to 11K, where the snow became firm. At 12K we hit the major routefinding challenge. Cross a moat/crevasse and ascend snow and loose rock to gain the cleaver, or brave a rightward traverse through a broken-up section onto the upper Nisqually. We chose the Nisqually, which ended up being a fun, spectacular variation. We heard constant shouts of "rock!" from the multiple parties ascending the cleaver, affirming our choice. The Nisqually did involve crossing a few crevasses and ascending a 5 foot bulge of vertical ice. The rest of the climb was just the usual Rainier slog, including the crater rocks that never actually get any closer.

We tagged the summit and rested in the crater for a while to let our legs and lungs recharge. We headed down around noon. This was later than we had hoped for, and we were a bit nervous about the snow conditions in the Finger. But the first thing was to ski off the summit. Much to our delight, the upper slopes were covered in corn! Below, the Wapowety Cleaver was a nightmare of neve penitentes and mushy snow with crevasses below. We booted down for probably one thousand vert. Skis went back on at 12000'. The snow at the top of the couloir was probably 6-8" of slush. We approached it very cautiously. A few vigorous turns set off a hissing sluff that ran the full length of the Finger, about fifteen hundred feet. The bed surface actually yielded fun, steep, predictable skiing. Occasionally we'd venture off to the sides that hadn't slid yet, but that always caused a fresh sluff. The best turns of the day may have been on the large apron below the couloir - huge GS turns in soft corn!

We quickly packed up camp and continued the descent. The steep sections between the Wilson and the Nisqually were fun; the low angle stuff was sticky. We were back at the car drinking cold beer and admiring our line by 4pm. This is a fun route - a good climb and a great ski. We lucked out on the complete lack of rockfall -- no way you could expect that on such a warm weekend.

The route is still in pretty good shape. Rocks have fallen on the lower finger but can be avoided. The exit of the couloir chokes down to about 20 feet now. The section from 12K-13K presents challenges going up and down. But generally the route is still quite skiable.

Pictures: 1. ascending past ice blocks on the Nisqually at 12K, 2. Andrew skiing the Finger, and 3. the Finger post-sluff, with the Wilson below.

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* IMG_2265.JPG (34.16 KB, 640x480 - viewed 599 times.)

* IMG_2269.JPG (60.64 KB, 640x480 - viewed 601 times.)
« Last Edit: 06/30/08, 01:25 PM by fresh » Logged

Posts: 926

Re: June 28-29, Mt Rainier, Fuhrer Finger
« Reply #1 on: 06/30/08, 01:10 PM »

Nice job.  I like your pic with the Wilson below.

"The mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals; the houses where I practice my religion." - Anatoli Boukreev

Posts: 2434

Re: June 28-29, Mt Rainier, Fuhrer Finger
« Reply #2 on: 07/02/08, 05:33 PM »

Just realized this was you, Doug -- nice job!  Good choices on the descent, sounds like, re: sluff control and downclimbing.
Nate R

Posts: 60

Re: June 28-29, Mt Rainier, Fuhrer Finger
« Reply #3 on: 07/02/08, 05:40 PM »

Ditto -- hadn't made the connection until now.  Nice work, Doug!! 

Posts: 65

Re: June 28-29, Mt Rainier, Fuhrer Finger
« Reply #4 on: 07/02/08, 07:37 PM »

Thanks guys! I thought it was a pretty cool route. A good challenge but never too scary. Though I was definitely nervous about the sloppy snow on the ski down. Luckily the sluffing in the Finger was fairly predictable and limited to the surface layer of snow -- none of the wet slab issues from last week that were very apparent all over the Nisqually, Wilson and Turtle...
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