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Author Topic: May 2-4, 2015, Rainier, Turtle x2 + Cowlitz CORN!  (Read 4435 times)
Amar Andalkar
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May 2-4, 2015, Rainier, Turtle x2 + Cowlitz CORN!
« on: 05/06/15, 05:32 PM »

Tickling the tail of a sleeping dragon, and then skiing down in epic corn!


Five-shot vertical panorama from Camp Hazard looking up at my skintrack and ski tracks in corn just above 11600 ft. (click for double-size version)


May 2, 2015, Mount Rainier, The Turtle and Wilson Glacier
May 3, 2015, Mount Rainier, The Turtle and Wilson Glacier
May 4, 2015, Mount Rainier, Camp Muir, Cowlitz, and Paradise Glaciers

Summary: Skied two of the best runs of my life (yes, it really felt that way as I skied down!) on Mount Rainier in amazing smooth corn conditions May 2 and 3, both times starting from the very top of the Turtle at Camp Hazard (11600 ft) directly beneath the towering Kautz Ice Cliff, and extending all the way down the edge of Wilson Glacier and across the Nisqually Glacier. Just exceptional corn snow conditions given how few days had elapsed for consolidation since heavy snowfall a week earlier. The snow surface softened nicely to over 11600 ft despite freezing levels of only 9000-9500 ft due to strong sunshine and light winds, and almost no glop was encountered at low elevations either by properly timing the descent for the re-firming snow of late afternoon near 5pm. On the first day I put in a skintrack all the way up the Turtle for a continuous ski ascent to Camp Hazard at 11600 ft, and then skied down at 4:30pm in mostly mind-blowing smooth corn conditions, carving huge high-speed arcs down the rolling fall-line terrain for thousands upon thousands of feet.



It was so good that I had to go back again the next day all the way from Seattle, this time finding 3 excellent partners (Khanh Quach, Tim Byrnes, Mike McCarthy) to join me. It was almost identical weather and snow conditions once again, another fantastic day made even better by the fine company. About 6700 vertical feet of total gain each day to reach Camp Hazard and return to Paradise, the same as skiing Mount Adams in a day from Cold Springs.



Went back to Rainier again solo on Monday, May 4, to catch the last day of the sunny high pressure as an incoming storm system moved ashore. Made it to Camp Muir through occasional incipient clouds and whiteout and gusty westerly winds over 50 mph, to find sunny skies and still amazing smooth untracked corn on the leeward-facing wind-protected upper Cowlitz Glacier and then all the way down the Paradise Glacier to 7000 ft, exiting back to Paradise via Golden Gate. Over 18000 vert of mostly awesome corn in 3 days, what a great way to start off May! The "worst ski season ever" continues to deliver some of the most amazing ski conditions one could ever ask for!!

And realistically, I do realize in hindsight that these 2 runs down the Turtle are perhaps only among the best 50 or so runs of my life. But I've also been very fortunate to have skied a lot of truly great runs in amazing snow conditions over the last 19 years of ski mountaineering (including several comparably great runs earlier this year in February from the summits of Shasta, Shastina, and Lassen), and that really shouldn't count against how awesome these 2 runs were.


May 2: Turtle to Camp Hazard

The Turtle is a prominent smooth-looking snowfield and glacial remnant on the south side of Mount Rainier, which extends from about 9500 ft at the western edge of Wilson Glacier and above the Van Trump Glaciers, up to Camp Hazard located at 11600 ft directly beneath the towering Kautz Ice Cliff. The Turtle is quite similar to the Muir Snowfield, in that it looks like a benign snowfield much of the year, but is actually a barely-active glacier with blue ice and crevasses visible by late summer. The stunning new high-resolution elevation data available in the Google Maps terrain layer for Rainier (and many other mountain locations over the past couple of years) makes the extent of the Turtle's glacial ice from about 9800-10800 ft obvious, and even shows a few crevasses.


Hybrid Google terrain / USGS topo map centered on the Turtle: http://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=46.83,-121.76&z=15&b=ter&o=t&n=0.25
(opacity of the topo overlay is adjustable using the drop-down menu at upper right)


Yet the Turtle is significantly steeper than the Muir Snowfield with slopes reaching 35-40 in spots, and Camp Hazard marks the highest point that one can ski from on Mount Rainier without real glacier travel, if one approaches from the Comet Falls trailhead (3600 ft) via Van Trump Park. However, the standard approach is from Paradise which starts 1800 feet higher, dropping down from Glacier Vista at 6350 ft and crossing the Nisqually Glacier and then up the western edge of Wilson Glacier. With basically no snowpack below 5000 ft this year, that approach is overwhelmingly preferable on skis right now.


(This image was created in reply to someone's question last year in the January 2014 thread, asking what the Turtle is.)

Somewhat accidentally I ended up heading for the Turtle solo on Saturday May 2, as I'd been planning to ski the Cowlitz Glacier again from above Ingraham Flats at 11300 ft, which I had skied only 2 days earlier on April 30 in amazing corn conditions. But instead I was drawn in another direction, as I hadn't yet been over to the Turtle this year, not since skiing it twice from 10500 ft down to Nisqually Bridge during the outstanding January 2014 corn-snow cycle. Got a late start near 10:30am after talking with way too many people in the Paradise parking lot, skinning up on barely 1-2 ft of snow remaining beside the lot, melting very fast. The official snowdepth at the NPS Paradise snow stake on May 1, 2015, was only 62", the 5th lowest on record over 90+ years of data back to 1917, ahead of only 1941 (36"), 1926 (49"), 1934 and 2005 (both 54").



From Glacier Vista, I could see a party of 2 far ahead on the Wilson Glacier, and another party of 4 trailing them across the Nisqually, so I wouldn't have to forge my own path the whole way out there. I could also see a major cluster occurring over on Panorama Face, as a half-dozen sled-pulling climbers very precariously descended the still-frozen face while dozens of skiers and hikers ascended directly below them, really quite foolish of the sled-pullers to endanger so many others on a busy weekend, when they could have returned to Paradise by some other much less-travelled and less-steep route (maybe Edith Creek Basin). Yet another reason to not ascend via Pan Face on busy days or when the snow is firm.


Three-shot panorama from Glacier Vista showing the entire route out to the Turtle across the Nisqually and Wilson Glaciers. (click for double-size version)


Skied down the still-frozen 150 ft west-facing slope below Glacier Vista and skinned up beside Nisqually Moraine to the edge of the glacier. I was suddenly shocked to see 2 skiers descending and traversing across the Nisqually towards me, had someone already turned around by 11am? Nope, instead it was a pleasant surprise to see a couple of skiers (Peter and Christina) that I had last seen less than 48 hours earlier at 11300 ft on Ingraham Glacier. I had chatted with them briefly before they set off towards the Emmons Glacier on the first day of their ski circumnavigation, then I skied down the other direction towards the Cowlitz. And here they were all done in well under 3 days, having camped at Curtis Ridge and then Success Cleaver on their only 2 nights out, quite an exceptional effort by a very fast and skilled pair, congrats! They reported some sketchy conditions in spots as expected this year, with the crux being the descent off Puyallup Cleaver onto the Tahoma Glacier, and other major issues negotiating the Emmons to Camp Schurman and dropping from Ptarmigan Ridge onto the North Mowich Glacier. Maybe they'll post a report someplace.



Then onward across the Nisqually and up Wilson Gully following earlier parties' tracks, the crevasse situation is far worse in this area than a normal early-May with numerous small open cracks, but nothing looked to be hazardous at least on skis. The same can't be said of the adjacent ice cliffs at the junction of the Nisqually and Wilson Glaciers, which continue to dump chunks of ice (including dark brown chunks of ash- and rock-infused ice) very close to the ascent route, as they have for the past several years now. Definitely a place to not linger too close to the right side of the gully and move quickly until reaching the safety of the flats at 7400 ft.


Four-shot panorama looking up Wilson Gully at the skintrack and the circumnavigators' ski tracks, with the threatening ice cliff above the gully and some spectacular seracs of the Nisqually Glacier at right. (click for double-size version)


Then I decided to put in my own track after reaching the saddle at 7700 ft, to avoid the long steep sidehill traverse along the edge of Wilson Glacier which I always dislike. The other option which I usually like better is to angle into the bowl west of the ridge which holds a small unnamed glacial remnant extending above a very tall terminal moraine, then rejoin the ridge near 8100 ft, but due to thin snowpack at the ridge this year that way ended up having its own sketchy steep spot to traverse, although only for a couple of ski lengths. Six of one, half dozen of the other, no real advantage to either route at this time.


Three-shot panorama looking down the small unnamed glacial remnant and its very tall terminal moraine. (click for double-size version)


I skinned along the very scenic ridge dividing the Wilson Glacier from the Van Trump area, and eventually caught up to the highest pair of skiers by 8600 ft, whom I knew from teaching the glacier skiing / crevasse rescue course. Skinned with them for an hour, it was nice to have some company and conversation.



They turned around near 9800 ft and then I was all alone again, putting in a switchbacking skintrack all the way up the left edge of the Turtle, with only traces of an older skintrack from earlier in the week visible in spots. Ski crampons were definitely helpful and certainly made the task way less stressful and less effort, although the snow had softened enough that they might not have been essential for those with mad skinning skills. I had no particular plan on how high I would go this day, but decided to continue until the snow was no longer softened, which I figured would happen by 10500 or 11000 ft given the freezing level of 9000 ft. A few puffy fair-weather cumulus clouds were building by midday, but as I climbed higher it became obvious that they were partly capped by upper-level high pressure which prevented free convection above about 10000 ft, so soon I was above all the clouds.


Two-shot panorama looking up from 9700 ft on the Turtle, with innocent-looking avy debris on the right side, actually fallen glacial ice from the Kautz Ice Cliff over 2000 ft above. Wilson Headwall and Fuhrer Thumb at right. (click for double-size version)


One particular hazard unique to this location is readily apparent after gaining the Turtle at 9500 ft: as almost always, the right side of the slope is littered with chunks of glacial ice, which might at first look like just any old avy debris to the undiscerning eye, but upon closer inspection reveal their true nature, some are milky white glacial ice, others brilliant blue from deep within the core of a glacier. And a glance upward reveals their obvious source: the Kautz Ice Cliff near 12000 ft, a 200-300 ft high sheer face of ice where the upper Kautz Glacier is cleft into two lobes by the western edge of Wapowety Cleaver, one forming the main Kautz Ice Chute to the west of the cleaver, and the other spilling over the edge of the Cleaver onto the left side of Wilson Headwall and the right side of the Turtle, sweeping these areas with frequent massive serac-fall avalanches of vehicle-sized glacial ice chunks. A large deposit of such debris extends down to 9800 ft on the right side of the Turtle, partially covered by more recent snowfall, and scattered chunks up to several feet across are found significantly farther left of the main deposit. So it's crucial to be heads up, and keep the ascent route as far left as is practical in order to minimize exposure to this very severe (but low-probability) objective hazard.


Zoomed view of the Kautz Ice Cliff from about 9500 ft at the bottom of the Turtle.

Surprisingly, the snow stayed mostly nicely softened (except short icier patches) even above 11000 ft for easy skinning, with strong sunshine and nearly calm wind certainly helping a lot. The last "safe" areas and the highest recommended camp sites are at 11200 ft along the left edge, where the crossover onto the Kautz Glacier summit route goes.


The crossover onto the Kautz Glacier summit route at 11200 ft, with fixed ropes leading to the top of the rock step.

I headed over there to check the Kautz route out, the 20 ft high rock step which has a fixed rope installed is almost completely snow-filled, with only a 4-6 ft high step above the snow now. The snow coverage is much better at that rock step than on 2 of my 3 previous summit ski descents via the Kautz (May 2008 was totally bare, click image icons to view pics since the TAY thumbnailing script is still broken!!, July 2010 was fully filled-in, and July 2012 totally bare). Overall, the route looks to be in great shape for a ski descent at this time, but the snow coverage on the 2 crux ice pitches of the Kautz Ice Chute (60+ ice when bare, 50+ snow when covered) looks thin in spots. However, that snow coverage often changes a lot during spring, as spring snowstorms often fill in the pitches much better, while a week or two of warm sunshine can rapidly diminish the cover and reveal the glacial ice underneath.


Four-shot grid panorama looking up the Kautz Glacier route from the crossover at 11200 ft. (click for double-size version)


Above 11200 ft, there is less safety from the risk of icefall, and I've usually only skied from that point (or lower) during several previous ski trips to the Turtle. As far as I can recall or find in my notes, I hadn't actually been to Camp Hazard itself since a failed summit attempt on foot in August 1999, and had only been as high as 11500 ft one other time, where the snow ended in May 2010. So this time I decided to continue all the way up, and take my chances with the very slight risk of a potentially-fatal icefall happening during those minutes. Although Camp Hazard is named for Joseph Hazard, an early guide on the Mountain in the 1920s, the name has become more and more apt over the subsequent decades as changes in the Kautz Ice Cliff have increased the icefall hazard in the camp itself, and the Park Service no longer recommends camping there.


The crux constriction near 11550 ft, photo taken the next day showing my skintrack.

The crux of the entire route for skinning was a narrow steep constriction near 11550 ft, just a few feet wide and partly covered in rime ice, which I made it past with a bit of fancy footwork -- it would have been very easy with even a bit more snow. I arrived at Camp Hazard in glorious sunshine and near-calm winds, and spent a while skinning and walking around the flat areas of the camp, a few dozen yards across, while taking numerous photos in all directions (some of the 340 photos on the day), but especially looking up towards the looming Ice Cliff.


Ten-shot grid panorama from Camp Hazard at 11600 ft, looking at the Kautz Glacier, Ice Chute, and Ice Cliff. It's kind of amazing that Photoshop managed to stitch this so nicely. (click for double-size version)


Continued in next post, exceeded 20,000 character limit . . .

« Last Edit: 05/06/15, 11:11 PM by Amar Andalkar » Logged

Amar Andalkar
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Re: May 2-4, 2015, Rainier, Turtle x2 + Cowlitz CORN!
« Reply #1 on: 05/06/15, 05:33 PM »

Continued from previous post . . .

I was tempted to continue up even higher, as a snow ramp on the right went up another 60-80 ft to a flat bench even closer to the base of the Ice Cliff. But that slope was littered with copious chunks of fallen ice, much of it bright blue, while the flat portions of the camp had no evidence of any recent icefall whatsoever. Regardless, it felt like I was already "tickling the tail of a sleeping dragon" (to borrow Feynman's famous expression about experimenting with plutonium pits) by just standing where I was in Camp Hazard, and I suppressed any notion of skinning up that final slope above camp to get an even closer look at the Ice Cliff. I did however skin across to the north end of camp and up a small slope partially protected by rock outcrops, to transition at and ski from the highest snow not littered with fallen glacial ice, about 30 ft higher than the camp.


Four-shot vertical panorama looking down at Camp Hazard and my skintrack from my high point just above 11600 ft. (click for double-size version)



Five-shot vertical panorama from Camp Hazard looking up at my skintrack and ski tracks in corn just above 11600 ft. (click for double-size version)


I skied down at 4:30pm, initially back down the short slope to Camp Hazard and then angling eastward into the hazardous fallen-ice slope in order to avoid having to straight-line it through the crux constriction I had skinned up. That slope held smoother snow too, in between the numerous outcropping chunks of blue glacial ice, which certainly made it an interesting and highly unusual snow surface to be descending.



And then I quickly angled back westward as soon as possible below the constriction, back to the comparative safety of the westerly ice-chunk-free side of the Turtle. The snow got better and better, smoother and smoother, with every sweeping turn down the open face, over the first steep rollover, and the next. Just incredible snow conditions, and I was beyond stoked.




Two-shot panorama looking up from 9700 ft on the Turtle, with my switchbacking skintrack and ski tracks in the smooth corn. Wilson Headwall and Fuhrer Thumb at right. (click for double-size version)


As I neared the bottom of the Turtle, I angled right (west) away from the ascent route and onto the upper portions of the Van Trump side, which still faced the sun directly and held more exceptionally smooth corn snow.


Two-shot panorama looking up from 9300 ft on the Van Trump side of the ridge, with my ski tracks and a few others in the smooth corn. (click for double-size version)


I stopped to chat with some skiers camped at 9400 ft heading for the Finger the next day, whom I had spoken with at Paradise in the morning, then continued down the slope in big sweeping arcs, eventually angling back left to intersect the ascent route on the ridge at 8600 ft. I realized partway down this slope that this really might be one of the best ski runs of my life.


Five-shot panorama looking up from 8500 ft on the ridge between Van Trump and Wilson Glacier, with my ski tracks and a few others in the smooth corn. Nisqually Glacier and Muir Snowfield at far right. (click for double-size version)


Then I dropped straight down off the ridge onto the Wilson Glacier, its SE aspect now catching only glancing sunlight near 5pm and re-firming nicely into more near-perfect corn snow.


Two-shot panorama of my ski tracks and a few others in the smooth corn of Wilson Glacier. (click for double-size version)


Outstanding skiing conditions now on a slope that had clearly been a bit too soft earlier in the afternoon, with a moderate-size wet sluff set off by some other skier that ran several hundred vertical feet.


Three-shot panorama of ski tracks and a wet sluff on the Wilson Glacier. (click for double-size version)


A few small areas on the lower portion of that steep slope near 7500 ft were the only places where ski penetration was more than a few inches below the surface for me all day.


Four-shot panorama from 7400 ft on the Wilson Glacier near the active ice cliff. (click for double-size version)


A short section of the next steep slope down Wilson Gully had been thrashed by a handful of skiers in way-too-soft conditions hours earlier, cutting deep trenches and mostly obliterating the tightly-switchbacking skintrack in the process too. I stuck to smoother snow along the edges as much as possible, but opening crevasses along the edge forced one down into the thrashed gut for part of the way.


Two-shot panorama of my ski tracks and a few others crossing the smooth corn of Nisqually Glacier. (click for double-size version)


Then more nice turns on re-firming snow onto the Nisqually Glacier, and a fairly quick glide across it too, with thousands of glacier ice worms out on the snow surface. With the right choice of line it was possible to avoid almost all uphill travel across the glacier and moraine until the final short 150 ft ascent back to Glacier Vista.


Three-shot panorama of the Nisqually Glacier and moraine from the ascent back up to Glacier Vista. (click for double-size version)


Even the ski down the stampede path to Paradise wasn't that bad, with fast travel on firm-enough snow, especially straightlining down the most deeply travelled stampede trench. On the way home, I had to stop in Longmire and take a few photos from the excellent viewpoint on the far side of the suspension bridge, zoomed in on the Kautz Ice Chute and Ice Cliff.




Zoomed view from Longmire looking at the Kautz Glacier, Ice Chute, and Ice Cliff above the top of the Turtle. (click for double-size version)



May 3: Turtle Times Two

Given how amazing the snow conditions had been, I knew as I drove home that I wanted to head back to the Turtle again the next day, especially with a skintrack in place all the way up. I'd already talked to several partners about skiing the Cowlitz on Sunday, but easily convinced them to join me on the Turtle instead after gushing about how great it was. So I headed back to Rainier the next day with Khanh, Tim, and MikeM, none of whom had ever skied the Turtle before.



We got an earlier start by about an hour in the morning leaving before 9:30am, which worked out nicely for timing as temperatures at lower elevations were several degrees warmer than the previous day.



In general the weather and snow conditions were very similar to Saturday, with winds definitely a bit breezier, and perhaps a few more fair-weather clouds forming and drifting by at times. The skin track was still in good shape, making for easy progress although ski crampons were still helpful from 7500-8000 ft and again above 9500 ft.



A few other skiers had skied the lower portions of the Turtle much earlier in the day (before even 11am for one?!?), putting in another much shallower skintrack in places, but with only a couple more shallow ski tracks the snow surface was still smooth and mostly untracked. We had also seen a handful of skiers descending Fuhrer Finger in mid-afternoon, among the nearly dozen that I had spoken with the previous day intent on trying the route.





We arrived at Camp Hazard just after 3:30pm in bright sunshine with a cool 10-15 mph breeze. Felt very strange to be back in the same spectacularly-perched but unsettlingly-hazardous spot for the 2nd time in 2 days, after a previous 16-year absence.



We hung out for a while on the safest portion of the camp farthest from the icefall hazard, and got ready to ski down a bit after 4pm.


Two-shot panorama of Camp Hazard and the Kautz Ice Cliff. (click for double-size version)


Then it was pretty much a repeat of the previous day on the ski descent, except with 4 times the fun! Snow conditions were once again near-perfect, smooth corn down the Turtle after the initial ice-chunk slalom.





Then over to the Van Trump side for the best turns of the day, and back over to Wilson Glacier for another stretch of exceptionally smooth snow. My partners were totally stoked, and I was once again too.









The lower portions near 7500 ft were softer than the previous day however, and it was easy to trench about a foot deep for a short section before the snow improved again lower down as we reached the Nisqually Glacier.


That dark brownish-black stuff is actually glacial ice, suffused with a large quantity of volcanic ash and pulverized rock.


Three-shot panorama skiing the smooth corn of Nisqually Glacier. (click for double-size version)


We took our time crossing the Nisqually, taking some scenic photos along an unusual ridge of sawtooth-like ice pinnacles projecting longitudinally above the rest of the glacier's surface. Very unusual glacier formations for a very unusual year.


Three-shot panorama of the Nisqually Glacier showing the unusual ridge of sawtooth-like ice pinnacles. (click for double-size version)


Another easy skin back up to Glacier Vista and another easy cruise down to Paradise, barely still skiable to the main parking lot.



We stopped in Eatonville for a huge amount of Mexican food on the way home, followed by the awesome sight of the full moon rising above the Mountain along SR 161 farther north. Sadly our photographic equipment was not up to the task of properly capturing the stunning view, maybe the only thing that didn't turn out great this day.



Another outstanding ski day in the superb spring of 2015, great company and equally good snow conditions made this an even better day than the previous one.

Here is Khanh's nice video of the day: https://vimeo.com/126878655

« Last Edit: 05/06/15, 08:01 PM by Amar Andalkar » Logged

Amar Andalkar
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Re: May 2-4, 2015, Rainier, Turtle x2 + Cowlitz CORN!
« Reply #2 on: 05/06/15, 05:33 PM »

May 4: Muir, Cowlitz, and Paradise Glaciers

Given 13400 vert of skinning and skiing over the previous 2 days including well over 3000 ft of putting in new skintrack, I was pretty tired by the time I got home to Seattle around 10pm Sunday evening. But the next day Monday looked like the last nice sunny day in the present corn cycle before a cold storm system arrived to throw a wrench in the mix, with several inches of snow expected at snow levels down to 3000 ft by Tuesday, along with thunderstorms in the afternoon, and bad weather continuing into Wednesday. So I really had to motivate and ski. The incoming weather demanded an early start, with the UW model predicting winds increasing steadily hour-by-hour and clouds building by 2pm, but my need for sleep and rest prevented that, and it was well after 10am before I was skinning up from Paradise the next day, joined by Eric who was planning to head for Paradise Glacier. A morning glance at telemetry showed winds gusting over 30 mph at Camp Muir, not bad yet at all, and it was gloriously nice in the parking lot, but things would worsen quickly as forecast.



An incipient lenticular cloud, lacy and ever-changing, formed atop the summit by noon as we approached 7500 ft, and soon the westerly winds increased and other incipient clouds began to form at lower elevations and stream eastward across the raised ridge of the Muir Snowfield. We continued upward in occasional whiteout interspersed with clear sunshine, hampered a bit by the lack of even a single decent skintrack anywhere amongst the hundreds of sets of postholes and boot tracks from the weekend hordes scarring the entire snow surface everywhere near the route. Eric headed over to the Paradise Glacier around 8600 ft, but I was determined to get to Muir and ski the Cowlitz to join the Paradise. And despite the ominously building clouds, I had a sense that the weather might be clearer at Muir and on the Cowlitz, protected from the mid-level westerly flow which was building clouds from 8000-9000 ft.



That turned out to be right, as I eventually skinned up above any more whiteouts and into sustained clear skies for the last stretch to Muir, in a strong 30-40 mph wind with an occasional gust of 50+. Arrived at Camp Muir just before 2pm as the last of the weekend climbers were leaving, and switched over in the calm interior of the public shelter. As expected, the Cowlitz was staying completely clear and cloud-free despite a jumble of clouds below 9000-9500 ft obscuring much of the Muir Snowfield. It was time to ski some more corn.



The initial gentle north-facing slope heading from Muir onto the Cowlitz was frozen as expected, but things softened nicely as I traversed to the far side of the glacier and onto southeast aspects which had gotten much more direct sun.


Four-shot panorama of the upper Cowlitz Glacier with Camp Muir at right. (click for double-size version)


Surprisingly there were only a couple more new ski tracks since I had last been there 4 days earlier, and almost the entire glacier was still gloriously untracked, in sharp contrast to the hundreds of sets of ski tracks and boot tracks covering all portions of the Snowfield. Just more awesome GS turns in smooth fast corn!


Three-shot panorama of ski tracks in smooth corn below Anvil Rock on the upper Cowlitz Glacier. (click for double-size version)


The angling traverse under Anvil Rock to the Paradise Glacier took me closer to the clouds billowing and streaming overhead from the Snowfield, but I never ended up very close to being in the clouds or whited out at all. Snow conditions were equally great on the Paradise, with perhaps a couple dozen tracks on the entire glacier, not nearly enough to prevent skiing on mostly smooth untracked snow the whole way down. The usual mile-long crevasse near 8000 ft is starting to open up quickly, as it was a barely visible sag a week ago, and greater caution will be needed in this part of the Paradise from now on to avoid an unpleasant encounter with it.


Five-shot panorama of the long crevasse opening up on Paradise Glacier near 8000 ft, with Little Tahoma at far left. (click for double-size version)


Snow conditions deteriorated below 7000 ft on the steep face down into the lower valley, the only real glop I had skied over the whole 3-day period. Exited up and out the right side to Golden Gate and down Edith Creek Basin to Paradise, mostly in deep mush trenching a foot deep at times. But that was a small price to pay to sneak in one more day of glorious corn in the sunshine before the incoming storm. And just maybe, with sunshine and high pressure again forecast by Thursday after the storm system exits and then lasting through the weekend, we might even have another great corn cycle on the way.



« Last Edit: 05/06/15, 06:17 PM by Amar Andalkar » Logged

Amar Andalkar
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Re: May 2-4, 2015, Rainier, Turtle x2 + Cowlitz CORN!
« Reply #3 on: 05/06/15, 05:34 PM »

MOUNT RAINIER RECREATIONAL FORECAST
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SEATTLE WA
348 AM PDT SAT MAY 2 2015

SYNOPSIS...HIGH PRESSURE OVER THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST WILL PRODUCE DRY AND WARMER WEATHER THIS WEEKEND. A FRONT WILL APPROACH THE REGION MONDAY WITH INCREASING CLOUDS. LOW PRESSURE WILL BRING SHOWERS AND COOLER TEMPERATURES MONDAY NIGHT THROUGH WEDNESDAY. MOUNTAIN SHOWERS WILL LINGER THROUGH FRIDAY BUT IT WILL REMAIN MOSTLY DRY ACROSS THE LOWLANDS.

SATURDAY...SUNNY. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 8000 FEET.
SATURDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLEAR. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 9000 FEET.
SUNDAY...SUNNY. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 9000 FEET.
SUNDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLEAR. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 9500 FEET.
MONDAY...SUNNY. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 9000 FEET.

TEMPERATURE AND WIND FORECASTS FOR SELECTED LOCATIONS.

                       SAT    SAT    SUN    SUN    MON
                            NIGHT         NIGHT

SUMMIT   (14411 FT)      9      8     10     11      9
                     NW 25   W 20   W 20  SW 35  SW 55

CAMP MUIR(10188 FT)     27     28     27     29     24
                     NW 10   W  5   S 10  SW 20  SW 25

PARADISE  (5420 FT)     55     38     58     38     54
                     SW  5   N  5   W  5  NW  5   W 10

LONGMIRE  (2700 FT)     63     41     66     41     62
                      CALM   CALM   CALM   CALM   CALM

++ TEMPERATURES AND WIND FOR THE SUMMIT AND CAMP MUIR ARE AVERAGE
   CONDITIONS EXPECTED IN THE FREE AIR AT THOSE ELEVATIONS.
++ TEMPERATURES FOR PARADISE AND LONGMIRE ARE THE EXPECTED HIGHS AND
   LOWS. WIND IS THE AVERAGE WIND EXPECTED DURING THAT PERIOD.

EXTENDED FORECAST...

MONDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF RAIN AND SNOW SHOWERS. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 7000 FEET.
TUESDAY...RAIN AND SNOW SHOWERS LIKELY. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 3500 FEET.
TUESDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF RAIN AND SNOW SHOWERS. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 3500 FEET.
WEDNESDAY...CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF RAIN AND SNOW SHOWERS. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 3500 FEET.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF RAIN AND SNOW SHOWERS. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 5000 FEET.
THURSDAY...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF RAIN AND SNOW SHOWERS. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 4000 FEET.
THURSDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF RAIN AND SNOW SHOWERS. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 5500 FEET.
FRIDAY...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF RAIN AND SNOW SHOWERS. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 6500 FEET.


The forecast hadn't changed much through Monday early AM, but Monday's weather and wind came in stronger than expected, so the NWS issued a rare late-morning update:

MOUNT RAINIER RECREATIONAL FORECAST...UPDATED
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SEATTLE WA
1126 AM PDT MON MAY 4 2015

SYNOPSIS...A WEAK COLD FRONT WILL MOVE ACROSS THE AREA TODAY. THE MAIN IMPACTS WILL BE INCREASED WIND ACROSS THE HIGHER SLOPES AND CLOUDS. THE UPPER LOW OFF THE COAST WILL MOVE OVER THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST TONIGHT AND REMAIN ON TUESDAY. ANTICIPATE UNSETTLED CONDITIONS MONDAY NIGHT AND TUESDAY...ALONG WITH A RISK OF THUNDERSTORMS. THE LOW WILL MOVE EAST OF THE AREA ON WEDNESDAY.

TODAY...WINDY ACROSS THE HIGHER SLOPES. BECOMING PARTLY SUNNY. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 9000 FEET.
TONIGHT...WINDY ACROSS THE HIGHER SLOPES. SHOWERS LIKELY. SNOW LEVEL LOWERING TO NEAR 4000 FEET.
TUESDAY...SHOWERS. A SLIGHT CHANCE OF THUNDERSTORMS. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 3000 FEET.
TUESDAY NIGHT...SHOWERS LIKELY. A SLIGHT CHANCE OF EVENING THUNDERSTORMS. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 3500 FEET.
WEDNESDAY...CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF SHOWERS. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 3000 FEET.

TEMPERATURE AND WIND FORECASTS FOR SELECTED LOCATIONS.

                     TODAY  TONIGHT  TUE    TUE    WED
                                          NIGHT

SUMMIT   (14411 FT)      9      4     -7     -5     -4
                     SW 75  SW 75   W 25  NW 15   N 20

CAMP MUIR(10188 FT)     28     13     15      6     15
                     SW 45   W 35   W 25  NW  5   N  5

PARADISE  (5420 FT)     55     30     37     28     38
                      W 10   W 15   W 15   W  5   W  5

LONGMIRE  (2700 FT)     63     37     45     35     48
                      CALM   CALM   CALM   CALM   CALM

++ TEMPERATURES AND WIND FOR THE SUMMIT AND CAMP MUIR ARE AVERAGE
   CONDITIONS EXPECTED IN THE FREE AIR AT THOSE ELEVATIONS.
++ TEMPERATURES FOR PARADISE AND LONGMIRE ARE THE EXPECTED HIGHS AND
   LOWS. WIND IS THE AVERAGE WIND EXPECTED DURING THAT PERIOD.

EXTENDED FORECAST...
WEDNESDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF SHOWERS. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 4500 FEET.
THURSDAY...PARTLY SUNNY. FREEZING LEVEL RISING TO NEAR 7500 FEET.
THURSDAY NIGHT...PARTLY CLOUDY. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 8500 FEET.
FRIDAY...MOSTLY SUNNY. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 9000 FEET.
FRIDAY NIGHT...PARTLY CLOUDY. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 9500 FEET.
SATURDAY...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF SHOWERS. SNOW LEVEL LOWERING TO NEAR 7000 FEET.
SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF SHOWERS. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 6500 FEET.


Telemetry over this 3-day period, in particular note how calm the winds were at 10000 ft on May 2, still fairly light on May 3, and how strong they had become by 2pm (1300 PST) on May 4 when I reached Camp Muir, sustained over 50 mph with gusts well over 60 mph:

Northwest Avalanche Center                                                Northwest Avalanche Center
Paradise, Mt Rainier National Park, Washington                            Camp Muir, Mt Rainier National Park, Washington

Total snow sensor readings unsteady                                       Wind gages unheated and may rime

 MM/DD  Hour  Temp    RH  Wind  Wind  Wind  Hour Total 24 Hr Total Solar    MM/DD   Hour   Temp     RH   Wind   Wind   Wind   Wind  Solar
         PST     F     %   Avg   Max   Dir Prec. Prec.  Snow  Snow  W/m2             PST      F      %    Min    Avg    Max    Dir   W/m2
             5400' 5400' 5380' 5380' 5380' 5400' 5400' 5400' 5400' 5380'                 10110' 10110' 10110' 10110' 10110' 10110' 10110'
------------------------------------------------------------------------  ---------------------------------------------------------------
   5 2   500    33    99     0     0   242     0     0     0    59     0      5 2    500     28     13      0      4      8     44      0
   5 2   600    33    97     2     6   233     0     0     0    53    13      5 2    600     29     12      0      4      7     11      0
   5 2   700    34    95     3     8   149     0     0     0    60   100      5 2    700     34      7      0      5      8     44      0
   5 2   800    38    82     5     8   110     0     0    -0    59   436      5 2    800     35     13      0      0      2     19      0
   5 2   900    42    76     3     6   141     0     0    -0    58   665      5 2    900     35     13      0      2      3     76      0
   5 2  1000    44    71     3     6   220     0     0    -0    53   849      5 2   1000     36     12      0      1      4     36      0
   5 2  1100    45    74     5     8   253     0     0     0    57   966      5 2   1100     32     21      0      2      6    244      0
   5 2  1200    47    72     6     9   262     0     0    -0    57  1030      5 2   1200     30     17      0      3      8    234     79
   5 2  1300    50    66     7    11   257     0     0    -0    56  1041      5 2   1300     40      9      0      0      3    188    164
   5 2  1400    52    60     8    13   247     0     0    -0    55   995      5 2   1400     33     26      0      0      2    149    263
   5 2  1500    52    61     9    13   258     0     0    -0    55   878      5 2   1500     31     35      0      3      5     75    286
   5 2  1600    51    62     9    14   265     0     0    -0    54   714      5 2   1600     36     41      0      1      4     95    221
   5 2  1700    49    65     8    11   272     0     0    -0    54   502      5 2   1700     29     49      0      0      5     24     67
   5 2  1800    45    73     7    11   272     0     0    -0    51   290      5 2   1800     27     59      0      2      4     11      0
   5 2  1900    41    79     5     8   272     0     0    -0    72   102      5 2   1900     26     80      0      3      6    280      0
   5 2  2000    39    83     0     3   303     0     0     0    57     3      5 2   2000     25     95      3      7     11    283      0
   5 2  2100    40    83     2     4    57     0     0     0    59     0      5 2   2100     24     94      6      8     11    276      0
   5 2  2200    39    84     3     4    51     0     0     0    51     0      5 2   2200     25     71      6      8     10    287      0
   5 2  2300    38    79     3     4    52     0     0     0    57     0      5 2   2300     27     13      4      9     14    281      0
   5 3     0    40    70     2     4    33     0     0     0    57     0      5 3      0     27      9      7     10     14    285      0
   5 3   100    41    73     1     4    26     0     0     0    58     0      5 3    100     27     14      5     10     14    280      0
   5 3   200    42    66     2     4    24     0     0     0   -32     0      5 3    200     28     18      0      7     12    281      0
   5 3   300    41    64     2     5   190     0     0     0    58     0      5 3    300     27     13      0      7     15    284      0
   5 3   400    40    75     2     4   225     0     0     0    57     0      5 3    400     27     17      3      8     15    280      0
------------------------------------------------------------------------  ---------------------------------------------------------------
   5 3   500    40    73     2     4   237     0     0    -0    57     1      5 3    500     27     15     11     13     17    284      0
   5 3   600    41    67     3     6   331     0     0    -0    57    31      5 3    600     24     13      8     14     18    285      0
   5 3   700    43    62     3     5   357     0     0     0    57   207      5 3    700     25     16      8     12     16    288      0
   5 3   800    47    53     1     6   313     0     0    -0    56   455      5 3    800     25     29     12     17     24    283      0
   5 3   900    50    45     3    11   204     0     0    -0    55   661      5 3    900     24     56     11     16     20    277      0
   5 3  1000    52    45     6    13   203     0     0    -0    55   834      5 3   1000     24     84     10     13     19    282      0
   5 3  1100    51    45     6    12   263     0     0    -0    56   821      5 3   1100     25     87     11     15     20    281      0
   5 3  1200    54    43     7    13   269     0     0    -0    54  1020      5 3   1200     26     96     12     17     21    273      0
   5 3  1300    55    37     7    13   251     0     0    -0    53  1023      5 3   1300     27     91     14     16     22    280      0
   5 3  1400    58    34     9    15   263     0     0    -0    55   965      5 3   1400     27     84     12     15     19    279      0
   5 3  1500    59    34     9    16   265     0     0    -0    53   853      5 3   1500     28     89     12     16     21    278      0
   5 3  1600    56    43     9    13   273     0     0    -0    54   689      5 3   1600     28     88     13     16     20    272      0
   5 3  1700    54    51     8    13   263     0     0    -0    52   485      5 3   1700     29     39      8     11     14    283      0
   5 3  1800    50    61     6    10   265     0     0     0    70   270      5 3   1800     27     85      7     12     19    280      0
   5 3  1900    46    69     3     6   273     0     0    -0    49    88      5 3   1900     27     82     10     16     21    286      0
   5 3  2000    45    62     2     4   323     0     0     0    48     4      5 3   2000     26     75     14     20     25    285      0
   5 3  2100    45    61     2     4     0     0     0     0    49     0      5 3   2100     26     66     20     26     30    277      0
   5 3  2200    45    60     1     3    43     0     0    -0    55     0      5 3   2200     27     31     24     27     32    275      0
   5 3  2300    45    56     2     3    19     0     0     0    54     0      5 3   2300     26     38     28     31     34    278      0
   5 4     0    45    61     2     4     3     0     0    -0    54     0      5 4      0     27     37     20     29     32    273      0
   5 4   100    45    63     3     4   311     0     0     0    54     0      5 4    100     27     41     15     23     31    278      0
   5 4   200    44    66     3     6   275     0     0     0    54     0      5 4    200     27     49     16     23     30    276      0
   5 4   300    43    70     4     6   277     0     0     0    54     0      5 4    300     27     56     20     27     33    282      0
   5 4   400    43    72     3     5   287     0     0     0    49     0      5 4    400     25     57     23     29     34    275      0
------------------------------------------------------------------------  ---------------------------------------------------------------
   5 4   500    42    71     4     6   292     0     0     0    49     2      5 4    500     25     45     24     30     34    275      0
   5 4   600    42    70     3     6   280     0     0     0    54    31      5 4    600     27     54     31     37     43    269      0
   5 4   700    44    62     3     5   263     0     0     0    48   214      5 4    700     27     55     37     40     43    273      0
   5 4   800    47    56     3     6   254     0     0    -0    55   463      5 4    800     28     58     35     39     42    275      0
   5 4   900    50    46     6    11   256     0     0    -0    54   669      5 4    900     27     68     34     41     48    269      0
   5 4  1000    51    39     9    14   264     0     0    -0    20   839      5 4   1000     27     64     41     49     57    276      0
   5 4  1100    50    62    10    13   259     0     0    -0    53   958      5 4   1100     28     50     39     48     54    275      0
   5 4  1200    51    63    11    16   258     0     0    -0    52  1027      5 4   1200     28     62     42     49     58    270      0
   5 4  1300    51    60    13    21   259     0     0    -0    46  1050      5 4   1300     27     63     40     56     67    272      0
   5 4  1400    51    41    14    21   260     0     0    -0    52   995      5 4   1400     26     62     40     57     69    269      0
   5 4  1500    49    55    16    23   262     0     0    -0    50   871      5 4   1500     25     39     48     61     69    272      0
   5 4  1600    46    50    16    25   262     0     0    -0    66   716      5 4   1600     24     21     42     56     68    275      0
   5 4  1700    43    69    17    23   260     0     0    -0    45   537      5 4   1700     21     46     30     46     59    273      0
   5 4  1800    37    80    15    23   258     0     0    -0    52   200      5 4   1800     21     33     30     42     54    269      0
   5 4  1900    35    88    15    21   258     0     0    -0    52    51      5 4   1900     20     26     30     44     63    271      0
   5 4  2000    34    97    14    20   261     0     0     0    53     1      5 4   2000     23     17     34     51     72    270      0
   5 4  2100    32    98    15    22   260     0     0     0    67     0      5 4   2100     19     39     37     50     64    268      0
   5 4  2200    32    99    16    24   262   .01   .01    -0    66     0      5 4   2200     15     67     34     49     62    274      0
   5 4  2300    30    98    16    21   264   .01   .02    -0    46     0      5 4   2300     16     42     26     46     61    271      0
   5 5     0    30    98    14    22   266     0   .02    -0   295     0      5 5      0     14     43     28     41     54    268      0
   5 5   100    30    98    12    18   257     0   .02     0    33     0      5 5    100     14     53     26     42     55    275      0
   5 5   200    29    98    14    20   264   .01   .03    -0    53     0      5 5    200     11     64     26     41     59    278      0
   5 5   300    29    97    13    19   265     0   .03     0    50     0      5 5    300     12     78     37     49     61    272      0
   5 5   400    28    98    11    17   257     0   .03    -0    50     0      5 5    400     12     95     32     46     62    274      0
------------------------------------------------------------------------  ---------------------------------------------------------------
   

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andreism
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Posts: 6


Re: May 2-4, 2015, Rainier, Turtle x2 + Cowlitz CORN!
« Reply #4 on: 05/06/15, 11:56 PM »

Great inspiring report Amar! Will try Turtle on coming week end.
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JimD
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Re: May 2-4, 2015, Rainier, Turtle x2 + Cowlitz CORN!
« Reply #5 on: 05/07/15, 04:58 AM »

Another great TR Amar. Wish I could have joined you on one of the Turtle adventures, but I was guiding friends down the Paradise Saturday and Sunday, which was pretty much perfect meadow skipping corn. I was looking over enviously at those tiny dots skinning up while we mingled with the teaming masses and dodged sleds.

Exit from Paradise
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Amar Andalkar
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Posts: 1200


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Re: May 2-4, 2015, Rainier, Turtle x2 + Cowlitz CORN!
« Reply #6 on: 05/07/15, 09:17 AM »

It's funny, Jim, I took almost the same exact photo as I was exiting the Paradise Glacier on May 4, and your nice skintrack had been transformed into a side-stepping semi-staircase by several others skiers. I did my best to turn it back into a proper skintrack.


Two-shot panorama of the exit from the uppermost Paradise River valley up towards Golden Gate. (click for double-size version)


Now it's off to Rainier to ski some more corn!


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Snow Bell
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Posts: 529


Re: May 2-4, 2015, Rainier, Turtle x2 + Cowlitz CORN!
« Reply #7 on: 05/07/15, 12:23 PM »

Looks great Amar.
...makes me just a little bit jealous. Wink
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Life is going to slide by you one way or another
avajane
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Posts: 749


Re: May 2-4, 2015, Rainier, Turtle x2 + Cowlitz CORN!
« Reply #8 on: 05/09/15, 10:38 AM »

Nice job Amar. Now I really want to do that route. How long do you think it will be good for?

Brian
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Brian Izdepski, Facebook TAY
Floater
5Member
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Posts: 70


Re: May 2-4, 2015, Rainier, Turtle x2 + Cowlitz CORN!
« Reply #9 on: 05/13/15, 06:11 AM »

Been off TAY for awhile.  Amar I have to make a big admission to you.  The best corn I ever skied was on the Saturday when you did this Turtle ski.  I was on the other side of the mountain skiing the Frying Pan.  I have learned a lot following the great posts from the Sultan of Rainier.  Like your corn my corn was truly delectable.  It has something to do I believe with the cool winds and breeze.  Good corn needs light freezes at night is my belief. 

Yes with this equipment we have we can make a horrible season a memorable one.  I am happy I rarely use the lifts besides the prices of the lift tickets.

Earlier in the year we skied up close to that Turtle and had good corn.  Sadly we cut out a bit earlier at 10000 since we started at the Comet Falls trail.  I will have to try your route on my next trip there it would save a bunch of time.
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Chris Cosgriff
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Posts: 16


Re: May 2-4, 2015, Rainier, Turtle x2 + Cowlitz CORN!
« Reply #10 on: 05/13/15, 10:11 PM »

What an effort! Great pictures and write up. I have to figure out how to stitch photos like that. Frying pan was great on Saturday also.
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chris cosgriff
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