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| | |-+  October 7, 2016, Muir Snowfield not powder
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Author Topic: October 7, 2016, Muir Snowfield not powder  (Read 3244 times)

Posts: 998

October 7, 2016, Muir Snowfield not powder
« on: 10/09/16, 10:11 AM »

NOAA said to expect 16 to 22 inches of snow overnight, and Freebird had just taunted us all with his video of skiing fresh snow from Muir. That was enough to get me out of bed at 4AM to make the 202mile drive to Paradise and see for myself.  No one manned the open East gate, so I didn't have to pay to enter the park. Is that seasonal? I arrived at 8:59am to a nearly empty parking lot with new paint marks that were not super clear. The parking ranger was happy with where I put my truck, but not excited about my skis and he warned me about whiteout conditions. Rain was light. I expected powder so I left ski crampons in the parking lot. I expected powder so I carried my big skis. The wind was strong enough to push me around. I wore a real shell and stayed dry in sneakers to glacier vista where the slush started. I switched to boots and kept walking to Panorama Point where I was able to start skinning. I met a snowboarder at the edge of the Muir snowfield. Not a splitboarder. He was post-holing to his knees. and he had forgotten his gloves. He said he was fine. (He was the only person I met until the walk out).  At this point the mush was frozen and skinning was easy. I stayed on top. 2" penetration. This was the skiable zone. It lasted about 200 vertical feet. Then the rain crust became supporting. The pitch is so mild I was able to navigate the glaze so long as I traveled directly up the fall line. I slipped occasionally and caught myself with my whippet. (I love my whippet). It was slick like grease and I believe without a pick of some sort, I'd have slid until I hit something. Exposed rocks had a half inch of clear water ice plastered to their windward west sides. I traveled up the skyline between Paradise Glacier and the Muir snowfield. I stomped most steps to break the ice to provide better traction. I wondered what the hell I was thinking when I decided to leave ski crampons in the truck. I wondered if I would get above the glaze into soft surface snow. At 8300 feet, I found myself in the middle of a slope without feature. It got steeper than I could skin straight up. The glaze was strong and I could not break it by stomping. I looked back where I'd come from, with the safety of rocks that would stop a sliding fall. Could I kick turn and go back? HELL NO! I can't hardly stand right here! Could I go up? no. Could I go down? If I'm not careful, I'm going way far down and it isn't going to be pretty. I decided to traverse ahead downward toward a rock island. It was an awkward and ugly skidding sideslip. I made it to a flat spot above a rock and said to myself "what am I doing?". This is when I admitted to myself that without ski crampons, I'm not equipped for this adventure. I had an argument in my head about long drives and walking through rain and how I've paid the entry price and now we're at the fun part. But my smarter self reigned (rained) and this is where I transitioned. The skiing was way pretty good. The glaze was smooth. I expected a rattly side-skid but it was way better than that. I met the snowboarder again about 200 feet higher than where I left him. He said he was fine. I walked in boots to the paved trail where I put my sneakers back on. The cloud was dense enough that I had to wipe condensing water off my glasses continuously. The stream of cotton-clad tourists contrasted with the solitude of the morning walk. I got back to my truck at 2pm.  My ski crampons sat on the floor. I sure wish I left them in my pack. I could have skied 2000 more feet of smooth rain glaze. Dammit.

Ski penetration: None.

Boot penetration: Knee Deep.

New snow depth: To my toepiece!

Posts: 163

Re: October 7, 2016, Muir Snowfield not powder
« Reply #1 on: 10/12/16, 07:58 PM »

Thanks for the update!
Unbreakable ice crust around and above Pan Point can be quite scary in early season.  Things might change after Thursday and Saturday storms. 

Posts: 348

Re: October 7, 2016, Muir Snowfield not powder
« Reply #2 on: 10/14/16, 11:41 PM »

Mike, you went from your home to my old home in Vermont in 5 hours!  Except it's October here and you visited there in December.  You are also a time traveler.
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