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Author Topic: Jan 12-14, 2017, Muir x3: 2+ ft Powder! 1000th Day  (Read 3702 times)
Amar Andalkar
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Jan 12-14, 2017, Muir x3: 2+ ft Powder! 1000th Day
« on: 01/16/17, 08:01 PM »

January 12-14, 2017, Mount Rainier, Muir Snowfield x3: 2+ ft of Astounding DEEP Powder!!!
     Plus My 1000th Day of Backcountry Skiing!

Enjoyed a truly extraordinary and unusual 3 days of deep powder conditions up high on the Muir Snowfield and extending all the way down to Paradise, with astonishing amounts of fresh low-density powder even above 8000 ft with zero-to-minimal wind effect, an honest 24-30" deep with roughly 5-6% density!!! By far the deepest powder I have ever encountered on the Muir Snowfield in now 285 ski trips to Camp Muir since 1996, including over 100 trips during the months of November to March when deep powder is most likely. The previous deepest powder I have ever seen up there was 20" in November 2011, with 8-16" a number of other times. It's just very hard for that kind of completely exposed terrain located over 3000 ft above treeline to get such deep powder falling on it with near-zero winds.

In addition, I reached a significant personal milestone during these days, as the spreadsheet which I use to track my ski days indicates that these were my 999th, 1000th, and 1001st days of backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. My very first time skiing without lifts was on June 29, 1996, a ski descent from Camp Muir which was a true epiphany, even a rebirth of sorts, and instantly changed my life forever. So it feels entirely appropriate that my 1000th day would once again come at the same great temple where I found my religion, now over 20 years ago (more details about that first day, along with my thoughts on the Muir Snowfield, can be found in this TR: June 29, 1996 - Feb 10, 2011: Rainier, Muir x 100). Hopefully the next 1000 days will be just as amazing and inspiring as most of the first 1000 have been, and it's likely the next 1000 will come much more quickly too, as I'm now averaging 90-100 backcountry ski days per year over the last several years.


Two-shot pre-sunset panorama on January 12 from Camp Muir, with Mounts Adams, Hood, Jefferson, and Saint Helens on the horizon. The deep trench of our skin track is visible at left. (click for double-size version)



Fresh powder depths on Thursday, January 12, were about 16-18" at Paradise, not an unusual amount at all for this season, given that I've skied 2 previous separate periods of 30" deep powder at Paradise in December 2016. Similar depths of 16-20" continued up to about 6600 ft most of the way up Panorama Point, and then less on the steep exposed terrain atop Pan Point near 6800 ft. Continuing along the flat exposed rightward traverse of the winter route to 7300 ft had the lowest depths with about 12" on the flat, but that's amazingly deep for this section which is normally wind-hammered and thinly snowcovered even when the rest of the route is all powder. Above McClure Rock on the lowest part of the Muir Snowfield, depths rapidly increased to 16-20" again, then consistently over 20" by 8000 ft and consistently over 24" above 8500 ft, all the way up to the buildings at Camp Muir. The maximum depths were about 27-30" in several deeper drifts above 8500 ft (all depths were by pole penetration down to a very firm previous crust), including the last 100 yards to the public shelter at Muir. Up to about 8500 ft, there was basically zero wind effect at all, with various sections of minimal to moderate wind effect of the uppermost few inches only above that elevation.

How did such an amazing amount of low-density powder accumulate up there with such minimal wind effect? That's a lengthy discussion that I'll include in Reply #2 below, which includes several forecasts and full telemetry data covering this period. Suffice it to say for now that the deep powder at high elevations was a complete surprise to me. I obviously expected 1-2 ft of powder at Paradise given recent telemetry showing 27" new over the 3 days from Sunday to Wednesday morning, January 8-11, but had no inkling that such depths would be maintained at high elevations far above treeline.

January 12, 2017: Deep Powder and Solitude, Day #999

Given the forecast for sunny skies and light winds at high elevations on Thursday, Camp Muir seemed like an ideal destination. My last trips to Muir had been on December 21, finding 0-4" of lovely powder atop a hard rain crust that extended from Paradise up to almost 8000 ft, and then 4 days later on Christmas Day with now 4-8" of lovely powder from Paradise up to 9700 ft (windpack above that), hiding the rain crust almost completely. I meant to write a combined TR for those trips, especially given the superb ski conditions on Christmas, but got distracted over the holidays and never got around to it.


Snowcat trimming the snowbanks at Paradise.


Panorama spanning over 270° from the middle of the Paradise parking lot. (click for triple-size version)


The road to Paradise had not opened to the public until noon on Wednesday, but I expected that it would open at its "new-normal" weekday time of 10am on Thursday. However, I slept through my 6am alarm by 1 hour 50 minutes, putting me far behind the gate opening. Turns out the gate did open just after 9am, well before the new-normal time, but it was 10:45 am before I passed through Longmire and 11:25am before I was skinning up from Paradise.



Luckily my late start meant that other skiers had already broken trail, and it was easy travel through a gorgeous winter wonderland of fresh sparkly powder.


Panorama spanning over 270° along the skintrack above the Paradise. (click for triple-size version)



Panorama spanning over 270° along the skintrack near Alta Vista, with natural avalanche debris visible on the slopes ahead left of Pan Face. (click for triple-size version)


There was obvious natural avalanche debris visible on the steep slopes just left of Pan Face, which certainly slid due to wind loading during the easterly pass flow which started after noon on Tuesday and continued into Wednesday morning (see telemetry in Reply #2). The debris was shallowly buried by a few inches of more recent snowfall. Given that avalanche evidence, I was glad to see that the trail breakers had chosen the much safer route along the edge of the trees up the SW ridge of Panorama Point, rather than risking the unknown hazard of the possibly still wind-loaded Pan Face, which has been the site of a few fatal avalanche accidents in years past following easterly pass flow events.


My 3 soon-to-be ski partners on the skintrack towards the SW ridge of Panorama Point, with natural avalanche debris visible at left.

The previous trail breakers had switched to booting at the one steep pitch near 6500 ft at the base of the SW ridge of Pan Point, and I caught up to the group of 3 in front of me as they were deciding whether to boot or skin. Turns out they were a group of 3 nurses from Tacoma, Clint, Mike, and Lisa, and the 2 guys recognized me from having met before on previous Muir trips. We joined forces for the rest of the day, with Mike putting in a skin track switchbacking up the left side of this steep pitch (totally stable this day), and me putting in a skin track with the help of ski crampons at the 2 steep rolls near 6800 ft, which had a couple of very short firm patches. So the entire route was skinnable this day with no major difficulties.


Panorama spanning over 270° along the skintrack nearing the top of the SW ridge of Panorama Point. (click for triple-size version)


It was an easy cruise after the last steep roll up to 7000 ft, with a nice skintrack already in place along the winter route. Amazing to see 12" of blower light powder on this normally-windswept section of the route, just resting gently atop the firm crust and rocks with barely a hint of wind effect.


Panorama spanning over 270° along the skintrack traversing northeastward along the winter route. (click for triple-size version)


We caught up to the 3 skiers out in front near 7300 ft, who said they were planning to ski down and go no higher. From there onward, my newly acquired partners and I would be breaking trail the entire way to Camp Muir. Fresh powder depths quickly increased to 16" as we continued past McClure Rock and then 20" after we rounded the bend onto the totally untracked Muir Snowfield above 7500 ft.


Panorama spanning over 270° at the end of the winter route where it leads onto the untracked Muir Snowfield. (click for triple-size version)



Muir Snowfield, untracked.


Muir Snowfield, entrenched.

Ski penetration was generally about a foot as the fresh powder depths consistently exceeded 20" above 8000 ft.


Panorama spanning over 270° from the first steep roll near 8100 ft on the Muir Snowfield. (click for triple-size version)



Still super smooth powder near 8200 ft.

Above 8500 ft, there were a few isolated sections of very thin wind crust, generally under 1/4" thick and easily breakable while skinning. The main issue on those sections was an increase in trail-breaking difficulty, as the thin crust atop 20-24" of very light powder below was making the skis dive under with each stride and requiring constant upward torque to keep pulling the tips out on top. In these arduous conditions, we were only able to take very short shifts in front, generally 5-7 minutes each with an occasional 10 minute stretch for those feeling energetic.


Panorama spanning over 270° from near 8500 ft on the Muir Snowfield, showing light surface wind effects. (click for triple-size version)



Breaking trail with just over 30" pole penetration at this spot near 8600 ft at 2:30pm. The Flicklocks on the poles are 24" from the tips, and are about 6" below the surface here.

Above 9200 ft, almost the entire snow surface was lightly rippled by the wind, but the wind features were generally less than 1" in depth, a tiny fraction of the 24+" of fresh powder on this entire section. The surface may look wind-hammered in these photos, but it was mostly a soft powder surface with no windcrust.


Panorama spanning over 270° from near 9500 ft on the Muir Snowfield, showing light surface wind effects on the untracked powder. (click for triple-size version)



Panorama spanning over 200° from near 9500 ft on the Muir Snowfield, looking back at our skintrack trench. (click for triple-size version)


The uppermost part above 9700 ft was mostly just carving a deep trench through 27-30" of powder, with ski penetration of about 16-18".


Mike breaking trail near 9700 ft.


Clint breaking trail near 9800 ft.


Me breaking trail near 10000 ft. (photo by Mike M.)

This last 100 yards to Muir also had significant wind effect like a few spots lower down, with the upper 1-2" noticeably denser than the 24+" of very light powder below (although not actually a cohesive wind crust layer that could be picked up). We arrived at 4:20pm, almost 5 hours after I had left Paradise, and only about 20 minutes before the expected sunset time.


Looking down from the edge of the Muir hut at the deep trench of our skintrack, about 16-18" deep at this point with powder depth of 27-30".

Gazing south from Camp Muir, something looked different about this very familiar view, and it seemed like Mount Jefferson, the normally tiny-looking volcano visible just to the right of Mount Hood, looked unusually prominent today. Even my 3 ski partners, who had been to Muir only a few times before, commented about how amazing the view of Jefferson was. It turns out that Jefferson really did look taller than normal this day -- but that's a long story for a separate thread (see Strong temperature inversion causes superior mirage of 12000 ft high Mount Jefferson).


Panorama spanning about 270° from Camp Muir, looking down the deep trench of our skintrack. (click for triple-size version)


And then it was time to ski, at 4:40pm, just before the expected time of sunset. Given the slope angle of 20-25° on the upper part of the Snowfield, the low-density powder was almost unskiably deep, especially since I was on my 125-89-111 dimensioned Dynafit Cho Oyu instead of my normal winter powder-touring skis, the 130-106-120 Dynafit Stoke. I just hadn't been expecting to find deep powder at all up high this day! My partners were all on skis similar to the Stokes in size, so they had way more flotation than me.


Clint skiing the deep powder.


Mike skiing the deep powder.


Lisa skiing the deep powder.


Pointing it down the skintrack to pick up some speed before angling back into the deepness.

Ski conditions became really outstanding below 8500 ft, as the depth decreased slightly into the 20" range and all evidence of wind effect vanished. Just amazing blower powder skiing on the entire rest of the Snowfield.


Three-shot sunset panorama taken at 4:52pm. (click for triple-size version)


The sun was still visible until 4:54pm, about 14 minutes after the expected time of sunset. The sun always sets later than expected when viewed from high up on a mountain, but extra refraction due to the strong temperature inversion (the same effect causing Mount Jefferson to appear taller) was probably contributing several extra minutes of sunlight, even after the sun dropped well beyond the horizon.


Three-shot sunset panorama taken at 4:54pm. (click for triple-size version)



Ski tracks in the twilight at 5pm, still plenty of light to ski by.

Skiing back along the winter route was unexpectedly fraught with hazardous sharks, as the foot of blower powder encouraged speed, but also hid the numerous rocky outcrops which always festoon this normally-windswept area than never accumulates a very deep snowpack compared to the rest of the route. The steep south-facing rolls near Pan Point had a suncrust as expected, but it was generally easy to negotiate without too much trouble. The same with Pan Face, which we skied instead of the SW ridge ascent route (which would have been crustier and also demolished our skintrack). But by hugging the skier's left edge of Pan Face which gets minimal sun, we could avoid almost all of the crust.


Stunning colors in the twilight at 5:25pm.


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


« Last Edit: 01/17/17, 09:31 AM by Amar Andalkar » Logged

Amar Andalkar
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Re: Jan 12-14, 2017, Muir x3: 2+ ft Powder! 1000th Day
« Reply #1 on: 01/16/17, 08:02 PM »

Continued from previous post . . .

Then a fast cruise on nice powder again for most of the remaining stretch to Paradise, as the flatter terrain here is too flat to get much solar radiation from the low sun this time of year, and only the steeper rolls and features had any crust.


Same view of Rainier as the morning, but in the twilight at 5:30pm.

As I crested the last roll above Paradise just after 5:30pm, I saw only 3 cars left in the parking lot, one of which had its headlights on: I knew instantly it was mine! Somehow the headlights had not turned off automatically as they should, and I assumed the battery would be almost dead after over 6 hours with the headlights on in winter temperatures. But I wasn't really concerned since I've carried a portable jumpstarter anyway for the past 11 years, a potentially life-saving device if you frequently park in remote areas of the mountains. Unexpectedly though, the engine started right up on the first try -- strong battery there!



Our 2 cars arrived at Longmire at 6:15pm, long after gate closure, but getting out was no hassle at all: simply sign the log book inside Longmire Inn, leave your driver's license, and they hand you the key to go open the gate yourself (that last part was new procedure to me, the desk clerk used to come out and open the gate for you during the last few years). Soon we were off to Copper Creek Inn to enjoy a fine meal of burgers, beer, and blackberry pie, capping off an amazing day of deep powder skiing on the great Mountain.


January 13, 2017: High Clouds, Solar Halos, and More Solitude, Day #1000!

The next day I was back for seconds, eager to reuse the skintrack emplaced at great toil the day before and also celebrate my 1000th backcountry ski day. Got a much earlier start this day as I anticipated the gate opening before the stated 10am time, passed through the open gate at 9:25am, and later saw on Twitter that it had supposedly opened at 8:35am (really!?!). The parking lot was still fairly empty when I arrived at 9:50am, with only a handful of cars there.


Snowcat still trimming the snowbanks at Paradise, same as 24 hours earlier, with some cool clouds overhead this time.

Once again I was solo and acquired a ski partner in the parking lot this time: Jim, a very experienced mountaineer and a veteran of numerous Muir trips and Rainier summits over the past 3-4 decades (plus a number of very difficult summits in Alaska including Mounts Foraker and Saint Elias). In addition, Jim and I were ski twins on this day, both having brought the Dynafit Cho Oyu!


Panorama spanning over 180° along the skintrack near Alta Vista, with natural avalanche debris still visible on the slopes left of Pan Face, but now with numerous ski tracks in the powder of Pan Face at center. (click for triple-size version)


We skinned up around 10:15am, and enjoyed an easy cruise up the skintrack to Pan Point, as snowshoes had been unable to cause too much damage to the track on the flatter terrain. Not so on the steep switchbacks up the SW ridge of Pan Point, where snowshoe damage was severe and had frozen hard in place overnight, so it was easier to just reroute and put it a new skintrack for a good fraction of the steep part.


Panorama spanning about 250° along the skintrack nearing the top of the SW ridge of Panorama Point, very similar to the same panorama yesterday but now with ski tracks in the powder of Pan Face at center. (click for triple-size version)


But thankfully, by 7000 ft along the winter route we had ascended above the scourge of snowshoes, and the previous day's skintrack remained pristine and unharmed the rest of the way to Muir.


Panorama spanning over 270° along the skintrack traversing northeastward along the winter route. (click for triple-size version)


The weather forecast said "mostly sunny" for this Friday, but the UW weather model showed thin high clouds moving overhead throughout the day. Thin high clouds often produce solar halos, as they consist entirely of ice crystals. As we rounded the bend near 7500 ft from the winter route onto the Muir Snowfield just after noon, I looked back and saw a lovely halo display: a series of tightly spaced rainbow-colored rings surrounding the sun, a halo known as the corona, with that entire halo display surrounded by the common 22° halo. Unlike the 22° halo and most other solar halos which are formed by refraction through ice crystal interiors or reflection off ice crystal facets, the corona is formed by diffraction of light around the outside of any sufficiently small particles in the roughly 10-40 micron size range, be it ice crystals, water droplets, or even pollen. The key is that the particles in the sky must all have every similar sizes in order to produce a visibly bright corona, as even a 20% variation in size makes the corona vanish. The corona is commonly seen in thin fog or low clouds floating past the sun (water droplets), but in my experience is very rarely produced by high clouds (ice crystals) at least anywhere that I've been in western North America.


The sun surrounded by a multi-ringed corona (hard to see, click for double-size version), with a 22° halo well outside that, Canon SX720 HS photo.
The iPhone 7 Plus photos showed the corona better, but sadly both of those photos are out of focus.



Panorama spanning over 270° at the end of the winter route where it leads onto the Muir Snowfield, with a 22° halo visible around the sun
(the corona did not show up in this iPhone 7 Plus panorama) and our ski tracks from yesterday on the Snowfield. (click for triple-size version)


Skinning up the Muir Snowfield was a breeze this day up the lovely skintrack trench, even with tired legs from the previous day's labors. Jim and I enjoyed a long conversation about mountaineering and skiing over the years.


Yesterday's skintrack and ski tracks looking up from about 7600 ft.

I continued to occasionally pole test the snowdepth the whole way up the Snowfield, and noticed about 2-4" of settlement since the previous day. Deepest depths were now about 26-27" of powder, no longer 30" anywhere up there.


Panorama spanning over 200° along yesterday's skintrack near 8300 ft, with faint ski tracks off to the right. (click for triple-size version)


Sadly the high clouds continued to thicken throughout the afternoon, eventually making good photography all but impossible after about 1pm. It did have the unexpected benefit of letting me take much better photos of the north sides of Mount Hood and Jefferson, still looming much taller than usual on this day, after we arrived at Camp Muir at 3pm. We would be the only 2 to reach Muir this Friday, as despite the excellent track already in place, no one else would follow us up there.


Jim skiing the deep powder near 9500 ft.

Ski conditions up high had actually improved since yesterday, with the slight settlement and consolidation allowing nice turns on what was almost unskiably deep the day before. As before, the best snow was below 8500 ft, still blower powder and almost unaffected by an extra day of sun and settlement.



Lower down, it was much the same combination of powder in most areas with sun crust on steeper south-facing slopes as the previous day. Another awesome ski run overall, and a great way to celebrate my 1000th day of skiing the wild snow.



January 14, 2017: Consolidating Powder and Plenty of Company, Day #1001

The next day I was back again for a third trip to Muir, this time with Khanh and Michelle as partners, and joined by dozens of others too given that it was a sunny Saturday. Gate opened just after 9am, and soon the Paradise parking lot was filling up with numerous cars.



Crystal clear skies again like Thursday, as we skinned up just after 10am.



Another quick cruise up the nice skintrack to the base of Pan Point.


Panorama spanning over 220° along the skintrack above Paradise. (click for triple-size version)


Several groups of skinners out in front of us had already fixed some of the previous day's severe snowshoe damage to the skintrack up the SW ridge of Pan Point, including a couple of needed reroutes, so I was glad not to have to do that work again.


Michelle enjoying the nice skintrack up the SW ridge of Pan Point.

Even splitboarders without ski crampons had no problems skinning the whole way up on this day.



At 6900 ft atop Pan Point, a large group of about 8 from JBLM was skinning up while hauling heavy sleds, training for Denali. A burst of speed put us quickly past them before the last steep roll up to 7000 ft.



The skintrack still remained in excellent, almost pristine shape above that along the winter route once again.


Panorama spanning over 270° along the skintrack traversing northeastward along the winter route. (click for triple-size version)



Michelle crossing the big wind roll where the winter route bends onto the Muir Snowfield.

The snow had settled another 2-4" since the day before, for about 4-8" of total settlement since the extreme deepness of Thursday. The skin track trench was noticeably less deep because of this, since the snow within the skintrack doesn't settle at all anymore as the untouched powder around it continuously settles.



Maximum powder depths were down to barely 24" today, with only a few sections above 8500 ft still exceeding even 20". A very easily noticeable decrease in depth and corresponding increase in density since Thursday.


Panorama spanning over 270° along the skintrack up the Muir Snowfield near 8500 ft. (click for triple-size version)


Khanh had taken off far ahead of us, reaching Camp Muir around 2pm, and she was dancing slowly atop the Muir helipad when I leisurely arrived about 45 minutes later.



A bootpack was visible ascending up the right side of Cowlitz Cleaver, heading towards the Gibraltar Ledges climbing route, but no tracks could be seen higher up on the summit dome.


Panorama spanning over 270° where the skintrack split just before Camp Muir above 10000 ft. (click for triple-size version)


Just amazingly nice weather again at Muir, winds almost calm at under 5mph and temps in the low 20s °F. We were tempted to hang out longer, but knew that the descent might take a while in the still-deep conditions, so we skied down at 3:15pm.


Khanh pointing it straight down the slope from Muir.

Ski conditions on the upper slopes were still excellent this day, the additional consolidation made it easy fun skiing, although I had a minor issue with a little snow sticking to my bases after my skis had warmed in the sun for a few minutes at Muir.


Two-shot panorama of my ski track in the untracked powder just west of the field of tracks along the ascent route. (click for double-size version)



Michelle riding the pow with poles at the ready, jousting-style.

Still fine conditions on the lower Snowfield, but definitely getting heavier than previous days with all the sun, and lots of tracks to cross too.


Three-shot panorama of Michelle riding the pow with poles in hand, with now almost 3 dozen tracks all over the slope behind her. (click for double-size version)




Not much change from yesterday lower down on the winter route and Pan Face, just lots more tracks all over the place.


Golden glow starting to show on the Mountain at 4pm from the top of Panorama Point.

Still lots of powder on the flatter terrain below Pan Point, still not affected by the low winter sun.


Pre-sunset panorama spanning over 270° from near 6000 ft just west of Alta Vista. (click for triple-size version)




Back to the parking lot at 4:30pm, with the Mountain glowing in the pre-sunset light.



Still plenty of cars and tourists milling about everywhere in the lot, so there was no rush at all to beat the gate closing time. We stopped by the Narada Falls lot to see if a group of three of our friends who had gone to ski Lane Peak in the Tatoosh Range were back yet. Luckily they were driving out just then, so we joined forces as a group of six for burgers and beer at the Highlander in Ashford, watching the Patriots beating the Texans on the TV.

Just an outstanding and memorable 3 straight days of deep powder on the Mountain with great company. Although I may ski from Camp Muir hundreds of more times in the future, it's much less certain if I'll ever see or ski such insanely deep low-density powder at high elevations up there again.


« Last Edit: 01/23/17, 06:49 AM by Amar Andalkar » Logged

Amar Andalkar
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Re: Jan 12-14, 2017, Muir x3: 2+ ft Powder! 1000th Day
« Reply #2 on: 01/16/17, 08:03 PM »

Weather Forecasts and Telemetry:

Extraordinary unusual deep-powder snow conditions on the Muir Snowfield should require extraordinary unusual weather conditions, right? But my normal viewing of the NWS Rainier forecasts and the NWAC telemetry throughout the 3-day snowfall period during the early part of the week showed nothing extraordinary or unusual at all, nothing that gave me a clue that snow conditions at high elevations like Muir would be so astounding and deep.

But maybe the clues were there and I just didn't see them? That is definitely the case here, although some of the most important clues were also missing and simply unavailable, due to rimed wind gauges at Camp Muir and a broken precip gauge at Paradise.

The whole key to this high-elevation deep-powder event is in fact that the weather appeared to be very ordinary, even passive, during the period of snowfall. There were no Winter Storm Warnings for heavy snowfall posted by the NWS for the Washington Cascades during this period, only 2 brief and belated Winter Weather Advisories with the first posted late Sunday evening extending to 6am Monday, and the second posted Monday evening for 1am to 1pm Tuesday. The big action and Winter Storm Warnings were all for lowland snow in SW Washington and NW Oregon, with heavy mountain snowfall amounts of 2-5 ft for the Oregon and California Cascades, and extreme snowfall warnings for 5-10 ft over the Sierra Nevada. The snowfall amounts at Paradise were light to moderate (at least by the standards of a location which has the greatest average annual snowfall of any measurement site in the world at about 680" per year!), with telemetry showing 11" new by noon on Monday January 9, another 7" by Tuesday, and 9" more by Wednesday morning. But the lack of any significant winter storms over the Washington Cascades also meant that whatever snow did fall did so with very little wind.

Here is the NWS Rainier forecast from Sunday covering the period of the snowfall event. One key is that the temperatures and wind speeds at Camp Muir are decreasing throughout the periods of snowfall from Sunday through Tuesday:

MOUNT RAINIER RECREATIONAL FORECAST
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SEATTLE WA
351 AM PST SUN JAN 8 2017

SYNOPSIS...A WARM FRONT WILL BRING RAIN AND SNOW TO MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK SUNDAY AND SUNDAY NIGHT...AND RAISE THE SNOW LEVEL TO AROUND 4000 FEET. PRECIPITATION WILL DECREASE MONDAY...WITH THE WEATHER BECOMING COLDER AND DRIER TUESDAY THROUGH FRIDAY AS THE JET STREAM SHIFTS SOUTH INTO CALIFORNIA. A WEAK FRONT WILL PROBABLY ARRIVE SATURDAY.

IMPACTS...STORMY WEATHER WILL CREATE DIFFICULT BACKCOUNTRY SKIING AND MOUNTAINEERING CONDITIONS ACROSS MUCH OF THE ALPINE TERRAIN OF MT. RAINIER SUNDAY AND SUNDAY NIGHT...INCLUDING THE MUIR SNOWFIELD. BLIZZARD-LIKE CONDITIONS WITH STRONG WINDS AND NEAR ZERO VISIBILITY ARE LIKELY. A HIGH LEVEL OF SKILL AND EXPERIENCE IN ALPINE TERRAIN...INCLUDING USE OF GPS...IS RECOMMENDED FOR NAVIGATION AND CAMPING IN THESE CONDITIONS.

SUNDAY...BREEZY. RAIN AND SNOW. SNOW ACCUMULATION NEAR PARADISE OF 3 TO 7 INCHES. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 3000 FEET.
SUNDAY NIGHT...BREEZY. RAIN AND SNOW. SNOW ACCUMULATION NEAR PARADISE OF 3 TO 6 INCHES. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 4000 FEET.
MONDAY...SNOW. SNOW ACCUMULATION NEAR PARADISE OF 1 TO 4 INCHES. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 1500 FEET.
MONDAY NIGHT...SNOW LIKELY. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 1000 FEET.
TUESDAY...SNOW LIKELY IN THE MORNING...THEN CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF SNOW IN THE AFTERNOON. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 1000 FEET.

TEMPERATURE AND WIND FORECASTS FOR SELECTED LOCATIONS.

                       SUN    SUN    MON    MON    TUE
                            NIGHT         NIGHT

SUMMIT   (14411 FT)      8     -3    -14    -11    -10
                     SW 50  SW 65  SW 35  SW 20   W 15

CAMP MUIR(10188 FT)     24     13      5      7      8
                      S 45  SW 45  SW 30  SW 15  SW 10

PARADISE  (5420 FT)     30     22     27     21     27
                      E 15  SW 20  SW 10  SE  5   S  5

LONGMIRE  (2760 FT)     34     29     34     25     35
                      E 20  SW  5  SW  5   E  5   E  5

++ 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...

TUESDAY NIGHT...CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF SNOW. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 500 FEET.
WEDNESDAY...CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF SNOW. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 500 FEET.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF VERY LIGHT SNOW. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 500 FEET.
THURSDAY...PARTLY SUNNY WITH A SLIGHT CHANCE OF VERY LIGHT SNOW. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 500 FEET.
THURSDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 1000 FEET.
FRIDAY...PARTLY SUNNY WITH A SLIGHT CHANCE OF SNOW.
FRIDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A SLIGHT CHANCE OF RAIN AND SNOW. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 2000 FEET.
SATURDAY...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF RAIN AND SNOW. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 3000 FEET.


Forecasts on Tuesday at the tail end of the snow event indicated sunny weather on Thursday-Friday, with the next incoming storm arriving by Friday night into Saturday. One very important thing to note in this forecast is the easterly pass flow event at Paradise, although it's not specifically mentioned at all, the wind speed for Tuesday night jumps to NE 30 mph, an alarming number. Meanwhile the winds higher up at Muir are much less and from a totally uncorrelated direction, as Muir is well above the effects of almost all pass flow events which generally extend up to only 7000-8000 ft on the south side of Rainier. Telemetry (posted below) shows E-NE winds starting just after noon on Tuesday and continuing into Wednesday morning:

MOUNT RAINIER RECREATIONAL FORECAST
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SEATTLE WA
353 AM PST TUE JAN 10 2017

SYNOPSIS...A WEAK WEATHER SYSTEM WILL BRING A FEW INCHES OF SNOW TO MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK TUESDAY...WITH LIGHT FLURRIES POSSIBLE TUESDAY NIGHT AND WEDNESDAY AS A COLDER AIR MASS MOVES INTO THE REGION FROM THE NORTH. DRY NORTHERLY FLOW ALOFT SHOULD BRING MOSTLY SUNNY WEATHER THURSDAY...WITH DRY WEATHER CONTINUING THROUGH AT LEAST FRIDAY. WEATHER SYSTEMS WILL BEGIN MOVING INTO WASHINGTON FROM THE WEST THIS WEEKEND...FOR A RETURN TO MORE TYPICALLY MILD AND WET WINTER WEATHER.

..WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT UNTIL 1 PM PST THIS AFTERNOON...

TUESDAY...WINDY. SNOW IN THE MORNING...THEN SNOW LIKELY IN THE AFTERNOON. SNOW ACCUMULATION NEAR PARADISE OF 4 TO 7 INCHES.
TUESDAY NIGHT...WINDY. MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF SNOW FLURRIES.
WEDNESDAY...BREEZY. MOSTLY CLOUDY. A CHANCE OF SNOW FLURRIES.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY IN THE EVENING THEN BECOMING PARTLY CLOUDY. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 500 FEET.
THURSDAY...MOSTLY SUNNY. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 1000 FEET.

TEMPERATURE AND WIND FORECASTS FOR SELECTED LOCATIONS.

                       TUE    TUE    WED    WED    THU
                            NIGHT         NIGHT

SUMMIT   (14411 FT)     -7     -3     -4     -5     -2
                      W 15  SW 20  SW 10  NE 10   N 20

CAMP MUIR(10188 FT)      9     11     10      7     12
                      S 10   S 20  SW 15   N  5   N 10

PARADISE  (5420 FT)     24     11     21      9     24
                     NE  5  NE 30  NE 10   N 10  NW  5

LONGMIRE  (2760 FT)     33     21     28     19     28
                      E 10  NE 25   E 10  NE  5   W  5

++ 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...

THURSDAY NIGHT...PARTLY CLOUDY. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 1500 FEET.
FRIDAY...PARTLY SUNNY. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 1500 FEET.
FRIDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A SLIGHT CHANCE OF SNOW.
SATURDAY...SNOW LIKELY.
SATURDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF RAIN AND SNOW. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 3500 FEET.
SUNDAY...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF RAIN AND SNOW. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 4500 FEET.
SUNDAY NIGHT...WINDY. RAIN AND SNOW LIKELY. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 5000 FEET.
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR DAY...RAIN AND SNOW. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 4500 FEET.


One interesting thing during this period was how much the forecasts for the weekend changed (and improved!) day by day throughout the week. Initial forecasts showed a one-day window of really nice weather on Thursday, maybe extending not quite as nice into Friday, but this eventually grew to be 4 straight days of sunshine and 3 straight days of very light winds at high elevations. The persistence of this ridge of high pressure far exceeded initial forecasts made early in the week.

By Thursday, the sunny weather was expected to last through Saturday, albeit with increasingly strong winds at higher elevations, with the next storm system clipping the northern edge of the area by Saturday night into Sunday:

MOUNT RAINIER RECREATIONAL FORECAST
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SEATTLE WA
356 AM PST THU JAN 12 2017

SYNOPSIS...AN UPPER RIDGE AXIS WILL SLIP SOUTHEAST PAST MOUNT RAINIER THIS AFTERNOON, SUPPORTING A DRY AND STABLE AIR MASS WITH MOSTLY CLEAR SKIES. WESTERLY FLOW ALOFT WILL DEVELOP LATER FRIDAY AND BRING HIGH CLOUDS ACROSS THE MOUNTAINS. A SERIES OF WARMER AND WETTER SYSTEMS ARE LIKELY TO BRING SIGNIFICANT RAIN AND SNOW TO MOUNT RAINIER FROM ABOUT MONDAY NIGHT THROUGH NEXT WEDNESDAY.

THURSDAY...SUNNY. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR THE SURFACE.
THURSDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLEAR. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 1000 FEET.
FRIDAY...SUNNY. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 500 FEET INCREASING TO 3500 FEET IN THE AFTERNOON.
FRIDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 2000 FEET.
SATURDAY...MOSTLY SUNNY. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 1000 FEET INCREASING TO 5500 FEET IN THE AFTERNOON.

TEMPERATURE AND WIND FORECASTS FOR SELECTED LOCATIONS.

                       THU    THU    FRI    FRI    SAT
                            NIGHT         NIGHT

SUMMIT   (14411 FT)     -3      0      2      5      6
                      N 15  NW 20  NW 25   W 30  NW 45

CAMP MUIR(10188 FT)     11     15     17     14     18
                      N  5  NW 10  NW 15   W 20  NW 25

PARADISE  (5420 FT)     25     14     31     19     34
                     NE  5   N  5  SW  5  NW  5   W  5

LONGMIRE  (2760 FT)     31     20     35     25     37
                     SW  5  NE  5  SE  5   N  5   W  5

++ 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...

SATURDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A SLIGHT CHANCE OF RAIN AND SNOW. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 3000 FEET.
SUNDAY...PARTLY SUNNY WITH A SLIGHT CHANCE OF RAIN AND SNOW. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 4000 FEET.
SUNDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF RAIN AND SNOW. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 5500 FEET.
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR DAY...RAIN AND SNOW LIKELY. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 5000 FEET.
MONDAY NIGHT...RAIN AND SNOW LIKELY. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 6000 FEET.
TUESDAY...BREEZY. RAIN AND SNOW. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 6000 FEET.
TUESDAY NIGHT...WINDY. RAIN AND SNOW. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 6000 FEET.
WEDNESDAY...BREEZY. RAIN AND SNOW. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 6000 FEET.


And then by Friday, it was looking like Saturday would in fact be the most perfect weather day of the entire period, with warming temps and near-zero winds at higher elevations, with the sunshine continuing for Sunday with higher winds and the next system delayed until Monday, even Monday night.

MOUNT RAINIER RECREATIONAL FORECAST
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SEATTLE WA
351 AM PST FRI JAN 13 2017

SYNOPSIS...UPPER LEVEL HIGH PRESSURE WILL PREVAIL THROUGH SUNDAY MORNING, WITH MID-HIGH CLOUDS PASSING BY AT TIMES. THE WEATHER OVER MOUNT RAINIER WILL START TO DETERIORATE LATER SUNDAY AND THEN BECOME STORMY FROM MONDAY THROUGH NEXT THURSDAY, ESPECIALLY ON TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY. DURING THIS TIME HEAVY PRECIPITATION, LOW VISIBILITY, AND STRONG WINDS ARE EXPECTED.

FRIDAY...MOSTLY SUNNY. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR THE SURFACE INCREASING TO 3000 FEET IN THE AFTERNOON.
FRIDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 3500 FEET DECREASING TO 1000 FEET AFTER MIDNIGHT.
SATURDAY...MOSTLY SUNNY. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 500 FEET INCREASING TO 4500 FEET IN THE AFTERNOON.
SATURDAY NIGHT...PARTLY CLOUDY IN THE EVENING THEN BECOMING MOSTLY CLOUDY. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 5500 FEET.
SUNDAY...MOSTLY SUNNY. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 4000 FEET INCREASING TO 5000 FEET IN THE AFTERNOON.

TEMPERATURE AND WIND FORECASTS FOR SELECTED LOCATIONS.

                       FRI    FRI    SAT    SAT    SUN
                            NIGHT         NIGHT

SUMMIT   (14411 FT)      2      4      6      6     11
                     NW 20  NW 15  NW 10   W 20  NW 40

CAMP MUIR(10188 FT)     18     19     22     18     22
                     NW 15  NW 15   W  5  SW  5   N 20

PARADISE  (5420 FT)     32     20     34     22     35
                      S  5   N  5  SW  5  NW 10   W  5

LONGMIRE  (2760 FT)     37     25     39     28     37
                      S  5  NE  5  SE  5   N  5  SW  5

++ 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...

SUNDAY NIGHT...PARTLY CLOUDY. FREEZING LEVEL NEAR 7000 FEET.
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR DAY...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF RAIN AND SNOW. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 7000 FEET.
MONDAY NIGHT...BREEZY. RAIN AND SNOW. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 6500 FEET.
TUESDAY...WINDY. RAIN AND SNOW. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 6500 FEET.
TUESDAY NIGHT...RAIN AND SNOW. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 7000 FEET.
WEDNESDAY...RAIN AND SNOW LIKELY. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 6000 FEET.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT...WINDY. RAIN AND SNOW. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 4500 FEET.
THURSDAY...WINDY. RAIN AND SNOW LIKELY. SNOW LEVEL NEAR 4000 FEET.



Here are the plots of NWAC telemetry data from Paradise and Camp Muir starting with the previous 5 days before these 3 trips and including the next day afterward. Sadly the precip gauge at Paradise has been broken throughout this period, and the wind speed at Muir was rimed and frozen for many days prior to melting free around noon on January 14. Note the very cold temperatures at Camp Muir staying below 10 °F throughout most of the snow event from midnight Sunday night through Wednesday morning (except for a brief spike during a break in the snowfall midday Tuesday), with continued cold into Thursday morning which helped preserve the very light dry powder without much settlement at all. The 27" of new snowfall at Paradise had settled several inches by Thursday morning given near-normal wintertime temps in the teens and 20s, to about 16-18" of pole penetration.






And the actual telemetry data for the last 8 days of those plots, from the time the heavy snowfall began:






« Last Edit: 01/17/17, 09:46 AM by Amar Andalkar » Logged

jtack
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Posts: 665


Re: Jan 12-14, 2017, Muir x3: 2+ ft Powder! 1000th Day
« Reply #3 on: 01/17/17, 05:29 AM »

Phew! What an amazing amount of snow, clear, no wind, what a day!
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vogtski
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Posts: 708


Re: Jan 12-14, 2017, Muir x3: 2+ ft Powder! 1000th Day
« Reply #4 on: 01/17/17, 06:34 AM »

Thanks for the nice photos, Amar; those snow conditions really looked exceptional!

Quote
Our 2 cars arrived at Longmire at 6:15pm, long after gate closure, but getting out was no hassle at all: simply sign the log book inside Longmire Inn, leave your driver's license, and they hand you the key to go open the gate yourself (that last part was new procedure to me, the desk clerk used to come out and open the gate for you during the last few years).

It's good to hear the park seems to have backed off it's aggressive (and unnecessary, IMO) enforcement of winter hours.  FWIW, I never heard of anyone being ticketed from 1973 until just a few years ago.  The old system used for decades was even better; the last ranger leaving Paradise would simply note the license # and leave the Longmire gate combination on any late vehicle's windshield.
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I feel like I'm diagonally parked in a parallel universe.
kamtron
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Posts: 559


Re: Jan 12-14, 2017, Muir x3: 2+ ft Powder! 1000th Day
« Reply #5 on: 01/17/17, 07:29 AM »

Too deep for the snowfield!
Glad to see you're getting after it
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kmcb
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Posts: 13


Re: Jan 12-14, 2017, Muir x3: 2+ ft Powder! 1000th Day
« Reply #6 on: 01/17/17, 08:14 AM »

Congrats on your 1000th day, Amar!

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cascademystic
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Posts: 83


Re: Jan 12-14, 2017, Muir x3: 2+ ft Powder! 1000th Day
« Reply #7 on: 01/17/17, 08:40 AM »

Congrats and thanks for the photos. Trenchtown is life.
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Stefan
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Posts: 128


Re: Jan 12-14, 2017, Muir x3: 2+ ft Powder! 1000th Day
« Reply #8 on: 01/17/17, 09:18 AM »

285 days on that route...wow.  You must know where every exposed rock is at.....in a whiteout!

Congrats on 1000+
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runcle
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Posts: 287


Re: Jan 12-14, 2017, Muir x3: 2+ ft Powder! 1000th Day
« Reply #9 on: 01/17/17, 09:19 AM »

Congratulations! That is quite a milestone!  

If there is no one at Longmire to retrieve the key from will the rangers assist or are you there for the night?
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Amar Andalkar
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Posts: 1200


WWW
Re: Jan 12-14, 2017, Muir x3: 2+ ft Powder! 1000th Day
« Reply #10 on: 01/17/17, 09:40 AM »

If there is no one at Longmire to retrieve the key from will the rangers assist or are you there for the night?

The Longmire Inn is open every day of the year and the door is open all night, as far as I know. There is a buzzer by the front desk to call staff when they are not at the desk, so presumably that should work even late at night.

There is no easy way to contact park rangers from Longmire at night, other than using the pay phone (or front desk phone!) to call park dispatch (360-569-6600) or 911. No cell service yet there, although that may be available soon if/when they install the planned cell antennas in the Paradise visitor center (the coverage map shows service at Longmire).

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Amar Andalkar
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WWW
Re: Jan 12-14, 2017, Muir x3: 2+ ft Powder! 1000th Day
« Reply #11 on: 01/17/17, 04:59 PM »

Thanks for the kind words, folks.

I've just updated the TR to include days 2 and 3, which were left blank in the original report posted last night.


« Last Edit: 01/17/17, 05:08 PM by Amar Andalkar » Logged

Griff
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Posts: 485


Re: Jan 12-14, 2017, Muir x3: 2+ ft Powder! 1000th Day
« Reply #12 on: 01/17/17, 08:51 PM »

Simply amazing. Wonderful photos. Thanks!!!
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cumulus
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Posts: 432


Re: Jan 12-14, 2017, Muir x3: 2+ ft Powder! 1000th Day
« Reply #13 on: 01/18/17, 08:32 AM »

I think MRNP should carve out a permanent lifetime honorary position for you with a direct line of influence on gate openings/closings and weather data technology, in my humble opinion.
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Stefan
Garth_Ferber
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Posts: 137


Re: Jan 12-14, 2017, Muir x3: 2+ ft Powder! 1000th Day
« Reply #14 on: 01/18/17, 03:11 PM »

Amar - congrats on discovering happiness and the informative posts and number 1000! Garth
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jhamaker
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Posts: 257


Re: Jan 12-14, 2017, Muir x3: 2+ ft Powder! 1000th Day
« Reply #15 on: 01/18/17, 07:30 PM »

Look at those temps at Muir!

Mazama Ridge and regular rt in the Tatoosh was great Sunday.
Then it rained.
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Stügie
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Posts: 14


Re: Jan 12-14, 2017, Muir x3: 2+ ft Powder! 1000th Day
« Reply #16 on: 01/19/17, 10:24 PM »

Amar, nice work and congrats man!  See you up there again soon.
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"The mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambitions to achieve; they are cathedrals, where I go to practice my religion."  -Anatoli Boukreev
alecapone
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Posts: 807


Re: Jan 12-14, 2017, Muir x3: 2+ ft Powder! 1000th Day
« Reply #17 on: 01/21/17, 07:25 AM »

Awesome AMAR. 1,000 days is pretty dedicated as is, but the quality is top notch. Always enjoy your reports and posts. Good reading and a lesson on how it's done. Here's to 1,000 more healthy high pressure days for you!.
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scott
nordique
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Posts: 85


Re: Jan 12-14, 2017, Muir x3: 2+ ft Powder! 1000th Day
« Reply #18 on: 01/21/17, 09:51 PM »

Amar, thanks for the stupendous TR and all your great photos, and on your 1,000!  Looking forward to reports and photos and data from the next 1,000!
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