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Author Topic: June 10, 2006 - Emmons Glacier traverse, MRNP  (Read 17567 times)
Sam Avaiusini
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June 10, 2006 - Emmons Glacier traverse, MRNP
« on: 06/11/06, 12:45 PM »

Lowell sent this email on Thursday which could NOT go unanswered:

For Saturday, I'm wondering about a ski trip that's been on my list for a
while. It would be a one-day traverse from Paradise to the White River
campground, first done in 1934 and immortalized in Ira Spring's 1950s movie
"Skiing Above the Clouds." Some of you have seen this film at my house.
It's the one that features Zoom cereal.

I'm thinking that it might be a good tour for the expected weather pattern
Saturday. In fact, we might really be skiing above the clouds. I suggest
shuttling a car to the White River campground Friday evening, camping
somewhere nearby, then driving the Stevens Canyon road to Paradise early
Saturday morning. One could probably also do the trip with a very early car
shuttle on Saturday.

Any interest? Other ideas?



I quickly responded but added that the car shuttling wouldn't be as simple as first thought due to Cayuse Pass still being closed.  Still, being such a worthwhile trip, we would have to cope with it.  Paul Russell and Bill Frans also were in, so we set our plans in motion.  Bill and I had prior commitments on Friday evening which we couldn't get out of, so Paul and Lowell offered to deposit a car at White River and then met us at Paradise by 7am on Saturday. 

Weather on the drive to the mountain didn't seem promising.  It was drippy and gross all the way to the park, but as we drove closer to Paradise, we broke free of the mist and were greeted by a cloud-free upper mountain!  This really lifted our spirits because the last thing we wanted to have happen was to have left a car at White River only having skied the Muir Snowfield!  En route by shortly after 7am, we were at Muir in about 3 hours.  At Moon Rocks, on the way up, clouds had started to back flow onto the mountain from the east.  At Muir, clouds had settled on the summit and down to roughly the level of Cathedral Gap...our next destination.  We were able to skin about half way up the slope to the Gap and booted a short distance coming to a rest at about 10,750ft. on the edge of the Ingraham Glacier.  Visibility was deteriorating and we were soon in a snow squall.  Most of the time we waited on our perch, Little Tahoma was easily visible through the clouds, but even that changed and we were finally starting to get wet.  After waiting a little over an hour, we decided that maybe this wasn't our day and made our way back over to the Gap and down to the snow.  Paul and I had already put our skis back on and were almost ready to glide back to Muir, when we all noticed a growing patch of blue over our heads extending from the direction we had just returned from.  My first thought was, "Sucker Hole".  Minor hemming and hawing ensued.  "Should we go back up and give it another look?"  "Is this nothing more than a sucker hole?"  "What if it looks good to start, but then clamps down on us again once we're in the middle of the Emmons?"  None of us really wanted ski the Muir Snowfield only to have Lowell and Paul make the "walk of shame" back to White River to extract Paul's unused car.  Paul, having slightly more reason than the rest of us because it was his car on the other side said, "Let's go back up and take a look."

Back up on the Ingraham, our outlook had improved dramatically!  We could now see most of our crossing and could see that the lower lying slopes below Little Tahoma were in the sun.  Our spirits had lifted, along with the clouds!  Lowell had done some extensive "geeking around" on the internet, looking at satellite photos and topos.  His intended route took us just above the base of Little Tahoma's West Ridge, then down a few hundred feet and across, contouring near 9,000 feet most of the way.  The snow conditions on the glacier were amazing.  No wind affect, no crust, just super smooth with 3-4 inches of recently deposited buff!  Steamboat Prow came into view along with the remainder of our route.  We could even see climbers descending onto the Emmon's making their final push to Schurman.  Our traverse brought us maybe 300ft below Schurman, so we made the last climb up to camp for a little break.  Our crossing had taken easily under two hours and as Lowell put it, "We snatched victory from the jaws of defeat!"  We managed to not even pull out the ropes although that is a personal choice we all agreed upon and I wouldn't necessarily reccommend to all.

Our route down put us in a position such that we were able to ski onto the Prow with only a few minor sidesteps on a ramp just below the usual climber's route.  Once on the Interglacier, with Glacier Basin in sight, it was time to wrap things up.  The top half of the glacier was heaven for fast tele turns (Paul and I were on tele), but lower down, things became VERY grabby!  So grabby in fact, that at the speed I was going, the snow essentially stopped one of my skis at 30mph and I made an impressive "Tomahawk Jam", cratering in the glop. 

Having skied Mt. Ruth one week earlier, Paul led us through Glacier Basin via the most snow covered route and down a good portion of the trail, before finally removing skis for the last two miles.  A minor rain squall gave way to beautiful sunshine and we were soon on our way to Enumclaw for Mexican.  We finally arrived back at Paradise at 10:30pm under crystal clear skies and a gorgeous full moon.  The crux move of the trip had to be staying awake to make the drive home, which fortunately I managed.  Total time for the outing 22.5 hours (pillow-to-pillow Wink)

If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend this route.  It puts you in a remote and seldom visited part of the park.  Between Muir and Schurman, there is a very exploratory feel and scenery which is simply amazing.  Just be sure that you do it with access to Cayuse Pass...this will avoid MUCH driving!

(Photos to be added shortly)
« Last Edit: 06/12/06, 10:43 AM by Sam Avaiusini » Logged

Sam Avaiusini
Paul_Russell
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Re: Emmons Glacier traverse, Rainier, June 10, 2006
« Reply #1 on: 06/11/06, 04:27 PM »

Thanks for the great report Sam.   Really glad we had the persistence to wait it out and complete the trip!   I think we had it all starting with skiing "above the clouds" to begin the day, "in the clouds" during the middle, and then "below the clouds" at the end.    Those were some incredible and remote views of the mountain we had after the sun broke through.  Thanks for the trip guys, and to Lowell for organizing and leading -- but I'll be sure to check on the car shuttle time before the next trip  Wink

 
Lowell Skoog skiing the Emmons with Little Tahoma in clouds

1. Lowell descending from Cathedral Rocks
2. Sam with descent from CR in background left
3. Route finding on the Emmons
4. Scoping the descent route
5. Looking across to Cathedral Rocks route
6. Sam descending the Emmons
« Last Edit: 06/12/06, 10:56 AM by Paul_Russell » Logged
Lowell_Skoog
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Re: Emmons Glacier traverse, Rainier, June 10, 2006
« Reply #2 on: 06/11/06, 05:33 PM »



Upper left: "Popcorn clouds buttered with sunshine." Sam Avaiusini on Muir Snowfield.  Upper right: Waiting at Cathedral Rocks in a snow shower.  Lower left: Little Tahoma and Emmons Glacier.  Lower right: Navigating among crevasses on the Emmons Glacier.


The Paradise to White River traverse is one of the most historic high level ski routes in the Northwest.  It crosses the highest pass in Washington, the 10,300-foot saddle between Mt Rainier and Little Tahoma. The traverse was first done, in a single day, in April 1934, by Otto Strizek, Ben Spellar and Orville Borgersen.  According to the April 17, 1934 Tacoma Times, "They made the crossing while training for the upcoming Silver Skis race." Otto Strizek was one of the great pioneers of Northwest ski mountaineering in the 1920s and 1930s.  He made ski-climbs of Mt Rainier (1928) and Mt Baker (1931) and first ski descents of Mt Adams (1932) and Mt Saint Helens (1933).  Orville Borgersen was the state's best known ski photographer.  Ben Spellar was a partner with Ome Daiber in an outdoor equipment company.

In about 1955, Bob and Ira Spring repeated the traverse with John Carter and Paul Wiseman, making a short film called "Skiing Above the Clouds." This film was sponsored by Fisher Flouring Mills, the makers of Zoom cereal.  In addition to skiing and mountain scenery, the film includes a short scene of the men cooking and enjoying Zoom for breakfast.  "Tasty? You bet!"  A VHS copy of this film is available in the Mountaineers Library in Seattle.  The Paradise to White River route was included in Ted Mueller's 1968 guidebook, "Northwest Ski Trails," with photos by Bob and Ira Spring. I doubt that the route was done very often.  Crevasses on the Emmons Glacier have given some later parties trouble.

When the road from Cayuse Pass to Paradise is open, the Paradise to White River traverse is logistically simple.  The car shuttle is short and quite scenic.  When you have to drive the long way around the mountain, the shuttle is a grind.

The 1934 party took about 12 hours to do the trip, including a 12-mile hike at the end.  Bob and Ira Spring's party in the 1950s did the route in three days.  Our trip took 11 hours, including time sitting in clouds and wondering what to do.  The varied weather, uncertain outcome, and great companions made this a very rewarding trip.



Upper left: Little Tahoma, cloud raker.  Upper right: Getting organized on the Ingraham Glacier after the clouds broke.  Lower left: Paul Russell below Little Tahoma.  Lower right: Crossing Emmons Glacier.
« Last Edit: 06/11/06, 10:10 PM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged
Lowell_Skoog
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Re: Emmons Glacier traverse, Rainier, June 10, 2006
« Reply #3 on: 06/11/06, 10:25 PM »

We managed to not even pull out the ropes although that is a personal choice we all agreed on and I wouldn't necessarily reccommend to all.

I'm glad you mentioned that Sam. There were a couple of times when I considered asking for the rope. But then I looked around and found an alternative route I was comfortable with. Roping for the Emmons crossing probably wouldn't have slowed us down very much. Before starting the crossing I gave Paul my rope so at least I wouldn't take it with me if I stepped into something while scouting the route. Conditions for the crossing were very good, but roping up is a good policy.
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Paul_Russell
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Re: Emmons Glacier traverse, Rainier, June 10, 2006
« Reply #4 on: 06/12/06, 12:22 AM »

Quote
There were a couple of times when I considered asking for the rope.

Yeah, there were some big holes out there... like this one.   I was generally comfortable with our decision not to rope up, although once we were traversing rather than descending, it would have been easy enough to do.  Thanks for the history of the traverse and the great pics Lowell.  It really added to the trip to know what the "old timers" had done.  I would love to see the film sometime.
« Last Edit: 06/12/06, 11:48 AM by Paul_Russell » Logged
skykilo
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Re: June 10, 2006 - Emmons Glacier traverse, MRNP
« Reply #5 on: 06/12/06, 11:21 AM »

Right on guys, glad to hear someone else was getting the goods!  Nice photos.
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Sam Avaiusini
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Re: June 10, 2006 - Emmons Glacier traverse, MRNP
« Reply #6 on: 06/12/06, 11:43 AM »

Sounds like we just missed you at Paradise.  What time did you leave Paradise?  We picked up our cars at about 10:30, I think.  If had known your plan, I might have....wait, I was too tired, no I wouldn't have. Cool
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Sam Avaiusini
RonL
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Re: June 10, 2006 - Emmons Glacier traverse, MRNP
« Reply #7 on: 06/12/06, 12:15 PM »

Cool trip. I am curious about the "Northwest Ski Trails" book, is it in print anymore? If not, does it have other similar tours like this that aren't in more recent guide books?
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Paul_Russell
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Re: Emmons Glacier traverse, Rainier, June 10, 2006
« Reply #8 on: 06/12/06, 12:32 PM »

This film was sponsored by Fisher Flouring Mills, the makers of Zoom cereal.  In addition to skiing and mountain scenery, the film includes a short scene of the men cooking and enjoying Zoom for breakfast.  "Tasty? You bet!" 

Looks like they still make Zoom...will have to take some along on the next trip  Smiley


* Krusteaz_-_Hot_Cereal_-_Zoom1.jpg (33.81 KB, 123x165 - viewed 1865 times.)
« Last Edit: 06/12/06, 12:35 PM by Paul_Russell » Logged
Lowell_Skoog
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Re: June 10, 2006 - Emmons Glacier traverse, MRNP
« Reply #9 on: 06/12/06, 12:59 PM »

Cool trip. I am curious about the "Northwest Ski Trails" book, is it in print anymore? If not, does it have other similar tours like this that aren't in more recent guide books?

The book has been out of print for a long time. For notes about this book and a list of the trips it includes, click here:

http://www.alpenglow.org/ski-history/notes/book/mueller-1968.html#mueller-1968-trails

"Northwest Ski Trails" was a generation ahead of its time. In his Wild Snow chronology, Lou Dawson calls H.J. Burhenne's Sierra Spring Ski-Touring "North America's first modern guide to true ski mountaineering descents." But Burhenne's book was published 3 years after Mueller's book, and "Northwest Ski Trails" is every bit as much a modern ski mountaineering guide. Mueller's book was aimed at lift skiers who wanted to move to the backcountry. That's why it included both developed ski areas and backcountry tours. It was a quarter century ahead of the campaign, promoted by the ski industry since the 1990s, of encouraging lift skiers to "earn their turns."
« Last Edit: 06/12/06, 01:19 PM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged
Jason_H.
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Re: June 10, 2006 - Emmons Glacier traverse, MRNP
« Reply #10 on: 06/12/06, 02:04 PM »

Cool trip. Nice to see that you were able to break out of the clouds and enjoy the sun.
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Paul_Russell
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Re: June 10, 2006 - Emmons Glacier traverse, MRNP
« Reply #11 on: 06/12/06, 02:47 PM »

I was able to find the Northwest Ski Trails book on Amazon and Abebooks

http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B0006BX1HW/ref=dp_olp_0/102-9977659-8214559?%5Fencoding=UTF8&condition=all

http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&y=16&tn=Northwest+ski+trails&x=27

I prefer to use Amazon though
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RonL
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Re: June 10, 2006 - Emmons Glacier traverse, MRNP
« Reply #12 on: 06/12/06, 03:33 PM »

Cool, thanks for the info. It looks like the book has been appreciating.
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chris_fast
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Re: June 10, 2006 - Emmons Glacier traverse, MRNP
« Reply #13 on: 06/14/06, 11:02 PM »

If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend this route.  It puts you in a remote and seldom visited part of the park.  Between Muir and Schurman, there is a very exploratory feel and scenery which is simply amazing.  Just be sure that you do it with access to Cayuse Pass...this will avoid MUCH driving!

(Photos to be added shortly)
Quote

Awesome trip report! You've got me all fired up to go try it now.  Any thoughts on how late into the season this traverse goes?  Sounds like the Interglacier descent was starting to get a bit thin.
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Lowell_Skoog
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Re: June 10, 2006 - Emmons Glacier traverse, MRNP
« Reply #14 on: 06/15/06, 09:27 AM »

Quote
Awesome trip report! You've got me all fired up to go try it now.  Any thoughts on how late into the season this traverse goes?  Sounds like the Interglacier descent was starting to get a bit thin.

The Interglacier still has plenty of snow. We skied the better part of a mile (with several short carries) down the trail below Glacier Basin. The trail will soon melt out, but the Interglacier will be good well into July.

The Emmons Glacier is the crux of the route, depending on the crevasse patterns. The glacier will gradually open up, but it may take a few weeks. It's hard to say. I suspect that the Emmons will continue to be crossable as long as the Interglacier has decent skiing.

I found this site ( http://local.live.com/ ) handy for judging typical crevasse patterns on the Emmons and planning our route. As Sam wrote above, we descended from Cathedral Rocks (near Ingraham Flats) to a point close to the prow of Little Tahoma's west ridge. Then we descended the Emmons just north of the ridge several hundred feet before traversing north toward Camp Schurman. There are a couple of rock cleavers to go over or below during the crossing. Most of the time we were around 9200 feet elevation. Some routefinding around crevasse areas is necessary.

As I recall, the parties that I've heard about having trouble crossing the Emmons tried to go too high.
« Last Edit: 06/15/06, 09:33 AM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged
Paul_Russell
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Re: June 10, 2006 - Emmons Glacier traverse, MRNP
« Reply #15 on: 06/19/06, 09:08 PM »

Quote
but I'll be sure to check on the car shuttle time before the next trip 

Right.  So what did i do?  I joined Lowell again this weekend for what must be the all time record car shuttle.  Over 500 miles shuttling  trying to do a climb, ski, traverse of glacier peak and cascade crest despite our better judgement with the weather forecast.  We were finally turned back by the Suiattle river crossing which would have involved roping up.  JOM (joy-o-meter) jammed, 18 hour day, 5 mile hike, and no turns  Huh  But still a good adventure exploring the road access, and sharing tales...
« Last Edit: 06/19/06, 10:45 PM by Paul_Russell » Logged
Splitter
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Re: June 10, 2006 - Emmons Glacier traverse, MRNP
« Reply #16 on: 06/19/06, 09:37 PM »

Paul,

Was curious if you had more photos.  Your trip has inspired me and my husband (Peter aka Splitter) to put this trip on our list for next year.

Congratulations to you, Lowell, Sam, and Bill!

Robin

P.S.  Any plans to post a trip report on the Glacier Peak/Cascade Traverse?
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Lowell_Skoog
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Re: June 10, 2006 - Emmons Glacier traverse, MRNP
« Reply #17 on: 06/20/06, 10:53 AM »

Any plans to post a trip report on the Glacier Peak/Cascade Traverse?

Yes, but we need to do the trip first!  Wink

Paul's post captured it pretty well: 6-7 hour car shuttle (twice), 6-mile hike (round-trip), a scary river to cross, clouds that wouldn't clear, and an unpromising forecast. We bailed. Of course this coming weekend, when the weather is looking perfect, I can't go.

The Milk Creek footbridge over the Suiattle River is supposed to be rebuilt this summer. Either we'll wait for that, or we'll go prepared for a pretty serious river crossing. It was easy a month ago during my recon, but June runoff is higher than May.
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