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| | |-+  October 21, 2006, Camp Muir (10,100'), MRNP
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Author Topic: October 21, 2006, Camp Muir (10,100'), MRNP  (Read 1705 times)
MW88888888
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October 21, 2006, Camp Muir (10,100'), MRNP
« on: 10/22/06, 08:52 PM »

Day 1
10-21-06
Camp Muir (10,100’), Mount Rainier
Vertical climbed: 4,700’
Vertical skied: 2,800’



My alarm went off at 1 am.  Mark Twight eat your heart out.

I wasn’t getting an alpine start because we needed to be through some serac-filled slope before the sun came up or because we were going for a 60 hour Single-Push of Gasherbrum IV.  No, nothing like that.  More like Extreme Parenthood.  When the love of Mountaineering comes crashing into the love of Family, one must be creative to allow both to occur.  Or as Ron put it, getting home early creates “less friction”. 

Right about this time of the year, when the leaves change color and the first freeze occurs, the sirens come a-calling.  Different parts of the country get their first snows of the year (usually Sean rings in from high Colorado with shots of the first pow to tease all us “low Landers”) and my brother begins obsessing via e-mail on “What mountains are we going to ski this season?”  Blocks of vacations are carved out of life and planning starts anew.  My eyes turn upward toward the ever present snows of the high volcanoes and my ski gear comes out of hibernation. Usually I answer the sirens in my own home grown Greek tragedy, crashed among the rocks of some dust covered ski slope, wishing I had waited one more snowstorm.  Would this year be the same?

Alyson’s parents were flying in that evening and we had a lot to do before they arrived.  She wanted me back by 1 pm, but how was I supposed to get the first ski of the year in that time?  There certainly was no snow close to home, we were still a month away from skiing the Pass.  Ron and I could have settled for a nice rock climb or a scramble, but we just didn’t want to put the rock climbing shoes on again.  That season had ended, spectacularly on a high note I might add, with the 16 hour car-to-car climb of Mt Stuart’s West Ridge.  It was time to transition to skiing.  All we needed was snow.

Ron and I met at the East Gate park and ride at 2 am, and were watching the folks stagger home from the bars and strip clubs of Spanaway by 3.  We reached Longmire by 4 am and had a collective sigh of relief as we found the gate open all night.   We left the Paradise parking lot (5,400’) at 4:30 am. 

The rain of Thursday and Friday had washed away the snow from earlier in the week, and we hit snow in patches just below Panorama Point at about 6,800’.  We were flying up the trail, except for treacherous ice on the paved trail (yes, that’s as in macadam, folks, laid to keep the thousands of tourists from walking Pell Mell among the fragile high meadows) to just below Glacier Vista.  We had a bit of adventure at the turn for the Pebble Creek trail as Ron missed the turn off, and I waited in the dark for Ron to make his way back.  This provided plenty of entertainment value and I was able to tease him mercilessly for the remainder of the day with this early morning mix up.

Up on the snowfield we were treated to a marvelous meteor shower, flashes occurring every few minutes and adding to the wonder of the moment.  Soon enough the sky lightened and the dawn splashed the heavens with color, hardly a breath of wind and grand views of the mountain environment around us – a beautiful day in the mountains. 

We reached Camp Muir at exactly 8 am, a quick 3.5 hours after leaving Paradise (if we didn’t have the mix up at Panorama point we could have easily beat the three hour mark).  We joked about heading for the summit (“you call my wife if I call yours”), saner heads prevailed and we headed into the stone hut for refreshments with a laugh.

Two climbers were getting ready for a day of ice climbing and one man slept in his bag, otherwise Muir was quiet.  We rested and chatted for a bit, and decided to head down at 8:30 am.  We would have liked to wait for the sun to soften the snow (like, say, until 3 pm or so), but we just didn’t have the time.  We strapped on the boards (First time of the Season – yeah!) and cranked turns down the snowfield.

We were pleasantly surprised by the conditions of the upper snowfield, the snow from the week transforming the otherwise choppy and dirty glacial ice into a smooth, albeit firm, edge-able carpet.  As the snowfield rolled away 1,000 feet down we found tougher conditions where the wind had stripped away the new snow to reveal the glacial ice underneath, but nothing to get excited about. These were October turns after all.



We needed three short portages over rocks, otherwise we were able to ski 2,800 VF down to 7,300’ and Pebble Creek.  There we met the first of climbers heading up of the morning, and encouraged them that the snow would be excellent with a little more sun.

We reached the parking lot at 10:17 am and were back on the road north toward home, chuckling to ourselves at the lines of cars waiting at the entrance gate.

Home like a hero a scant 12 hours after leaving.  Did I really drive to Muir, a 5 hour round trip, watch meteor showers by lamplight, see the spectacle of dawn from the Muir Snowfield, climb to 10,000’ and ski nearly 3,000 feet - all within 12 hours?  Who said Mountaineering and Family couldn’t mix?  I brewed up and helped with the housework, a warm glow inside as I day dreamed of skiing Mt Rainier.

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