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Author Topic: June 8, 2007, Fryingpan Glacier, Mt. Rainier  (Read 47297 times)
Charles
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June 8, 2007, Fryingpan Glacier, Mt. Rainier
« on: 06/10/07, 12:50 PM »

Andy and I had the same idea as others for this day, get out for some good weather and, hopefully, snow. The weather was perfect and the snow even better. Fryingpan Creek trail was mostly bare for the first two miles, then mostly dirty forest snow above 4500 feet, but with gaps. The cloud deck started breaking up as we hiked the last forested part to the creek crossing, which was no problem on nicely spaced rocks. Don't think about staying climber's right and avoiding the crossing until you can cross higher on snow unless you like a lot of boulder hopping - no snow out in the gravel bars for quite a ways up.  There was continuous snow on climber's left past the crossing, and we started skinning/fishscaling there on somewhat runnelled snow.

The steeper slopes from Summerland up to the Meany Crest bowl were in pretty good shape, fairly smooth with a few inches of softer snow over a firm layer. We booted the last part of that slope, then continued booting to the top of the upper Meany Crest bowl (7573), where there was a short melted out section. There were ski tracks on the Meany Crest slopes below, but the Fryingpan Glacier was flawlessly smooth and covered with increasing firn spiegel as we ascended. Near the top of the Fryingpan Glacier the firn spiegel made a complete covering of the softened snow underneath, and from the intense reflection off of much of the Emmons Glacier, it looked like it was widespread. The deck of clouds had backed off somewhat midday, but it began pushing through Panhandle Gap and, as we got ready to ski down, puffs made it up the Whitman Glacier and spilled over above the Fryingpan. The turns on the Fryingpan Glacier were magnificent! The firn spiegel made a fast surface for the skis to run on, and the soft snow underneath meant good carving.

Andy skiing shiny firn spiegel near 8600 feet on Fryingpan Glacier:


Even though the Fryingpan Glacier is not very steep, especially the middle section, the fast firn spiegel made the turns great fun all the way down, although there was a small section on the flattest part where bits of the newer snow were a bit slow.

Andy, Little Tahoma, and Rainier:


We all-terrain skied across the bare patch at 7500 feet and continued down the upper Meany Crest bowl. This snow was more challenging (especially for me in my joke boots), with no firn spiegel and the soft surface layer a bit deeper. The main slope down to Summerland was similar at the very top, but then got better for the rest of the way down. We were able to ski all the way to the Fryingpan Creek crossing, 5200 feet. The creek was up a bit but crossing was no problem. By the time we re-entered the forest on the trail the cloud deck had come back in and we had no views of anything up higher. Being wide and with good tread, the trail was pleasant on the hike out. The car had a good coating of pollen but we had picked up none on our skis even though we skied about 800 feet below treeline.

Meany Crest slope above Summerland on the way out:

« Last Edit: 06/10/07, 03:06 PM by Charles » Logged
Zap
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Re: June 8, 2007, Fryingpan Glacier, Mt. Rainier
« Reply #1 on: 06/10/07, 04:59 PM »

A nice tour and you beat the cloud bank. You "fishscales" skiers are animals.   Wink
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wheelinthesky
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Re: June 8, 2007, Fryingpan Glacier, Mt. Rainier
« Reply #2 on: 06/10/07, 06:53 PM »

Charles,
Nice report. The glare off of "das firnspiegel" is blinding. We got some snow down here from the same system. Enough to keep the 'turn all year" going. Keep up the good work.
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Charles
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Re: June 8, 2007, Fryingpan Glacier, Mt. Rainier
« Reply #3 on: 06/10/07, 10:48 PM »

wheelinthesky - you're Keith, right? Good to see you here!

After having another great day skiing on firn spiegel I finally got motivated to learn more about it. CSAC has a good description:
"An ice crust formed on the snow surface on sunny, cold days. The sun's heat penetrates the surface snow layers and causes melt around the grains beneath the surface, but meltwater at the surface is refrozen forming a thin layer of ice. This requires just the right heat balance. Firnspiegel is highly reflective and mirror-like, giving it the colloquial names of firn mirror and glacier fire."

What they forgot to add to this description is that firn spiegel = good skiing, at least in my experience. It was very sunny, but not really cold (FL was supposed to be 10K) and some wind but light. When I picked up sheets of firn spiegel there was some liquid water on them. The surface ice layer of firn spiegel is often discontinuous, but on the upper Fryingpan Glacier it became continuous, and it followed every little microvariation in the surface of the underlying snow. Fortunately it was still incredibly thin and skied great.

I took my fishscale skis but Andy had regular ones and skinned up. I don't trust my joke boots to handle heavier skis. Firn spiegel is not the best for climbing with the fishscales due to the ice layer, and I had to boot the last steeper part to Whitman Crest. I think we did about 5500 feet so I don't think we make it into the "animals" category these days!
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ovrthhills
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Re: June 8, 2007, Fryingpan Glacier, Mt. Rainier
« Reply #4 on: 06/11/07, 07:48 AM »

Charles,
Great report. The first two pictures are show quality.  Do you know anything about the Karhu Guide XCD midfat waxless skis?

Michael
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Joedabaker
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Re: June 8, 2007, Fryingpan Glacier, Mt. Rainier
« Reply #5 on: 06/11/07, 08:12 AM »

Good description of Firn Spiegel-
I love skiing the Firn, usually it is in patches on the slopes, but it is a real treat when you get a whole run on it.
One of the cool things is if you hit it right it sounds like shattered glass as you turn and as the ice debris trickles down the slope. You keep looking over your shoulder expecting much more coming down hill after you. It can be rather noisy, but an awesome smooth ski under foot. Wish I was there. When you tell someone (other skiers) that you skied some great firn spiegel they look at you like you are from another planet. I hope to visit that planet soon.
Great report Charles.
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MW88888888
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Re: June 8, 2007, Fryingpan Glacier, Mt. Rainier
« Reply #6 on: 06/11/07, 08:12 AM »

Exotic snow conditions are one of the big draws of BC skiing for me.  The delight of skiing light, 4 inch feathered depth hoar, velvet corn, firn spiegel, etc add a depth to the skiing outing.  Not all exotica conditions are great, like the hell-born texture of frozen ocean wave sustrugi on Misery Hill on Shasta, but you'll always remember it.

Some of the choicest turns I've ever made, edging out even continental champaign powder, is firn spiegel skied on a steep slope.  The fragile panes of ice breaking apart and cascading down, around and below me, like skiing in a Fine China boutique during an earthquake.  The magic tinkling sound is unique in nature. 

Love the photos, Charles.
« Last Edit: 06/11/07, 08:15 AM by MW88888888 » Logged
Charles
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Re: June 8, 2007, Fryingpan Glacier, Mt. Rainier
« Reply #7 on: 06/11/07, 10:09 AM »

Michael, I don't have any direct experience with those Guide skis. I kind of wonder what is the point of them, however. They are pretty wide (109-78-95) and promoted for the flotation they provide in powder conditions. The problem is that although fishscales grip well when there is some soft moist snow on the surface, they are pretty much useless for ascending in cold snow. If one takes the Guides out on a powder day skins will be the only way to ascend, so why not use regular and maybe higher performance skis? Another consideration is that when spring/summer snow conditions are suitable for waxless skis, the snow can be fairly firm overall and a wide ski is often not the best choice. Others may have direct experience with the Guide skis and a different opinion, however...

I agree about the musical quality of firn spiegel. In addition to the great skiing, the cascading of fragments around you as you turn is one of the big attractions of it.
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ovrthhills
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Re: June 8, 2007, Fryingpan Glacier, Mt. Rainier
« Reply #8 on: 06/11/07, 12:42 PM »

Charles,
Thanks for the info on the waxless skis.  And, ironically, this report and the replies describing the firn spiegel  reinforce my opinion about the posting of pictures.  A couple of well chosen pictures accompanied by good descriptive prose and the experience is complete. Thanks again.
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Jeff Huber
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Re: June 8, 2007, Fryingpan Glacier, Mt. Rainier
« Reply #9 on: 06/11/07, 12:49 PM »

Great report and photos Charles. I hope this solves the Fryingpan picture issue Smiley.
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Randy
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Re: June 8, 2007, Fryingpan Glacier, Mt. Rainier
« Reply #10 on: 06/12/07, 02:01 PM »

Charles,
Great report. The first two pictures are show quality.  Do you know anything about the Karhu Guide XCD midfat waxless skis?

Michael

I have a pair of Karhu XCD Guides -- overall I'm pretty happy with the performance of the ski.    Due to it's width, a stiffer boot than Charles "Joke Boots" is desirable.  I use Garmont Excursions with mine.

I've found the waxless base very useful in yo-yo suitable terrain where you can set a moderate ascent track and run many laps without having to stop and fiddle with skins.   In most conditions I find that the pattern will climb at angles between 15 - 20 degrees.   

In perfect corn and well consolidated conditions the extra width of the Guide is of little benefit compared to say 60mm wide tele/waxless skis.    However when the corn isn't yet fully baked and when the corn has overcooked towards mush and glop -- the extra width and very curvy sidecut of the Guide make the turns easier and more enjoyable.

I have ended up feeling that the Guide is a bit slow on gentle descents (e.g. cruising down a logging road on the way out) -- but I think this may more to do with me being too heavy for the flex of the ski and thus pressing the pattern into the snow more than ideal.
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Charles
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Re: June 8, 2007, Fryingpan Glacier, Mt. Rainier
« Reply #11 on: 06/12/07, 02:45 PM »

Randy, thanks for the direct experience report. After I posted I was thinking about the Guides and had the idea that there might be a spring transition time when they would work pretty well. I can get kind of cynical when I see something like that ski promoted for powder use...

Jeff, yes, the photo issue is definitely solved! Thanks for all of your help along the way.
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Randy
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Re: June 8, 2007, Fryingpan Glacier, Mt. Rainier
« Reply #12 on: 06/13/07, 02:57 PM »

This is the NW -- since when was powder performance an important consideration Wink

In fluffy snow the pattern doesn't climb very steeply -- but OTH it also doesn't drag very much.

The XCD Guide is a light ski for it's width and it is a very sweet turning ski.   It would also be desirable if offered in a smooth based version.

But who knows what the new owners of the Karhu / K2 brand will do ? -- it might be that last season will be the only time it will be made.
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md2020
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Re: June 8, 2007, Fryingpan Glacier, Mt. Rainier
« Reply #13 on: 06/14/07, 09:05 AM »

But who knows what the new owners of the Karhu / K2 brand will do ? -- it might be that last season will be the only time it will be made.

NOOOOOOO!!! Cry  Randy, is this really true?

We've been skiing our Guides all spring and we've been very impressed. Though not a fan of waxless in colder more powdery conditions, as far as I'm concerned, these are the answer to spring skiing. In the past we've had to compromise with skis not really made for turning and touring. Brenda had a pair of TUA Montours that turned pretty well but really sucked for climbing. It's unbelievable how well the Guides climb. Better than my Fischer Boundless, which climbed ok but due to the excess camber, I never felt it turned as well as it should. The Guides have more of an alpine camber and they turn so easy.  I was using my Tua Nitrogens for a lot of spring tours with short flat approaches, but I swear these Guides turn better, and I don't get the chatter I often got with the Nitros on the downhill. One annoyance of waxless skis has always been the "humming" of the fishscales on the snow - it was very bad with the Boundless. I have yet to hear the Guides hum. It must be the pattern that Karhu is using.  The added centimeter or so of width makes these skis much better in softer wet snow than anything we've tried recently. The only negative is what Randy said about them being a bit slow on very mellow angles - we're talking logging road angles here.

Anyway it would be a shame if they stopped making these skis, and I would be surprised seeing how difficult it was for shops to keep them on the shelfs earlier in the season. I was even looking forward to a Waxless Jak in the near future. These skis really put an end to many of the compromises of the past.

We'll be up at Sunrise this weekend and I'd be willing to let you take a test run if you like.

Brenda, Guides and Firn Spiegel at Standup Crk

« Last Edit: 06/14/07, 09:49 AM by md2020 » Logged

Mike Metz
ovrthhills
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Re: June 8, 2007, Fryingpan Glacier, Mt. Rainier
« Reply #14 on: 06/14/07, 10:18 AM »

Wow, looks like I opened a can of "Random Tracks".  Great info.  Thanks
Michael
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wheelinthesky
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Re: June 8, 2007, Fryingpan Glacier, Mt. Rainier
« Reply #15 on: 07/05/07, 09:20 PM »

Charles,
You've got it right. Firn Mirror, Glacial Fire, Fine China Boutique during an earthquake and "sounds like shattered glass as you turn " sum it all up pretty well. I think it's more air than snow per cubic inch. Just rare enough to keep me coming back 'till next time. Got some in '06 but not this year. It's a thin crust of ice floating over perfect corn. "Corn Sheen" as viewed from a distance. Mmmmm.
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