Associated trip report: Yet another very warm day was forecast, with marine air pushing in toward evening. The gate on the Mowich Lake road had just opened, and there were no other cars in lot. I hiked the shady, cool Wonderland Trail, with all of its maddening ups and downs on a supposed traverse, up into Spray Park and stashed my shoes. The first wave of wildflowers, avalanche lillies and companions, was in full swing in the bottom half of Spray Park, and the mosquitoes were hungry. The first real snow started at the top of Spray Park, ~6200'. I followed a ribbon of snow to the eastern lobe of the Flett Glacier, and skied up it between Echo Rock and Observation Rock to a crossing onto the Russell Glacier at ~7800'. The quality of the snow was really pretty pathetic - irregular suncups on runnels on all but the steepest slopes - and the easily the worst I've seen there so early in the season. I guess summer skiers will be paying for the sins of great June skiing until new snow starts falling!
Ê The Russell Glacier still had pretty good coverage, but the only smooth snow to be seen was on the steeper cornice rolls along the lee edge of Ptarmigan Ridge. I skied up to the top of one of these at ~8200', intending to ski down to the edge of the Carbon Glacier for views and a rest. As I skied down the smooth, but too short, steeper top part a skier appeared, so I went over and met Roy. We decided to continue up the Russell together (I had waxless skis, so it was easy to change modes), and went up to the top of another roll at ~8800'. Again nice snow on the steeper part, but too short, and then onto less-than-optimal snow on the gentle terrain which makes up a lot of the Russell. Roy decided to head back, but I continued down the Russell farther skier's right than I had been before. There was a short section of nasty snow ~8000', but as the slope steepened the turning became fairly good to the bottom of the slope at ~6600'. I walked across the Russell's morainal debris, which is perched above cliffs dropping to the Carbon Glacier, and found a rest spot with a great view of the upper Carbon, Rainier's north face, and Liberty Ridge. The variety of plant life starting to recolonize the rubble was impressive.
Ê Rainier had been sporting a very active cloud cap all day, complete with downstream lenticulars and eddy clouds flowing "backwards" toward the north face, but the zone of active cloud formation descended while I rested. By the time I started skiing back up, the summit had come out but clouds were billowing off of Ptarmigan Ridge, providing nice relief from the sun and heat. I climbed up around the north side of Echo Rock, crossed over to the eastern Flett, and then up to the top of a steeper slope under Observation Rock. A nice little run there, then I traversed west to the section of the Flett which culminates in the steep headwall favored by fall ice climbers (the snow coverage and quality were still good for skiing there), and skied down through patches of fog past "Cat-Eye Lake" on snow that was, again, not that great. I was able to keep skis on for the traverse over to the Wonderland Trail by skiing across about 5 short sections of meadow (I reasoned that this was better for the plants than crushing them with my T3s). By the time I started hiking down the trail, a solid cloud deck had formed above 6500', making for a cool hike out. My newly acquired TOPO! program suggests that my route covered 16 miles and 7400 vf - no wonder I was tired!