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October backcountry skiing photos from Grand Park in Mt. Rainier National Park
Turns All Year: Previous Home Page Galleries
This is a gallery of October backcountry skiing photos which appeared on the Turns All Year home page in the past. Thumbnail images on this page can be clicked to view the full-sized photos, and lead into a slide show sequence for the gallery. The photos are from a backcountry skiing trip to Grand Park, on the north side of Mt. Rainier. The shallow but perfect, 4-inch deep, snow pack provided for great cross-country skiing and turns on a beautiful day.
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Turns All Year CD-ROM

The complete version of this photo gallery is now available on Turns All Year CD-ROM. Below you can view thumbnail photos from this gallery.

Turns All Year CD-ROM contains over 180 photo galleries, containing more than 3200 full-sized photos, from backcountry skiing and snowboarding trips in the Pacific Northwest.

from November 1, 2004:
Grand Park, Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington, October 24, 2004
Hiking the trail to Lake Eleanor
Hiking the trail
to Lake Eleanor
Lake Eleanor
Lake Eleanor
Beautiful forest, beautiful morning
Beautiful forest,
beautiful morning
Hiking across Grand Parklet
Hiking across Grand Parklet
Cross-country skiing into Grand Park
Cross-country skiing
into Grand Park
Skiing toward Mt. Rainier
Skiing toward Mt. Rainier
Mt. Rainier from Grand Park
Mt. Rainier from Grand Park
Mt. Rainier close up: Winthrop Glacier, Willis Wall
Mt. Rainier close up:
Winthrop Glacier, Willis Wall
Cross-country skiing through a silver forest
Cross-country skiing
through a silver forest
Near summit of Grand Park
Near summit of Grand Park
Matt cranks his first turns
Matt cranks his first turns
Charles cranks his first turns
Charles cranks his first turns
Extreme gradient!
Extreme gradient!
Charles on the Grand Park Headwall
Charles on the
Grand Park Headwall
Kick and glide toward untracked slopes
Kick and glide toward
untracked slopes
Matt gets the first run
Matt gets the first run
Matt on the steep part
Matt on the steep part
Charles gets his turn
Charles gets his turn
Charles on the steep part
Charles on the steep part
Remains of a powder harvest
Remains of a powder harvest
Cross-country skiing back across Grand Park
Cross-country skiing
back across Grand Park
Backcountry skiing trip report: Grand Park, Mt. Rainier National Park
   Matt and I met Robie and Dorothea at the rest stop on Hwy 410. It didn't seem like there was going to be much snow on this side of Mt. Rainier and we discussed the possibilities. Needing to be back early, Robie and Dorothea decided to check out Chinook Pass and hope to find enough snow to at least cross-country ski the PCT a bit (see trip report). Matt and I decided to take a chance on Grand Park, which at this time of year requires a 2.5 mile hike to find out if there is enough snow to ski. Where FS73 turns into the Eleanor Creek drainage, everything became white, though only with a thin coat, and at the trailhead (4500 feet) there was about an inch of snow.
  It was a beautiful morning, with lots of blue sky and the low angled sun shining into the forest as we hiked the trail up to Lake Eleanor, then over to Grand Parklet, which had 2 inches of snow at the most. As the trail started to climb up to Grand Park, I kept waiting for the snow depth to increase more dramatically. It never did, and topped out at about 4 inches once into Grand Park itself (5500 feet).
  October backcountry skiing on a 4 inch snowpack? A quick snow pit - to the ground - revealed that this might just be possible: the lower 2 inches of the snow pack was rain-soaked and well refrozen, and had nicely buried all of the Park's vegetation, except for some dried flower stalks. This made a perfect base for the top 2 inches of new snow, cold, cohesionless, and fast. A crude shear test suggested a good bond between the two layers, so we felt confident about continuing even though we had not brought avalanche gear.
  The cross-country skiing was superb! For 2 miles we kicked and glided across the snowy meadows on our waxless fishscale skis, feasting our eyes on the spectacle of Mt. Rainier and all of the surrounding peaks and ridges. In the large open areas of the Park there were some places where the new snow had been blown away and only the crust remained, but with good route finding we avoided most of those. We reached the southern tip of Grand Park and then skied as far along the narrowing ridge as we could - not much farther - before returning to a sunny sheltered spot for some lunch.
  After lunch it was time to crank some turns and make this an Official, Certificated, October Backcountry Skiing Trip. To start, we skied to the summit of Grand Park (5763 feet), then did runs to skier's left of what we fondly refer to as the "Grand Park Headwall", a steep north-facing run. How was the snow? Well, it was smooth, fast, and consistent, and I was able to get in 12, 18, and then 15 consecutive turns on my first three runs, over a vertical drop of around 80 feet - it was that good! I stopped counting after that, because I knew I had October in the bag. We did a couple more runs, including the Headwall itself - nice! - then headed over to the west edge of the Grand Park plateau, where I remembered there was some meadowy gradient.
  There we found a most beautiful slope, sun drenched but with the same 4 inch snowpack, still in great shape - and untracked! We tore that slope up, each laying down about 5 spooned runs, each exactly 3 turns long. In between runs we snacked, soaked up the sun, and rested up for the next run.
   After a while there wasn't much untracked powder left, so we packed up and headed back across Grand Park to pick up the trail. We were able to ski a little way down the trail, but then the snow thinned out too much and we hiked the rest of the way back to the car.
   Charles

Photos by Matt Depies and Charles Eldridge


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