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Backcountry skiing photos from Mount Rainier: Russell Glacier, Flett Glacier, Spray Park
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This is a gallery of Mount Rainier 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 3 day backcountry skiing trip to the Russell Glacier and Flett Glacier above Spray Park, on the northwest side of Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. Beautiful weather and even more beautiful snow made for some great skiing.
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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 June 6, 2005:
Spray Park, Flett Glacier, Russell Glacier, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, May 28-30, 2005, days 1+2
North Mowich Glacier, Mowich Face, and Liberty Cap
North Mowich Glacier, Mowich
Face, and Liberty Cap
Hiking snow patches in lower Spray Park
Hiking snow patches
in lower Spray Park
Flett Glacier and Observation Rock from Spray Park
Flett Glacier and Observation
Rock from Spray Park
Spray Park, Echo Rock, and Mount Rainier
Spray Park, Echo Rock,
and Mount Rainier
Skinning through Spray Park
Skinning through Spray Park
Sunset on Mount Rainier's Liberty Cap
Sunset on Mount
Rainier's Liberty Cap
Skinning away from Spray Park camp
Skinning away from
Spray Park camp
Eastern Flett Glacier and Mount Rainier
Eastern Flett Glacier
and Mount Rainier
Skinning on the Russell Glacier, with Echo Rock
Skinning on the Russell
Glacier, with Echo Rock
Skinning, with Liberty Cap Glacier
Skinning, with Liberty
Cap Glacier
Upper Russell Glacier, with Ptarmigan Ridge
Upper Russell Glacier,
with Ptarmigan Ridge
Vince skiing stiff snow on upper Russell Glacier
Vince skiing stiff snow
on upper Russell Glacier
Vince skiing nice snow on the Russell Glacier
Vince skiing nice snow
on the Russell Glacier
Looking down to the fog filled Carbon River valley
Looking down to the fog
filled Carbon River valley
Willis Wall, Liberty Ridge, and Liberty Cap
Willis Wall, Liberty
Ridge, and Liberty Cap
Skinning up for another run
Skinning up for another run
Vince enjoys another helping
Vince enjoys another helping
Vince skiing the Russell, with lower Curtis Ridge
Vince skiing the Russell,
with lower Curtis Ridge
Looking toward Carbon Glacier and Mystic Lake
Looking toward Carbon
Glacier and Mystic Lake
Charles takes his joke boots for a spin
Charles takes his
joke boots for a spin
Great skiing conditions
Great skiing conditions
Vince skiing the Russell Glacier
Vince skiing the
Russell Glacier
Looking toward the Carbon Glacier
Looking toward
the Carbon Glacier
Final turns down the toe of the Russell
Final turns down the
toe of the Russell
Starting back to camp
Starting back to camp
Great snow and blue skies
Great snow and blue skies
North face of Mount Rainier, with Liberty Ridge
North face of Mount Rainier,
with Liberty Ridge
Vince skiing the Flett Glacier Cat-eye Lake run
Vince skiing the Flett Glacier
Cat-eye Lake run
Go Vince!
Go Vince!
Vince skiing the Flett Glacier, with headwall above
Vince skiing the Flett Glacier,
with headwall above
Go Vince!!
Go Vince!!
Bottom of Flett Glacier Cat-eye Lake run
Bottom of Flett Glacier
Cat-eye Lake run
Vince poaches some fine turning
Vince poaches
some fine turning
Turns on the Flett Glacier
Turns on the Flett Glacier
Bivy in upper Spray Park
Bivy in upper Spray Park
Mount Rainier with mild lenticular cloud activity
Mount Rainier with mild
lenticular cloud activity


Continued in Part 2 of Mount Rainier Russell Glacier skiing photos

Photos by Vince Barnes and Charles Eldridge

Backcountry skiing trip report:
Spray Park, Flett Glacier, Russell Glacier, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, May 28-30, 2005

   Magnificent! Vince and I spent two nights camping in Spray Park and skiing the Flett and Russell Glaciers, and had the best weather and skiing conditions I've experienced in many years on a Memorial Day weekend. We left Seattle mid-afternoon on Saturday, picked up a permit in Wilkeson (no one else camping in the entire cross-country zone), and started hiking the Spray Park trail about 5:30. It was quite a bit cooler at Mowich Lake than it had been in the lowlands so the hike was pleasant, with sunlight filtering in through the nice forest and no snow until lower Spray Park. Just before we got to skinable snow we ran into Robie and gang returning from their day trip to the Russell, and got good information about coverage and water availability. We got on the ribbon of snow that Robie's group had used and skied into upper Spray Park, where we found a good spot for our camp site at about 6200 feet, with flat snow for our bivy sacks, running water, and a great view up to the Flett and Liberty Cap and out across Spray Park to the lowlands. There was an easterly wind but the sunshine and our little protected nooks in the rocks made it almost balmy until the sun set. As it was getting dark a fog layer started forming down in the North Mowich River valley.
   We awoke Sunday morning to brilliant sunshine and a sea of clouds covering the lowlands, topping out around 5500 feet. For the rest of the trip this cloud layer was always present but remained well behaved, although we kept expecting the long forecasted big marine surge to cause it to envelop us at any moment. After breakfast we skied up continuous snow to the base of the eastern lobe of the Flett (between Echo and Observation Rocks), which was a treat because this route is typically already melted out by the time the Mowich Lake road opens and is an easier route up than the main Flett run. We then skied up the Flett to the cross over to the Russell Glacier at about 7800 feet, where we took a snack break and soaked up the view of Rainier's north side. The Russell looked to be in the best shape I've ever seen: smooth and pure white across its entire extent. Robie had said that the newer snow on the Russell had been somewhat mushy and grabby for their run the day before, but as we skinned up it seemed that conditions had improved overnight. For the most part there were 2-4 inches of soft snow on top of a firm base, although a couple of spots that got more direct morning sun had a thicker soft layer. The snow had not refrozen overnight but the liquid water seemed to have drained away, and the cool downslope glacier breeze was keeping the snow (and us) from heating up too much.
   We topped out at the last bump overlooking the North Mowich Glacier before the final steep slope which rises to the point of Ptarmigan Ridge. My reading of the map puts this at 9500 feet, although it is the same place Robie's group stopped and called 9200 feet. After snack and views we geared up for the run down to the base of the Russell, around noon. I had my waxless skis and joke boots (leather/fabric), but hooked on my supercharger cables for the run; Vince had real skis and boots (T3s and Super Stinx). The snow on the first steeper slope was a bit stiff, though not crusty; I believe that this is the slope that had shed giant rollers for Robie's group the day before. Below that the snow got better, but the turning didn't become great until the gradient steepened below about 8500 feet. We headed skier's right of the rock rib that has a balanced rock type formation on it, careful not to veer too far right into the broken up part of the Russell. As we skied down to the bottom of the Russell, the turning just got better and better, and the snow remained smooth and white all the way down. There was a big open crevasse at a rollover near 7600 feet, but it was easy to see. At the bottom of the Russell, about 6700 feet, we left our skis and hiked the short distance across the snow-free outwash plain to the edge of the cliffs which drop down to the Carbon Glacier. It was really warm on the rocks, and we relaxed a while and took in the awesome view of Rainier's north face. We decided that we had to ski the great snow on the lower Russell again, so we left our packs and skied up to around 8200 feet and did another run. A pretty good pile of clouds built up to the east of Mount Rainier in the afternoon, with lots of thunder, but it slowly moved south and disappeared behind the mountain, leaving us in sun all day.
   To get back to camp we did a climbing traverse across the bottom of the Russell and around the north side of Echo Rock, crossed over rocks to the base of the eastern lobe of the Flett, and then did a climbing traverse to the 7500 foot crossover point to the main Flett run. There we ran into Scott, and followed him down the run past Flett (Cat-Eye) Lake. The snow here was also good, especially below the top roll, and not yet too tracked up. The Flett headwall looked somewhat dangerous. It appeared to have been loaded with newer snow and had a substantial cornice overhanging most of it. The previous evening we had seen a piece of cornice break off and trigger an avalanche which made a hefty pile of debris at the base of the headwall. Back at camp we enjoyed a leisurely dinner watching the sun set over the sea of lowland clouds.
   Sunday night seemed a little cooler than the previous night, but still there was no refreezing, the wind stayed out of the east, and the cloud layer remained about where it had been on Sunday. There was intermittent lenticular activity over Rainier's summit, but it didn't ever seem to get very organized and we were optimistic that we would have another good day of skiing, so after breakfast we headed back to the Russell via our Sunday route. We skied up to about 8500 feet on the Russell and repeated our run of the previous day. The skiing was still excellent. To get back toward camp this time we did a climbing traverse up the Russell along the east side of Echo Rock and continued to the 8200 foot saddle immediately SE of Observation Rock. After lunch and lounging on the hot rocks, we skied the somewhat mushy small slope (thin hissers) down to the top of the eastern Flett, then traversed to the crossover to the main Flett run. The skiing here was even better than the previous day, and we met Mike and Brenda part way down. Some clouds had begun to form around Echo and Observation, but they never amounted to much and largely backed off a little later. After packing up we followed a ribbon of snow back to the Spray Park trail, hitting it at around 5700 feet with a few small heather traverses and one short carry. The hike out was very pleasant as we entered the cloud layer in lower Spray Park and had cool misty conditions for the rest of the way. The cloud layer had done a great job of keeping away the hikers. We saw only two people on the hike out, and they just laughed knowingly when I said, "If you keep hiking you will get to brilliant sunshine." Crazy skiers!
   Charles

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