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Mount Rainier summer skiing photos: Flett Glacier, Spray Park
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This is a gallery of Mount Rainier summer 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 summer skiing trip to the Flett Glacier and Russell Glacier on the northwest side of Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. We hiked through Spray Park in fog but found our camp at 7000 feet at the top of the clouds, and found nice sunset skiing on the Flett Glacier. More photos from this trip can be found in the next two galleries.
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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 July 25, 2005:
Part 1 of 3: summer skiing, Spray Park, Flett Glacier, Russell Glacier,
Mount Rainier, Washington, July 12-13, 2005

Hiking the Spray Park trail
Hiking the Spray Park trail
Charles' view of the mossy cascade
Charles' view of
the mossy cascade
Steve's view of the mossy cascade
Steve's view of
the mossy cascade
Log bridge on the Spray Park trail
Log bridge on the
Spray Park trail
Hiking through Spray Park
Hiking through Spray Park
Hiking the Spray Park trail through avalanche lillies
Hiking the Spray Park trail
through avalanche lillies
Hiking the way path through heather and fog
Hiking the way path
through heather and fog
Legendary walled camp at 7000 feet
Legendary walled camp
at 7000 feet
Brief clearing gives a nice view
Brief clearing gives a nice view
Really Steve, there is a great view from the camp!
Really Steve, there is a
great view from the camp!
Clear skies above camp mean it's time for some skiing
Clear skies above camp mean
it's time for some skiing
Skiing up the eastern Flett Glacier, with Liberty Cap
Skiing up the eastern Flett
Glacier, with Liberty Cap
Sunset light on Echo Rock
Sunset light on Echo Rock
Skiing up the Flett Glacier toward Observation Rock
Skiing up the Flett Glacier
toward Observation Rock
Ski touring toward a run on the Flett Glacier
Ski touring toward a run
on the Flett Glacier
Charles skis re-freezing snow on the Flett Glacier
Charles skis re-freezing
snow on the Flett Glacier
Charles
Charles
Steve skiing the eastern Flett Glacier
Steve skiing the
eastern Flett Glacier
Steve
Steve
Steve
Steve
Steve skis into the edge of the fog below Observation Rock
Steve skis into the edge of the
fog below Observation Rock
Misty turns on the eastern Flett Glacier
Misty turns on the
eastern Flett Glacier
Sunset glow on Libery Cap and Liberty Cap Glacier
Sunset glow on Libery Cap
and Liberty Cap Glacier
Artsy sunset view of Mount Rainier
Artsy sunset view
of Mount Rainier
The camp stream had lots of ice in the morning
The camp stream had lots
of ice in the morning
A ski bum relaxing in our camp above the clouds
A ski bum relaxing in our
camp above the clouds
Toward the Flett and Russell Glaciers for a day of skiing
Toward the Flett and Russell
Glaciers for a day of skiing

Continued in part 2: Russell Glacier summer corn snow skiing


Photos by Steve Barnett and Charles Eldridge


Backcountry summer skiing trip report:
July 12-13, 2005, Spray Park, Flett Glacier, Russell Glacier,
Mount Rainier, Washington

   Fog, fog, and more fog. But the forecast was hopeful, so Steve and I set out from Mowich Lake trying to enjoy the nice hiking conditions provided by the damp marine layer. We met three climbers on the Spray Park trail who had been turned back from a summit attempt via the Ptarmigan route by very high winds. They reported that the Russell was basked in glorious sunshine, that the cloud layer topped out around 7000 feet, and that we should have some awesome skiing. Since we were planning on camping at around 7000 feet, I thought this sounded great, although Steve kept muttering something along the lines of, "liars, filthy liars" as we hiked on. The flower show was still good in Spray Park, with the usual progression to large stands of avalanche lilles in the uppermost meadows. There was no snow anywhere until just below the high point of the Spray Park trail, where we encountered a few pathetic patches. We discussed the possibility of making 50 runs on one of these to get the required 1000 vertical, but I was sure that we could do better than that if we kept going.
   At the trail's high point, in the fog, there was so much snow missing that I wasn't sure that I could get us to the secret ribbon of snow which leads directly to the base of the eastern Flett, so we hiked the way path toward the Flett instead. Part way up, in a very scenic grass and heather hollow, we dropped our packs and continued on the path in dense fog. Part way along Steve decided a nap in the hollow sounded better than wandering in the fog above treeline, so he headed back to the packs. I was sure I could find the legendary walled camp, 7020 feet, where maidens dance in the sun and the running water tastes like wine, so I continued. I found it, with water but without maidens. Right after I got there, the clouds parted, revealing Echo Rock, Observation Rock, the Flett Glacier, the Russell Glacier, and the upper part of Rainier all shining in the sun, just as the climbers had reported. I quickly snapped some photos as proof and then hiked back to the packs, where I roused Steve from his dreams and showed him the photos. He kept muttering something along the lines of, "liar, filthy liar", but did finally relent and we headed off toward the camp. Once there we set out our bivy sacs and had some dinner, all in dense blowing fog, although within the confines of the camp's rock walls it was actually pretty pleasant.
   Finally we finally started to get sustained views from camp, and so around 8:00 we headed to the eastern Flett, the base of which was about five minutes from camp. The light of the setting sun illuminated the scenery beautifully, but now we were in a race against breakable crust since the snow was rapidly refreezing. With our waxless skis we couldn't quite make it all the way up to the top of the snow under Observation Rock, so we stopped a little short and skied down. A little tricky at first due to the refreezing, but overall quite nice. It was still possible to ski all the way down on this year's snow, although there were significant areas of older, dirty and hard, snow showing already. Just as the sun was setting we got another view of upper Rainier from camp, lit up with an intensely pink glow.
   During the night the marine layer settled down, and I awoke several times to look at the dome of stars overhead. In the morning, sunny with blue skies where we were, it was apparent that the clouds hadn't settled down very far, and the wind was still from the west so we weren't sure how long we would be fog-free. Although it didn't feel all that cold overnight where we slept, our little stream had quite a bit of ice on it, and the snow had frozen solidly. Steve had brought skins but I had not, so he skinned and I hiked to the top of the eastern Flett and crossed rocks onto the Russell Glacier at about 7600 feet. Looking upward, the Russell was very smooth and very white, still coated with late season snow. Looking downward, it appeared that bare ice was showing in the flats around 7200 feet. A number of large crevasses were already opened on the edge of the Russell where we started skiing up, and there were scattered hairline cracks visible, but in general the western edge of the glacier still looked quite good. Skiing up, north-facing rolls were very firm and I had to traverse to the east a bit to get onto snow that had warmed in the morning sun to get reasonable grip with my fishscales. We made our way upward and took a break on Ptarmigan Ridge rocks around 8600 feet so that I could sew a spot on my leather/fabric joke boots where I had evidently sliced the stitching with an edge. That's when a skier suddenly popped up in front of us - Vince! He had talked about meeting us on the Russell but I didn't think we'd see him. He had started from Mowich Lake at 7:30 and obviously made good time, undeterred by the fog lower down.
   We then headed up again, but it became evident that the best skiing was going to be lower, not higher, and on more easterly aspects. All of the steeper north-facing rolls had a hard or breakable crust over up to 12 inches of unconsolidated newer snow, so instead of skiing up to the 9500 foot point or higher, we traversed SE to a 9200 foot snow saddle which looks right down onto the upper Carbon Glacier and across to Liberty Ridge and the north face. We geared up for turns and then traversed back across the crusty snow to get a good fall line down the Russell, keeping just to skier's right of the prominent rock rib which runs down the glacier as we skied down. By this time (around noon) the snow was perfect corn, a fast, consistent sun-softened surface over a solid base. Turning was great even on the low angle section because the snow was so fast. There were a few easy to see hairline cracks, and one big one in our line around 8000 feet, although toward the Carbon Glacier the crevasses got much more dense. We skied down to the fog, about 7500 feet, which is where the snow became less than perfect, although stiil very good for mid-July. All of that hiking for one run on the Russell didn't seem right, so we skied back up (fishscales now working great with the softened snow) to a bump on Ptarmigan Ridge at about 8900 feet and did another run down to 7500 feet, just as perfect as the first run. From there we had to walk across the rock rib and then traverse (quite a few hairline cracks) back to our 7600 foot crossover to the Flett. I wanted to get a good look at the Flett Glacier Cat-eye Lake run, so we skied up to the 7800 high point just under Observation Rock and looked down: nasty. Although the headwall looked OK, for those who like that kind of thing, lower down it was quite melted out and much of what remained was very dirty. It looked like it might be difficult to ski even as far as Cat-eye Lake (which again looks like a mud puddle and not a cat eye). The skiing on the eastern Flett back toward camp was good as long as we stayed on this season's snow.
   As we arrived at camp to pack up, we noticed that the wind had shifted from west to east and the clouds were backing off. With the better visibility we followed the ribbon of snow down to the high point of the Spray Park trail with two short carries, then hoisted the skis on the packs for the hike out. A boot adjustment break in lower Spray Park revealed that there were indeed mosquitoes around, though we had seen virtually none until then.
    Charles

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