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Summer backcountry skiing photos: Mount Rainier, Russell Glacier, Flett Glacier
Turns All Year: Previous Home Page Galleries
This is a gallery of Mount Rainier summer 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 summer backcountry skiing trip to the Flett and Russell Glaciers, on the northwest side of Mount Rainier. From our camp at 7000 feet we skied two runs on the Russell Glacier on great corn snow. Photos from our second run are shown in this gallery.
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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 August 8, 2005:
Part 3 of 3: summer backcountry skiing, Spray Park, Flett Glacier,
Russell Glacier, Mount Rainier, Washington, July 12-13, 2005

...continued from part 1: Mount Rainier Flett Glacier summer skiing
                          and part 2: Mount Rainier Russell Glacier summer skiing
Ascending our turns
Ascending our turns
Good snow for waxless skis
Good snow for waxless skis
North Mowich Glacier and marine layer clouds
North Mowich Glacier
and marine layer clouds
On Ptarmigan Ridge, ready for another run
On Ptarmigan Ridge,
ready for another run
Beautiful snow for turning
Beautiful corn snow for turning
Steve skiing the Russell Glacier
Steve skiing the
Russell Glacier
Summer backcountry skiing on the Russell Glacier
Summer backcountry skiing
on the Russell Glacier
Vince, with Carbon Glacier and Curtis Ridge
Vince, with Carbon Glacier
and Curtis Ridge
Vince carves the corn on the Russell Glacier
Vince carves the corn on
the Russell Glacier
Vince skiing the Russell Glacier
Vince skiing
the Russell Glacier
Steve, with Willis Wall and Liberty Ridge
Steve, with Willis Wall
and Liberty Ridge
Mount Rainier summer backcountry skiing
Mount Rainier summer
backcountry skiing
Vince skiing the Russell Glacier
Vince skiing the
Russell Glacier
Traversing toward Flett Glacier, end of second run
Traversing toward Flett
Glacier, end of second run
Traversing the Russell toward the Flett Glacier
Traversing the Russell
toward the Flett Glacier
Vince on the Flett Glacier, with Echo Rock
Vince on the Flett Glacier,
with Echo Rock
Vince skiing the Flett Glacier
Vince skiing the Flett Glacier
Vince at the edge of the clouds
Vince at the edge of the clouds
Charles skiing the Flett Glacier
Charles skiing the Flett Glacier
Ski touring down the ribbon of snow
Ski touring down the
ribbon of snow
Steve gets some last turns
Steve gets some last turns
Vince gets some last turns
Vince gets some last turns
Grim expressions
Grim expressions
Spray Park, Flett Glaciers, Mount Rainier, and clouds
Spray Park, Flett Glaciers,
Mount Rainier, and clouds
Close up from the Spray Park trail
Close up from
the Spray Park trail
Hiking through Spray Park above the clouds
Hiking through Spray Park
above the clouds
Mount Rainier from Mowich Lake Road
Mount Rainier from
Mowich Lake Road


Photos by Steve Barnett and Charles Eldridge


Summer backcountry skiing trip report:
July 12-13, 2005, Spray Park, Flett Glacier, Russell Glacier,
Mount Rainier National Park, 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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