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Muir snowfield skiing photos: September turns, Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington
Turns All Year: Previous Home Page Galleries
This is a gallery of Muir snowfield 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 Mt. Rainier National Park for September turns on the Muir snowfield. A late summer storm had coated the Muir minefield with just enough new snow to make the skiing reasonably fun.
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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 September 19, 2005:
Muir minefield, Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington, September 13, 2005
Matt's whack-a-tourist game
Matt's whack-a-tourist game
The tips-to-elbow move on an unsuspecting ranger
The tips-to-elbow move on
an unsuspecting ranger
Mt. Rainier sports a coat of new snow, with the Turtle
Mt. Rainier sports a coat of
new snow, with the Turtle
Matt pushes his ski tips back in preparation for a forceful hit
Matt pushes his ski tips back in
preparation for a forceful hit
Love birds in paradise, with Nisqually Glacier
Love birds in paradise,
with Nisqually Glacier
Muir snowpatches and Muir snowfield, with Anvil Rock
Muir snowpatches and Muir
snowfield, with Anvil Rock
Mt. Rainier with Wilson Glacier and Nisqually Glacier
Mt. Rainier with Wilson Glacier
and Nisqually Glacier
Awesome looking snow above Pebble Creek
Awesome looking snow
above Pebble Creek
Matt gives encouragement to a newbie
Matt gives encouragement
to a newbie
Lowell boots up the Muir snowfield near Moon Rocks
Lowell boots up the Muir
snowfield near Moon Rocks
A crevasse on the Muir snowfield
A crevasse on
the Muir snowfield
Looking up the Muir minefield to buildings at Camp Muir
Looking up the Muir minefield
to buildings at Camp Muir
Lowell poses overlooking the Cowlitz Glacier
Lowell poses overlooking
the Cowlitz Glacier
Lowell skiing a fun stretch of the Muir minefield
Lowell skiing a fun stretch
of the Muir minefield
Lowell skiing a fun stretch of the Muir snowfield
Lowell skiing a fun stretch
of the Muir snowfield
Lowell skiing a fun stretch of the Muir minefield
Lowell skiing a fun stretch
of the Muir minefield
Lowell skiing a fun stretch of the Muir snowfield
Lowell skiing a fun stretch
of the Muir snowfield
Stem christy and snowplow turns were useful
Stem christy and snowplow
turns were useful
Fun turns in the fog just above the Muir snowpatches
Fun turns in the fog just
above the Muir snowpatches
Late afternoon light on the Wilson Glacier and the Turtle
Late afternoon light on the
Wilson Glacier and the Turtle
Hiking back through meadows above Paradise
Hiking back through
meadows above Paradise
Backcountry skiing trip report:
Muir snowfield, Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington, September 13, 2005

   Encouraged by the reports of absolutely awesome skiing from this past Sunday, I took the first ski day I could get and headed up to the Muir. I was joined by Matt, a long lost ski partner who, inexplicably, decided that this September would be a great time to start his own ski streak, and by Matt's hiker friend Carrie Lee. It was sunny and warm at the Paradise parking lot, the Mountain was completely out, and we could see that the Muir looked very white with the new snow. The Paradise meadows had that fall look and smell to them, and there were yummy blueberries to be eaten (is that allowed?).
   To liven up the hike to snow, Matt played a new game he had dreamed up, which he has dubbed "whack-a-tourist". He carried his skis on his pack in cow-catcher mode, strapped to his pack horizontally, with tips to climbers's left (see photos above). When approaching a tourist, Matt would carefully align his skis to impact the chosen spot on the unsuspecting tourist. Matt worked on several difficult moves on the hike up, including the "tips-to-elbow strike" (on a NPS ranger!) and an as of yet unnamed move involving pushing the ski tips back before releasing them to increase the force of the blow (see photos). This was all great fun and definitely made the hike go more quickly. Thanks Matt!
   The trail was devoid of snow until above Pebble Creek, where the distinctive rolls of "permanent" snow have withered dramatically. While we were stopped for a food break, Lowell appeared. Carrie Lee decided to hike around below the snow, and the rest of us headed up the snow, soon coming across Stefan just finishing a run. The new snow, where not trampled away to brown snow/ice, had compacted to 2-4 inches deep with moderate grain size, soft and moist on top. When we got through the patches section and onto the actual Muir snowfield, about 8400 feet, a closer look revealed that there was a layer of clear ice over the dirty old snow at the base of the new snow, apparently from refreezing of melt water. This made me hopeful that our skis wouldn't be slicing through to the rock-embedded ice. The view up at the rolls along Moon Rocks, however, was not encouraging. Last year on September 5 this area had been fairly smooth, if somewhat brown, but now it looked like a minefield, with moguls and all kinds of ski-catching features hiding under the thin layer of new snow.
   Matt thought that going higher on the Muir would just be too overwhelmingly fun and decided to ski from the top of a little finger of untracked snow under Anvil Rock, but Lowell and I decided to "leave good snow to find better" and kept on hiking. The main hiking route was easy to follow - a brown line in the new snow - and we started encountering the substantial crevasses which have been revealed on the Muir. We stopped just short of the last rise to Camp Muir (the map suggests 9700 feet), had a snack and geared up.
   The snow here was a little stiff, not having thawed completely, and I found it very difficult to get into a skiing rythym. There were several types of hazards that could seen - ice moguls and ridges, crevasses, and melt water slots - and several I could vividly imagine lurking just under the thin cover of new snow - small rocks frozen into the ice surface, ice bollards, and more crevasses and slots. We stayed skier's left of the up track for a little bit, then made our way west across the track to get more room to choose a route through the mine field, crossing a number of crevasses along the way. At that point, maybe around 9400 feet, the skiing got better and actually fun at times as the snow softened, the ice moguls were smaller, and we could find relatively smooth corridors in which to link turns.
   The new snow was moist and somewhat slow, which was good in this case because it gave time to scan ahead for things to avoid. At the flats below Anvil Rock we traversed east to the rocks and skied down Matt's line, where the snow hadn't been trampled by hikers. Several good stretches of turning along in here. The clouds had been building up and we were in varying degrees of fog from there down to Pebble Creek, with one last skiable stretch after a carry through small patches. The hike back was pleasant as we emerged from the fog and enjoyed the early fall colors, smells, and light.
   From an objective point of view, the skiing was terrible. From the subjective point of view of what it would have been like just four days earlier, and what I was expecting (fearing?), the skiing was great! Today looks like another relatively warm and sunny day, so my guess is that if you are not up there skiing right now, it may be too late as there may be very little new snow left by tomorrow.
   Charles

Photos by Charles Eldridge


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