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August 11, 2001, Muir Snowfield, Mt. Rainier

8/11/01
WA Cascades West Slopes South (Mt Rainier)
3058
0
Posted by ema on 9/15/02 10:04pm
Don picked me up at about 6:45 and we arrived at Paradise just before 9 AM. The parking lot was almost full. We departed for Camp Muir at about 9:30. There were brilliant fields of wildflowers around Paradise (purple lupine, red Indian paintbrush, pink heather). We put our skis on just above pebble creek. Below us the (usually flat and snowy) surface of the lower Nisqually glacier was largely covered with black debris and completely cut up by innumerable huge crevasses. A bright, red and yellow warning sign described crevasse hazard ahead on the Muir snowfield! We were startled by the number of large bare rock piles we saw covering a significant area of the Muir snowfield above us. Don pointed out a huge pile of black dirt or glacial debris that had melted out in the middle of the lower Muir snowfield. On the upper Muir snowfield we crossed five crevasses. Each crevasse was marked with two red flagged wands. At least two of the crevasses were wide enough to present a major hazard to skiers. The larger ones were at least twenty feet deep (I could not see their bottoms). Don observed the deep blue color of glacial ice in one of them. I could hear water running far below me as I crossed the largest crevasse. We both agreed that unwanded crevasses could be very difficult for a skier to spot from above and we considered the possibility of walking part way down until we got below the crevasses.

We arrived at Camp Muir at about 1:30 PM. Don observed one group of randonee skiers hiking down with their skis on their backs, presumably to avoid crevasse hazard. We decided to ski down the wanded climbers trail until we got below the crevasses (in order to watch for the double red wands marking them). We saw only one other tele skier departing as we began our descent; we saw no other skiers on our way down. Even though it had been sunny all day with a snow level at 14,000 feet, the snow surface was crusty, irregular, and bumpy, but not significantly suncupped (very unusual for August). Don took the lead and did an excellent job of spotting the crevasses far in advance, so we could stop and cross them safely. As we got lower down, below the crevasses, we found some soft clean corn snow toward the center and west side of the snowfield. On top I thought the skiing was only fair. Lower down it was better and I had some fun turns. We took our skis off at pebble creek.

At glacier vista, we looked back at the massively crevassed, black, debris encrusted surface of the Nisqually glacier. we arrived back at the Paradise parking lot at about 4 PM. It took us about two hours of skiing and hiking to get down. For an August ski trip, the skiing was not too bad and overall it was a very interesting tour.

Ken

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august-11-2001-muir-snowfield-mt-rainier
ema
2002-09-16 05:04:06