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Crystal to Cayuse Traverse

WA Cascades West Slopes South (Mt Rainier)
Posted by danthemtn_man on 1/17/22 8:51am

This weekend my wife and I found ourselves with three days off together and stable weather. Our last days skiing together were spent around New Years skiing all-time cold pow. We figured the snow would be horrible this weekend but the weather suckered us in to try a multi-day traverse.

The plan was to use three days (Sat-Mon) to ski from Crystal Mountain out towards Little Tahoma and back. Due to the poor snow conditions we figured that a traverse would make best use of the situation, as opposed to skiing some particular objective. I think we were conceptually right, but travel below treeline proved to be MUCH slower than anticipated.

On Saturday we arrived at Crystal and left our car at the top of Lot B with 3 parking reservations on the dash. We headed up the lifts Discovery-QS-FQ-6 and traversed South out to E1, dropping into Crystal Lakes basin. From there we made our way out of the basin and around Crystal, Deadwood, and Yakima peaks to Chinook pass. It was cool to see the highway blanketed in snow. From there the idea was to cross Governor's ridge and traverse the North side of Cowlitz Chimneys, onto the Sarvant glacier and Banshee peak.

However by the time we passed Cayuse pass, crossed another unnamed ridge, and dropped down to the base of Governor's ridge, it was 330PM and we felt worked. Below treeline there were rain runnels, glide cracks, avy debris, fallen trees, ice, mush... just about every condition to slow progress. We had only covered 50% of the day 1 route we had planned, and it was an easy decision to head back to the car the next day. There is a TON of below treeline travel between Deadwood Lakes and Governor's ridge.

Our two day trip ended up being just under 18 miles and 8k gain, with 11.5 hours of skiing over two days. It was cool to get out to a new zone and we certainly want to return for a longer traverse!

More info on Madelynn's blog

Up Chair 6


This is how all tours start, right? Trying to feel Euro. Thanks to ski patrol for extra stoke!

Classic Crystal view


This view inspired us to head out and traverse towards Rainier.

Skinning 410


The highway was generally easy to skin or skate, with just a few sections of avy debris/runnels to slow us down. This is the only spot we saw other ski tracks.



We have been slimming down our winter overnight kit. We both left the car with packs weighing just under 25 lbs. fully loaded with food, water, crampons, ice axe, etc.

Looking down 410


We opted to skate 410 and then skin up to Sheep Lake on the return trip.

Rad! And nice work on the pack weight! Thanks for the report. This is inspiring!

Great write-up, thank you!  I traversed Crystal to White Pass Fri-Sun and found the same gunk at and below treeline.  It was a long haul that took a bit more time and energy then expected. Good call climbing back up to Crystal. 

Thanks Mike!

Ja-wreck strong work on the traverse in those conditions. I think I saw some photos on Instagram and it looked spectacular!

Wow, what a positive thinking tour! Ja-wreck even more so jeez!

Love the 410 pics. Yakima Peak looking treacherous in those conditions. :)

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2022-01-17 16:51:38