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MRNP - Wilson Headwall

WA Cascades West Slopes South (Mt Rainier)
Posted by timgibson11 on 5/14/23 10:52pm
When I went to Montana to ski a couple years ago my friend Garrett threw me straight into the deep end. So when Garrett came to visit Seattle I figured I should be a good host and extend him the same courtesy! Yesterday we climbed Rainier and skied the Wilson Headwall in nearly perfect conditions. This is the 7th route I've skied on Rainier; I'd been scheming on the Wilson for 2 years and it felt good to finally tick it off my list.
We left the car around 2AM. A solid overnight freeze made for a quick & easy ascent via Fuhrer Finger and put us on the summit by 11. The East wind was a bit stronger than forecast, but the cloudless day was so warm that it didn't matter. South-facing slopes were softening quickly and the turns were good straight off the top - not always a given on Rainier. Instead of worrying about chattery skis, we could focus on enjoying the views and finding the entrance to the headwall.
Despite being very aesthetic, I was worried that the Wilson might not feel like a "flowy" ski line due to snaking around cliff bands (these are the things that keep me up at night). This turned out to not be an issue at all - the headwall is absolutely massive, much bigger than it looks from afar. The vertical spaces between the cliff bands all feature plenty of fall-line skiing. On top of that, the variety of terrain on the Wilson keeps things interesting - a chute here, some exposure there, wide open spaces for carefree turns, and even a little bit of "oh shit a giant ice cliff right above me, time to do my best Jérémie Heitz impression and GTFO"! Getting past the bergscrhund at the bottom of the headwall requires a hard traverse either left or right. Garrett volunteered to check out the skiers left option and found a way across that only required a short hop.
The rest of the way back to Paradise was smooth sailing, and we got to do a bit of tourist slalom down near the parking lot. I hear it's under consideration as a new sport for the 2030 Winter Olympics.
Full video of the ski descent (9 min) available in HD at https://youtu.be/PQy7pyaRLe8

Strong work Tim! Always fun seeing your yearly new line on Rainier.

Nice line. Skied in great style too. Been wondering how wide that entry couloir is. 

@lilb907 we can't just be scratching our way down these things now, can we?! Entry couloir was pretty mellow, it looked wide enough to make turns in all the photos I've seen as well. I think the crux of this line is routefinding & passing the schrund, the skiing itself wasn't that difficult...although we did have hero snow so take that assessment with a grain of salt. I heard you were skiing with my friend Sean up in AK!

Cool report. Nailed it for sure. It's always motivating to ski underneath a big serac wall waiting to drop on a hot day!!!

Same thoughts as lilb907, this demystifies this line for me a lot

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2023-05-15 05:52:22