Category Archives: Mt. Rainier

Naches Peak, Chinook Pass

Naches Peak, Chinook Pass

Sunday, April 5th, 2015

Our touring group got up to Chinook Pass around 9 am. We scrapped our original plan to try and attack the Sheep Lake Couloir due to very minimal coverage on southern facing slopes (not sure why we thought that might work). We had no idea how you would even begin the approach from Chinook Pass let alone even if we could expect snow after what would have likely been 1,000+ feet of hiking dirt and rocks.

We instead decided to lap the northern facing slopes off Naches Peak. Starting out from the parking lot at 9:30 am we toured in light base layers. Lots of sun screen was a must… and I did not abide by that must. I’m paying for it tonight. The snow starts right at the parking lots and no hiking was required. The snow right from the get go was surprisingly soft with a very thin, weak crust layer about 6″ below.

Naches Peak, Chinook Pass

When we got to the base of Naches it was clear Friday was a lonely day, based on the few tracks we saw. Today, Saturday, was the opposite. We saw about 50+ different people out touring near Naches Peak. Northern aspects were great for making turns in soft, light snow… something we’ve known little of this season.

Skin tracks were heavily traveled. As the day went on snow began to melt and freeze in the skin tracks making them slick. There were a lot of blowouts on the skin trail, damn splitboarders. Side hilling became challenging as the day went on and setting a solid edge was key.

Naches Peak, Chinook Pass

Coverage all around is low, but we had next to no base damage on our gear, even after 5 laps with filled with airs and power turns. Throughout the day clouds kept trying to hold, but the sun would burn it off before visibility could become a problem.

On the drive home we encountered some rain shortly after passing Crystal Mountain Resort.

Van Trump Park, Mt. Rainier

Van Trump Park, Mt. Rainier

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

King Peaker David and I set out for Rainier with the intention of trying to find some relative solitude away from Paradise. We tossed around the idea of Pyramid Peak but premonitions of bushwhacking and being lost pointed us towards a clearer objective – Van Trump Park.

We followed the trail along the smooth granite (?) walls of Van Trump Creek past Comet Falls. Just under an hour of hiking brought us to continuous, soft snow and we started following a skin track up to the park. The recent snow was a welcome sight, although it made for tricky skinning conditions getting up to the park. Underneath the recent ~4″ was a firm crust that enabled the top layer to slab off easily but with no propagation. Once up to the mellow angles above treeline skinning conditions improved and we headed up the mellow, rolling ridge that divides the Van Trump and Kautz Creeks.

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Without a real destination we decided to stop at a flat spot around 8,000 ft with some of those fine rock seats that the volcanoes offer. After taking in the view, a beer, and some pizza we transitioned and started down. For the most part we just retraced our skin track, ducking down either side of our ascent ridge to try and find the best sliding surface. We encountered many different types of snow during the descent – pockets of wind-deposited pow on leeward aspects, hot pow on sunny aspects, icy spots on ridges, and finally grabby pow down low. I carried my skis once (David rode) and we were back at the shoes and began the hike out. 45 minutes of walking and a Rainier tall boy later we drove past the gate with almost an hour to spare.

Nisqually Chute, Mt. Rainier

Nisqually Chute, Mt. Rainier

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

On Saturday we joined the mass-exodus from the lowlands up at Rainier and set our sites on Camp Muir. Anticipating an icy snowpack that would need some help from the sun in order to become enjoyable, we took our time through Puyallup, going as far as driving several exits in the wrong direction all in the interest of getting the best turns possible.

We pulled in to the parking lot at Paradise around 10:30 which was just about at capacity. The sky was blue and the snow was cold so we set off toward Panorama Point opting to boot last 500 ft or so, while the stubborn struggled with the skin track nearing the top.

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From there it was a straight shot and about 2000 ft to Moon Rocks where we decided on our turn around. The snow was consistently icy for the entire duration of the trip, making it difficult to hold and edge while side hilling along what I believe is referred to as The Sugarloaf, as well as extremely jarring on the ride down.

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Heading back toward the car around 3:30 we skied the Nisqually Chute, which despite sitting in sun all day, was no exception the hard snow conditions experienced everywhere else. A quick hike out of the chute and a bumpy ride back to the parking lot put us back at the car around 4:20 where we took our time packing up until the rangers came around and warned us that the Longmire gate closes at 5:00. I’m not sure how strict they are on that time but we drove through at 4:59.

It was a nice day at the mountain that can be summed up like this; Great weather, very poor snow conditions. The coverage up there is fine right now but it was horribly icy. I guess it just depends on what you are in it for.

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Photos courtesy of Charlie Coultas