October 26, 2014
Mount Rainier National Park
Month 10 Turns All Year
It is with great pleasure that I report I’m two months away from my first year-long streak! What’s even more exciting is that it was a foot of fresh powder! This is only the second time I’ve skied in October, the first with Don and Jake on Grinnell Glacier (GNP) in October 2012.
The day before, the parking lot at Paradise (5,000 feet) on Mount Rainier was a rainy, snow-free slop fest. I watched the forecast carefully, and the best bet for fresh tracks was on Sunday. Leaving P-town at 4:30 am, for a 8 am arrival. As I made my way up the twisty approach road, rain turned to slop (where you can hear the water under the tires), to light powder (where the road noise disappears) as I climbed up and up to 5,000 feet.
The last couple miles of the approach were pure powder, and I was laying fresh tracks with my new (used) “Extreme Winter Contact” tires I bought (via Craigslist) the day before! This is always white-knuckle driving, that anxious feeling of being stuck, ESPECIALLY since I convinced myself earlier that I didn’t need my snow shovel! However, I know that this road is plowed, unlike many of the roads in Montana where I’m usually doing this kind of driving, so I knew as long as I could keep it on the roadway I’d be set.
After many miles, I rounded the last bend, in a foot of fresh, and made my way into the parking lot, where I was most afraid of getting stuck. I went up to the high side of the lot and faced downhill, so I could use gravity as my friend on the way out. With little sleep and a powder heaven outside, I took a nap in my car while some people parked right next to me and decided to be loud for an hour or so. Gapers, I tell ya!
Anywho, I got to it and skinned up to Pebble Creek, seeing a few parties on the way. On Saturday the snow didn’t START until Pebble Creek, so I was already in heaven, not lugging my skis up on my back for suncups as I did last month on Mt. Hood. Problem was the higher I went, the worse the weather, wind, and visibility. With my GPS, compass, and common sense I trudged slowly, knowing that I couldn’t count on a trail to get me back to Paradise. Tenuous for sure, but I had prepared to spend the night if necessary, and I always tell myself that “I’m training for a harder trip.” One where navigating out of these conditions may be live-saving.
Now the weather was warming up and the precip was getting soggy. True FULL ON classic Cascades. Wet and cold. I used to tell myself if it was raining, then it was too warm to worry so much about freezing to death but that was when I was young and naive. With winds at 30 mph constant, and 40+ mph gusts, I figured I had enough. I had minor issues with my sunglasses and goggles, so it’s a good thing I packed a second set, as I needed them to see anything on the way down, as the wind was right in my face blowing sleet, snow, hail, etc. My gloves also got wet and my back-up set was inadequate, so I utilized the lesson learned by Maurice Herzog on Annapurna (1960) and put my second pair of socks on over my gloves, which was perfect!
Lucky for me I knew in advance that snow was new to this terrain, meaning there would be no base and I’d have to be careful since there were rocks below the surface. A few awesome powder turns, and a lot of negotiating the rock bands, a lot of whooping an hollering! And I managed to ski all the way back to my car, even down the paved path and down three sets of stairs!
There were only a few cars in the lot, and when I got to the bottom of the mountain, here’s why: They closed the road for plowing! Freshies!!
First time ever skiing in October!! Month 10, Turns All Year!