By Phillip Tuttle
“Bad News: More Snow Incoming!” – that’s one of the many headlines meteorologists have been publishing around the non-stop storm cycles dumping feet of snow along the East Coast of the US. While our fellow Eastern Americans have been lapping the goodies for months now, the PNW has been getting hammered by the pineapple express, ultimately eating away at what little snow we have. Determined to find snow, I set out with a buddy to the higher elevations of Mt. Rainier. Having experienced nothing but rain for the past week and news of snow levels upwards of 7,000’, the expectations were low. There was a short break between storms, lining perfectly with our Saturday morning.
We arrived at the park entrance just before the road opened for the day, and were astonished by the clear skies over the park. Pulling up to the Paradise parking lot, we were happily surprised that the endless precipitation throughout the region managed to cool just enough to dump 14” of snow the night before. What was expected to be a gloomy and wet day turned out to be a sunny winter wonderland, so spirits were high.
We set out on skis to reach the Muir Snowfield. Conditions on the first couple of pitches were had plenty of fresh snow combined with spring warmth. As we crossed into the snowfield, we were met with bone-shattering bulletproof ice. On the ascent through the bottom of the snowfield, my skis lost their grip, throwing me to the ground about five different times – my knees are not happy. Lesson learned, crampons are an absolute necessity. We made it to the chutes only to find out that the entry was composed of the same ice that we faced below.
We decided to just cruise back down the snowfield and ski the spots we ogled on the hike up. Skiing the sections of ice was something even I wasn’t used to growing up on the East Coast. This ice had zero snow in its composition. We managed to get back to the levels where snow was softest and found stashes throughout it all. Just as we made it back to the car, the precipitation was back and the window of stellar weather had slammed shut.