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On a clear day

Posted by joeabbott on April 25, 2018

imageLast Saturday a friend of mine and I planned to hike to Camp Muir high on the flanks of Mt. Rainier as our goal. We also had a 2PM turn-around time and the gates into the Park didn’t open until 9AM, so we knew it was a stretch. We managed to get to 9000’, an hour or so below Camp Muir at 10,000’, so we missed our target, but enjoyed the day all the same.

We hiked about 4000’ (Paradise, our starting location is at ~5000’) in 4+ hours, not bad, and we enjoyed some spectacular weather. The views were phenomenal and the crowds were commensurate; a lot of people were on the trail. Let’s enjoy a few pics from the outing.

From the Paradise parking lot, the day promised to be gorgeous: the mountain was clear and crisp. Our destination was just below and to the right of the big blocky exposed rock above the trees in the foreground.

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I saw a lot of Tim’s back, initially. Tim joined me and went without wearing snowshoes. The snow quality was fantastic and held his weight just fine, so he was able to make better time than I was, as I was wearing snowshoes. I didn’t want to break through the crust, and as a Fatty McFat-Fat, that’s a real concern, especially with my heavy, training weight pack on.

There was one slope that reminded me of the classic Chilkoot Pass image, where gold rush prospectors are lined up to climb the Golden Stairs on a final push into the Yukon. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture that captured that view well enough … as there are far fewer people in my picture and the ground doesn’t nearly capture the sharp rise it felt we were heading up. But, the many footsteps and paths beaten into the snow tell the tale of a popular winter thoroughfare.

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At the top of this rise, there were opportunities for the two of us to have our proper pictures taken. Tim’s picture has the Tatoosh Range and a distant Mt. Adams in the background, whereas mine shows the summit of Mt. Rainier just up there … we should be able to get to it easily!

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Few times train you to just put your head down and find a slow pace than when you’re on a snowfield or glacier: the scenery doesn’t change all that much and it’s just you and your thoughts as you plod along. Heading to Muir is one of those times.

And then I got to this slope, just below an area named Moon Rocks. While the entirety of the trip is mostly even without a lot of steeper sections, this one feels steeper. Call it imagination but I cobbled together a few pics to help paint the grade:

DSCF1796 Stitch

And here I was looking up:

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It holds this grade for some 300’. I’ve tried counting steps, I’ve tried finding a rhythm of breathing, and I’ve tried ignoring everything but putting one foot in front of the others, and still I find myself looking upwards, many times, wondering when I’ll be over the hump. But the reward for keeping at it is commensurate and then some for the pains:

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There were far too many people about for me to revel in the silence and solitude I usually enjoy when I get out in the mountains, but they were welcome companions, kindred spirits who would stretch themselves to find a greater truth … if not of the world in which we live, than a truth of just themselves and what they might achieve if put to a test. But for Tim and I, it was 2PM and time for our return to the car. Someone in the group suggested the gate wasn’t going to be locked at 5PM but the best he could offer was “A ranger named Darby told me.” Setting that against seeing the sign at the bottom stating the contrary, we weren’t convinced and we headed down.

The trip down was far quicker (as one might imagine), but our legs were wobbly and the snow was now of a consistency that made it somewhat treacherous on the few steep places. And, before we got to the parking lot, Tim had put his snowshoes on as the snow’s crust was now sun-warmed and broke through on each step. A final looked back also suggested our fairy tale day was at an end and Mt. Rainier was calling clouds to help welcome the evening.

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In many times like this, on leaving the mountains, I’ve thought, “I’ll be back,” without serious consideration for when, but with Mt. Rainier just an hour and a half south of us, I will be back and it’ll be this coming weekend. While the gate had been posted as closing at 5PM when we entered the Park, that sign was removed when we came down. Additionally, we didn’t get to Camp Muir and we’ll need to in 5 weeks or so: we have a summit window of June 4-6. So, the training continues.

Thanks for dropping by and sharing a few snippets of my time out on this hike, and I hope your time out on whatever adventure you choose has been just as grand!

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One Response to “On a clear day”

  1. […] parking lot. On sunnier days the Tatoosh Ranges is prominent and glorious from this vantage. See my On a clear day post for a little […]

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