Sooooo it seems like I forgot that I have a blog and have been a tad bit silent over the past year or so. Why………all I have is sweet excuses BUT I have been slaying it. While skinning over the week I had a thought run through my mind, They say if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it does it make a sound. Well if I pull off some rad trip yet never talk about it no one will ever know the tale, adventure or random crazyness that ensued soo. It is time to get back to business and start throwing up some content and to get the ball rolling I will do both this Traverse and the Osceola back to back…….enjoy!
I’ve really been enjoying doing link up trips over the past few years and have kept many in my pocket for perfect weather and snow conditions. The Paradise to Carbon traverse was one of them. There were numerous reasons that I chose to do this traverse with the weather window but the things that stood out the most were these reasons.
A I was solo so I wanted to go with familiar terrain
B Logistacally it is somewhat close to home
C No GPS so bushwhacking in the low country was a no go
D It’s rad and it’s home
This traverse would take me over 45 miles and 23,000 vertical feet. What is so rad about it is theoretically you could do it anytime during the winter as the access points are open year round (except on the days the park gets shut down to the public). So here is the General layout of the trip.
Getting a solo permit from the rangers was a tad bit of a pain as it took 4 of them to figure out how to issue backcountry camping permits, best of all it was stated I needed a climbing permit to get on any glaciers. I never heard of that before and said I would stay off of them luckily my fingers were crossed.
I started skinning with my great friend Boot toward the Cowlitz Rocks in a whiteout. The forecast had been calling for a few clouds then a week of clearing so I was not stoked that 6 inches of snow had fallen on the South side of Rainier.
The snow for the Cowlitz run was wet and sticky, not only was the riding not so fun but it was total vertigo. I considered turning around but kept pushing towards Whitman Crest with Boot. He was kind enough to loan me some wax and I percided to talk his ears off while we climbed the Paradise, Cowlitz and Whitman Glaciers finally arriving at Whitman Crest.
This was it either I go with my plans or run back to the safety and security of city life, It wasn’t a hard sell so we said our goodbyes and he snowboarded to the South and I snowboarded to the North.
I watched Boot ride down in smooth chin deep powder. To the North the wind was ravaging the slopes and I feared I would be dealing with firm slopes. There was no turning back now as my 30 liter (yes 30 liter) pack was filled to the brim with food, clothes and shelter. So with hope of better on coming weather I dropped off Whitman crest and rode the Fryingpan glacier all the way to Sumerland.
The snow was firm yet edgeable as I made my way down. My dilema at the time was should I drop the more aggressive slopes to the Emmons or layed back slopes of Summerland in the end being solo I went with the less aggressive slopes of Summerland.
The snow was much better than expected once I made my way past the wind exposed ridge. Luckily I was in the rainshadow of Rainier for a bit and the skys were bluebird with a few inches of fresh.
From Summerland I made my way up and over the low Col gaining access to the Emmons Glaciers SE flank.
My plan was do to a slowly rising traverse of the Emmons. I knew it would put me in the Serac fields dead center on the Glacier but I decided to see what I could do and make the best of it. with only 3 hours of light left I made a fast pace and enjoyed endless stunning scenery on the Largest Glacier in the lower 48.
I felt confident on my routefinding abilities weaving around obvious crevasses until I ran into a dead end , better yet it was rotten and the snow would collapse a few inches (Scary stuff on glacier). An hour had passed a few choices of what to do I could try finding another route and hopefully make it Camp Shurman by dark or drop down to a lower elevation and water and call it good for the night.
I decided to play it safe and ride my board 2000 feet in smooth semi firm snow until I spotted a glacier tarn and stopped there. With access to water and a freshly dug 3 foot deep trench I called it a night and got cozy on the Emmons Glacier.
In total the day was a little over 8000 vert and 13 miles
I like campsite where I can just open my eyes and pop my head out of my sleeping bag for epic views and this was one of them. I woke up with the sun and watched alpenglow slowly run down Rainiers eastern slopes all from the warmth of my bag.
As one could imagine it had been a clod night and I slowly waited for the suns warm rays to hit camp, that didn’t happen . After some coffee and breakfast I packed and realized I was going to be in the sun all day. I had a huge day planned
and I couldn’t sit around and wait. I left camp around 8 A.M. and skinned up the right hand side of the Glacier, a route I have done a handful of times.
I had brought my Ipod to keep me company throughout the trip and it brought a different element to the journey. If you want to have a wild experience listen to Tools 10,000 days while skinning up the Emmons glacier solo.
The snow was firm and I made fast travel up the Emmons. I had originally thought the 4000 vert would take 4 hours but it turned out to take half the time.
From Steamboat prow I checked out the upper slopes of Rainier and after a brief moment of considering I remembered that I didn’t have a climbing permit. Looks like I would have to stick to the lower slopes.
From the prow I rode down the Interglacier for a 4500 feet all the way to the switchbacks just below Glacier Basin campground a smooth dusting of pow to corn transition.
I had brought two small canisters of fuel so I tried to keep snow melting to a minimum. I only ran across about 5 water holes throughout the trip and I would consume as much as I could at each one.
I hoped on the glacier Basin trail for less then a quarter mile before switching to skin mode and ascending into the SE bowl of the #rd Burrough. I was surprised by how steep, firm and bushwhacky it was. Luckily I have a little bit of practice at skinning and was able to make it nearly to the low col between the 2nd and 3rd Burroughs. From there I enjoyed skinning up mellow open tundra arriving on top of the 3rd Burrough at noon. I have found that when I tour solo I base everything off of time and my watch. I had planned on descending the 3rd Burrough at 3:00 so I sat on the summit and took a nap for the next few hour in one of my favorite spots.
At 3 I packed my bag again and went hunting for the couloir I had seen in the distance. With numerous checks on my camera I found the line I was looking for. It was stiff yet soft and with a few careful turns through the crux I was golden.
Once I hit the Winthrop I had two options. Eithier I could traverse the entire glacier or ride it fall line and skin across. I decided to ride on the same gully on the eastern edge down to the toe, I had taken this route before with Ben and Jason and had become familiar with it. It was a total blast with two inches of soft snow on a 2000 vert gully.
Once at the toe I grabbed some water of a small stream and made my way across the lower slopes of the Winthrop. I was impressed by the width of the glacier and how it seemed to mend with the woods below. Occasionally you would see a tree and wonder how it got there. For the most part things went smooth with only a small downclimb to the Moraine and a creek embed entrance to the forests around Mystic Lake.
While my intentions were to follow the creek up to Mystic lake I had actually followed the wrong creek. I quickly decided to gain elevation and get into the alpine. From there I made a mellow traverse into Mineral Basin and rode the lower slopes directly to the shores of Mystic Lake. I found a waterhole and dug a trench for the night.
The morning was bright and sunny and I was excited for a laid back day. I sat around for a hour stretching and eating food at such a cool and secluded place. It was hard to say goodbye but I packed up for the Elysian Feilds and Moraine park.
I skinned up to a mellow morain bench and rode around 400 feet of by far the best wind protected pow of the trip before skinning directly up a drainage and into Moraine Park. I had been scoping the area out for years but could never find touring partners willing to check it out. This time I was solo and I was going to spend two days hanging out in an epic location with an even more epic view of Rainier.
I made it into Moraine park hours before I had planned so I decided to build a bomber camping site. I had intended on staying for two nights so the extra effort would be well worth it. After finding the perfect view I dug for two hours in the end having 4 foot walls and more then enough room for two people. Best of all I built a chair at the head of it with the splitboard for lean on and my backpack to sit on.
I waited until around 1 before I started moving. My intention for the day was to run around and see what was out there. I would head for Cresent Lake and keep myself entertained along the way. It was a hot day but I made the best out of the slopes waiting to ride south facing slopes later in the day.
From the summit of Old Desolate I rode the NE face down to the base of Elysian Peak and with a quick descent into the Elysian Fields I made my way up to Crescent ridge and attempted a line down the NW face before retreating back to the South slopes. From the summit of Cresent I rode the S slopes down to the Elysian Fields and skinned across to Pacific Point. From there I descended back into Moraine Park and skinned up to camp. It was a rad loop and I wanted to tour longer but I was getting concerned about weather; There was a sundog and cloud deck above. I was fearing rain though the forecast said otherwise.
I was concerned about rain so I dug in my shelter a tad bit more ate some food and patiently waited for the sun to set. I quickly realized I was in store for an amazing sunset as the sun went down the alpenglow started to run up the mountain. It was surreal and I was so excited feeling like a kid opening his Christmas present.
The next morning I awoke to blue skies and a beautiful day. I was stoked and wanted to get out a brief tour on the slopes of Elysian peak before the heat of the day. It was my last day in the alpine and knew I should rest before my long exit.
Started at 9 a.m. and after a quick climb of Old Desolate rode to the SE base of Elysian Peak and put in a solid skin track. Taking advantage of said skin track I was able to ride the N and SW and SE faces before skinning back to camp just after noon. The rest of the day I rested, ate food and took in the view of Rainier before calling it a night. Sadly the sunset from the night before put this one to shame so I didn’t take a single photo.
During the night a big windstorm had ripped through the area. I could hear stuff moving but I was fine in my shelter knowing all my vital stuff was inside. I woke up and looked to see if anything was missing and noticed I only had one skin. I quickly realized that the wind had literally picked it up laying flat on the ground and moved it. On one side I had a huge alpine bowl but to the west was the Carbon Valley. Sadly the wind had blown my skin into the Carbon Valley. I had one of those how are you going to fix the situation moments and decided to use numerous Voile straps, It worked!
I descended down the Carbon Glacier Moraine, skinned over it and traversed to a section of the glacier that had good fall line riding before transitioning. From there I rode the Carbon Glacier from around 5,500 feet to its toe at 3,500 feet and followed the melted out river bed to the Suspension bridge. Once there I ate found and bounced around for a while before making my way down valley. The trail became dry once it hit the western side of the river around before the 8 mile death slog out of the Carbon.
In total I made my way on 9 separate glaciers and it was an amazing experience. When solo touring there are so many more elements in the adventure. As an afterthought I feel the only mistake that I did was left my skin out but who was ever heard of a skin flying away!