The morning was warm. The sky was blue. The Paradise parking lot was almost empty. The joke among the 30 or so people heading up was that everyone cancelled because of the weather! There were mostly skiers, but several climbers and hikers too. We ran into fellow Washington Alpine Club telemark skiers Kirsten Hauge and Nate Riensche who were also heading up with two friends. Sunscreen was the order of the day. Mike Mahanay, Doerte Mahanay, and Mike Beck left Paradise shortly after 9 am carrying our skis. The snow cover looked more like June than it did early March. It was only a couple of feet deep. Usually there would be 8-10 feet of snow.
Visibility is essential for this trip. Several lives have been lost by a few
who were unprepared or unwilling to turn back when weather deteriorated.
We met a couple on Panorama Point who said on Saturday it was very windy and they turned around. We took a short break and basked in the sun.
Above Panorama Point we were able to put on the skins. Most everyone did the same. It sure beats carrying those skis on my back! We saw several people with snowshoes strapped on their packs. They were not necessary. The snow was packed and firm and there was an excellent boot track all the way to Camp Muir.
There were several parties of skiers, Telemarkers, randonee and some alpine.
There was almost no one at Camp Muir! Ten people maximum. It was still sunny and warm, and we basked in the sun eating our lunch like a bunch of marmots. The Camp Muir Hut was built in 1916 as a climbers shelter and named to commemorate the recently deceased naturalist and Sierra Club founder, John Muir.
We talked about the incredible races they used to have from Camp Muir to Paradise. The first Silver Skis race in 1934, in which sixty racers ran from Camp Muir to Paradise simultaneously! In the first race there were 60 starters, and 44 finishers, with only one serious injury. Don Fraser won the April 22 race in a time of 10 minutes, 49.6 seconds. The racers reached speeds of 60 miles per hour.
Later times improved to less than 5 minutes! In 1942 Matt Broze of the Seattle Ski Club won the April 12 race in a time of 4 minutes, 57 seconds. Despite the fact that he reported fell twice. The last last was Silver Skis race was in 1948. For more info on the history of skiing in Washington just go to Lowell Skoog's Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project at http://www.alpenglow.org/ski-history/
There was a route in place across the Cowlitz Glacier. It looks like the climbing season has already begun. We saw several climbers descending, but didn't get a chance to ask them how far they got.
The windblown hardpack was a bit difficult to ski. In some places there was a breakable crust. Speaking only for myself, I spent a wee bit of time in the backseat. Mike Beck say that "you have to be able to ski all conditions." We had about 2,000' of practice until the snow softened up and it became easier to ski.
We were often distracted by the steam coming from Mount Saint Helens. It started as some small spurts, and ended as a constant steady smoke. Two days later it let off a huge plume!
Instead of going back down Panorama Point we took the McClure rocks/skyline trail option and dropped away to skiers left onto southeast facing slopes. We found lots of forgiving soft snow and made plenty of fresh tracks. Beck did the route finding and we made some great turns down to Edith Creek. We easily made the bridge.
There was plenty of nice gentle, mostly untracked snow, and we were avoiding the rocky descent of Panorama Point. I enjoyed this section the best, and the tree skiing at the end was bonus fun!
An absolutely beautiful day! We could see all the way to Mount Jefferson in Oregon, and the air was crystal clear. There was no better place to be!
Needless to say, a perfect day! Despite the lowest snow year in the Cascades since 1977 we still had a great day telemarking from Camp Muir all the way to road!
4,600' of March skiing! 9 hours round trip, 8.2 miles, 4,600' elevation gain.
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