It had been raining is the lowlands and snowing in the mountains all week! We had some unfortunate shores to get done Saturday, so Damien and I decided to get in this season’s first turns at Mt Rainier on Sunday. The plan was to start at Paradise and go as far as we could. The gate at Longmire closes at 5pm now… so we had to be back by 4:15 unfortunately.

The mountain was not visible from Paradise and it was pretty clear (not not clear) that we would be in low visibility throughout the ski tour. Nevertheless, we were certainly not the only folks taking out skis out. The parking lot had a good number of people  putting their skins on.

There was at least 1 foot of snow at the base. Using the summer route to get to the top of Panorama Point was very doable and on a well packed down trail. The top of the point was wind blow with rocks exposed, but it was easy to navigate around. From there the trail was less packed down but fairly easy to follow to Pebble creek (which was under 2 feet of snow). A lot of folks were turning around here due to the whiteout conditions above. Damien and I decided to keep going, but took waypoints at intervals to help us find out way down. We had too boot pack our skis to get around an area with lots of talus exposure , but mostly it was easy skinning on good powder.

The sky cleared up a bit at 8000ft. It was about 1:20pm and we both really wanted to keep going especially with blue ski in sight. But we knew how quickly conditions could change. We took off our skins and began the journey down. As predicted we found ourselves enveloped in heavy fog and snow within minutes. Everything looked white and we couldn’t see an features in the snow. Once i stopped moving and didn’t even realize it for a few seconds (which resulted in me falling when I tried to stop). Our waypoint helped us for a bit, but we ended up in the wrong chute and had to boot pack down a slope to the right chute.

We somehow skipped over the exposed rock section and made our way back down to Panorama Point. We opted to boot back down the waist deep snow down the winter route. That was exhausting, especially for Damien who sinks much more than  me. We thought it would be easy from there, but the whiteout made it still challenging. First we got cliffed out and then we ended up on the wrong side of the creek . We crossed and fought out way through deep snow up the creek bed where we finally met up with the packed down trail back to Paradise.

The skiing conditions were great except for the exposed rocks. Another few good snowfalls should take care of that though! Welcome winter snowsports!

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