Last year Damien and I attempted this 40.2 mile ski tour. However, we were met with the grueling task of breaking trail through over one foot of, thick powder and thus only made it 24 miles. Not to be deterred, we decided to try again this year with hopes for better conditions. And we got precisely that.

We started out on the morning of Christmas Eve under partly cloudy skies at Silver Creek Snopark and skied under the Mount Rainier White River Entrance sign. The road is closed in the winter, but open to recreation. The way was well traveled for the first 2.5 miles and ran across one other skier who turned back at mile 60.  Beyond that the tracks faded and we were left to break trail through pristine snow. However, unlike last year there was firm base so we only sunk in about 5ish inches as we broke trail. This was a huge improvement from the year before. In fact we reached the White River Range Station at about 11:30am. Last year we reached that point at 3:30pm and felt destroyed!

We continued on part the station under tall tree beside the White River Catching glimpses of Little Tacoma high above. At about 1:00pm we pasted Shaw Creek which had been our first camp last year. Further down the road  at ten miles for us we reached the next junction. We turned right on the Rd to Sunrise. We figured we’d ski to about where we turned around on our second day the previous year. We ended up setting up camp about .5 miles down the rd for last years turnaround since found a perfect spot. So in one day we traveled what had taken us two days last year. It truly showed what a difference conditions could make.

On Christmas Day we continued up the long switchbacks to Sunrise. We expected the trail breaking to get worse as we got higher, but for some reach it seemed easier. It was a clear day so we were granted majestic views of the Tatoosh, Little T and Mount Rainier the whole way. We decided to drop off our camping gear at Sunrise Point so we could watch the sunrise the next morning and also cut off some mile from what would have been at 20.1 mile day. Then we continued the final 3 miles to Sunrise Lodge. There was some drifting on the final switchback of the road, but it really didn’t slow us down. We reached Sunrise Lodge at sunset. It was amazing to have the area all to ourselves. No people milling about. Silence. It was a truly magical Christmas Evening in pristine solitude.

We skied back to Sunrise Point as darkness fell turning on our headlamps only were it became difficult to see the track. A bitter cold crept in and we hurried to ut on our puffys when we arrived back at Sunrise Point. We devised a plan to walk up and pack everything the next morning and then enjoy the sunrise before heading off. We also had some cell service and discovered that a storm would be moving in Monday evening, so we wanted to get an early start.

We had everything packed by 6:45 except our sleeping bag and pads. We scurried inside to watch the sunset. Heavy clouds hid most of the colors, but it was still wonderful to cuddle in the open air as ski grew light. And as we skied down Mount Rainier glowed a soft pink in the morning light.

We didn’t coast down to the junction as we expected, but we still had plenty of glide all the way back to the Ranger Station. From there it was about 1.5 miles uphill until the next junction were we were able to mostly coast for 3 miles. Then the final 2 miles we skied with good glide making it back to the car at 2:30. It was sunny were we drove out of the parking lot, but about 30 minutes later the ski dimmed and rain bounced off the windshield. We found out that there was a winter storm warning. Turned out we hit the weather window just right!

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