Thursday off. Clear skies. Friends ready to snowshoe. Back to Paradise for snowshoeing!
Thursday, December 30, 2014. Hike: snowshoeing around at the Paradise Entrance in Rainier National Park. Distance: a few miles? Elevation gain: no clue. High point: unknown.
Me, Jonathan, and Eve snowshoed below Skyline Ridge, close to Panorama Point, and near Glacier Vista in the Paradise area of Rainier National Park. This time the roads were snowier and chains were necessary for the full 11 miles between Longmire and Paradise. The area was more crowded this time around too, with clear skies and plenty of people on holiday vacation.
We got a nice early start, getting to Rainier as soon as we could (gates opened at 9 am, we were there at 9:07) which meant leaving Seattle between 6:30 and 7 am. Rainier was in full view as we drove south, the sun rising behind it with the peak silhouetted in the black, pink, and yellow sky.
We payed our fee at the entrance, chained up at Longmire, then chatted with the ranger for a few minutes before we hit the mountain. Avalanche danger today: considerable. New to the whole avalanche possibility, this seemed high and so we were cautious in our trekking. (The scale ranges from Low-Moderate-Considerable-High-Extreme.)
We fixed our snowshoes to our feet, stuffed the essentials into our day packs, and headed up into the snow. We went up, right, straight, around a left bend, and over the wooden bridge. Plenty of photo ops on this crisp blue day (turns out the lowest temps for the day were 12 degrees! the morning was chilly).
Just beyond the bridge, we ran into a group of people sledding and building a snow cave – how awesome is that? They may have noticed the excitement in our faces, or maybe they were merely generous sledders, but anyhow they offered us a turn on the sledding hill with their sleds. Wooo! It was awesome. Jonathan, then Eve, then I ran up the boot path then each in turn jumped headfirst onto a sled and bombed down the hill. Snow flew everywhere! It was awesome. Great way to start the hike. We chatted for a minute then continued our way up.
We reached the top of the hill and paused for sandwich eating and tea drinking. All of the mountains were out in full force: Mt Adams, St Helens, and even Hood peeking out in the distance (=over 200 miles of visibility = awesome!).
We continued below Skyline Ridge (going right then up and over would have taken too long) and up the Edith Creek Basin Route to the flat area below Panorama Point. The views were even better up here! Eve and Jonathan wanted to climb the switchbacks to the top of Panorama Point, but were very patient with me when I resisted for fear of avalanches. Instead, we went only about 1/4 of the way up and off to the right where we could sit and eat trail mix while we soaked in the views. We chatted with Canadians who were doing the same.
There was a single boot path up above and Eve reconned it for us all. But it was too sketchy, so we continued back down instead. We headed as close to the Nisqually Glacier as possible, to the end of a small ridge of snow, also where the furthest tracks in this direction ended. Deciding this was a perfect vantage point of Rainier, the glacier, and the horizon, we settled in for a while. We took a bazillion pictures. Jonathan took out all 3 of his cameras. Several groups of people came up here to the “end of the trail” to hang out too and we chatted when they did.
Once our toes were sufficiently cold, we headed back down. We took the more direct route downhill along the Alta Vista route. The sun was getting low and began turning everything a beautiful golden color. Shadows stretched long. The moon came out. Beautiful!
Back down to the parking lot. De-snowshoe. Snap the final pictures of Rainier as the alpenglow faded to pink. Wind our way back down from Paradise to Longmire. De-chain the tires. Then head back to Seattle. A great day playing in the snow!