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Backcountry Skiing or snowshoeing Camp Muir (10080 ft), Mt Rainier (14,410 ft) National Park, WA (Sat, 2-1-2014), About 9 miles roundtrip with 5000 ft elev gain.
This week, Saturday was the best weather. The front moved in on Monday and has been snowing in the mountains. The Mt Rainier area had 50% cloudy with 0% precipitation. Last week, Paul, Les, and I talked about going up to Camp Muir if the weather was ok. I have been helping my brother install the floors over three weekends (2 days, 1 day and 1 day) and needed 1 more day to finish off the floors. I did not want to miss my outdoor activities during the nice weekend, so we had to defer the floor installation to another weekend.
I hiked Camp Muir (snowshoes were not used due to well established tracks on the snow) for the first time in May 2013 and camped there for the Mt Rainier summit in July 2013. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. We gathered at Paul's house at 0600 and carpooled with Paul's AWD car. We arrived at the Longmire Ranger Station around 0845 but the gate was closed. We did not know that its operation hours were 0900-1700. There were lots of cars at the parking lot of the Longmire Range Station. The gate was open around 0915.
We started climbing at 1000 at the Paradise Visitor Center. Paul and Les randonee-skied, and I snowshoed. It looked like the area received 1 ft of fresh snow over the week. Many people headed up with snowshoes and skis to the Panorama point. Then, a handful of people went up beyond the Panorama point. It was all blue skies around the 8000 ft elev. We went up little to the East where we had some nice views of the Paradise Glacier and the Cowlitz Glacier. At the high elevation, the high peaks such as Mt Adams, Mt Hood, and Mt St Helens (barely) were visible. 5000 ft elev gain is quite tough. It was up and up. Around 9000 ft elev, I felt tired that my quads were sore with heavy breathing. My heart was pumping so fast that I took 2-3 steps at a time. Paul and Les who skied up cruised up to the Camp Muir. I arrived a few minutes late and took 10 minutes break. It looked like 7-8 people other than 3 of us made to the Camp Muir for the Day. It looked like I was the only person going down the mountain with the snowshoes. There was another snowshoer with a snowboard. I took some pictures and headed back down at 1440 since I wanted to be at the Paradise parking lot at 1600-1630.
I was singing and jogging down the hill with the snowshoes on. It was not easy snowshoeing the fluffy snow. Then, around 8500 ft elev, weather turned and became all white out condition. I had to put on my jacket and head cover as it was a bit cold. It also snow showered little that sort of hurt my face. The visibility was basically 10 ft-20 ft. I had terrible eye-sights. I followed some tracks to too far to the East. I realized my error on my GPS but not concerned since I was following on the solid tracks. I basically paralleled down the mountain compared to the typical Camp Muir snow route. I think I went to the Skyline trail and ended up on the East Side of the Paradise Lodge. Behind the Lodge, there were several people snow-camping. Paul radioed me that I responded right away that I was about 2 minutes away from the parking lot. Paul said that they arrived there about 10 minutes ago. They left Camp Muir about 1/2 hour later than I did. Time spent was 1000 - 1630.In overall, it was an excellent Saturday to snowshoe the Camp Muir during this time of year. The white out condition was not expected but was an excellent experience. I was comfortable using my GPS to navigate (as I had extra batteries) but it would have been difficult without it in bad weather condition. A compass would give the right direction to travel but could be parallel to the correct route which could lead to a wrong place.
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