Mazama Ridge

We finally had a warm and sunny weekend coming. Warm by Seattle standards for early March. We had not seen 60 degrees and sunny since last fall. Gary wanted to go for another ski/snowshoe trip. We make it to Mazama Ridge near Paradise at Mt. Rainier about every other year. We missed last year. John also joined in. I headed to Kent, arriving at 7:00 am. We expected to have company on this sunny day and were not disappointed. The lot at Longmire was nearly full at 8:40 am. The gate to Paradise opened at 9:00 am we joined a long line of cars heading uphill. By the time we parked the lot was half full already. It would not take much longer to fill it up. We packed up and headed towards the snow covered Paradise Valley Road at 9:32 am. It was 33 degrees at the start.

Most folks would be heading town the road. We immediately left it after putting on snowshoes. The trail down towards Narada Falls was untracked. A foot of snow fell on Thursday and nobody had yet been on it. There were orange poles sticking up that led us down the slope. The snow was great and the sky was bright blue. The fresh snow had flocked all the trees. It really was a winter wonderland on an almost spring day in winter. We had some views up to Mt. Rainier and out to peaks of the Tatoosh Range.The going was great. The trail descended to the side of the huge meadow of Paradise Valley.

The snowshoes came off here and skis went on. We skied up the valley crossing several creeks. In one spot we found only one snow bridge solid enough to cross. Views were great all along the valley. There were no other tracks in the valley. With lots of photo stops we took almost 1.5 hours touring the valley. We chose to switch back into snowshoes to continue downhill. As we finished our skiing we saw a number of groups snowshoeing up the trail to Paradise. We figured it was likely that they could not park in the Paradise lots and ended up down near Narada Falls then snowshoed up to Paradise. The untracked snow we had early was now a deep trench. Good for snowshoeing down but not great for skinny skis.

We dropped down to another road that was snow covered. A combination of road and snowshoe tracks took us up to the Paradise Valley Road. Gary had no trouble navigating this route. We reached the road and soon were heading up the trail to Mazama Ridge and Reflection Lakes. A nicely packed snowshoe track made the ascent easier than ever. At the junction tracks went down to Reflection Lakes and up Mazama Ridge. At the junction we took a short food break. It was already 12:00 pm. We soon continued climbing. This is a fairly short trip with less than average elevation gain but being totally on snow made it lots of work. The lower ridge is mostly in forest. As we climbed views began to open up.

We took a longer break just before 1:00 pm. We had a spot with views of Mt. Rainier and the Tatoosh Range peaks and it was out of the wind but in the sunshine. We never reached for our jackets. Paradise reported 39 degrees at 1:00 pm. It sure felt like spring when we were in the sunshine. Our break lingered on. None of us wanted to leave. An hour and a quarter later we continued on. Gary switched back into skis here. John and I kept the snowshoes on as it was still a steady climb. We occasionally passed other people but it was never close to crowded. Our route avoided the throngs who took the sort route up Mazama Ridge.

As we left forest John and I switched to skis. The snowshoe trench went up the left side of the meadow and we headed right on largely untouched snow. The skiing was great, even for John's and my ability. We reached the elevation where the main route from Paradise reaches the ridge and took another short break. It was now 2:53 pm. Most folks had already headed down. We talked to two backcountry skiers and saw a few more at a distance. Otherwise we had the ridge to ourselves. At least we could not see anyone else. Reluctantly we skied over to the left side of the ridge and went back to snowshoes once again.

At 3:15 pm we headed down. There was no track leading us down. The entire hillside was tracked by snowshoes. It looked like many hundreds of tracks. Gary often skis down but the torn up snow led him to opt for snowshoes rather than skinny skies without metal edges. There was no way to get off track as the tracks wound their way down to the road. Even with a number of photo stops we were down to the road in 25 minutes. Now we just had the last slog up the road to Paradise. we saw several groups on this road section. It was 4:04 pm when we reached the car. The lot was thinning out but there were still many cars left. The 4:00 pm temperature reading at Paradise was 45 degrees, the high of the day. 45 degrees with sunshine reflection off the snow and almost no wind felt pretty warm.

We had lots of traffic on the drive out of the park. There was no surprise at the crowds that showed up on such a nice day. Once again, our route provided a lot of solitude at a very crowded place. Skiing untracked Paradise Valley was a highlight of the trip. The views were really great. We had no haze at all. All the peaks and trees were coated in fresh snow and with the sunshine it was very beautiful. There is a reason we return every year or two to Mazama Ridge in the winter. This was one of the better trips and as the weather and snow conditions were excellent. We all had a great day on skis and snowshoes.

Pyramid Peak
Parking Lot View
Starting Out
Flocked Trees
Following Poles
Peaks In Sight
Tatoosh Peaks
Rainier Behind Us
Untracked Snow
Blue Sky/White Snow
Gary On Skis
Creek Depressions
Crossing Snow Bridge
Photo Time
Peak Close Up
Wide Open Valley
People High Above
Drop Off At Left
Snow Shapes
Lone Track
John On The Move
Mazama Junction
Snowshoeing Higher
Snow Blob
Tatoosh Views
Lunch View 1
Lunch View 2
Little Tahoma
Back On Skis
Rainier At Its Best
Gary & Tatoosh Peaks
Great Views
Tracks Heading Down
Mt. Rainier
Paradise In Sight
Steep Descent
Ascending Road
Our Tracks Below
Valley & Peaks
Lot Still Crowded
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2018