Mazama Ridge

I had been to Mazama Ridge on Mt. Rainier five times before. Each time in the winter. Four times on skis and once on snowshoes. With a sunny day on tap Janet, Gwen, and I headed to Mt. Rainier to enjoy the sunshine. This is a short trip with moderate elevation gain. The payoff is great views on a clear day. We met in Bellevue at 7:50 am and headed south. We reached Paradise just after 10:00 am. The lot was more than 3/4 full. We put on snowshoes and headed down the snow covered road. We lost a few hundred feet and found the route heading for Mazama Ridge. The tracks were well laid in and made for easy walking. The snow conditions were good. Fresh snow over a hard crust but enough new to provide good traction.

Gentle at first the way gets a little steeper closer to the top. Two skiers whizzed by us on their way down. Views of the Tatoosh range start in the parking lot and only get better. The main track traversed to our left heading to a point higher on the ridge. We followed a smaller track turning to the right and reaching the ridge a little lower at the point where I usually head down. All but one of my previous trips were counter clockwise loops on skis traveling from near the bottom of the ridge and dropping to the road from this point.

We popped out on Mazama Ridge to find some tracks but fewer than I was expecting. It was already 1130 am. We chose to cross the flat top of the ridge to a small summit for lunch. Tracks led most of the way across but there were none heading up to the summit. Climbing up to the ridge to the right of the top was fine. A big step remained. While I pushed away a foot of soft snow to get down to kickable crust Janet and Gwen dropped off the ridge and found another way up. I eventually cleared enough snow to kick a route up.  The other way turned out to be on a few inches of new snow on a rock hard crust. Enough snow to keep the snowshoes from getting much traction. We chose to go down the way I went up.

Great views from this partly forested point. Mt. Rainier, the Tatoosh peaks, and more views all around. Nothing but blue sky above. The wind blew a little but it was not bad at all. While we ate lunch two guys came up. They proceeded to lock their skis into solid split boards and head down the steep opposite side. We could now see more folks on Mazama Ridge. A steady stream came up and down throughout the day. Not as many folks as I was expecting on a crystal clear day in early March.

After lunch we headed down. Now we made the gentle steady climb higher on the ridge. Mt Rainier was always ahead of us. Behind we has seen Mt. St. Helens from our lunch spot. It was soon back in view. We had to go a ways farther and higher to see Mt. Adams. It too was crystal clear. The route soon split. One track going left and downhill then climbing the next ridge. The other continued angling to our right. We went that way. Janet was recovering from a stress fracture so we did not want to overdo her first snowshoe trip since the injury. The next high point proved to be the end of the line. Really nice views form there. Although we were only a couple miles from the parking lot it felt much more remote.

Heading down we saw more skiers and snowshoers. Some folks were just arriving. I did not see any tents along our route. We were a little complacent and managed to walk right by the big track heading back down to the road. Well, we managed to get in a little extra distance and elevation gain. The snow had softened in the afternoon sun. It was easier to break new trail down than to follow the track on the steeper parts. Where there were a few tracks in the morning it now looked like and army had passed through. Fun plunge stepping in snowshoes on the way down.

In a rare event one person recognized me from my website. We had a chance to have a short conversation. Always nice to meet folks who have used my site. When the terrain flattened we took Gwen's recommendation and followed a small track that crossed the creek on  many feet of snow. We soon left it and dropped down to the road on untouched snow. A little better looking than all the tracks on the other side of the creek. Once back on the road it was just a little uphill slogging back to the car. It was now plenty warm. Short sleeves weather when going uphill. We arrived back at the parking lot at 3:45 pm. We managed to spend 5 1/2 hours to travel 5 miles. On a day like this with so much to see, speed is of little interest.

It was a great day to be at Mt. Rainier. Clear weekend days with fresh snow in March are rare and the long drive is well worth it. It was a fun long day with great company. I made it home just about exactly 12 hours after leaving. I really do like skiing Mazama Ridge but it also makes for a fine snowshoe trip.

Mt. Rainier From Lot
Tatoosh Range
Road & Mazama Ridge
Mazama Ridge
Looking Up Road
Off Road Tracks
Skier Shoots By
Heading On Up
Gwen Near Ridge Top
Almost There
Ridge Top Plateau
Crossing Ridge
Lunch Peak Is Ahead
Setting A New Track
Rainier & Split Boarders
Lunch Time
Pyramid Mountain
Crystal Clear Rainier
Tatoosh View
More Tatoosh
Janet Heading Down
Here Comes Gwen
View Of Lunch Peak
Folks Heading Down
All Smiles
Little Tahoma
Mt. Adams
White Everywhere
Two Lone Trees
Nearing Highpoint
Peaks & Ridge
Zoomed Mt. Adams
Clowning Around
Curves & Shadows
Framed Mt. Rainier
Dropping Off Of Ridge
More Tracks
Many More Tracks
Shady Road
Paradise Inn
Good Light On Rainier
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2013