Mazama Ridge

Spring is here but Gary and I headed out for one last cross country ski trip. We have gone to Mt. Rainier during winter more winters than not. Sometimes in early spring as the snow lasts longer at 5400' Paradise. Last year we did this trip on March 1st. That was the winter that wasn't. Then we had a fresh dump of snow that brought the level up to 72 inches. This year it was a more normal 161 inches. Last year we had a dusting over a hard crust. This year it was snow. The forecast called for 58 degrees with little wind. It would feel much warmer on acres of open snow. Time to bring lots of sunscreen. The gate at Longmire was opening at 9:00 am though it had opened at 8:00 am the previous weekend. We aimed for 8:30 am. There was sure to be a big crowd. There might not be many parking spaces later in the morning.

We reached Longmire just after 8:30 am. No snow at Longmire. A mile or so up the road a little snow began to show up. 3000 feet above Longmire at Paradise we had the full 13.5 feet. Folks were not passing up the good weather. The lot was about three quarters full at 8:45 am. Not a cloud in the sky. We packed up and headed  down the Paradise Valley Road. The start of the road had already been plowed. Just a short  way along we left the road on the route down to the valley. I am not a great skier and we ski on narrow non metal edged skis. I can ski up most terrain and down roads or open slopes. Gary is much better. I carry snowshoes and ski what I can and tromp down the worst slopes with the snowshoes. I skied down the steep forested route.

Where there were old tracks it was hard and a bit icy. The untouched snow had a soft upper few inches and mostly consolidated below. The recent sunshine and lack of recent prints made them hard to see in spots. We lost the trail and then followed more tracks straight down to the valley. Off with the snowshoes and on with the skies. The Paradise Valley is a huge meadow with some trees. many acres of white snow. Time for a tour. I expected the valley to be in the shade. Nope. We were out in the sunshine. The summit of Rainier was in site. Really a beautiful place. The crowds were heading higher to Panorama Point, Glacier Vista, Camp Muir, and Mazama Ridge. We were all alone in the valley. Any previous tracks had melted out. Total solitude and untouched snow so close to crowds made for a great start to the trip.

Many winters it is easy to ski across the snow covered Paradise River to reach the start of the climb up Mazama Ridge. There were few snow bridges and none we wanted to try crossing. Instead, we headed down the valley on traces of the trail. Last year we crossed on the summer hiking bridge. It was covered with several feet of ice. We expected to find tracks leading to the bridge but instead we continued to far down the valley. When we checked the GPS were were already well beyond the bridge. Rather than heading uphill we chose to drop a little more to the summer auto bridge. We reached the bridge and a short bit off the main road was plowed out. That made for a bit of a jump down to the pavement. No problem.

Across the bridge we put on snowshoes for a climb up the snow covered road to the snow covered Paradise Valley Road. It had not been plowed that far down. The route up to Mazama Ridge starts right near the junction. We haded steeply uphill and found the route. No new tracks but old ones were easily visible. We reached the junction where one trail heads down to Reflection Lakes. We headed up the ridge. Last year the snow was thin enough to cause problems with log crossings. Not this year. The track followed a good route. It is largely in forest but was open enough to causes some serious sweating. An early start to summer. Higher up the ridge we broke out into big open meadows. Now we had very good views south to the Tatoosh Range. The overall route is a little under six miles so we were in no hurry. Lots of photo stops.

We stopped for a break at around noon. It lasted for a little over an hour. So far we had seen a couple groups after crossing the bridge. Three more parties of two snowshoed by as we took our break. That was it for over three hours at Paradise. No crowds for us. It was getting very hot. Sixty felt like eighty on the snow. Gary put on skis. I stayed on snowshoes a little longer. When we dropped off a narrow ridge to bigger meadows I put on skis. We headed off to the right side and away from the snowshoe track. Even more solitude over there. Great easy touring on untouched snow. Higher up we reached the spot where the main route from Paradise comes in. There were folks to be seen now but a lot less than I expected. One big group had half a dozen tents set up. Time for another break. From here we could see the summit of Rainier and the Tatoosh Range. It's really hard to beat the views from Mazama Ridge with snow covering all the peaks and ridges around us.

It was already 2:45 when we headed across the ridge to the exit point. The route down to the Paradise Valley Road is short and steep. The snow is usually so torn up by legions of snowshoers and skiers. This time it was in the best shape I have seen. We were able to snowshoe straight down on bits of untouched snow. This route was going to the left of where the route normally comes out along a creek next to a bridge. Gary guessed that it was coming up from the current end of plowing. Once the plows go by there is a near vertical bank to negotiate. In fact, he was exactly correct. We came down to the snowy road. The plowers had cut a ramp down to the pavement. No problem at all. Now we just had the bare road to hike up. That went by pretty fast.

We reached the parking lot at 3:45 pm to find virtually every parking spot taken. There were a few open spots in the overflow lot at the old visitor center. We had a great day on the Mountain. A mix of ski touring and snowshoeing. We were out almost seven hours and covered about 5.5 miles. It might have been a speed record for slowness. About 1.5 hours were spent just sitting on the snow and taking in the views. With the heat and snow it was a much more strenuous trip than the numbers suggested. We managed about 1350' of elevation gain. We had great views but none of the crowds. A most successful trip.

Parking Lot
Starting Out
Paradise Inn
Tatoosh View
Route To Valley
Dropping Into Valley
Into The Valley
Gary On Skis
Heading Up Valley
Just Our Tracks
Paradise River
Looking Up Valley
Rainier From Valley
Lots Of People
Skiing Down Valley
Acres Of Meadows
Bridge Over River
Grouse On Ridge
Ascending Mazama Ridge
View Southeast
Wide Angle View SE
The Castle & Pinnacle
Unicorn Peak
Tatoosh Peaks
Ridge & Rainier
Little Tahoma
Stevens Canyon
Eastern Tatoosh
High Point
Gary Skiing Ridge
Group Camping
Second Break
Nice Composition
Another Tatoosh Shot
Framed Mt. Rainier
Heading Down
Gully Bound
On The Road Again
Heading To Paradise
Lot is Full
Panorama Of The Tatoosh Range From Lunch Spot
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2016