Climbing is dangerous! Every year many climbers are broken, maimed, and killed. Don't be so foolish as to trust your life to what you see here. I'm not a guide and neither is this web site. If you don't know what you are doing or where you are going, please take a course or hire a guide!
Ski Touring on the Muir Snowfield
November 10, 2001
Fresh off my failed attempt on Gibraltar Ledges, I was anxious to give it another go. But none of my usual partners were interested in braving the weather and marginally covered crevasses. So instead, Phil and I skinned up to Camp Muir and skied down.
The weather threatened all day, but stayed consistently unstable. We skinned from the parking lot, at 5400', all the way to Camp Muir, 10,100'. The snow was soft to 9000', but sparse below McClure Rock. Above 9000' is was icy, but we continued to Camp Muir despite poor skiing conditions.
It was a beautiful day, and nearly windless, too. The upper mountain, when we could see it, was bathed in sunshine. I daydreamed about being high on the mountain, making the last few steps into the crater rim, and continuing across to the summit.
We took a short break at Camp Muir where I offered myself to the mountain gods on the RMI sacrificial altar. I also snapped a couple pictures of the lower section of the Gibraltar Ledges route.
The first 1000 feet of skiing was challenging, but not nearly as difficult as I've seen there in the past. In a few minutes we reached the sun-softened slopes and made many turns in spring-like corn. We opted to drop into Pebble Creek, then took a nice long break in the sunshine.
Just above Pan Point we dropped away from the crowds onto southeast facing slopes. We found fresh turns and some route-finding challenges as we made our way down to Edith Creek. We ended up having to take our skis off for a short fifty foot section of talus. Once in the basin we linked snow patches and easily made the bridge. The hordes of hikers on the packed-snow trail belied how close we were to the parking lot.
We sat on the tailgate of the car for a while, enjoying a couple beers while we watched the clouds swirl around the mountain and the chaos of the parking lot activities. A ranger pulled up. We both worried that we were about to be busted for violating some obscure rule about alcohol in the parking lot. She rolled down the window.
"You boys look like you should be in on of those ads. You know, the ones where the people are sitting around having a beer after a day of hard play in the mountains."
We laughed, relieved.
Then she asked us if we'd spotted any tents because there was an "illegal tent up there somewhere". She was contemplating heading up to bust them. I looked over at the sledders sliding over the heather and baby trees and wondered how a single tent up on the snowfield could be more of a worry.
On the way home we stopped at Ruby Tuesday's in Puyallup where the wait staff was very friendly with Phil. One waitress even managed to trick him into revealing his address.
This page was last edited on
Tuesday, July 05, 2005