trip reports telemark pics scenic pics


Mount Rainier, 14411 ft / 4392m - Emmons Glacier Climb and Ski Descent, July 2000

I had been working at the Paradise Inn for just a couple of days when I planned my first climb of Rainier that season. Danny, a guy from Utah also working up at Paradise, asked me if I wanted to ski the Emmons Glacier. Sure!

The Emmons Glacier Route seen from the Sunrise area

We worked the lunch shift together and then drove over to White River Campground. At the parking lot we met some folks who had just completed the Ptarmigan Ridge Climb, sounded really interesting! It was already past 3pm when we left and we had to hurry to make it to Camp Schurman before sunset.

Hiking into Glacier Basin

Carrying our skis and snowboard made our packs pretty heavy and the hike from White River into Glacier Basin was quite exhausting due to the slushy snow. I was actually hiking in my Scarpa telemark boots.

Glacier Basin and lower Inter Glacier

The snow got firmer on the Inter Glacier and we zick-zacked up the gentle slopes of the harmless glacier. The sun was pretty low and drenched the mountain in golden light. I could hardly believe how lucky I was to get the chance to ski down this beautiful mountain tomorrow, something I had dreamt about for a long time!

Hauling a huge pack up the Inter Glacier in the evening sun

Little Tahoma Peak seen from the upper Inter Glacier

We got to camp at sunset and there were already a number of tents set up on the flats. It looked like it would be a busy day tomorrow.

The Inn at Camp Schurman

The sunset was pretty and we had views all the way to Puget Sound and the Olympics Peninsula - just fantastic!

Sunset over Rainier, Puget Sound & the Olympics in the background

We spent the entire evening melting snow. My old Coleman Peak 1 stove was terribly inefficient and I promised myself to get a replacement at the next REI trip to Seattle (would turn out to be a MSR Dragon Fly, much better!). We knew it was gonna be a short night, so we didnt bother bringing a tent. We crawled into our bivy sacs at around 10 pm and got up two hours later. Damn its hard getting up after only a few minutes of sleep! We roped up, stepped into our crampons and off we went. Another party was actually ahead of us, we could see their head lamp lights not too far away. We moved much quicker than them and by the time we were on the same elevation, it looked like they had been off-course for some time being a few hundred yards to the left of the boot track. I guess they noticed when they saw our head lamps judging by their angry yells. By the tone of their voices, we figured it must have been that family party we had already met in the evening at camp. They were pretty badly equipped and used something that looked like ordinary parcel cord as rope protection. What a joke, no wonder these fools got off-course! We continued swiftly, serpentining up the Emmons. The conditions were great, we hardly had to cross any crevasses.

Sunrise on the Emmons, can you spot Mt Baker and Glacier Peak?

The sunrise was as stunning at the sunset the previous evening. The silhouette on the horizon clearly revealed the summits of Mount Baker and Glacier Peak. We were the first party to reach the summit that morning.

Enjoyin' the summit, Mt Hood & Mt St Helens well visible

It was really early actually, like 6.30 am and we knew we had to wait ages before the slopes would soften allowing us to ski/board down the volcano. We slipped into our sleeping bags and tried to stay warm. The clear skies allowed for nice views of Mount St Helens, Mt Adams and Mount Hood to the South. After an hour or so in our sleeping bags, we got restless and decided to begin the descent. The final 1000 feet had been pure ice on our way up, so we decided to skip that part and descended until about 13,000 feet, where we clicked into our bindings and yodeled down the mountain.

Beginning the ski descent on the upper Emmons

We stayed pretty close to the boot track the whole time not risking to plunge into the crevasses on either side of the boot track. The snow was choppy which made the riding pretty difficult and tiring.

What a backdrop! Compare this to your local ski hill...

Little Tahoma Peak and the lower Emmons made a really cool backdrop for our descent. It felt unreal riding the largest glacier in the contintental USA!

Little T, always watching you

Back at Camp Schurman we chilled out a little and reviewed our ski and snowboard tracks down the mountain. Unfortuntately they were hardly visible, but all the parties we met on our way down seemed impressed and jealous of us being able to glide down the mountain.

The Emmons Glacier route seen from Camp Schurman

After an hour chilling at the camp we headed down the Inter Glacier. There the snow was perfect! Firn dreams come true. Down at Glacier Basin we were pretty high on our achievement of skiing the Emmons Glacier. The hike back to White River was pretty boring and my feet were aching. Telemark boots are not really designed to be used as mountaineering boots, surprise, surprise. The climb had been one of the most exhausting things I had ever done to that date, but was totally worth it. The ski descent down the massive Emmons Glacier was an unusual experienc and covered almost 10,000 vertical feet!


links contact about