Monday, February 18, 2008

Paradise and a Scarlet Macaw

As hoped, the road to Paradise opened on Sunday. A predictable onslaught of tourists and backcountry skiers (and even a few climbers) overflowed the parking lot and packed the adjacent slopes this weekend. In all, over 975 cars entered the park on Sunday alone, with an average of 3-4 people stowed aboard each vehicle. The result - "Paradise" was crowded. But that was fine, because every soul that I encountered had a huge smile on their face and were immensely thankful to finally see the sun and mountain again. That's what two months of clouds, snow and rain can do to anyone. The News Tribune pumped up the crowd with a lengthy discussion of the re-opening in their Saturday paper. They even took the time to mention my house, which I honestly feared would collapse under the snow-load (BTW, I have since shoveled my roof).

For climbers, there are no summit reports to immediately share. Three hardy souls ventured up the Tahoma Glacier towards Sunset Amphitheater to ski the couloir (seen left). They didn't reach the summit (due to warm temps) but one member (Sky Sjue) shared a sunset image (above) for our pleasure.

Camp Muir is a windblown place where notably less snow has fallen (or stayed). By all reports, the Cowlitz and Nisqually Glaciers are scoured, there are numerous bare rocks at Camp Muir, and the huts are easily accessible. Either it isn't snowing much or the wind is blowing it all off.

I have often noted that Mount Rainier gets its precipitation in 3-4,000 foot bands. What I mean is, there is always snow somewhere. The question is, where does it stick? For now, the snow is sticking between 2,500 feet and 6,500 feet. So the Muir Snowfield is OK, but at Camp Muir and above, the snowpack seems pretty darn thin. This is particularly the case when measured against the snow-loads at Longmire and Paradise.

My good friend Bruce Barcottt has a new book. So what's his connection to Mount Rainier? Bruce wrote Measure of a Mountain, Beauty and Terror on Mount Rainier , a necessary read for Rainier afficionados. He has since leveraged his journalistic talent into a big-shot writing career with Outside, Harpers, Mother Jones, NY Times Magazine and Sports Illustrated. Anyway, his new book The Last Flight of the Macaw was positively reviewed by the New York Times last Sunday. For those in the local Seattle crowd, we are fortunate, because Bruce will have a reading at Elliot Bay Books on Feb. 29th and Third Place Books on March 1st. Check it out.