Camp Muir, October 25, 2008
Like many of my Turns-All-Year compadres I had been waiting around all month for fresh snow. The last weekend of October arrived with only trace amounts having fallen during the week, but I rounded up Kevin and Michael (in from Switzerland for some Microsoft managerial training) for a lap on the Muir Snowfield. The forecast didn't look great, with light rain and clouds in the morning, but it was supposed to clear in the afternoon.
Only about six cars were in the lot next to the brand-new visitors center when we pulled in; a few skiers and three climbers were gearing up in the mist, but it was obvious that we were at the top of the cloud layer and it was starting to disperse. Michael felt at home back at Rainier after perhaps a two year absence, and hit the trail eagerly. After maybe a hundred or so trips to Camp Muir, it was still special, especially with the year's first fresh snow over the ice and gravel and blue sky overhead. The lack of other people didn't hurt.
We wound our way up the familiar trail, with the colors of autumn already fading, and hit patches of snow shortly before the Pan face. Several other groups of skiers were already on the trail and putting on skins just above Pebble Creek, and we chatted briefly before heading up. An inch or two of snow from the Monday previous clung to the ice and sand mixture and made the skinning a breeze.
When we arrived at Muir, there were maybe five other people there. A warm sun overhead with a heady breeze made for perfect napping conditions after we put on puffy coats and took shelter behind one of the toilet buildings; the slight smell of human effluents didn't deter us from dozing off for half an hour or so.
A little scratchy for the first two hundred feet of vertical, then it turned to perfect smooth corn. The minefield of frozen boot tracks from September had melted into a pool-table flat surface; the few inches of new October snow had covered up the glacial debris and protected our skis from unintended base grinds. Sun and a view of the cloud deck which continued to hover over the visitor center, with Adams and St. Helens clear in the distance made for a memorable descent, and arguably a better way to spend the afternoon than watching the Husky-Notre Dame game. Burgers at the Copper Creek Inn finished off the afternoon perfectly.