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Frying Pan Glacier, MRNP, June 28, 2009

My friend Jonathan Shefftz from Amhearst, MA flew into town this week for his yearly fix of Pacific Northwest volcano skiing, and over a Chilean seabass lunch at the restaurant we made plans to do a daytrip on either the Interglacier or Frying Pan Glacier on the weekend. Jeff Huber from Portland, OR was to join us at the White River Campground on Sunday morning, where he and Jonathan were camping in preparation for a climb and ski of the Emmons Glacier later in the week.

It turned out Jeff was a tad behind schedule and I had just missed his e-mail in the morning. Neither Jonathan nor I had cell reception at White River, so we hung out at the climber's and picnicker's lot for a while in the morning sun and relaxed. Just as Jonathan was set to drive up the road to Sunrise where he had been able to call the day before, Jeff pulled into the lot.

Jeff reported excellent, very "white" looking conditions on the Frying Pan (and the Interglacier was going to be quite full of skiers who had already hit the trail ahead of us), so we drove down the road to the Frying Pan Creek trailhead and geared up. Jonathan wanted to take full glacier gear, and I didn't have a problem with that as he had just given me a new Camp XLH racing harness that wads up to the size of a tennis ball. We hit the superhighway of a trail and caught up with each others lives as we hiked to Summerland.

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We hit snow just as the trail began to wind steeply upward toward the Summerland shelter, and elected to stay with the snow-filled ravine rather than bushwhack straight through to the dirty looking toe of the Frying Pan. There was a large volume of water running under the snow, and several obviously thin spots to cross, but we made it without getting wet or hurt, so all good.

At the top of the ravine, we made the decision to tour around the large cirque to the south of Summmerland rather than skin/boot directly up the steep chutes that led directly to the glacier. This proved quite scenic, with excellent, perfectly softened corn snow skinning and evidence of some nice turns earlier in the week. We gained the ridge of the cirque and followed it around to a brief portage or two before ending up on the glacier proper. It had been glorious skinning, but unfortunately around this time cloud cover started to roll in and we were in blowing fog by the time we reached Whitman Crest.

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With fog and coats on, we opted against a leisurely snack and nap, and de-skinned quickly. There was a nice line between two existing sets of old tracks, and we carved our own in the pumice-topped corn.

The spiciest part of the outing was just before the end of the ski, where a bergschrund had opened up in the cliff band above Summerland. A few weeks or even days earlier, someone had successfully hucked the gap, but Jonathan and I were in agreement that the percentage wasn't high enough on this day, and took a side trip over some chossy basalt terraces to bypass it. The hike out was smooth sailing, except for Jeff's having trouble locating his hiking boots where he had left them below the shelter . . . a great day with the out-of-town Dynafit fanatics!

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