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Muir Snowfield, October 13, 2004

Kevin had a yearning to test out his new "mid-fat" Dynafit rig, 177 Atomic TM:X's with Comforts - so we carefully considered the options available in the lower 48 states, and settled on . . . surprise! . . . the Muir Snowfield.  Our lift-served buddy "Alpental Frank" Neumann, who's been ski touring since before the day, wanted to come along, so we agreed to meet at the Paradise lot at 8:30. In Frank's native Germany, he explained, "I couldn't afford to buy a lift ticket until I was 21 and a graduated engineer. I started skiing at age 6 in East Germany on bent wooden boards with some kind of toe bracket and leather straps for a binding. Steel edges and cable bindings were yet to be invented. The only turn possible was a Telemark. When I lived in West Germany in my late teens I spent a few skiing vacations in the Alps and skinned up a lot of mountains. Didn't really learn any technique until I came to Seattle/Alpental in '68."

The weather simply could not have been better,  with clear views of all the volcanoes to the south, including the capricious St. Helens, which kept giving off sporadic puffs of steam. Temps were in the 50's as we started the hike up, perfect for a single layer and shorts, and the turning foliage added the perfect autumn touch for the trek.

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Quite a bit of snow had melted since our last trip here three weeks ago, and the skinning from around 8,000 ft. was a little bony with a short carry up a stream, but we completed the slog in about the normal time nonetheless. Maybe it was the joyous weather or the cooling breeze or the late season solitude, but the climb seemed easier than usual.

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Up at Muir, the masonry work on the shelters we witnessed on our last trip had been completed, with BRAND NEW DOORS installed on both of the stone buildings. We lunched under a glorious blue sky and checked out the repairs as we readied the skis for the descent. Frank literally rocked on the downhill, at least until he realized he had neglected to lock the heels of his Freerides and remedied the problem. Kevin's new setup worked pretty much as well as he had hoped, and his spiffy blue topsheets nearly matched the blue of the Rainier sky.

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