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Tatoosh Range, MRNP, May 26, 2007

We were all tired from work and lack of sleep, but Michael was in town for a few days and we wanted to get out before he had to return to Switzerland on Wednesday. We talked about a two-day trip, but settled on the convenient south side of Rainier when the NOAA spot-meter consistently said "rain" for Sunday. Magali was in, and we met at her place on Queen Anne to load up.

We got to Paradise a bit late, around 11:00 AM, and being Memorial Day weekend, the parking was a bit congested at the top. After a quick visual survey, during which the Muir Highway seemed lodged in fog and the surrounding Tatoosh Range seemed relatively clear, we headed down the exit road toward Reflection Lakes. The road dead-ended at the parking area but there were almost no cars and just a couple of skin tracks heading up.

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The basin was full of sticky corn mush, the temperature was in the mid-sixties, and it was humid. I learned my key French phrase for the day, je transpire comme un cochon (I'm sweating like a pig) within a matter of minutes. We headed up toward Pinnacle Peak, where we saw a couple other skiers, then to the base of The Castle, where we stopped for fluids. The choice to head away from Muir seemed to have been a good one, as the south side seemed stuck in the clouds all afternoon, and only the summit popped into view from time to time.

We seriously considered traversing around the south side of the ridge and skiing the Unicorn until the labor involved in traveling through the poorly-bonded slush became obvious, and so settled on the shorter traverse around the back of the Castle to Plummer Peak where we stopped for lunch and a nap.

The ski down was sloppy and sticky. The steeper portions required wide ski cuts which released a six-inch deep torrent of wet corn, often resulting in a several feet deep pile of debris piling up in the valley below, but the resultant snow surface made for decent skiing. Toward the bottom, the worst pollen-on-ski bases buildup I've ever experienced made for an arduous trek out - imagine striding with heels unlocked at 2 mph, DOWNHILL!

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