Every once in a while we get a nice clear day here in Seattle, and on some of those days it’s clear enough that you can see “The Mountain”, Mt Rainier that is. At 14,411 feet tall, and boasting 13,211 feet of prominence (relative height), Rainier is big enough to create its own weather. That poses a problem for mountaineers as well as sightseers and photographers as it means that most of the time the mountain is hidden in a shroud of clouds. You either have to be lucky to catch a glimpse, or plan your trip carefully so you have a greater than normal chance.
Since I don’t like rolling the dice, I monitored the weather closely over the course of the past week. I was watching for a break in storm fronts large enough that it would be likely that the mountain would make an appearance. That window came around (conveniently) on saturday/sunday this weekend, so I packed up my new skis and gear and headed out for a quick adventure.
While I didn’t have to go very far to get to my camp, some sections were just a little too steep for my skis and heavy pack, and made for tough going. Next time I’ll need to bring skins too (to help with the steeper sections). In any case, I finally made it to a nice spot that I believed would have a good view, but everything was clouded over when I got to camp. That, combined with the deep snow, made scouting for compositions difficult. When the clouds lifted right around sunset I scrambled around to find a relatively photogenic grouping of trees just 30 yards or so from my camp. I found a more attractive grove the following morning, but alas the weather didn’t cooperate a second time.
That may look like a lot of snow. Well, it is. Rainier averages 630 inches of snowfall every year, with a record set in 1971-1972 for 1,122 inches, that’s 93.5 feet of snowfall! Two feet of fresh snow had fallen over the course of last week (on top of an already ample base pack), so there was plenty of powder to play in.
When you look around at all that snow, it’s hard to believe that in 5 months time it will all be gone (well, except for the glaciers on Rainier), and in its place will be lush meadows with some of the most prolific wildflower displays you can find anywhere in the world. The combination of the rich volcanic soils and the incredible amounts of snowfall make this a true summer paradise, for the 2-4 weeks of summer that it actually gets! Below is an image from a trip I made back in 2008 – I can’t wait to see these flowers again later this summer. Though I must say I love how there’s no mosquitoes in the winter time!