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.

Winter Camp at Mt Rainier

Home sweet home. My tent with a view - actually I was hoping to set it up for a better view, but when I made camp I couldn't see the mountain yet!

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.

Winter in Paradise: Mt Rainier

"Winter in Paradise" ~ Mt Rainier National Park, WA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 24-105mm, polarizer, tripod
Exposure: iso 100, f/18, 0.8 sec

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!

The Grand Park: Wildflowers at Mt Rainier

"The Grand Park" ~ Mt Rainier National Park, WA
The Tech: Canon 5D, 17-40mm, polarizer, tripod, 2-stop hard grad filter
Exposure: iso 200, f/18, 0.4 sec

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12 Comments to “Winter in Paradise: Mt Rainier”

  1. Aleks says:

    Looks like you are already making the best of your relocation to the PNW. These are really stunning winter images and Mt. Rainier is just such a perfect peak. Glad you’re getting out and enjoying your new home 🙂

  2. Chris Kayler says:

    Hi Floris,

    Love the 2nd image! However, being a backpacker, the first really speaks to me. What a campsite!


  3. Stephen Hancock says:

    It’s nice to see you out in the PWN. I look forward to seeing your captures from Deception Pass. I have not been there in a few years but it’s one of my favorite locations. hint hint 😉

  4. Those area great Floris. Looks like you are making the best of your new environment.

  5. Henrik Lund says:

    Hi Floris!
    The second image is magical! Just love it!

    Keep up the good work!

    Greetings from Finland!

  6. Carl D says:

    Hey Floris

    Love it. Looks like you had a good weekend. How’d the skis go?

    I definitely find snowshoes a better choice for travel in places like this than skis, especially when trying to photograph. Skis are a pita .. though way more fun when the going is good. 🙂



  7. Thanks everyone!

    Carl – the skis worked out well, better than snowshoes for 80% of the trip, but a real PITA for the other 20%! I’m thinking next time I’ll either need skins, or I might in fact be best off bringing both (skis + snowshoes). The straight away sections are SOOO much easier on skis that it could very well be worth the weight. I should be able to use the same boots I think.

    A friend sent me this link too – I wonder if these are actually a good in between? http://www.marquette-backcountry.com/

  8. I hear ya on the mosquito part! Ugh, I’d not look forward to meadows if those flowers weren’t so darn pretty. Anyhow, Floris, this is a great image and depiction of what looks like a fun trip. Way to enjoy your new environment!


  9. Kari says:

    These are simply beautiful images of Mt Rainier!
    But camping in the snow! Brrr!!!
    I’d want a nice heated cabin with a toasty warm fire. 🙂

  10. Floris, stunning work as always and your blog is one of my favorites to stop in on and see what you’ve been up to each month. Very pristine feel to the ‘Winter In Paradise’ shot. What setup did you end up getting – I’m assuming it’s not randonee? Keep up the great work!

  11. Floris says:

    Thanks Barrett! I got a set of ‘back country cross country’ skis, with telemark bindings. For the kind of trips I plan to do I think it’ll end up being a good setup

  12. Could not find a more suitable title! paradise it is! 🙂