We met that morning at Whittaker’s Cafe for a second round of coffee and breakfast, then left in time to get to the gate to Paradise at Longmire right before 9am, parking at the Paradise parking lot.
Note: During Winter, the gate to Paradise at Longmire opens at 9am and closes at 4pm, so plan accordingly. You can follow the MountRainierNPS Twitter account for real time updates on when the gate will open for a given day. Also, make sure to bring tire chains.
Our plan that morning was to try for Nisqually Chute if the conditions allowed for it, something we weren’t confident about that day, with a back up plan of trying out Paradise Glacier.
Paradise Glacier is mentioned in Backcountry Ski & Snowboard Routes Washington as a descent option for Camp Muir, described as “The often overlooked slopes of Paradise Glacier can offer excellent skiing”. After skiing it, we would have to agree.
Mt. Rainier approach, heading towards Panorama Point.
The parking lot was average for a winter weekend and the sun loomed overhead, reminding us of the head start it got on us. We quickly got ready and started moving across the frozen snow.
Panorama Point was icy, so all but one of us in the initial push of people decided to boot up it.
The weather stayed colder and windier than we expected as we moved further and further up, and the cloud cover was starting to move in earlier than we expected.
A close up of the entrance to Nisqually Chute.
Nisqually Chute looked less intimidating the closer we got, a welcome relief for me.
We decided not to go all the way to Anvil rock since the wind is howling, the snow never softened, and the weather was only getting worse.
Instead we stopped on the ridge for a quick rest while we transitioned and discussed if we were going with plan A or B. It didn’t take long to decide to drop down to Paradise Glacier, so the conversation moved to route finding logistics to make sure we had a safe exit.
Descending Paradise Glacier.
We started by having to Work our way over icy wind scoured snow. Luckily the snow pack was high this time of year, so crevasses weren’t much of a concern. Once we got down in to the valley, there were lots of recent avalanche debris to dodge, but totally manageable.
To do so, we traversed high on the left side, saving up enough gravity to get us through the second half. After a quick rest we continue working our way down, gaining some speed to cross the creek and gain a small knob.
Looking back towards Paradise Glacier.
The back side of the knob had a short steep section that was a lot of fun. We then aimed for the trees, having a blast casually cruising down through them and enjoying the sheltered conditions down low.
Once we hit the road we followed it our way up back to the parking lot.