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Ascent to Mount Rainier-Base of Fuhrer Finger on 2002-06-26

Climber: Greg Slayden

Others in Party:Glenn Morrison
Date:Wednesday, June 26, 2002
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Point Reached:Mount Rainier - Base of Fuhrer Finger
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:9750 ft / 2971 m
    Remaining Elevation:4661 ft / 1421 m (50% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

Glenn and I decided to try to do a one-day ascent of Mount Rainier via the Fuhrer Finger, and descend that route on skis from the summit. The weather was looking great, so I arranged for a day off work and headed up to Mount Rainier in the afternoon, having to fight weekday traffic. I met Glenn at Longmire, and I drove us both up to Paradise, where we signed in with the ranger and got our gear together.

Glenn and I left Paradise at 7:20 PM and skinned up the oddly deserted Paradise Park trails to Glacier Vista, arriving there at 8:10 PM. We skied down to the Nisqually Glacier on our skins, and then crossed it at the 6000-foot contour, not bothering to rope up, since heavy snow still blanketed everything. Then we climbed up the ramp to the Wilson Glacier, finding the terrain to steep or sidehilled to skin up, so we put our skis on our packs and grunted up towards Camp Hazard for 3 1/2 hours as the sun set.

At 12:30 AM we reached the 9100 foot level, where our route led to the actual Fuhrer Finger. We were kind of tired and out of it, so we wound up resting here for almost 2 1/2 hours, until 2:50 AM. It was cold and dark, and we melted some snow and cooked some food.

We got roped up and finally started across the upper Wilson Glacier, where we were passed by a rope team that told us they had climbed to here from Paradise in 3 hours--better than our 8 hours! We wound around some crevasses, and then started up the steep snow of the Finger. But we were on fumes--Glenn especially was lagging, and I was not feeling too great, either. After a couple rests it was clear we were not going to make the summit.

So at 4 AM, at only 9750 feet--lower than Camp Muir!--we turned around. Glenn had an idea to add some excitement to this disappointing trip, though--to ski down via the Van Trump Glacier, instead of retracing our upward path. This sounded good to me.

So, back at the 9100-foot bivvy spot we rested again from 4:30 to 6 AM, then headed due west to the Van Trump Glacier, really just a bunch of snowfields. After a treacherous traverse that gained a couple hundred feet and crossed some rock ribs, we put our skis on and finally pointed them downhill.

For one hour, from 7:30 to 8:30 AM, we skied down 3900 vertical feet of fall line, from 9300 feet to 5400 feet (near the "Van Trump Park" label on the topo map). The snow was great, the slope moderately steep, and the views expansive on this bright, clear morning. There were three drainages we could have steered to, and Glenn recalled hearing that the right-most was the one we wanted. This turned into a pleasant canyon with nice skiing.

Now we had to find the Comet Falls trail to get back to the road. This took a long time, and we blundered about in the snowy woods for a while, dead tired and weighed down with heavy packs. We found a path, lost it, saw the falls, could not find a way to them, and finally, utterly tired and thirsty, found the path right at the scenic falls. A dayhiking couple was on the trail, the first people we saw since the Finger.

We then hiked out the dry, hot, buggy Comet Falls trail for a mile or so, a real death march of the zombies. Finally, at ten past noon, we arrived at the Paradise Road. We had been on the trail for 17 hours, with no sleep. Now, however, my car was up where we started at the Paradise parking lot, several uphill miles away, so our plan was now for me to hitchhike back uphill to retrieve it.

I stuck out my thumb for fifteen minutes unsuccessfully, until the couple we had seen on the trail came out. We told them our story, and they gladly gave me a ride up to Paradise--they were both very friendly and helpful Tacoma police officers.

I got to my car, drove downhill, got Glenn, dropped him at his car at Longmire, then rested a while and re-organized. My drive home was punctuated by several roadside naps as my extreme fatigue forced me to pull over. It was very hot out, my car radio was not working, and the weekday traffic was a mess. I got home by 7 PM, utterly blown out and tired.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:4866 ft / 1481 m
    Elevation Loss:6666 ft / 2030 m
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Skis, Ski Poles, Bivouac
    Weather:Cool, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:4666 ft / 1421 m
    Extra Loss:336 ft / 102 m
    Route:Fuhrer Finger
    Trailhead:Paradise  5420 ft / 1652 m
    Time Up:8 Hours 40 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:6330 ft / 1928 m
    Extra Gain:200 ft / 60 m
    Route:Van Trump Glaciers
    Trailhead:Comet Falls Trailhead  3620 ft / 1103 m
    Time Down:8 Hours 10 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO resposibility or liability from use of this data.

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