After some blistering forecasts this past weekend, we were lucky to catch perfect weather for heading up to Camp Muir. This was a pleasant surprise as lately we have run headfirst into some pretty gruesome weather on our hikes (I won’t name any names, but a certain Skamania County volcano may never be getting a Christmas card from me again).
We left paradise around 1:45pm. The Skyline Trail was bustling as always and was crowded until Glacier Vista, where the foot traffic generally tends to thin out. The marmots were out snacking in the meadows and while the wildflowers have paled, they still provide wonderfully scenic landscapes for your trip up the mountain.
When we broke off the Skyline Trail for Pebble creek, we heard some reports of crevasses opening up on the Muir snowfield. We didn’t end up encountering any of those troubling fractures, but supposedly they were appearing east of Muir, so keep your eyes out for those when making your ascent.
Even though we were heading up later in the day, the snow on the field wasn’t too soft. There were still some nice sets of stamped tracks to follow, which contributed heavily to making this hike more bearable. If you’re doing a lot of sloshing and slipping on the snowfield, it’s really going to take a toll on you. Evidence of which can be seen in the collection of tired, dazed souls taking refuge on the rocks, a feeling I know all too well from last year.
I was using poles and trail crampons for the snowfield, but you could probably get by kick stepping with poles if you forgot your traction devices or just want to look like an old pro. To reiterate every trail report ever on Muir, sunscreen, a good pair of sunglasses and an overabundance of water are essential on the snowfield (Having a GPS on an overcast or foggy day when the markers are harder to see is also a good idea).
We made Camp Muir by 6:00pm. Everyone at the camp looked pretty exhausted, but they were also pleasant and welcoming. I know it’s a regular commute for a lot of the guides and seasoned climbers, but I was excited to finally make it up there. This was a hike I’ve wanted to check off my list since I arrived in Washington. I probably won’t take a shot at the summit until next summer, but it was still an intoxicating feeling to be at 10,000 feet. I had a strong (and very ill-advised) desire to try to sneak into one of the departing summit teams and see how long it would take for them to notice and shoo me out of the towline.
It was getting late, so we didn’t linger too long and after some rest and light snacking, we headed back down. With the sheer exhaustion of the hike, glissading down the snowfield is always inviting, but our garbage bag diaper glissading provided mixed results and less than stylish summer looks. We made it back to the car by 8:45pm to round out a challenging but rewarding seven hours on the mountain.
Overall, this was not as excruciating as our first attempt at Muir and a big part of it was having proper gear, better conditioning and friendlier weather. Also, it was such a cakewalk compared to the death march that was Mount St. Helens. But I was proud of our group. Some of our team’s pre-hike conditioning for the week had been limited to beer and pontoon boats, but everyone made it to Muir and back in one piece, and no one threatened to quit nature or steal the keys and try to make a break for the car. Not even once.
I’m sure at some point I will take up more sedentary hobbies that don’t leave me hobbled the next day, but until then, the mountains remain a bit of an obsession. And to borrow an overused John Muir quote, “The mountains are calling and I must go.”
Recommended reading for the trail: Day Hiking Rainier
Soundtrack for the trail: Don't Stop Believing
Original post on WTA