Mazama Ridge

When I invited Lyn to go on her first snowshoe trip I was struck with the dilemma of where to find some good snow. This Winter has been very poor so far and most lower elevation trips are hikes not snowshoe trips. I fell back on the one place I new there was enough snow, Paradise on Mt. Rainier. Seattle was under another day of dark, cold, smoggy overcast but the forecast for the mountains was warm and sunny. The gloom continued until just before Eatonville where the clouds broke and the sun shone. From Eatonville we had a clear view of Rainier. The highway was icy in places well before the park entrance. As I had heard, Longmire was completely snow free. There was a little snow on the side of the road before the Nisqually bridge but not much. We reached Paradise at about 10:10. There is 80 inches on the ground but it looks more like late May than early February. We donned snowshoes and headed down the road towards Reflection Lakes. The road was so well consolidated that snowshoes were really not necessary. I considered going to the lakes but the hard packed road would have been dull. Lyn was game to try some off road climbing so we settled on Mazama Ridge. Just after crossing the bridge over the river we headed up. There was a well enough packed down trail to make navigation a breeze. On a few steeper sections I left the trail and headed straight up to give Lyn some experience in traveling off the well beaten path. We passed one group of overnighters coming out and one person in short sleeves. It was warm but not that warm, at least to me.

We soon crested the ridge and Lyn could see what I meant by a plateau on top. The clear white snow spread out in all directions. We looked around and decided to head across to the other side of the ridge and ascend the highest point to have lunch. The snow was soft yet we did not sink far. It was just about idea for snowshoeing. The climb up to the point was short but quite steep. If the snow was any harder I would not have continued. Lyn just kept on following me and soon we were on top. The view of the Tatoosh range was spectacular. Rainier was dominant in the other direction. We could see the snow covered road somewhere beyond Reflection Lakes. This was a truly great place to stop for lunch. When we first reached the ridge there were no other people in sight. Now a few others reached the ridge top. There was a fairly even balance between skiers and snowshoers all day.

After lunch we dropped back down and traveled up and down the ridge. Higher up the wind began to blow fairly hard and we dropped down out of it. After nearly 3 1/2 hours exploring the ridge it was time to head down. The afternoon sun had softened the snow a little more and it was easy to drop back down to the road. I loaned Lyn my MSR snowshoes and she had no trouble climbing steeply up and down. While descending we passed several groups still heading up. Coming down I looked across towards the mountain and saw some telemarker skiers carving leisurely turns in the snow. From the road it was an easy uphill walk back to the parking lot. Looking around at Paradise it was obvous just how little snow we have had this year. The lodge was snow free almost to the base. The tunnel to the bathrooms had no snow at all around it. I hope we have a really snowy last part of Winter or I may be back to enjoy the wild flowers in April. All in all, this was a great day to be out snowshoeing. The snow was great, the views were tremendous, and it reached 45 degrees at 5400'. I hope I can get back for at least one more snow trip this season.

Ridge In Distance
Ascending Ridge
Paradise From Ridge
Ridge Top
Mt. Rainier
Lyn And Rainier
Lyn Climbing Down
Mazama Ridge
Click on thumbnails to see larger pictures.

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