Saturday, June 27, 2015

2015_06_27 Hike to Camp Muir (Mt. Rainier) and Back

Author:  Conor Collins


Camp Muir Hiking Detail. This message will be divided into three parts: 1) The Essentials 2) What to bring 3) The schedule.

 The Essentials:    Camp Muir is perched on the south side of Mt. Rainier and is nearly surrounded by glaciers: the Nisqually Glacier to the west, the Cowlitz Glacier to the north and east, and the Paradise Glacier to the south and east. 2.2 miles of the 4.5-mile ascent is unmarked and has a section that traverses 884 meters over the Muir snowfield. The 9-mile round-trip hike gains 4,680 feet with a max altitude of 10,100 feet. The National Park Service rates the hike “Strenuous”, breaks for altitude adjustment along the way are recommended.
What to bring:  1) Sunglasses and sunscreen (MUST HAVE for snow hiking) 2) Hiking boots or shoes that won’t give you blisters 3) Preferably non-cotton clothing (bring your most athletic clothes) 4) Sweatshirt or warm jacket 5) A hat 6) A pack with: a) a change of clothes (at least socks and underwear) b) WATER and a lot of it (at least a gallon) c) FOOD (Including snacks for the hike and a sandwich to eat at the top) d) Some cash ($x≥$20) e) hand towel 7) Ski or hiking poles (If you do not have some let me know and I’ll find a pair) 8) A charged phone or camera (And a charging cable) 9) A plastic bag to store garbage or dirty clothes 10) A positive attitude.

 The Schedule:  (Saturday the 27th) I will be picking each of you up rather early (Daniel: 0400, Sergii: 0405) I apologize for the very early start, but the early morning is the best time to hike. We will be on the road heading for Rainier no later than 0410. The roads should be free and clear in the morning so I am planning on starting the hike no later than 0550. The average round trip hiking time is roughly 6 hours, putting us back to the parking lot around noon. The forecasted high for Muir is 55° (by noon) with increasing clouds in the evening, so we should enjoy the best conditions the mountain has to offer. For the drive home there is a great ice cream shop in Ashford and a Subway in Eatonville if we’re hungry.

If you have any questions or concerns please let me know as soon as they arise. Share this information with your parents so everyone is clear on what we’re doing. This link ( ) will take you to a PDF that describes the hike in greater directional detail. On a clear day this is a specular hike and a mecca for aspiring summit trips and day hikers.  Ad eundum quo nemo ante iit.

 Hiking Detail General Overview:

When: Saturday, June 27th 2015

Where: Paradise to Camp Muir and back (Mount Rainier National Park)

  • Pick up- 4am (Daniel), 4:05am (Sergii)
  • Arrive at Paradise parking lot- 5:30am
  • Begin Hike- 5:45am
  • Reach Camp Muir- ~(general approximation)~ 8:20am
  • Begin return to Paradise- (at most) 45min after reach time
  • Leave Paradise parking lot- ~(general approximation)~ 11:30am
  • Stops along the way- Ice cream in Ashford, Subway in Eatonville
  • Arrive back home- ~(general approximation)~ 1pm

What to bring:
1) Sunglasses and sunscreen (MUST HAVE for snow hiking)
2) Hiking boots or shoes that won’t give you blisters
3) Preferably non-cotton clothing (bring your most athletic clothes)
4) Sweatshirt or warm jacket
5) A hat (wide rimmed preferred)
6) A pack with:
a) Change of clothes (at least socks and underwear)
b) WATER and a lot of it (at least a gallon)
c) FOOD (Including snacks for the hike and a sandwich to eat at the top)
d) Some cash ($x≥$20)
e) Hand towel
7) Ski or hiking poles (I will supply those)
8) A charged phone or camera (And a charging cable)
9) A plastic bag to store garbage or dirty clothes
10) A positive attitude
(A gratuity of $5 for gas fees would be nice.)

Camp Muir Hiking Report (WTA Hike write up)

When the five-day forecast calls for a week of consecutive sun and warm temperatures in the highlands, the alarm is set for 3:00 AM (on a Saturday) for a spectacular day in the mountains. Camp Muir was this Saturday’s spectacle.

Arriving at the Paradise parking lot at 5:40, we gathered our materials and were venturing up the grand John Muir steps toward Camp Muir not later than 5:50. There was little discussion about clothing for the hike, as the Paradise temperature had already reached 63° F. The sky was incredible, mostly clear with a few wisps of thin clouds just above the rising sun’s horizon. We took the Skyline trail for the first half of the hike, experiencing stunning views as the light of the new day slowly ventured down Rainier’s glaciered slopes. Small Paradise deer were roaming through the meadows along the early paved portions of the trail, adding some great company to an otherwise deserted path.

After reaching the On valley lookout and the junction between the Skyline and Alta Vista trail the path takes a new look as it turns to gravel and shoots skyward. The snowfield gets closer (although much higher than it should be at this point in the year) and a few minor patches of snow cross the trail to give the unprepared hiker an idea of what is to come on the 4.4 miles of snow hiking ahead (2.2 miles one way of snow hiking to Muir, 4.4 round-trip).

Upon reaching Pebble Creek and carefully traversing the hopscotch rocks that divide the trail the edge of the snowfield, you get a glimpse of the immensity and uniqueness of the Camp Muir hike. I highly recommend you bring hiking poles and a great pair of waterproof hiking books for the snow portion. Gaining traction, even in the morning when the snow was refreshed from the nightly temperature was a chore, but undoubtedly fun. Many hikers completed the hike in their tennis shoes, something I would not recommend; it adds difficulty to the hike that a boot would alleviate, but no trouble a will to seek the destination won’t overshadow.

If you pause for a moment about halfway through the snowfield, in the absence of any wind or ambient human-caused noise, you will most likely hear the ominous cracks and rumbles of the nearby glaciers. As the sun and the rising temperatures reach the glaciers the crevasses open wider and create those precarious tremors through the air.

After at least an hour of probing, sliding and stabilizing your steps on the snowfield you gain a glimpse of the camp. Perched on a ledge between the exposed south face of Rainier and an inner “protected” bowl of the high Cowlitz Glacier, the fatigue of hiking on snow is surpassed by the motivation to rest on such a spectacular ridge.

I suggest you spend at least 45 minutes enjoying the amenities of the camp (don’t sit by a solar toilet… you’ll know what I’m talking about when you get there). The temperature at the camp was rather chilly, but nothing a tough dayhiker can’t handle after the rigor of the 4.5-mile ascent. I managed rather adequately with a basic T-shirt and athletic shorts, and a buddy of mine did just fine with an open tank top.

The descent off of Muir adds the fun to this hike. As you will probably notice during the ascent people quite literally slide down the mountain back to Pebble Creek. Bring a plastic bag, or at least a change of pants, as you won’t want to miss out on the thrill of sliding 2.2 miles down Rainier. A fair warning though, some of the slopes have very steep downgrades and drops, as well as drifts that can send you into rocks or dangerously close to the edge of the snowfield. If you’re sure-footed and comfortable with sliding you can gallop down the slopes as well—equally as fun!

The descent speeds by, you’ll be down the 2.2 miles that seemed endless as you hiked upward in no time at all. Once you get back to Pebble Creek the hike will seem practically over. Just make it back to the parking lot and you’ve hiked over half to the summit and back and maybe, if you’re like me, you’ll get the itch to go all the way (one of these days).

A notice for all: There are no places to fill your water bottle along the way, a filter or boiling water is recommended for using stream water or snow along the way. The only toilets are those up at Camp Muir, and I’m warning you, hold your breath (no offense to the maintenance people at Muir, but the smell is horrible).

Don’t forget to appreciate the utter beauty of Mount Rainier, I’m not sure if there’s something in the world that parallels it’s stand-alone beauty.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

2015_06_20 Leon's Ride

Author:  Mike Hassur

Well, it’s Father’s Day (5:30 AM), and my family has said that I am to be "ready to go” at 7:00 AM – not sure what they are planning.  Anyway, this seems like a good time to get a blog post started about yesterday’s ride (Puyallup Cyclopaths’ “Leon’s Ride”).

The ride is named after Leon Matz.  Last year, because Leon didn’t get into RAMROD, and I was less than enthusiastic about doing an altered course; we just decided to do our own ride on the day of RAMROD.  Leon proposed the following ride:  Longmire (Mt. Rainier) à climb to Paradise à descend to Reflection Lake à descend Stevens’ Pass à climb Backbone Ridge (west side) à descend east side of Backbone Ridge à exit Mt. Rainier National Park at east gate à climb Cayuse Pass à retrace our route back to our vehicle at Longmire.  The ride covered about 85 miles and included about 9500 feet of climbing.  It was sort of a “RAMROD lite” (i.e. all of the climbing in the mountains of RAMROD – and then some, but none of the slog to the mountains and back out).  The weather was great, and our ride was wonderful.

Yesterday (Saturday, June 20th), we repeated the ride; but we had a larger group this time.  The plan was to meet at Longmire and be on our bikes by around 6:00 AM.  That sounds pretty good in the planning stage, but it required me getting up at 3:30 AM.  Leon showed up at my house at 4:15 AM (we had loaded up the bikes and gear the night before), and we headed over to Conor Collins’ house to pick him up.  Everything went as planned, and we arrived at Longmire at 5:45 AM.  Shortly after our arrival, Les Becker and Tom Peterson arrived followed almost immediately by Mark Delrosario and Kurt Maute, Scott Wagar and Kevin Vilhauer, John Winter, and James Kressler.

Our group at Longmire - ready to go...

We were on our bikes and heading out of the parking lot by 6:15 AM.  It was sunny, and the temperature was around 50 degrees (though it felt chillier in the shady areas).  The ride up to Paradise went smoothly.  On the way up, Kurt and Mark decided to take the “cutoff road” over to Reflection Lake.  This meant that they would not ride up to Paradise, but it would give them a head start on us going up Backbone Ridge.  The plan was to meet them at the top of Backbone Ridge.

Mt Rainier as seen on the final portion of the climb up to Paradise...

After a short break at Paradise to take a couple of photos, we descended on the Paradise Valley Road (it had just been resurfaced which made the descent easier, faster, and more fun).  We connected with the “cutoff road” that Mark and Kurt had taken earlier and headed past Reflection Lake.  From there, it was the Stevens Canyon descent.  I had the GoPro video camera going and had hopes of getting video of the group on this wonderful descent.  Unfortunately, Les had a mechanical at the hairpin turn just above Stevens Canyon.  I stopped to make sure that he and his bike were okay; and, by the time we got going again, the group was long gone.

Les at hairpin turn above Stevens Canyon...

Mike - same place as Les...

Les and I had a blast on the Stevens Canyon descent (as usual).  We passed Box Canyon and headed toward Backbone Ridge.  Before long, we were at the top of Backbone Ridge and reunited with the rest of our group.  

Backbone Ridge summit...

From there, it was the twisting (and exciting) descent of the east side of Backbone Ridge.  Our group stayed together for this descent, and there were smiles all around as we exited the east gate of Mt. Rainier National Park.

Next up, the climb of the south side of Cayuse Pass.  We were in the shade for most of this climb which kept our temperature nice and cool.  At the top, we regrouped and headed down.  The speeds coming down the south side of Cayuse Pass can be pretty high (my Garmin topped out at 46 mph), so there wasn’t much sight-seeing on the way down – just concentrating on the road ahead and checking to see if any cars were behind us. 

The descent of Cayuse Pass went fine, and we soon found ourselves in a line of cars waiting to get into the national park at the east gate.  We had never seen a line this long before (it extended all the way back to highway 123).  We just enjoyed visiting as we made our way to the gate/Ranger Station.  Once we made it through the gate, we headed up the east side of Backbone Ridge.  This is just a constant, moderate grade for about 4-5 miles.  We just rode a smooth pace and visited; and, before we knew it, we were back on top of Backbone Ridge – what a view!!

Second time over Backbone Ridge (this time heading west)...

We descended the west side of Backbone Ridge (high speed – quick descent) and were soon pedaling past Box Canyon and onto the lower portion of the climb back up Stevens Canyon.  By this time, the day had started to get pretty warm and all vests, jackets, and arm warmers had been shed.  The climb back up to Reflection Lake through Stevens Canyon is a long, demanding effort – especially when you have already done about 65 miles and about 8500 feet of climbing.  We rode up at different speeds, depending on each person’s level of fatigue; but everyone made it.  We were soon hurtling down the descent back to Longmire and our vehicles.  This last descent has lots of curves and could be enjoyable, but there was quite a bit of traffic by this time and the road surface was rough; so just getting back to Longmire without mishap was the main focus for most of us.

Everyone made it back safely.  All done – except for the stop at the Subway Sandwich Shop in Eatonville.  That 12 inch sub and a Coke sure hit the spot.

Can’t wait for our next ride…

To see all of the photos associated with this ride, click on the following link:  Puyallup Cyclopaths: "Leon's Ride" Photos

Saturday, June 13, 2015

2015_06_13 The Climb To Sunrise (Maiden Voyage)

Author:  Mark Delrosario

Since there was no scheduled group ride Saturday June 13th, I sent a message out to my fellow Cyclopaths to find out if anyone was planning a ride. Heard Les and Dwaine were doing a 125 miler in preparation for STP, but they were doing it on Friday.  That was a no go since it's hard to play hookie from work. James Kressler said he was planning to do repeats on Chinook.

Then I got to thinking of doing Sunrise since I spent the last two Saturdays climbing Mt. Rainier. Why not a third Saturday in a row, and why not a different ascent by bike?  Kurt replied he'd give it a go even after his 14 hour flight from the Middle East. Leon and Mike said they were going Sunday, which wouldn't work for my schedule.

Saturday morning picked up Kurt in Edgewood. As we were nearing Crystal Mountain, Kurt noticed the car's outside temperature was reading 39 degrees.  I hadn't given any thought of the weather conditions. I assumed we'd be climbing and plus we were starting later with the sun already up.

Kurt had felt cold from the get go in the car. I was thinking it might be because he just came back from the desert climate. He was smart and wore our long sleeve club jersey and vest. I was only planning to wear sleeves meant for the sun and our vest. Luckily, I had left leg and arm warmers in a bag in the car.

We weren't the only cyclists at the Crystal Mountain turn off. There was one race team, another set of recreational riders that left before us, and down the road there was the Seattle Randonneuring group we saw making its way out of Enumclaw. We started our ride at 8:15, much later than our usual group start times.

It was a steady 4 mile climb to the Sunrise turnoff. Mostly in the shadow of the trees with a wind in our faces, which wasn't helping to fight off the cold.  I noticed that, when we saw the color of a red jersey up the road, Kurt's cadence tempo started to pick up. I was thinking there was no way it was one of the cyclists that left ahead of us.

The cyclist disappeared around the bend but we later caught up at the park gate. At this hour, there was a Park Ranger manning the gate. Flashed our new annual pass, and we were in. We caught up with the other cyclist within a minute. Since his pace was similar to ours, we kind of invited ourselves. Rick was wearing a 2012 Ramrod jersey so the obvious question was to ask if he got in this year. Nope. I happened to be wearing the 2014 Ramrod jersey.

He said he would usually ride Sunrise in preparation for Ramrod. For Kurt and I, this was our maiden ride. Kurt was riding stronger than me, and he lingered slightly ahead of us. I stayed back with Rick. There was a time we could've dropped him but we eased our pace. Rick's competitive juices kicked in and I think he made an effort to drop us. Half way up I started to tire, while Kurt could have maintained his distance ahead of Rick. We stopped at a bend for a break about 2/3 the way up. Rick continued on and a few other groups of cyclists passed us on the way up.

As we got to the lookout point, low and behold - James Kressler was coming down from the Lodge!  He chauffeured us up the remaining distance. Kurt was still riding strong.  No apparent effects of jet lag from what I could tell. Cool to have a big ring type stretch at the very top.  I was rather enjoying having this different viewpoint of Mt. Rainier. Don't recall seeing any snow on the side of the road, just green alpine valleys and pine trees with our grand mountain as the backdrop. I imagine it would be an awesome area to hike.

The descent after the long straight-aways was crazy with the bends, banking roads and decreasing radius turns. We could tell James was comfortable descending.  Speaking for myself my hands were on the brake levers. Having ascended on this same road earlier proved to be no help in determining the line through the many twists and turns on this road on the way down.

We departed from James at the campgrounds turn off since he was going to repeat the climb.  The remainder of the ride back to the car was uneventful with the exception of a large RV. Thankful he was a patient driver. We completed our ride by noon.

It was a nice Saturday morning. The weather was beautiful, roads nice and shared the experience with good company.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

2015_06_06 Puyallup Cyclopath "Skate Creek Loop" Ride

Author:  Leon Matz

Our 2015 Puyallup Cyclopath Skate Creek Loop Ride was an unusual and eventful ride.  At a ½ hour out of Puyallup, Dr. Nick, Conor and I get a call from John Winter saying that he had overslept and would join us, hopefully, at Reflection Lake.  When we arrived at the ride’s starting point, there were already 5-6 cars there.  We all started greeting each other and getting ready for the ride.  Within a minute Dr. Nick shares that he forgot his food for the ride.  A moment later he then shares he left his cycling shoes also. Heck!  Not to be detoured Nick got ready and took off with the shoes he had worn to the ride. Shortly thereafter, Mark took off.

The remaining 12 people pulled together for a few last instructions and requests. One of the instructions was to regroup at Reflection Lake. Slower climbers were encouraged to take the cutoff road and save 2+ miles of climbing to Paradise.  John still had not arrived, and Rod and Chris were not yet there either.  With Conor, Craig, Mario, Lanny and a few others leading the group the pace from the start was pretty quick. Memories of us slowly riding and talking as we headed towards the park hit me.  “I know Les needs to make it to this afternoon’s wedding on time, but we don’t need to go this fast”!   Prior to Longmire, we caught Nick. I slowed to see how he was doing without his cycling shoes and found out he had not taken any food from the other riders.  I gave him a bar and wished him good luck. In this short time, I found myself a couple of hundred yards back from the group.  It was not an easy catch for me.  It took about 5 minutes and harder riding than I would have liked to have done especially so early in the ride to catch up.  We found ourselves at Longmire in less than 40 minutes.  A few riders started getting dropped from the lead group.  A little farther up the road, we caught Mark; and a little later we caught up to Tom who had started early to take it easy on his injured knee.

Heading up to Paradise (literally)...

Soon, Mario shot off the front and the pace sped up. Soon the lead group was rather small. Conor Dewayne, Les, Lanny, and Scott W. pursued Mario; and Tom, Eric and I followed. Soon the lead group was out of sight and the only riders Tom and I could see was Les and Scott.  I arrived at Paradise in 1 hour and 49 minutes from the time that we started.  The typical time to Paradise on this ride was 2:06. I told Les that after a short rest they should all head down the 1 way road and head to Reflection Lake.  I headed down the two way road. Soon Eric was sighted and he continued up.  I then found Mark and Bram Dally. Bram shared that he was going to go to Paradise, wait for Nick, and they were going to go back to the cars and end the ride there. Mark turned with me and headed down to the turnoff and headed to Reflection Lake.  

Part of our group at Reflection Lake...

Upon arriving we discovered NO ONE WAS THERE! Where were Martin and Craig???? We waited about 5 min and just as I was going to ride back the other Cyclopaths arrived including John.  Martin and Craig must have kept riding.  Keeping a group of 15 riders together is a challenge.  The ride down Stevens Canyon was fun and quick.

Heading into the hairpin turn just above Steven's Canyon...

On the way Conor shared that, instead of going with us around to Packwood, he wanted to do more climbing.  At the bottom of Stevens Canyon, he headed back up Stevens Canyon with the plan to see us somewhere on Skate Creek Road.  At the top of Backbone ridge, we caught up with Craig and Martin.  After re-grouping, we headed down and exited the park. We did a single line pace line along HWY 123.  It was real strange rolling back 12 bikes to get to the end of the line. When we hit HWY 12, I requested we try to do a double line pace line.  At times we were somewhat proficient and others times not.  It was fun to try!  With a smaller group and a steadier incline or decline, it would have been easier.  During this section Chris and Rod caught us and passed us. Chris commented that he “Needed to pee”.   One thing for sure the rotating pace line caused most of us to focus on the rotation and as a result the time went by quickly.

We all stopped at the gas station in Packwood, ate some food, replenished our water bottles, and took some clothing off.  The sun was warming us up; and - with the Skate Creek Climb ahead of us - the amount of clothing would be limited. 

Soon, Mark and Martin took off to get a head start.  Shortly thereafter, the rest of us headed out.  The pace for the first few miles was quick but not too crazy.  Before long, Mario took off; and Lanny and Scott took off after him.  I had hoped we would stay together longer, but it became evident the race to the top was on. Even though Mario was already out of sight, a number of us increased our tempo. Pretty soon John and I were on the front of the group driving the pace.  After about 5 minutes, I checked my mirror and was surprised to see the group starting to drift back.  John and I started working together and soon saw Lanny up the road a little ways.  On one long straight away, we caught a glimpse of Mario. I was pretty sure that John and I could not catch Mario unless we could add a third person.  As we started to catch Lanny, I was hopeful he could share the workload with us.  As we passed him, I asked him to jump on; but, after a minute or so, I saw him dropping back.  We seemed to be making some progress cutting into Mario’s lead but not very fast.  I started accepting that Mario would not be caught when I noticed a rider catching us from behind.  It must be someone real fit, because I am giving it all I can and they are catching us pretty quickly.  That fit guy was Dwaine (no real surprise).  He quickly caught us and joined into the effort.  Dwaine’s strength and positive attitude gave all three of us hope that we could catch Mario.  The climb up Skate Creek is not very steep and is beautifully shaded.  Because of the mild pitch, we were climbing at 12-15 mph not the 6-9 MPH like is typical. One difficult thing about the climb is that it is really hard to predict how close to the top you are.  Numerous times I thought we were getting close to the top only to be fooled.  About a ½ mile from the top, the three of us caught Mario; and we all finished together.  Mario, Dwaine, and John continued on as I turned around to check on the other riders.  Not too far behind were Les and Tom. I passed the rest of the riders until I came upon Martin and Mark and I road with them to the top of the climb and then back to the cars. We had fun talking and enjoying the thoughts of a challenging and beautiful ride.  When we arrived at the cars everyone was sitting around talking and packing things up. 

We had ridden so fast as a group that Les had plenty of time to make it to the wedding. We had covered just under 80 miles and 7,000 feet of climbing.  A good day’s workout!

Some of us decided to drive to Eatonville and stop at Subway to continue our conversations about what a wonderful ride we had. To me it was a great way to finish the ride.

To see all of the photos associated with this ride, click on the following link: