Mt. Rainier: The 7Up Hikes. Two down, two to go. Planned total of 104 miles and 30,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. Check them out on the williswall blog.


Mt. Rainier: The 7Up Hikes/Goat Is.-Banshee Loop


Goat Island Mountain to Summerland sectionThis is a big hike with big views. I recruited my buddy CB for this one as the extensive off trail and planned exit warranted a partner for safety. As it turns out the gnarly exit was bypassed, more on that. This trip provides 17 miles and 5600 feet of elevation.
We parked at the Fryingpan creek trail head and spent a very short time on trail, taking a right on the Wonderland for less than half a mile and proceeding off trail at the obvious bend. This lower part of the ridge for Goat Island is of course treed but manageable enough and eventually the terrain opened up into some meadows. We ended up climbing the west ridge a bit high and were forced to retreat lower to work around to the main east ridge, whose southeast slope is a large meadow offering a clear view to the main ridge line. We spied an elk as it entered the forest lower down. Once attaining the ridge, 180 degree views pummeled us with all the cascade volcanoes from Baker to Hood visible along with numerous sub peaks. The ridge walk is long over the main peak (7288') with pockets of flowers everywhere and easy travel until the latter part of the ridge. We made the mistake of being lured off the ridge by open flowered meadows but were cliffed out twice trying to descend to Fryingpan Creek. It seems the best avenue of escape is to follow the ridge to its terminus and descend via a gully to the moraine. Some thick schwacking was occasionally involved but these sections were short. Much help was provided by goat/elk trails. Once in the basin it's a longish walk over the bouldery terrain but the creek crossings were easy with feet dry boulder hopping. We entered the meadows a few hundred feet elevation below Summerland and the short walk there found us on trail for the first time in hours.

start of off trail to Goat Island Mtnlarge meadow below GIM ridge







Goat Island Mtn Summit (7288')

Summerland to Banshee sectionIt seems the huge day hiker crowds are reserved for weekends (at Summerland) and we only ran into a couple of hikers. We also had an interesting talk with a shotgun toting ranger....seems a bear has become a problem having tasted human vittles and has become very aggressive in appropriating Mountain House. The campers the evening before huddled all night in two large groups, apparently even ten people screaming 10 feet away did not dissuade this hungry bruin. The ranger was looking to pelt it with bean bags and establish dominance but to no avail, the bear was a no show. This one may have to be relocated. Now here's where my planned exit changed as CB was done and was headed back to the vehicle. He had no problems waiting for me, however, so I reloaded the go juice and headed toward Panhandle Gap. From there it's a long benign meadow walk to my destination, Banshee Peak at 7400 feet. However, looking over the edge toward Goat Island Mountain made my knees weak, the exposure is intimidating. Our original plan was to negotiate Middle Cowlitz Chimney and descend to the Owyhigh Lakes trail, bringing us back to the vehicle ending with a short road walk of one half mile. This terrain did not invite solo travel, however, and toting my unused helmet and ice axe I started back for Panhandle Gap. On the way I back I passed the resident goat herd often seen in this area. The rest of the hike to Summerland had the sun smacking me in the face reminding me of the hottish day I had endured. I stopped occasionally for photos but for the most part I took advantage of good trail to scurry back the the ever patient CB. We topped the day off with some chow at the Naches Tavern. This was the second hike in my planned series of Rainer "7Up" hikes. Each hike takes advantage of loops if possible with points or peaks above 7000 feet. The next planned hike ups the ante a bit with more elevation and longer distance in an effort to build on each one. One thing is for sure so far, traveling above 7000 feet around Mt. Rainier offers grand vistas, sometimes in all directions, and gives one a different feel and experience outside of the Wonderland Trail.

Banshee Peak peeks out in the distance (middle)

Sarvant Glaciers with Goat Is. Mtn behindCowlitz chimneys from Banshee Peak (7400')looking back towards Panhandle Gap

the resident goat herd often seen in this area

a garden of flowers near Summerland on return trip


Mt. Rainier: The 7up Hikes/Ruth-Burroughs Loop

The Ruth-Burroughs loopRecently I sat down with a map and looked for different ways to explore Mt. Rainier beyond the Wonderland Trail and such. My criteria was as follows:

• maximize climbs to points over 7,000 feet (usually with great views)

• no specialized skills; no glacier travel, no roped climbing

• looped hikes if possible, off trail travel encouraged

• tough hikes but doable in a day by fit experienced hikers; max 2 days

• hardest parts in the first half of the hike

My daughter and I just did the first of the series, the Mt. Ruth-Burroughs loop. This hike starts and ends at White River campground and entails approximately 17 miles of hiking and 5900 feet of elevation gain/loss, plus much of the hike is off trail.

Description: We hiked the Glacier Basin Trail for .9 miles to the intersection with the Emmons Moraine Trail, taking that to the end. A tread continues past the "end of maintained trail" sign into the forest, gradually dwindling until we were basically on our own. Navigation is relatively straight forward as the Inter Fork of the White River stays on your right the entire time. Eventually we needed to climb up the steepish forest grade (left) until it eased and deposited us into a meadow. From this point navigation was easy as the ridge we needed to acquire leading to Mt. Ruth (elev 8695') was in sight and it was merely finding the best line to attain the ridge crest. As we climbed higher to the ridge fantastic views of Glacier Basin and our later peaks (Burroughs Mountains) filled our view, with distant ridges and peaks appearing over the horizon with every step up. As we made our way to the ridge proper we stepped lightly over small grasses and flowers until on an obvious tread. Here's where eye popping views towards Little Tahoma and the Emmons Glacier elicited gasps and audible "wows!" from both of us, while glancing right was the ridge making up the north side of the basin that houses the Inter Glacier and Steamboat Prow at its zenith. Tiny specks on the Inter Glacier, otherwise known as climbers, gave scale to the terrain all around. This time of year and beyond sees the Emmons losing its top coat of smooth snow, revealing the yawning crevasses and ice towers, truly a spectacle. As we got closer to Mt. Ruth an obvious choice of veering right, then left up an easy ridge avoids the steeper and crumbly looking east ridge of the peak. The summit is comfortable for lounging and taking in the panorama, something we never tired of. Eventually, however, we needed to get moving so retraced our steps to an obvious tread leading straight down to Glacier Basin. Straight is the operative word here, losing no time with the descent off the ridge until we found ourselves on more level terrain and perusing old mining equipment abandoned decades ago. The last hurdle in this off trail travel was crossing the Inter Fork of the White River, which by late afternoon on a warm day is flowing mightily. It isn't very wide, however, and eventually our scouting found a place to cross that only soaked us up to our knees but rewarded us with numb feet and toes, a real refresher after the day of hiking up to this point. In keeping with my trip criteria, the rest of the hike is on trail, allowing for encroaching fatigue and sleepy minds, a familiar state for both of us. Back on the Glacier Basin Trail, it's a short .7 miles to the intersection with the Burroughs Mountain trail which had us climbing from 5600 feet back up to 7400 feet, the summit of Second Burroughs. My original plan was to pop over to Third Burroughs first (7828') but we were enveloped in cloud and just didn't see the point. Finally, at Frozen Lake, we turned on our lights and on tired legs made our way back to White River campground via Sunrise. This trip didn't disappoint, and favors those who venture higher and off trail with views of Mt. Rainier that will take your breath away.

Mt Ruth appears on the Glacier Basin trailCassie climbing ridge with Glacier Basin belowLittle Tahoma and the Emmons GlacierCassie scouts the route to the topMt. Rainier view from Mt. Ruth summitGlacier Basinnearing Sunrise the clouds part for sunset views


STP (Seattle To Portland) 2014 bike ride

This is the second year my buddy Craig rode the STP so I mounted a Contour Roam2 to my front fork to capture the experience for him. The first day was very hot, into the 90s, but the second day saw cooler temps and even some rain. Over 10,000 riders sign up every year and about 2200 do it in one day. Centralia, WA is the halfway point where many people spend the night. I find biking to be an excellent cross training tool in my fitness regimen, although I do have a tradition of only doing one major trainer before this event. Let's just say my derriere and neck muscles bear the brunt of my undertraining.



2014 Gear Testing

ZPacks Duplex in Mt. Rainier National ParkI have acquired some gear over the past year that I would like to report on but haven't had enough field testing time. Check back at the end of this season to get a more comprehensive review of the following items:

ZPacks Hexamid Duplex tent: a promising design that may shape up to be one of the best backpacking tents out there. It will be put through its paces in the Pasayten Wilderness and Mt. Rainier this season.

Suluk46 TiCa ice tool: I have not found any reviews on this specialty tool, weighing in at about 5 ounces. I plan on using this for a Mt. Rainier trip where I will be making forays high onto some of the divides, cleavers and ridges. I ordered mine in a 60 cm length.

Enlightened Equipment 50 degree Enigma Pro Quilt: The colors, sizing and options have changed quite a bit on the EE website since I ordered my quilt. I anticipated using this quilt exclusively throughout this season.

Beyond Clothing base layers and clothing: They promise me that the Brokk pant will be available before a planned trip this month. I was able to try these on at the Seattle store but they have not been released for retail yet. The aether base layers are sweet, very light with a weave that allows for trapping of air. Since there is a lot of schwacking in my plans for this summer, I want the pants for anticipated durability and breathability. We shall see if these hold up to close scrutiny.

ZPacks Arc Slim pack: so far I have used this pack on a number of trips but would like some more trail time before rendering a final opinion

ZPacks Pertex Quantum bivy: More usage required, so far I am not thrilled with the design of the netting and may have to modify this. However, the breathability of the top material has proven to be excellent.

These major items will play the key role in my trips for this summer. As always, I hope that each purchase I make stands up but from experience know that only through real world usage can I write a review that can cover both the pros and the cons.


Wonderland Trail Outlook 2014

On June 3rd 2014 I grabbed my skis for a check of the snow conditions from White River to Panhandle Gap in Mt. Rainier National Park and was surprised by the sparse cover for so early in the season. I usually do an update of this area every year around the third week in July, but this year I'm glad I was out early. The coverage is so thin below 5000' that I can see the entire Wonderland snow free at this level and below by July 1st. I also think Panhandle Gap will be bare before September 1st. This video is a combination of stills and ski video where you can check out the tree wells and snow levels for yourself. Peruse the Past Updates section here on to see what prior years have looked like.


Mt. Rainier Cornucopia

A corny title for a corny day. A perfect weather and conditions forecast had me at my stomping ground, Mt. Rainier National Park. A note to prospective visitors, try to arrive early before the construction begins (weekdays); the stretch between the Nisqually entrance and Longmire is a mess, and we waited in line on the way out once for over 20 minutes. This was a hybrid day for me, including biking, hiking, skinning and skiing.

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ZPacks Pointy Hat

ZPacks Pointy HatKavu Chillba on the Wonderland TrailI have to admit, I like pointy hats

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New Tricks for Old Dogs

I've been thinking about it for years, and my 67 year old buddy and I have been talking about it for years. We even tried it almost twenty years ago: ski touring/mountaineering. With visions of figure 8s left in our wake from the summit of Mt. Adams, we got a reality check in early April back then. We rented touring gear from a local shop, packed up, and were outraged by the gas prices down in The Gorge on our trip to Adams: $1.40 per gallon! We were able to drive the access road to within about 5 miles of Cold Springs Campground and proceeded to skin up the road, trying out our rented equipment for the first time. Somehow we successfully found the campground and continued up; however, wefirst turns from a tip mounted cam were soon engulfed in blizzard like conditions with sideways snow and low visibility. We found a place right at treeline as we were reluctant to continue on in those conditions, set up a mountaineering tent, and tried to sleep that night with 3 season bags.

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Undercurrent: Enchanted Valley Chalet on the Edge

On April 7th, 2014, I hiked into Olympic National Park's Enchanted Valley to enjoy excellent weather in a snow free hike and check out the teetering Enchanted Valley Chalet. There has been much chatter online about the fate of the chalet, as the Quinault River has altered course and undercut the chalet's foundation, as well as eradicating large swaths of the valley meadow. The landscape has changed markedly since my last visit 16 years ago. As of this writing the fate of the chalet is yet to be decided. Let nature take it's course and allow the structure to eventually slip into the river? Or hire a professional house mover to relocate the structure further from the encroaching Quinault. This was a long but rewarding day with views of elk and bear along with the green infused scenery.






Good deals on The Clymb

You'll notice I don't have advertising on this site, I don't like the visual clutter for the viewer and it's not worth the few cents per month to collect advertising revenue. However, I've been using The Clymb online store for over a year and have done some amazing deals. Outdoor gear can be expensive and finding savings is always a plus. My most recent purchase was for a set of randonee skis, advertised on another online site on sale for $ price, $234 delivered. They are even the 2013/2014 model. Outdoor Research soft shell jacket, list $225, my price $70. Or how about the Ultraclamp I bought from Rhino Camera Gear for $29.99...I just picked up 2 more from The Clymb for $7.95 each. The Clymb sells outdoor gear for many sports including biking, hiking, skiing, climbing and running, to name a few. My daughter just picked up a dress and sandals, items that are still selling for full price elsewhere, for more than half off retail.

Help support Williswall! Click on any of these links and I get a bonus with your first order, but it doesn't cost you anything. WARNING: saving on The Clymb may become addictive.