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Saturday, August 24, 2013 – Mountain Biking

This was our second time riding the Crystal Mountain Trail #1163, to the top of the Crystal Mountain ski resort.

The first time we rode there was July 31, 2010.  That was one of those picture-perfect days!  The views of Mt Rainier are not to be missed!

Despite having a summer strung together with days and days of clear skies, the weather on this particular Saturday was not so cooperative.  It was raining when we left the house.  At the trailhead it was dry, but cloudy.  We saw initial glimmers of blue sky as we climbed the forest, but by the time we arrived at the top, the fog was thick!  And, Brrrr!!– it was not warm!  Our fingers got cold on the descent.

We drive here via Enumclaw, WA and Hwy 410 (Chinook Pass Hwy), which follows the White River.  Turn off Hwy 410 at Rd #7190 (Crystal Mountain Blvd) and find the trailhead for Crystal Mountain Trail #1163 adjacent to Sand Flat Horse Camp.  It is located about 2 miles short of the the ski resort itself.

This trip is a relatively short, “out-and-back” ride for us.  We turn around at the top of the Mt Rainier Gondola/Summit House.  Note that Trail #1163 does continue down from that highpoint (6872 ft) to intersect with other trails.

In a nutshell, this trail simply goes up and up and up for about 3000 ft.  Consider this climb “interval training” because you won’t stay in your Zone 2.  The tread is basically smooth, with some sections of jagged rocks (not too many) and some sandy patches.  It’s quite rideable throughout.  The descent is screamin’ fast!

CLIMBING THE FOREST–>  Switchbacks through trees and open slide paths of huckleberry bushes.

Ascending forest - August 24, 2013

Ascending forest – August 24, 2013

Ascending forest - August 24, 2013

Ascending forest – August 24, 2013

Forest - July 31, 2010

Blue skies on July 31, 2010

CLIMBING CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN RIDGE–>  At times, the trail hugs a steep sidehill.  It’s not too “airy,” but you do need to focus in couple places.  The trail up the ridge also traverses a wide wildflower meadow.

From the ridge, the BIG view is Mt Rainier.  The White River is quite impressive as well.

Ridge climb - July 31, 2010

Ridge climb – July 31, 2010

Meadow - July 31,2010

Meadow – July 31, 2010

Mt Rainier from Crystal Mountain Ridge - July 31, 2010

Mt Rainier from Crystal Mountain Ridge – July 31, 2010

Eric - July 31, 2010

Eric – July 31, 2010

White River & clouds hiding Mt Rainier - August 24, 2013

White River & clouds hiding Mt Rainier – August 24, 2013

White River & Mt Rainier - July 31, 2010

White River & Mt Rainier – July 31, 2010

Looking east - July 31, 2010

Looking east – July 31, 2010

Elisa - July 31, 2010

Elisa – July 31, 2010

Elisa - July 31, 2010

Elisa – July 31, 2010

ENTERING THE CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN SKI AREA–>  Singletrack trail is replaced by a rocky road on the final uphill traverse to the top of the Mt Rainier Gondola and Summit House.

Chairlift visible - August 24, 2013

Headed toward the Northway Chairlift – August 24, 2013

Aster & Fireweed - August 24, 2013

Aster & Fireweed – August 24, 2013

Eric wearing his #NSNG technical tee - August 24, 2013

Eric wearing his #NSNG technical tee – August 24, 2013

Looking into the ski area - August 24, 2013

Looking into the ski area – August 24, 2013

Crystal Mountain ski area map - August 24, 2013

Crystal Mountain ski area map – August 24, 2013

THE TOP–> Views of fog!

Mt Rainier Gondola & the top of the Rainier Express chair - August 24, 2013

Mt Rainier Gondola & the top of the Rainier Express chair – August 24, 2013

You can pay $20 to ride the gondola.  It was crowded!

If you don’t want to power yourself to the top, you can pay $20 to ride the gondola.

Here is a link to the Crystal Mountain Summer Map.  Note that this map calls the north section of the Crystal Mountain Trail #1163, “Northway Trail.”

—————————————

TRIP STATS:  (Using the Bike Tracks App for iPhone)

  • Total Distance = 11.6 miles
  • Total Vertical = 5991 ft (climb 3053 ft, descend 2938 ft)
  • Elevation = 6849 ft highest, 3818 ft lowest
  • Time = 3 hrs, 39 min (start 11:10 AM, finish 2:46 PM)

MAPS USED:

FOOD CONSUMED ON TRAIL:

  • Water + 1 SaltStick
  • We didn’t even eat one huckleberry although the bushes were packed!

January 5, 2013 – Mission Ridge Backcountry

In lieu of skiing in-bounds on Saturday, we decided to spend the day further exploring slopes we like to call the “Back Bowls.”  Eric modified our climbing skins so they would fit our new(ish) skis.  Yay!

The last time we skied the “Back Bowls” was January 1-2 of 2011.  At that time, we were treated to absolutely perfect fluff on a bluebird day.

Saturday…not so much.  You could describe the avalanche conditions as “welded.”  HA!  It was fun, but in a different sort of way.  It was immensely enjoyable just being out there exploring.  (Truth be told, we did find a few soft spots.)

We skied into some trees that were burned during the huge Ellensburg/Wenatchee forest fires of Sept/Oct 2012.  The fire line stopped just short of the Mission Ridge ski area.  Whew!

There is something starkly imposing about burnt trees that remain standing after a fire goes out.  It’s fascinating how something beautiful and impressive can emerge from such destruction.  The black char against white snow in winter is particularly striking…

Lighting captured with the Go Pro 3.

Lighting captured with the Go Pro 3.

Lighting captured with the digital camera.

Lighting captured with the digital camera.

We like to call this area the "Back Bowls."

We like to call this area the “Back Bowls.”

Skiing among burned trees.

Skiing among burned trees.

A tree that survived the forest fire.

A tree that survived the forest fire.

Char

Char

We decided not to ski lower than this.  We'd already dropped about 1300 ft.

We decided not to ski lower than this. We’d already dropped about 1300 ft!

Typical rock formations.

Typical rock formations.

Enjoying the skin up.

Enjoying the skin up.

Mid day light.

Midday light.

Skin track.

Skin track.

Entering the burn zone.

Entering the burn zone.

Burned tree silhouette

Burned tree silhouette.

Black against white.

A bigger tree in the group.

A bigger tree in the group.

My favorite image.

My favorite image.

This is where we first skied the "Back Bowls," in 2011.

This is where we first skied the “Back Bowls,” in 2011.

Pretty needle coloring.

Pretty needle coloring.

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