Mt. Rainier — Edmunds Headwall Ski

Post by blogger | July 12, 2013      

(Editor’s note: We just heard about an individual who was hurt or killed from a fall down Edmunds Headwall. Pure coincidence that we’d post this today. We wish the best to anyone involved and will edit this for accuracy once we know the details.)

It’s getting to be that time of year. I’m starting to feel the pull of warm summer rock. However, there’s still skiing to be had. I can’t resist.

Adam skiing on the northwest side of Mt. Rainier.

Adam skiing on the northwest side of Mt. Rainier.

I’ve neglected Rainier for the years I’ve lived in the northwest. Rainier is difficult, and the upper mountain seems to rarely hold good snow. Also, the National Park status is a big turnoff with it’s barrage of regulations, permits, and closures (even if only because I’m lazy). However, the lofty volcano entices anyone who enjoys skiing big lines — including me.

Speaking of regulations, a brief sidenote: Last week one of my co-workers, a distinctly non-outdoorsy guy, told me he wanted to go camping over the weekend, maybe even backpacking. I helped him out with some trip and gear questions, and also let him know that he should be sure to get the right pass for where he decides to go.

In Washington we have an truckload of potential passes and permits required for outdoor recreation. The various National Parks each have their own systems, usually separate permits for parking, hiking, climbing, and camping. A specific pass is required for parking at all state parks, and another for National Forest trailheads. There are even a few more specific ones scattered around the state. The piddly cost isn’t much of an issue, but keeping track of all of them can be a headache. Forget spontaneity, you need to plan in advance, figure out what you need, and where you can buy it.

A few days later, my friend told me that after going through various government websites and phone-trees, he’d given up on figuring out where to go and what kind of pass to get. Granted, I don’t think he was very motivated, and didn’t put much effort forward. However, I thought it was interesting, and a little sad, that he was deterred from enjoying our outdoors by the very systems and agencies that are mandated to protect them.

Ok, rant over.

The Northwest side of Rainier (as seen from the Puget Sound area), is impressively steep. There’s several worthy ski lines, and no easy way up, or down. Hoping to take advantage of warm temps and avoid 4th of July crowds, we decided to give it a try.

Adam, Russel, and I headed out of town Friday morning. The drive from Seattle is short. Still, someone forgot to fill up the gas tank. By the time we noticed we were already far past the last gas station. We arrived at the trailhead on fumes, and quickly started the hike up to Ptarmigan ridge. The walk to camp went well, albeit we did encounter a bit of darkness due to our late start.

Russel in spray park, on the approach.

Our “morning” alarm came to soon. At 2am, we shoveled breakfast into grumbling stomachs and headed farther up the ridge. Edmunds Headwall, our objective, lies at the top of the Edmunds Glacier, which itself lies about 1500 feet below our camp. We found a cliff-free area of the scree slope separating the two and began to descend. Among the vile terrain type known as scree, the volcanic variety stands in a crumbly, chossy class of its own. In the dim early morning light we slid and stumbled down the pile of shattered dinner plates to the blissfully solid snow below. Now we could start the climb.

We made short work of the lower glacier, but still arrived a the base of the climb a little late, around 9 am. We haven’t had many storms this June, and the route was looking melted out. The bergschrund was completely impassable but we found a way around through broken crevasses on the left.
The snow on the face wasn’t the perfect corn we had hoped. We could see patches of blue ice around us, and telltale shinny spots on the upper slopes. Russel wasn’t liking the snow quality and decided to nap in the sun while Adam and I continued upward. I was tempted to join him.

Adam climbing

As we climbed, clouds seemed to cover the rest of the world, one of my favorite little treats of skiing volcanoes.

The climbing was fun, we even encountered a few hundred feet of solid, blue, alpine ice. The steep, precarious climbing was exhilarating. Even with the ice, we thought we could find a way down that stuck to rippable snow. We reached the top of the headwall proper, at a flat bench around 12,500 feet.
On the climb we encountered big stretches of snow that was inches deep, on top of hard alpine ice. From experience, I knew snow like that is skiable enough, until it gets to soft, and your skis sink down to the icy layer. The ice of course will never soften in the sun. At that point, things get a bit more exciting. Wanting to avoid such excitement, we opted to ski before the snow softened to much. I was a little disappointed to not have made it to the top of the line, but I was psyched for the descent.

A classic snow climbing shot, nearing the top of our climb.

Adam skiing in front of a sweet icefall.

The skiing wasn’t corn, but it was fun. Steep, exposed, with incredible views. We leapfroged down the face toward the enticing corn on the Edmunds Glacier. We hit the nieve perfectly, and found wonderful, smooth corn. We pushed the speed limit, took a nap on some warm rocks, and then headed back to the kitty liter pile protecting camp. I was out of food and eager to get back, so I pushed ahead as Russel and Adam took a more leisurely pace. I stuck to as much snow as I could, until the only choice was to venture out into the sea of choss. With every step, an entire section of the slope moved, but a thigh-burning, half-running ascent, I was at the top. I hung out a bit, then headed down to camp.

After a few hours of snacking an napping it was dark, and my partners still hadn’t shown up. It would have been all to easy to get hurt on the scree, so I was worried. Just as I was mustering the strength to get out of my sleeping bag and look for them, I heard their voices. They had chosen a different route that turned out to be much more of an adventure. Rock climbing up vertical cliffs of choss, in the dark, they’d dodged numerous boulders but emerged unscathed.

The next morning we slept in late, and headed up the Russel glacier, near camp. At the top we got a good look at Liberty Ridge (also pretty melted out), and then skied fast corn back to camp.

Liberty Ridge, Mount Rainier.

Liberty Ridge, Mount Rainier.

We packed up and made our way to the trailhead, prepared to deal with our empty gas tank. Just as we had hoped, the road back was sufficiently steep; we turned off the engine and coasted for a good 20-30 miles. A few times we had to get out and push, but in the end we made it back to the welcome fluorescent lights of a fuel stop.

Mount Rainier from the drive home


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


51 Responses to “Mt. Rainier — Edmunds Headwall Ski”

  1. Brian July 12th, 2013 10:51 am

    Great report with a great finish.

    Agreed on the permit situation, but what would you propose? A license perhaps to practice BC adventure?

  2. Louie July 12th, 2013 12:14 pm

    I’m not quite sure what would be better. The heinous time-sucking bureaucracy is what gets on my nerves more than the cost. A license would undoubtedly increase that (the dmv comes to mind).

    I’m curious as to what the purpose of the permits is. Most don’t have a limited amount, so I guess it’s funding, or recording usage numbers?

  3. Louie July 12th, 2013 12:15 pm

    Oops, meant dmv, not doc. Darn Autocorrect.

  4. Andrew McLean July 12th, 2013 12:20 pm

    Nice job Louie!

    To WildSnow in general, complaining about regulations and permits is one notch lower than complaining about wet socks. It’s part of the game and what keeps these mountains clean and pristine. Between gas, cars, skis, boots, crampons, tents, beacons, avalanche classes, helmets, air bag packs, ice axes, sleeping bags, etc., the cost of accessing lines like this is a pittance. As a reality check, what is Vail/Aspen/Deer Valley up to – $100+ per day?

  5. Lou Dawson July 12th, 2013 12:53 pm

    Purpose of bureaucracies? Sure, sometimes they’re necessary, but they have a tendency to grow and become impractical. I’m certain even Andrew has a limit on how much bureaucracy is appropriate. Though he probably likes them a lot better than I do (grin).

    Louie is alluding to a very real problem in the PNW, one Lisa and I have also experienced when traveling up there. The permit system in many cases has nothing to do with conservation or preservation, it’s simply a very disorganized and poorly enforced bunch of permits that are indeed really tough to figure out before you go. It gets really frustrating and stressful, for example when you drive all night and park for some sleep, and notice a sign that says you need some kind of “permit” but have no way of getting it. Or, you’re on a road trip, realize you need a permit, and you can only get it during office hours. We’ve been in both those situations.

    The best permit as far as I’m concerned is my American citizenship, with fees paid up every April. But even that benevolent bureaucracy could always use some tidying up.

  6. Dillon July 12th, 2013 1:27 pm

    I refuse to pay any extra fees to recreate on public land. Living in Montana makes this a more practical view than living in Washington though. Great trip Louie.

  7. Louie July 12th, 2013 1:28 pm

    But I hate wet socks!

    I’m certainly complaining, but not about the cost. The time and confusion is much more annoying. Is gladly pay 100 bucks if it meant that I didn’t have to worry about reviewing passes and doing research into which one I needed. The forest and park service websites are complex and horribly designed. A phone call sends you through a long chain of robots, and if you reach a real person, they usually don’t know anything.

    I’ve gotten a ticket for parking at the entrance to a trailhead without a northwest forest pass, even though I had one in my glove compartment.

    Yea it isn’t the biggest issue, but it can kinda ruin the experience of jumping in your cart and heading into the backcountry.

    Wet socks aren’t that big of a deal, but maybe a few more people would spend some time outside if they didn’t have to deal with them. Everything can be improved, and it should be.

  8. Rob Mullins July 12th, 2013 2:01 pm

    Agreed Louie and Lou. What a mess. Was there competition to ski that route? any genuine need for such National Park Ranger scrutiny?

    The $10 or $15 weekend, $30 annual, USFS Volcanoes Pass for St Helens and Adams is, in my view, well done. When that was enacted, I recall a good road-improvement as well as the Trailhead Campground improvements. As well, one can show up anytime and put the money in the green post and get the Permit outside the Ranger Station door.

    For an overnight for three in the Enchantment core near Leavenworth the fees total $50- to pitch a tent, after hiking in. the “Permit Fee” is divided out if there are additional nights, but it remains pricey, and there is more demand than there is supply! The Permit lottery will guarantee full-occupancy crowds. My family and I prefer to find areas that are equally beautiful, not known, or Prius-access resistant. We go recreate in these pristine areas, often in solitude.

    The NW Forest Pass- for what? Trail and facility maintenance on the Wenatchee Forest is scarcely done,. The little maintenance that is done is easy to miss. In reality, I would propose that more USFS time/ resource is spent planning which roads to close, which campgrounds to close, which Trails to pull back from maintaining than is spent actually doing the work of maintaining trails and facilities! An unfortunate situation that evolved after the Spotted Owl and 1993 Forest Plan essentially killed logging and sawmills and also decimated the USFS.

    In my observation, adding fees and permits is either in conjunction with or, I think, increases the ever-growing hordes of perfumed city folks occupying the Wilderness and National Parks. Fees and Reservation systems often increase outsider’s desire to visit in my observation.

  9. Pete H July 12th, 2013 4:03 pm

    Nice job Louie, and co. The ski routes on the north side of Rainier are definitely full-value!

    I thought the permit mess was nation-wide. I didn’t realize it was endemic to the Northwest. In addition to National Park and Forest Service permits / fees, there are also various state park fees and Sno-Park fees in the winter for parking on the side of the road!

  10. Andrew McLean July 12th, 2013 4:09 pm

    It’s too bad this issue is buried under an otherwise interesting trip report. If you were to make it a separate blog posting I’d be happy to continue the discussion there.

    A prime example of minimal governmental interference is the gunky air in Salt Lake City during the winter OR Show. A prime example of “major” government regulation is the pristine experience you had on Rainier. Take your pick. In the times I’ve skied Rainier and gone through the registration process, it was about as hard as registering and posting a comment on WildSnow and didn’t even register on my annoyance scale. Your mileage obviously varies and it’s a shame that this has colored your skiing experience to such a degree. But, if it was ever up to me, I’d quadruple the costs and add three more layers of registration just to make people put their money where their edges are.

    And now on to answering this heinous, overbearing, repetitive, Big Brother, controlling, time consuming security question in order to exercise my First Amendment right to free speech… socks, socks, socks. How many times to I have to type it? Socks dammit. Socks. (HA! Even that didn’t work as I need to reenter all of my “private” information.) I’ll try again.

  11. AndyC July 12th, 2013 5:32 pm

    The fee system in WA was bad when I moved here over 30 years ago (way too many outdoor recreation fees to list) and is worse now. Why is it so bad? WA relies on sales taxes and property taxes. Initiatives put a limit on the taxes. We can barely fund a basically decent educational system. So, there are fees–for cars, canoes, boats, parks, etc. The budget situation is so bad there was talk about closing state parks. The WA DNR has been required by lawsuits to manage to maximize profits to the trusts (various county & state schools) and doesn’t get a budget for outdoor recreation. Therefore a fee for use of the parks and DNR lands. A fee for snow-parks to get the roads plowed. Fees for ORVs, hunting, fishing, … . Congress didn’t believe there was a great demand/use for OR on federal lands … thus Northwest Forest Pass became required. The National Park Service has been underfunded for decades, relying more and more on interns and volunteers; Congress said they could have more money if they charged more for entry–thus a daily fee, an annual pass, or a Golden Eagle multiple-agency pass, a Golden Age pass, and a free disable person pass, and free days for the public, military, etc. Interest groups were unhappy with federal and state management–so NEPA and SEPA laws that make it exceedingly expensive to do management (analysis paralysis) and easy to sue. So much boils down to increasing reluctance on the part of the public to pay taxes to support programs for the public good (from education to recreation), increased polarization leading to lobbying and lawsuits that increase the cost of management and government interference in management leading to waste, fraud, and abuse; and so on. It sucks. And the worst part is that it seems there is no real effective leadership, supervision, and management skills in the state and federal (private too–there has been a long, big push for privatization/concessionaires) agencies. Many of the most effective public employees I have known have quit in disgust in the last decade or too and some of the most honest and effective politicians have been ousted by the application of special interest money.

  12. Sky July 12th, 2013 5:57 pm

    Good call to take a turn on the Edmunds Headwall.

    Life is fully of silly PITAs. I like that there’s no income tax up there. Washington should implement a sunshine tax.

  13. Xavier July 12th, 2013 6:42 pm

    Staightchuter wantz you to pay big money to ski, like on his commercial trips to the Wrangels with Ultima Thule or his big boat trip to Antarctica.” Pay to set your edges, suckas.”

  14. Lou Dawson July 12th, 2013 7:28 pm

    Xav, watch it on the personal attacks. I know Andrew can handle the zingers, but that’s just not our style here. Lou

  15. Charles July 12th, 2013 9:09 pm

    Lou / Louie,

    I appreciated the trip report, however it was soured by the political rant. If you must vent on this ski blog, please make a separate posting, for those who are interested in arguing.

  16. mtnrunner2 July 12th, 2013 10:28 pm

    What a great-looking mountain. Must have been a blast.

    If it’s just a matter of paying a fee, I prefer the on-site pay station method that tends to be used in CO; just put cash in the envelope and put the ticket stub in your car window.

  17. Nick July 12th, 2013 11:04 pm

    It would be interesting to know what proportion of the permit fees is spent purely on collecting and accounting for the permit fees.

    I suspect that the main ‘reason’ for fees is that they are the only way to prove the ‘value’ of the resource that matters to the people in power. If it doesn’t have a monetary value it is literally worthless 🙁

  18. Lou Dawson July 13th, 2013 6:08 am

    Charles and others, regarding separating the rant, good point and we’ll probably do that next time. Beauty of blogging and web publishing is the flexibility, we’re always experimenting.

    Sidebars indeed work better in print magazines, where graphics can be better used to separate them from the body of the article.


  19. Brooks Goodnight July 13th, 2013 8:23 am

    Fees just feed the bureacracy. They want to control every aspect of your lives. Why don’t I pay fees to play in the mountains? Cuz breaking the law is fun and good for the soul.

  20. Ashley July 13th, 2013 10:39 am

    “The heinous time-sucking bureaucracy is what gets on my nerves more than the cost.”

    Really Louie? I’ve climbed and skied in the PNW for the last 23 years and have never spent more than 15 minutes getting a backcountry/climbing permit. In fact, the NPS has provided helpful advice in avoiding the “crowds” when visiting popular climbing areas like Boston Basin in the North Cascades and I’ve valued their input. I also value all the trash and human waste the NPS cleans up. But what really burns me about your comments is your disregard for the sacrifice made many park rangers who risk their lives to do their job. When I think about Nick Hall I think you are being pretty unfair. It seems to me the NPS is doing the best it can with limited resources.

  21. biggb July 13th, 2013 11:08 am

    License? When in doubt … poach that shit.

  22. biggb July 13th, 2013 11:28 am

    BTW Lou:

    It’s your blog and if you (and / or yer boy) want to have politics / current issues mixed with skiing then do it … homogenizing your blog to suit the “purists” out there would make WildSnow a cloner. The internet has plenty of that shite.

    Trust your gut and keep the flavor.

  23. Craig July 13th, 2013 12:24 pm

    Lou – Keeping this issue in front of users from other areas will keep it from happening across the west. I spoke to a ranger monitoring the Colchuck Lake trailhead who indicated that the user fees collected locally go into the local budget and without it a lot of the “services at the trailhead would not be available” – including the rangers & backcountry rangers (like I need someone to check my parking permit and OK that I’m camping on bare ground). So if the fees support that much of the budget, what about all the money from the federal government? Due to the sequester one of my ranger friends tells me they are not opening some public access areas with privies because they cannot afford to pump them. I keep thinking back to the ’80’s and I don’t recall having so many closures and road access issues, but well maintained trails good access and trailhead registration. Hmmm….Moving from timber production to recreation has its issues. Sounds like poor management to me.
    A person ends up spending a lot of money when you purchase a NW Forest Pass, WA State Parks Pass, Fishing License with WDFW parking permit, launch permit for float tubes at some lakes, SnoPark Permit and climbing fees for volcanos and permit areas, it starts to really add up (if you want to hunt, a small pile more). Yup, we get hit with a lot of user fees on top of the checks we write each year for taxes. As I climb in the Cascades and see more and more limited access which in turns concentrates use by the various agencies through permits, road closures, trailhead re-positioning, failure to rebuild road and trail access, seasonal trail closures and generally limiting access to our public lands it is frustrating. Even more frustrating is when your daughter gets a warning ticket for $180.00 because she parked on state land and accidentally displayed a NW Forest Pass instead of WA Parks Pass.

    Some of this is eliminated if you purchase an annual National Parks Pass which also works as a NW Forest Pass with the correct hang tag (ranger station was “out of the hangers” so we put the pass on the dash board) – the local ranger stations don’t readily offer up this info since they don’t get the revenue. Even with all these passes, a permit for a weekend climb of Cashmere still cost $36.00 for 3 of us. I wouldn’t mind paying a fee like a fishing license for backcounty if it was just one card that would allow you to climb and hike in the Cascades without all the stuff you need to go through from different agencies. I could imagine the scene of all those government agencies sitting around the table trying to divide up the fees – probably could not be accomplished. This is another example of more government not being better.

  24. Lou Dawson July 13th, 2013 12:31 pm

    (Lou elder speaking here). Thanks Biggb! Indeed, we do enjoy mixing things up, experimenting, and so forth. There is so much more to backcountry skiing than a me-and-Joe trip report — though I enjoy those as well.

    In my opinion, anyway, it’s important to bring up the issues and bureaucracy/fees is definitely a huge issue for many people. What I’d ask the fee fans is, how much is enough? Andrew stated his position well, he’d be comfortable with more, but I’d ask him in person, how much more? How about some of the other fee proponents let us know how much is enough? Surely you have a limit?

    As stated, I know that some fees/permits/crats are necessary, but I’m not a fan of what seems like constant growth and complication. And I’ve most certainly had some bad experiences in the PNW which were the direct result of “permit soup.”

    I’ll let Louie and others speak for themselves on the rescue/fees issue, but I’ll say that its a straw man to try to shut down a valid opinion discussion with some kind of accusation that bringing up this issue is insulting to Park or NF rescue staff. Over the years I’ve spoken with or emailed with plenty of Federal employees (current and former) who agree that the Federal systems are bogged in bureaucratic sludge. Discussing this issue shows we care.


  25. Jeff July 13th, 2013 2:31 pm

    Thank you! I must say I really enjoyed this post. I’m happy to have politics mixed with my trip reports. Perhaps I enjoyed it because I seem to fall right in the middle on this issue. This morning I spent 5 minutes on the Internet buying my annual state land parking pass for $35. $35 is wonderful bargain for a year of protecting access to all my favorite rivers ( I kayak on those days I am not skiing). I’m sure all those access points would be long gone were it not for the state fee program. As previously noted, WA state can barely fund a decent K-12 education system, let alone ‘luxuries’ like access for the tiny segment of the population that does ‘crazy’ things like whitewater kayaking and backcountry skiing.

  26. AndyC July 13th, 2013 6:18 pm

    Another note: on the TAY site there is a thread about forthcoming road closures in the National Forests due to budget cuts and lack of budget to maintain roads and culverts (we get so much rain the roads and culverts need ongoing maintenance or landslides result). Up to 2/3 or the remaining forest roads will be closed; closed means, for the most part, entirely removed, regraded to the natural slope and replanted. This has been ongoing for 15 years. Forest staffs have been reduced up to 2/3rds or more. The Mt. Baker Snoqualmie NF is going thru a process right now to determine which roads to close; Lowell Skoog is attempting to get bc skiers and climbers involved in the process. Louie’s recent report on bicycling to ski Mt. Baker reference a washout; that road could be permanently closed (removed).

  27. Lou Dawson July 13th, 2013 9:53 pm

    I’d offer some more opinion regarding money. USFS etc. are required by law to do certain things. NEPA is one of those things and it costs a fortune. Roads and access come in second or a distant 10th to doing things like NEPA studies and such. A few more fees will make no difference in this fundamental change in how our tax money is used. I’m not making a judgement here, just trying to keep this discussion on a reality track.

    Budget cuts have not helped the situation, but the fundamental cause of the demise of road access as we know it is how funds are allocated, not the lack thereof.

    In other words, not having money for road upkeep as an issue of allocation of funds as it is anything else.

    This is what I’ve been told, anyway.

    And I’ve also been told many times that any publicly funded bureaucracy, when looking at budget cuts, will always try to cut at pain points first so as to attempt to influence public opinion and swing the wallet their direction. The theory that more use fees are needed could quite possibly be the result of this sort of manipulation of public opinion.


  28. Dave July 14th, 2013 10:49 am

    Well I sure enjoyed the skiing part of this, and the photos. As for complaining about bureaucratic obstacles and fees, what do you expect in one of the most visited National Parks a “short drive” from the megatropolis of Seattle? We’re trashing our accessible wildlands, and the land management agencies are doing the best they can to provide reasonable access and protect these areas for the future, while dealing with federal budget cuts. If you want to avoid all that, go farther afield. That said, everybody has a right to challenge the system! Be safe out there.

  29. AndyC July 14th, 2013 4:35 pm

    On the brighter side of things. My wife and I are both well over 65 yo. We both got lifetime Golden Age Passports for $10. In the last week or so we’ve used them (1) for an early morning walk on the marvelous new boardwalk that extends a couple of mile out onto the newly restored estuary at the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, (2) we road our mountain bikes 5 miles and 1500 vft up to the High Rock Lookout trailhead (4300 ft asl) and back down; (3) we rode the mountain bikes up 18 miles and 2600 vft elevation gain to the St. Andrews Patrol Cabin in Mt. Rainier NP (on the closed-to-vehicles West Side Road); (4) we did an early morning road bike ride in MRNP (19 miles RT, 1150 vft) to Cougar Rock Campground to surprise the grandkids we loaned to family friends to take camping with their kids; (5) yesterday we did a 38-mile, 1650 vft road bike ride on paved roads in the Gifford Pinchot NF on the very scenic Skate Creek Rd; and (6) today we did a 10 mile RT, 2500 vft trip to ski the perfect corn on the Paradise Glacier in MRNP. Just think: all that for $10 (and a lifetime of paying federal income taxes LOL).

  30. Lou Dawson July 14th, 2013 4:38 pm

    Wow! That is a well used Golden Age Passport!

  31. Colin G July 14th, 2013 6:36 pm

    Louie looks like you guys had a good trip. You are really developing your own blogger voice. Great pics to go along with. Way to get yo Summer Shred on boys

  32. Matt Kinney July 14th, 2013 10:57 pm

    Nice summer TR once again. Keep them coming and be safe out there.

    Write what you want. I enjoy your fresh perspective on land issues since your still new school and in school. :-).

    I’d pay to Thule the Wrangells with AM….It’s sick beyond most people’s knowledge. I’ve never payed a user fee in that Park despite weeks in the range. Not sure why. Even the cabins are free. In W-S.TELIAS, many of the improvements in visitor amenities and services are a direct result of taxes and user fees collected across the US. Last I looked, Alaska, like most states, pays nothing to help the feds manage this land asset, but profit nicely off that land with jobs, and the related tax base from tourism or other industries.

    New potties are nice, despite their cost. Management plans need updating and that cost money. Society’s values are ever changing. That’s the bureaucracy I think of, which rhymes with democracy.

    They are revising the Chugach National Forest Plan on an expedited schedule that began a few months ago. It’s a fast tracker. It is one of a couple forest plans under the New Rule (Thats the gobbledygook term in the CFR). It is supposed to streamline the revision process for the rest of the USNF later down the road. I’ve been involved with written comments. It’s not real cumbersome if you spend an hour or so reading the document.

    I like Modified Alternate A for the Chugach National Forest.

  33. Kevin Smith July 15th, 2013 8:24 am

    Great pictures! Looked like a lot of fun

  34. Jack July 15th, 2013 8:33 am

    OK, as a New Englander, the only mountains of importance are the White Mountains and the Presidential range. %^). Fees there are pretty darned simple: fill out a sheet of paper with basic info and what dates you are in the Wilderness area at the trailhead/parking, put that and one dollar/day in the box and start hiking. There are a couple of areas where a stop at a Ranger station is neccessary, mainly to control volume of summer backpackers.
    I sympathize with people who have multiple permits to get, as the logistics of work/travel/climb are often painful without that additional complexity.

  35. Louie July 15th, 2013 11:15 am

    Wow! Lots of interesting comments. I’ve been away all weekend. Haven’t had a chance to read them all. Climbed and skied on the north side of mt. Adams. Interesting permit hassle there as well. On the (very popular) south side, the the required permit can be purchased at an all-hours kiosk, which works well. However, on the (much less popular) north side, the same permit is required. It can only be purchased at the ranger station in Randal, a good hour from the trailhead. The station is only open from 9:30 to 4:30.

    Want to leave work an Friday and ski the north side of Adams on Saturday? Completely doable from a physical standpoint, completely impossible from a legal standpoint. Getting a permit basically adds an entire day to a one day trip! Ridiculous.

  36. Lou Dawson July 15th, 2013 7:46 pm

    That does sound pretty crazy. I mean, not you guys doing the speed turnaround, but the bogus permit availability. If that’s really true, anyone who thinks that kind of bureaucracy is OK might need to study the history of bureaucracy and how bad it can get… I pray we’re not headed in that direction!

  37. Louie July 15th, 2013 8:29 pm

    I forgot there is a workaround: you could drive to the all hours kiosk on the south side, and then back. However that would add about 4 hours to your drive (coming from the north). Still ridiculous.

  38. Andrew McLean July 15th, 2013 10:37 pm

    That bureaucracy has been around for years and to me is/was an enjoyable part of the process – you pick up a permit Friday night, talk to the Rangers, check out the maps, read other climbers/skiers accounts on current conditions and then head out for a night of camping at the trailhead before getting an early start the next day. If a delay of four hours is ridiculous, that is more of a sign of modern life than a problem with the mountain. Conversely, if you were really good, you could pick the permit up at 9:00am, send the line in a few hours and be driving home by dinner. It seemed to work for the Dorais brothers.

    BTW, who dealt with the killed or injured climber? Probably some Rangers who happened to know about the party being out there, in part because they had hopefully signed in.

  39. UPGRAYEDD July 15th, 2013 11:03 pm

    I enjoyed the rant. Rainier has such short windows for decent ski conditions off the top that you really need to be able to make last minute “Let’s GO!” decisions. The bureaucracy makes that tough. While the speed demons are certainly fast and fit, they’re just doing the DC. That said, I’ve heard the stories of people skiing north side routes out of Paradise, early season, in a single push!!!

    Anyway, while I’m all for poaching, I had a weird experience a couple of years ago that might make folks reconsider doing it.

    Here’s my story: It was late May and I just wanted to do a little mellow solo touring and camping with my dog (a 60 pound goofy lab). We started outside of MRNP, climbed 2 or 3 hours up to a ridge, and dropped down into a relatively remote corner of the park far removed from the main “action” of White River, etc. I set up the tent, ditched some gear, and went for another run. Upon my return to camp I had my head in the tent and ass in the air, organizing gear, when I heard someone come up behind me. I turned around and said “Hi.” It was a young ranger-person who starting yelling, “GET YOUR DOG!” a bunch of times while their hand was quivering over their holstered side-arm. At the time I was thinking to myself, “WTF? Are you really going to shoot my dog? The one who is wagging her tail and wants you to pet her???” With my hands in the air and In the calmest voice I could muster I say, “It’s OK. It’s OK. Be cool,” as I put the dog on her leash, which I had in my pocket.

    Needless to say, I got a ticket for having a dog off-leash in a National Park and would have gotten one for camping without a permit if I had chosen to stay (I packed up and left). As I was doing so I mumbled something about it being 4 pm and having to descend north facing slopes to get back to my car, and that they were going to be dangerous. To the ranger’s credit I think they got what I was saying and she said that if I needed to stay, then I should do what I needed to do. Well, I just wanted to go home at that point, even though I knew it would be safer to just camp on the ridge. Sure enough, when I ski cut the north facing slope a pretty huge wet slide let loose and ran about 800 vf.

    Tired and a little shell-shocked, we eventually made it back to the car, drove to Greenwater, got a Huckleberry milkshake, and all was goodie the world again. But out of hundreds of days in the backcountry over the past decade, that one stands out as THE WORSE EVER. Interacting with an armed ranger who was acting twitchy was not on my list of potential hazards for a day of mellow touring. I happily paid the fine (yes, I know I screwed up), but now I live somewhere where backcountry skiers aren’t the enemy; at least, not yet…

  40. Andrew McLean July 16th, 2013 10:34 am

    Psyched to see that someone finally brought up guns in this skiing TR! Upgrayyed – hopefully you were packin’ heat as well.

  41. SR July 16th, 2013 10:44 am

    Part of the bureaucratic mindset is the prerogative of shooting someone’s dog if it is offleash. Upgrayedd, I am glad your dog came out of that ok; lots of dogs DO get shot while camping, and even in some cases get shot while on a leash. As an owner of a goofy pointer, which like labs are prone to being mistaken as pit bulls, it’s something I’ve needed to be concerned about. There are some public lands that are similar in terms of interlaced boundaries to some private land in UT. The difference is that if you accidentally trespass on someone’s private land but had permission to hunt the adjacent land, and your dog is not harassing livestock, normally it’s not a big deal, and your dog is very unlikely to get shot.

    As far as permits are concerned, we all pay a lot already in taxes. Some of us do also pay parking meters and parking garages, or public rec facilities like aquatic centers, on a per-use basis, but those generally make it easy and straightforward to pay. For outdoor recreation, easy and straightforward should mean 24/7. The cruise ship outing model of a trip starting at 10 after a little paperwork, and ending at 2, is easy to administer and what bureaucracies seem to drift towards if not kept attentive to how people might actually want to use public land.

  42. AndyC July 16th, 2013 12:26 pm

    All interesting. Annual climbing passes are available for Mt. Rainier; climbing fees support the climbing ranger program. And an annual and day climbing passes are available by mail for climbing/skiing Mt. St Helens and Mt. Adams. The Ranger Stations at Randle (N side) and Trout Lake (S side) are on the way to Mt. Adams and I could see how it could be inconvenient to have to arrive at the ranger station in Randle before closing when days are long and it is only and hour or two more to the TH. It is unfortunate and very inconvenient that getting a permit on-line for MSH is not only expensive, but inflexible; you pay for the specific date well in advance and that is not refundable (a private, “non-profit” handles this). For Mt Adams, it takes 2 weeks to apply for a permit/register for a climb by mail–and that is a problem given the need for favorable weather and snow conditions. So, what is the answer? Obviously the best answer is a on-line reservation system; these are used for campgrounds by the feds and the states. For Cougar Rock campground in Mt. Rainier (reservations required during peak season), the feds provide the campground, park roads, and highways to the park for $15 and the private concessionaire makes the on-line non-refundable reservations for $9 LOL.

    There certainly could be major improvements in the way public recreation managers handle their duties–I sure would like to see some major changes. But the situation seems to be getting worse (from the view of the managers and that of the recreationist).

    As far as “poaching” and unrestrained dogs go, not much sympathy from this ex-field-trial-lab trainer.

  43. bill h July 16th, 2013 11:47 pm

    “I paid taxes last year so I shouldn’t have to pay ‘sh-t’ to access my USFS/BLM/NPS/etc lands”

    The FY 2012 government revenues were 2.449 trillion(Wikipedia), the 2012 USFS FY budget was $5.9 billion (USFS website search)… (very roughly, about 1/3 for general operation, 1/3 for various, 1/3 for fire fighting)

    So based on those numbers, the USFS budget was 0.0059/2.449 = 0.24 % of your federal tax dollars, and <1/3 of that went to general operations. Assume a similar fraction for NPS and BLM (which is a gross over-estimation, both of those agencies receive a fraction of the funding of the Forest Service) and we’re now at approximately one quarter of every tax dollar you paid last year going to your public lands access.

    If you made $100,000 last year, (which approximately 12% of the US did you paid approximate 28% fed income tax ( so 28,000 bucks x 0.25% means a little over 200 bucks of your federal tax dollars went to funding public agencies. You just funded the guy/girl at a GS-2 (High School Graduate, no college degree) to clean the shitters at your nearest forest service campground for 2-3 days of the entire year. Thanks!

    If you’re a ski bum who’s making little enough to get a federal refund each year, (probably somewhere in the <30K vicinity?, you were probably a net-loss as far as taxes supporting the large land management agencies… so we’ll all be waiting on you to volunteer a half-week or so of shitter-cleaning at your nearest trailhead access. Once you’ve happily put in your time scrubbing those shitters with grateful zeal, then please feel free to loudly deny your obligation to trailhead fees at your local spot… you’ve earned it by god!

    As far as user-fee areas, look back at the program and you can see an initial government over-reach (fees charged at specific sites starting in 1996 were going into general revenue funds and not necessarily funding operations and improvements at those sites) that has been rightfully and continually attacked and shaved back by recreation user-group lawsuits.

    Due to numerous citizen lawsuits, by and large nowadays, fees collected at a site directly fund operation of that site.

    If US public land permit systems seem to be arcane, try traveling abroad and figuring out permits in places like common trekking areas in Nepal, India, and South America… (not that we really want those to be our peer-groups), even though I have not skied there myself, overall, I imagine the Pac-NW system will probably start to seem pretty mild.

    Look to some other sports and you’ll also see its nothing new (whitewater lottery systems for the Grand Canyon or Idaho 3-rivers permit, Yampa River/Dinosaur permit applications, grand Teton or Mt Whitney climbing permits, camping permits for Phantom Ranch etc) Want to backcountry camp in Teton NP accessing from the Targhee side? Technically you need to drive around to east side to get your permit from the ranger station, open during business hours only etc.

    Not that any of this is really super important; the point being is that, yeah, if we need the public lands agencies to match our personal need for entitled and immediate recreational spontaneity, then sure, lots of these permit systems are a pain. If we bother with the least amount of intertubes scouting, guidebook reading, etc, we shouldn’t be caught off-guard too many times in our adult lives in the US.

    And unless you got the bro-deal or scoured ebay and interweb forums for last year’s stuff constantly, you just spent $500 this season on Dynafit bindings anyway and another $500+ on your Ultimate-Quiver-Recommended-ski, so like Andrew M says, suck it up and buy that permit! 😉 Complaints about the public land permit system dysfunctions in the US seem to fall pretty firmly in the category of First-World Problems.

  44. Lou Dawson July 17th, 2013 6:38 am

    Bill, thanks for the substantive comment on the fee and permit issue. You had too many reference links for my filter, so I took out a few.

  45. SR July 17th, 2013 9:41 am

    An A-basin season pass next year is $269, covering everything entailed by lift-served including lifts, litfies, patrol, a/c work, ski school, and even toilets to clean here and there. Taking Bill’s numbers at face value, and ignoring the hundreds of billions of dollars wasted on things like “stimulus,” it seems the USFS is delivering poor value.

  46. AndyC July 17th, 2013 2:01 pm

    SR, either I’m confused or you are a little incoherent. First A-Basin “On June 10, 1946, they submitted an application for a special use permit to the USFS. Eleven days later, the plan was approved. Wilfred “Slim” David, a ranger with the USFS, designed the trail layout.” So A-Basin is a USFS concession, part of their management efforts. Part of the same program as other ski resorts (like Mt. Baker, Crystal, White Pass, Mission Ridge, etc. in WA), USFS campgrounds, trails, grazing leases, mining leases, timber harvesting, urban watersheds, power reservoirs, and military training areas but unlike USFS Wildernesses (although some concessionaires operate there too for hunting, fishing, and camping), Research Natural Areas, and other reserves. Much of the USFS lands are open to public use (hunting, fishing, hiking, skiing, horseback riding, hiking) for free (at least no fee), including primitive camping; some “developed” areas require some sort of day or annual pass and developed campgrounds, at least in the PNW, a nightly fee.

    As is often said nowadays, you are entitled to your opinion, but not to make up your own “facts” vis a vis things like the stimulus. And if you would like to work on waste, fraud, and abuse you can look at any federal agency but you will see the biggest, blackest, $$ sucking holes in the “national security” arena where the vast majority of income tax dollars go. Air conditioning costs for troops in Afghanistan exceeds the NPS budget.

    Happy thoughts.

  47. SR July 17th, 2013 2:48 pm

    Andy, no worries. Copper, to take another example, is $369 for an adult season pass. The point, if we are not simply trying to blow smoke past one another, is that lift-served operations that have a great deal of fixed assets in place, and provide a great deal in the way of services, sell season passes for not much more than your numbers suggest is being taken by the USFS in tax dollars, before any added permits and fees. Since the USFS provides far less in terms of either fixed assets or services than a ski resort in-season, it would seem that there may be no need for added fees to do things like camp on public land or access trailheads. The money is there, if people choose to spend it wisely.

    Thanks as well for telling me that I’m not entitled to make up facts about the stimulus. Fortunately, the immense waste on all those “shovel ready” projects is quite well documented. Telling people they don’t have a right to note that waste says a lot, and does nothing to make me feel I should pony up yet more funds at the next trailhead.

  48. AndyC July 18th, 2013 4:12 pm

    Beside the climbing fee, Mt. Rainier NP has relied upon helicopters provided by the US Army; Climbing Ranger Nick Hall’s death while attempting to rescue some climbers from Texas (they chose a route that experienced climbers and the guide services would not venture on given the conditions) has resulted in a decision to limit how military chinook helicopters will be used in the future; the report from the review of the accident recommends a private, specialty helicopter service;

  49. Lou Dawson July 18th, 2013 5:54 pm

    Much of this is philosophical value judgements. For example, I can get rescued for free around here, totally free, no fees, nothing. It’s paid for by tax money, the same way they’ll come put out a house fire, for free.

    I happen to like that, for various reasons but one being that around 50% of Americans pay no income tax (though they still get taxed in various ways if they work and spend money), and many of them pay no tax because they are strapped financially. Fees are regressive, they’re the same for everyone no matter what your income. So to a single guy making good money a fee might seem like nothing, or to a white collar family with two working adults… but to a lower income working family with children, strapped for cash but wanting to go camping, what seems like small fees may loom larger than we “privileged” folk like to think of them.

    I shouldn’t have to explain this basic principle of taxation. Yes, the income tax system isn’t perfect, but fees do have a downside as well.


  50. AndyC July 19th, 2013 9:38 am

    Well said, Lou. Fees are certainly regressive. And even those financially strapped workers who don’t have to pay federal income tax (and may even get earned income tax credits) still have to pay SS, Medicare, sales tax, hidden tax on firearms and ammo purchases, State income tax, gas tax, liquor tax, property tax, … and fees (recreation, license, license plates, concealed carry permits).

    @SR: here’s a link on how stimulus funds were spent in my state:

    I won’t pretend that I would agree with every $$ spent or even overall priorities, but stimulus money was very important to my state for a great variety of very good reasons, especially keeping teachers, firemen, and police employed, repair and maintenance of transportation, etc. etc. and keeping employment much higher and economic activity much greater and tax revenues much higher than and general well-being of the population greater than otherwise.

    I belong to a variety of non-profits; one of which is the Washington Trails Association (which along with the Student Conservation Association does much of the trail work in Mt. Rainier NP); WTA put these stats in the last issue of their magazine: funding for road maintenance in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie NF: 2009 $1.4 million, 2012 $680,000, 2013 $250,000; Congress makes these decisions and Forest Supervisors have extremely limited ability to move funds between accounts (line items) except, of course, with fires. FS budget was down $500 million this year in fire-fighting funds and this is one of the worst years in history, so fires still get fought, but the bills have to be paid and money has to come from somewhere.

  51. Dave August 2nd, 2013 10:49 am

    Wow! This may be more intense that I was hoping for. I was just trying to get there. Im guessing there are easier hikes right? For decent directions, here’s what Ive found.


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