Little Tahoma - Frying Pan Glacier, June 2011
I’ve had unfinished business with Little Tahoma for quite some time now. Every May through June since my previous attempt back in June 2008, Little T’ has manifested in my consciousness as THE thing to do. So it finally came to pass this spring that I would heed the call and revisit Mt. Rainier National Park’s east-side, making the long trudge along Frying Pan Creek late on a Saturday afternoon to a comfortable camp in Summer Land. Well, to be honest it wasn’t so much a trudge considering that John and I were able to skin directly from the parking area. In any case, it’s been said many times before but this year’s heavy snowpack is nothing short of amazing!
Booting up firm snow the following morning, I resumed skinning once atop Meany Crest rapidly closing in on a party of 5 who had camped near us that night. Now six-strong, we started up a boot track leading away from the 9000-ft col between the Frying Pan and Whitman Glaciers. The softening snow forced us all back on skis in no time, with me reverting again to knee deep postholing shortly thereafter. I didn’t think it was possible to skin up the steep south-facing slope below the summit crags, but was soon proven otherwise. If nothing else, I made faster progress than my two-planking counterparts albeit with much more energy expenditure I'd venture to guess. A long last, a short but enjoyably airy scramble led to the best vantage point from which to view the mighty Tahoma - Little T’s tippy top!
Clouds moved in well in advance of the next forecasted frontal system and made for a rather murky ride back down the peak’s South Slope to the 9k saddle. Similar to our previous attempt, John and I found ourselves below the cloud deck at this point and proceeded to make endless turns in hero corn down the Frying Pan Glacier. I set off a rather large sluff slide on a steep pitch below Meany Crest which John somehow got caught up in but nevertheless managed to escape without injury. If nothing else, seeing all the snow I had just set free catapult over a cliff just skier’s right of where John got taken down gave me an appreciation for not following so closely behind another skier/boarder. Ya hear me John?
We packed-up camp and made our way back to the parking area in record time thanks in large part to being able to ride out most of the way. Yes, using poles and skill in the art of one-footing greatly helps in “descents” such as these. Seeing as it only took us 3 hours from our initial drop-in point high on Little T’ to the car, I take pity on those that climb the peak entirely on foot. I was certainly happy to have made it back when we did, for the first drops of rain had already begun falling as we were changing at the car. It was absolutely pouring by the time we reached hwy410 and well, I think the higher elevations must have picked-up yet more snow!