NW Skier, Vol. 33, No. 3 - Mt Rainier ski mountaineering
In 1953, Walt Little, a civil engineer, skier and mountaineer,
was hired by the John Graham Company, a Seattle architectural
firm, to do a feasibility study for a new Washington ski area.
Twice a month for two years, Little led a group of surveyors into
three potential sites east of Mt Rainier, two sites in Silver
Creek and Corral Pass. Little recommended "Silver 6" (the
eventual site of the Crystal Mountain ski area) over Corral Pass,
which was the early favorite. An avid sailor, Little dubbed
Crystal's steepest slope Exterminator after he saw the name
painted on a sailboat.
Ski mountaineering is a sport "limited to a somewhat hardcore
group of enthusiasts" which seems nevertheless to be growing.
The article includes comments by Brian Sullivan and Doug
Ingersoll, ski instructors and guides; Jim Heber of the
Mountaineers; Paul Walchenbach of REI, Inc.; and Carl Skoog. The
author discusses ski mountaineering courses and some Mt Rainier
skiing history. The article contains three photos by Gordon
Butterfield from the June 1961 first ski descent of the Ingraham
Glacier, although they are not identified as such. The cover of
this issue has an uncaptioned photo by Brian Sullivan of Lowell
Skoog beginning a rappel during the May 1989 Buckindy Range ski
traverse in the North Cascades.
On May 18, 1980, Jens Kieler [then Kuljurgis], Rich Lowell and
John Mueller were at a high camp below the Kautz Icefall on Mt
Rainier hoping to make a ski descent of the mountain. To the
south, above Mt St Helens, what appeared at first to be
thunderheads began to form in the sky. Lightning flashed and a
huge column of ash rose from the volcano. "The lightning was
flashing around like the spokes of a wheel might flash through a
strobe," said Kieler. Before long, a fog of black ash began
blackening the snowfields of Rainier. About two hours after the
eruption, the three started skiing down to Paradise, carving
white tracks in the black snow. "It was like skiing on
sandpaper," recalled Kieler. Oddly, the noise of the blast,
heard all over the Northwest, was not audible to the three men.
"We never even heard the initial 'big bang," he said. "It was
On May 11, 1990, Shelby Burchett, Jeff Cvitkovic and Scott
Wicklund skied Ulrich's Couloir from the summit of Mt Stuart to
Ingalls Creek valley. The party left their car at the Teanaway
River on May 8 and spent two days reaching Longs Pass. They
descended to Ingalls Creek and camped. The following day, the
trio climbed Cascadian Couloir. With heavy packs and hot
weather, they reached the top of the couloir at 8,000 feet at 2
pm and decided to camp there to wait for safer snow conditions.
On May 11, with a good freeze overnight and a slight
overcast, they continued to the true summit. From the article
text and the accompanying photos, it appears that the party used
full alpine skiing equipment. They stepped into their skis and
began the descent of Ulrich's Couloir, with Burchett and Wicklund
going first. High in the couloir, Cvitkovic lost an edge and
spun around, completing a backward roll before miraculously
digging in his edges and stopping. After emerging from the
walled couloir, the party encountered a 15-foot half-frozen
waterfall. After scoping out the landing, they jumped over this
obstacle. Lower, narrow sections required them to make short
straight runs followed by hard check turns. Less than 1,000 feet
from the valley floor they encountered a 100-foot waterfall.
They removed their skis and rappeled over this obstacle. The
final slopes to the valley posed no difficulties. The article
includes photos of the route, ascent, descent, and of the three
skiers relaxing at a drive-in restaurant after the trip.
Blog #: 0312 – 11/01/90
In 1953, Walt Little, a civil engineer, skier and mountaineer, was hired by the John Graham Company, a Seattle architectural firm, to do a feasibility study for a new Washington ski area. Twice a month for two years, Little led a group of surveyors into three potential sites east of Mt Rainier, two sites in Silver