Friday, July 29, 2011

Almost, but not quite on Shriner Peak

Distance: 8.5 miles

Elevation gain: 3,434 feet

As soon as enough snow melted in the eastern flanks of Mount Rainier, I hurried up Cayuses Pass to see what some call the most beautiful part of the park. I chose Shriner Peak because it promised a big push uphill and only the last mile or so was said to be snow-covered, a major plus for a girl still sensitive after sun blindness.

Parking was a problem since it was a hot and sunny day so we parked a half mile down the road and walked to the trailhead, which immediately angled away from the asphalt and began climbing through the trees. It curved east after nearly a mile, sidling around a ridge with a magnificent view of Rainier. It was a scorcher of a hike though, with nothing to shield you from the sun’s rays as you climb through an old burn area still sporting silver snags.

About the same time a series of switchbacks enter the picture, bunches of wildflowers began to appear alongside the trail. We wound our way through a rocky face and found ourselves stuck in the snow. There were only a few patches at first but after crossing a small waterfall, the compacted powder overtook the landscape and it was tough to find the path. We followed various boot paths in hopes of reaching the 5,834-foot summit but the brightness of the snow was painful enough that we ate some snickers and called it quits.

Another challenge for another day.

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