“The full descent of Mt. Rainier and the biggest ski line in the lower 48.”
— Jacob Winey
Type: Backcountry or Sidecountry
Need to Know
It is impossible to ski any route from the summit of Rainier without encountering crevasse danger. Know your crevasse rescue technique and bring the tools needed in the event of some involuntary ice-spelunking.
The descent from the top of Mt. Rainier to the Nisqually River Bridge is possibly the most classic line in the northwest and also the biggest ski descent in the lower 48. After a 9,000' climb, the best way down a glaciated peak is clearly on skis.
From the summit crater, descend south, over the Nisqually Icefall. When we skied it, the best route was to ski the center of the icefall until a clear route to the skier's right opened up, leading directly to the top of Fuhrer Finger
. The best route changes between and throughout seasons, so be sure to scope it out and have a plan. A good route can be scoped out with binoculars from the Paradise parking lot (in clear weather).
Once you successfully get through the icefall, you're treated with a fun, low stress descent of the Fuhrer Finger
Couloir, which is consistent and wide with minimal crevasse danger for 3,000'. Once you reach the bottom of the couloir, the maze of crevasse dodging starts again. Navigate a safe route down the Wilson Glacier and onto the Nisqually Glacier. (I strongly recommend stopping in the middle of the Fuhrer Finger
to make a plan while you have a good view of the glaciers). Then, follow the Nisqually Glacier as far as the snow will take you.
Keep your head up, if you're descending later in the day, lots of loose-wet slides come down from rocks along the sides of the glacier. Try to ski all the way to the bridge and catch a ride back to Paradise.