fuhrer finger attempt

April 1-2, 2021

Looking up at Tahoma from the parking lot. Lot's of blowing snow at the top...

"Failures are often...

more interesting to read about than successes are." My co-worker Mike said aloud. I was explaining to him that I wasn't sure if I wanted to do a write-up about this attempt in my blog. We didn't summit, or even ski what we wanted to, what good was a write-up of a failure? But even as he said those words out loud, I realized that I do actually really appreciate all of the posts on TAY about attempts and failures, and often times I learn more from them. Yet even in writing this, my ego is whispering, "This should be a success story, this could have been a success story, it's so within your wheelhouse!" And yeah, maybe some of that is true. But nonetheless, here is a story of Dan and my early spring attempt of the Fuhrer Finger!

This trip was one of those trips that started off with a lot of anxiety for me. Skiing Rainier is a big objective! It started with a lot of "Shoot, I forgot my gloves, I don't think we can even do the trip" and then, "...Oh wait, no I found them" and another major low and then a major high, and then another reason why we should bail, and then more reasons why conditions were lining up. Yet finally, with our permits all filled out and bags packed, we found ourselves touring quietly up towards Glacier Vista from Paradise. Once we clipped into our skis and started moving our bodies, everything felt right. This trip had many purposes for us. For one, we just wanted to ski the thing - it had been on our list for forever! I also had a couple pieces of new gear that I wanted to become familiar with before my upcoming guiding season, and also I needed to get used to travelling with more weight in my pack.

The weather was looking great on most accounts, however the biggest question we had was the wind. Different weather models were showing different estimations, and even the night before we set out, it seemed 50/50 as to weather or not it would be a-go. We decided to try our luck and see what came of it.

Looking back at the Tatoosh from Glacier Vista

Lots of glacial ice fall down low on the Wilson Glacier - there was a lot of solar action!

Our little home for the night tucked in the rocks. (Don't worry, we weren't in rockfall danger!)

This video was taken during our wake up time, and yes, I was worried that side of the tent was collapsing, but we went out and reinforced it. A bit too windy!

We traveled up the Nisqually and Wilson glaciers and had a lot of fun navigating through the little amount of crevasses that were on the route this time of year. We went up the Nisqually and stayed pretty far West when we got to the Wilson glacier (see Strava for reference). This time of year, there looked like a lot of viable options for travel, but this route made the most sense to us. By the time we made it to our camp, a little below Camp Hazard at about 9,400ft on the ridge, the wind had picked up a bit, and we realized that we needed to start getting our tent battened down for the night.

The true test of our weather prediction skills was going to happen that night, and with the amount of wind that we had while setting up camp, we weren't feeling very optimistic. We ate our dinner in our tent, and snuggled in our Spoonbill bag (such a cool sleep system! I've never been cold in that bag, and it only weighs 2lb 8oz... That's 1lb 4oz per person for a winter bag. Crazy!) and slowly started to "fall asleep" for the night. But that sleep didn't last long, as throughout the night, the winds grew and grew and grew. Throughout the following hours, we would roll over, look at each other with a pathetic "get me out of here" look as the winds howled around outside. All night, it sounded like a freight train was barreling into our tent, and we didn't sleep at all.

Whelp, that was that - we had received the weather forecast we didn't want. After the climb, we looked at the recorded winds at Muir for that night, and found that at it's worst it was sustained at 71mph with gusts of 86mph. Yikes. Once winds hit 70mph it is very difficult to even stand, and generally when winds hit sustained 30mph-ish is when I start to take them seriously. We bailed on a summit attempt, and in the morning went out to see if the Finger itself might ski well, but found that the winds had made for nasty skiing conditions up high, and it did not look like the sun was going to be able to soften the snow. Oh well. We went back to our camp, packed up our gear, and skied down to the watermelon waiting in the car for us - the best post-volcano snack!

Overall, a trip where we learned a ton, gained a new experience, and ultimately we had a fantastic time on beautiful WA glaciers. What more could you ask for?!

Another use for our snow saw ;)


  • Total mileage of the trip - 13.8 miles total

  • Total elevation gain - Around 5,100ft total

  • Total moving time - 7 hours 50 mins total

  • Max slope angle of the trip - Around 35 degrees

  • GPS via Strava - https://www.strava.com/activities/5064869388 - Approach

https://www.strava.com/activities/5064873597 - Descent

  • Song that was stuck in my head all trip - "Hazel" by Roy Blair - one of my favorite songs right now :)