Crystal to Cayuse Plus

January 15-16, 2022

Gear list for our nice weather winter backpacking kit listed below, along with a TLDR!

Us looking like dorks with our big backpacks in the resort! We thought it would be fun to start it off with a lift.

Dan and I have...

always wanted to do some sort of ski traverse from Crystal Mountain to something on Mt. Rainier, because... why not!? With three days off together, and three stellar days in the forecast with good avalanche conditions, we decided to give a go at a traverse from Crystal Mountain to Little Tahoma and back. A haul for sure, but in three days, it should be do-able, ya?

We took off from our parking spot in Lot B at around 8am (we had gotten there at 7am to avoid traffic on a beautiful Saturday) and hopped on the lifts at around 8:30 when they opened up. One thing we didn't factor into our equation of the day was that chair 6 didn't end up opening up until around 9:30, which we should have guessed that it would take a little longer, but this is around the time they've been opening it this season. Now we know!

We got to the Southback traverse, and I turned my watch tracking on. The day has begun! We looked out from the ridge and gulped as we saw our objective waaay off in the distance. This is part of what makes this objective so exciting! We took off across the traverse into Southback, which is always a pain, but we found with overnight packs, it was just all that much worse. Luckily for us, we've slimmed down our packs to just around 25 pounds each. Not too bad!

We took off down the icy slope towards Crystal Lakes Basin and trekked on. Going out towards Cayuse and Chinook passes via the bowl between Crystal Peak and Peak 6706 and the North East col of Deadwood peak was where we saw our first signs of very slow travel. Icy slopes, trap crust, and refrozen roller balls all signaled to us that the day was going to be long and travel was going to be tiring. After crossing the highway and making it up and over a small col into Boundary Creek Basin, we looked at our clocks and found it was already 3:30pm. Yikes. We had gone just about half of our planned route for the day, and decided that the travel was just too slow in these conditions.

Looking from our starting point off to Lil' T and Momma T. A far way to go!

Dan at camp enjoying the start of sunset.

We decided to make camp in the basin and enjoy the beautiful sunset and starry night. A clear warm night is a rarity in January! We laid in our cozy FF Spoonbill rental (it's the best at only 2.4 lbs!) and read my kindle book out loud to each other. The book was "Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart" by Carrot Quinn, and I'll say that reading about washing sand out of blisters, fighting 100+ degree heat, and battling scorpions and spiders made us feel pretty happy to only be facing the cold.

We debated staying in the backcountry for another day since we had the three days set aside already, however with the conditions being as bad as they were, we decided simply to come back home on day two. We had a nice return, and came back via the highway and up to Sheep Lake instead of the way we came. It was nice to change it up! Though, the ascent out of the highway was certainly steep and awkward. Possibly something I wouldn't care to do again, however it was nice to say hi to Sheep Lake Couloir on our exit! All in all, a fantastic few days exploring an area that I truly love.

Me skiing down to the highway.

Skiing towards the entrance/exit of the National Park.

Dan skiing down to the highway from the saddle between Deadwood and Chinook.

Overnight Winter Camping list (good weather)

17 lbs personal gear

  • 2x pairs gloves, FF Helios (1 lb), hardshell, beanie

  • Petzl Leopard crampons and Ride axe (20 oz)

  • Blue Ice Warthog pack and BCA radio (40 oz)

  • Sunglasses, headlamp, sunscreen, spork, phone

  • Helmet, ski crampons, skins, skin wax

  • Shovel and probe

  • 1L water (2.25 lbs)

14 lbs group gear (split between two)

  • FF Spoonbill (40 oz)

  • Slingfin Splitwing and 4 snow stakes (14 oz)

  • Pocket Rocket, ~12 oz fuel, titanium pot (22 oz)

  • Repair/first aid kit and inReach

  • 2x inflatable sleeping pads (R value ~3), 2x half length foam pads, and pad connector kit (2 lbs)

  • food (6 lbs)

TOTAL = 24 lbs


  • Total mileage of the weekend - Around 17.5 miles

  • Total elevation gain - Around 7,900 ft

  • Total moving time - Around 11 hours, 35 minutes

  • Max slope angle of the day - Maybe around 45, but steep slopes are relatively easily avoidable

  • Song that was stuck in my head all day - "Move Along" by the All-American Rejects, ha!

"When all you got to keep is strong

Move along, move along like I know ya do

And even when your hope is gone

Move along, move along just to make it through"

Surprisingly fitting for a struggle-bus backcountry ski, no? Thanks to Crystal Mt. Ski Resort for getting it stuck in our heads for two days ;)