I was not familiar with the term “microclimates” until recently. Washington has many microclimates to enjoy. Microclimates allow for someone to rock climb, ski, surf, etc. in the same day.

We are planning a climbing trip to Smith Rock, Oregon for the last weekend in April. Therefore, we wanted to get outdoors once before the trip. Also, we have been finding it hard that the end of ski season is approaching with Stevens Pass’s closing. So naturally we would plan a rock climbing/skiing weekend to take advantage of the microclimates.

I have been living in the PNW for roughly 5 months and have been wanting to visit Rainier National Park. This weekend excursion allowed me to check off outdoor rock climbing in Washington and visiting Rainier National Park all in one weekend.

Royal Columns Tieton

Tieton Royal Columns

Rock Climbing at Tieton

A small group of us decided to climb at Tieton instead of Vantage because of the weather forecasts and the driving distances between activities. Julie and Thaddée rode with Andy and I, and Tobias rode with Wesley, Eric and Andy. Both Eric and Wes had been climbing at the Royal Columns area at Tieton, which has mainly trad and some sport climbing. Eric had a book on the routes of Tieton, which was nice.


Beginning of Climbing Royal Columns: Andy and Eric (Photo by Tobias Cortese)

Eric led Cross-Eyed and Painless, a 5.9 trad route. This route had a nice, long hand crack route to follow up to the top. I believe we all climbed it by the end of the day.

Climbing Cross-Eyed and Painless (Photo by: Julie Baron)

Andy led Good Timer, a 5.4 trad route. This was more for a warm-up route to get me used to belaying Andy on lead for our upcoming trip to Yosemite. I then cleaned the route of the trad gear but kept the top rope set-up for others to warm-up on. Julie ended up placing trad gear on top rope for practice. Most of us climbed this one.

Thaddée led The Arête-Acal, a 5.10a sport route. This route stayed on the arête with difficult holds. We had to share an anchor at the top of the route with another group of people. This top rope also was available for some other 5.6 crack routes: The Bridger and Level Head.

Later in the day, Eric led Orange Sunshine, a 5.10b finger crack trad route.

We had three different top ropes set up, which we had various options on a few to try. It was fun climbing trad again with lots of cracks to climb. The day was beautiful and was not cold. The winds did pick up on the one side towards the end of the day, but it did not stop us. We were on the rock from roughly 10:30 am to 5 pm.


Finishing up climbing at Royal Columns: Andy, Angela, Thaddée, and Julie (Photo by: Tobias Cortese)

We then drove down east on Route 12 to find a place to camp. All the Wenatchee campgrounds were closed for the season, but we found a pull off near the Tieton River. It was a perfect area for camping and had a fire pit made of stones. We all set up our tents, ate dinner, and then Tobias and Andy found a downed tree for firewood. We made a campfire and hung out until roughly 9 pm before heading to bed.

Ski Touring at Rainier: Camp Muir Snowfield

We woke up early and broke down camp and headed to Paradise, WA. We saw more elk than people on our drive with various ones grazing near the road.

We got to Paradise within Rainier National Park around 9:45 am. Our plan today was to skin or snowshoe up to Camp Muir and ski/snowboard down. Andy would be carrying my skis on the way up as I used my snowshoes. Tobias snowboards, so he was carrying his board up while snowshoeing. The conditions were not as favorable as we were hoping for, but we were hopeful that the sun would burn off the fog and clouds for more visibility. Here is Andy and I beginning the hike:

Snowshoeing/Skinning up Camp Muir Snowfield (Photo by: Julie Baron)

Eric and Wes had other friends that met them, so they started the hike ten to fifteen minutes before we did. We started our climb, which was decent hiking with a gradual incline until we reached a steep section just below Panorama Point. We were following a boot pack since the visibility was awful and staying in close distance in single-file form. The boot pack went straight up the steep part, where switch backs usually are when there is less snow.

Thaddée was hiking in his ski boots and let Julie use his skins because they forgot hers. We all stopped and discussed if it was worth continuing on since the winds were picking up, it began to snow, and we were in whiteout conditions. We did have a map but could not pick out any natural features that would help us read the map. The below picture shows the conditions:

Camp Muir Snow Field

Tobias, Thaddée, and Julie below Panorama Point

We then hiked down a little to a flatter area, so Tobias and I could switch from our snowshoes to our ski/snowboard. Once we switched over, we started following markers that a training group put up as they climbed, which was extremely helpful for our descent. It took us only a few minutes to ski down. The only hard sections was crossing over the boot pack path. The snow at the end was hard to turn because I was sinking down a few inches deep when making fresh tracks.

This is my first experience earning my turns. I hope to try it out again in the future when the conditions are more favorable. We waited for the other group that Eric and Wes were with. They ended up turning around at Panorama Point because of high winds and the low visibility. We did roughly three miles round trip and 1400 feet elevation of the trail in about 2 to 3 hours.

Where have you experienced microclimates?

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