April 17, 2011 – Closing day at the Pass

Sunday, April 17th was the final day of the season at Willamette Pass and the final patrol day of the year as well.  It had rained hard the day before, so expectations weren’t high for the day, but there was a fresh dusting of snow around the base when we pulled into the parking lot.  At our morning meeting, we got word that this would be the final day of the season, so we headed out to open the mountain one last time.  Unloading EPA, we were greeted to about 4 inches of fresh wet snow that fell the night before.  My first run down High Lead was quite nice and I was looking forward to checking out the backside to see what the conditions were like.

Peak 2 wasn’t epic, but there was six inches of fresh snow which made for some good runs all morning long.  Below is a shot looking east across the backside of the Pass, with John Fischer riding the chairlift just after opening (photo taken from the ridge between June’s Run and Down Under)

Fischer rides the chairlift all alone on the final morning of the season

After making several good runs in the trees between Northern and June’s, I headed over to the Dragon’s Back area to check out the conditions.  The snow was pretty warm, and I actually was able to get some of it to run in wet slide fasion down off the ridge.  The below shot was taken beneath the Dragon’s Back area, and shows natural snow release which happened overnight due to the added weight of the snowpack from the rain and snow….

Dragon’s Back area at Willamette Pass

Upon leaving the Dragon’s Back area, I came upon several spooned tracks on the lower portion of Down Under.  I knew it must have been John Fischer who had been farming the tracks all morning, so I waited a bit and sure enough, he showed up with his beard leading the way…..

Fischer spooning tracks on Down Under

Here’s a zoomed shot of Fischer farming the snow on what appears to be his eighth run…

John ski-farming the fresh snow

After snapping a few photos, John and I made six or seven runs together on the backside, chatting about potential backcountry trips we’d like to make in the upcoming months.  Steens Mountain is high on both of our lists.

Soon, it was time to get the mountain ready for closing, and we loaded up sleds with all sorts of gear (chairlift evacuation gear, bamboo, backboards, etc.).  I took a Cascade 100 down from Peak 2 around 3:00 pm, and by that time the snow on the front side was super sticky.  I had to walk the sled across the flat spot on Upper Rosary, and then it took quite a long time going down KP to get to the Patrol shack.  By the time I reached the bottom, my legs were burning from going so dang slow!  After dropping the sled, I headed up for the last bump slot of the year at the top of EPA, and helped load a few of the remaining sleds with gear.  I was able to run closing for the last day, and was the last patroller left up top while everone else was sweeping runs.

My board and pack prior to the last run of the year

Once all the upper mountain runs were swept clear, I vacated via RTS and it was in excellent condition.  Lower mountain sweep went quickly and after all the gear was put away in the patrol room, we had a quick evening meeting before calling it a year.  Overall, it was an excellent snow year and great year of patrolling.  I am ready for patrol season to be over however, so I can focus on the backcountry season, which is just beginning!

 

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