October 8, 2011 – Illumination Saddle/Zigzag Glacier, Mt Hood

My family and I already had plans to head to Gresham to visit family for the weekend,, so heading to Mt Hood for a Saturday outing to get October turns in seemed logical. The weather forecast was looking decent, with the sun scheduled to make a  brief appearance in between early fall rain storms.  I pulled into the Timberline parking lot with the mountain enshrouded in clouds, but the sun soon popped out.

Mt Hood on a nice fall day

Mt Hood on a nice fall day

Todd showed up after a few minutes, and we set out towards the Magic Mile chairlift.  We spun several laps on the Palmer chair riding nice groomers while waiting for the snow to soften.  Our objective for the day was to ride the Zigzag Glacier via Illumination Saddle.  The snow quality on upper mountain was nice, with about a foot of fresh under a sastrugi crust.  By 11:15, we abandoned the lifts in favor of the untracked snow and headed west towards Illumination Saddle.  After hiking for about 5 minutes, I realized I’d made a crucial error in leaving the splitboard at home.  I ended up post-holing all the way to the saddle while Todd skinned with relative ease.  After about an hour (which was twice as long as it should have been), I joined Todd at the saddle and enjoyed the views down onto the Reid Glacier.

The Reid Glacier

The Reid Glacier

Within a few minutes, a solo skier named Jarko joined us at the saddle.  We chatted for a few minutes and enjoyed the views while the sastrugi crust corned.  Looking back to the south, Jefferson and the Sisters were in plain view…

The view south from Illumination Saddle

The turns off the saddle were very enjoyable in the new snow.  It’s amazing what a difference a month makes – in September I was riding off the saddle on monster sized suncups and now the ride was as smooth as could be!  I snapped a few photos on the descent, and managed to get this picture of Jarko making turns off the saddle…

October turns off the Saddle

October turns off the Saddle

We angled skier’s left onto the middle of the Zigzag Glacier where the snow was the most consistent and made turn after turn on the untracked glacier.  The consistency of the warmed crust with the foot of fresh below made for some very enjoyable turns that were similar to carving on corn.  The backdrop of the upper mountain and the Old Crater Route covered in the first snow of the year made for a picturesque scene…

Turns on the upper Zigzag

Turns on the upper Zigzag

More turns followed, as we descended directly down the Zigzag.  Near the bottom middle of the glacier, we opted to head left and into the Little Zigzag canyon in lieu of riding to the bottom of the Zigzag Glacier and booting back up to cross over.  The snow in the Little Zigzag was as good as the upper mountain.  I dropped in after Todd and Jarko left their tracks in the canyon…

Riding the Little Ziggy's finger

Riding the Little Ziggy’s finger

The turns seemed to continue forever in the Little Zigzag.  I followed Todd and Jarko with my camera and snapped a few photos along the way down.  The riding in the canyon was pretty much on the residual snow left over from last year, as the amount of new snow wasn’t quite yet sufficient enough to support venturing outside the canyon.  Near 7000 feet, Todd and I stopped to exit the canyon and head back over to the ski area while Jarko continued down for more turns.  Here’s a shot of our turns looking back up the Little Zigzag Canyon…

October Turns

October Turns

After a short  hike back to the ski area, we were back down to the parking lot in no time.  I made it back to Gresham by 3:00 pm, after a requested stop at Joe’s Donut’s in Sandy by my wife.  Overall, it was another excellent day of October riding in Oregon.  Here’s a parting shot of Mt Hood (showing the route we skied)  taken from Highway 26 on the drive home…

Mt Hood from Hwy 26

Mt Hood from Hwy 26

 

2 comments to October 8, 2011 – Illumination Saddle/Zigzag Glacier, Mt Hood

  • Tyler Bushnell

    Matt,
    You’re a bad-ass. Take me on your next trip. My AT skis are in Utah w/ Tanner, but I’ll have them back soon.

  • Thanks Tyler! I’d love to get out with you for a trip or two this winter. Let’s stay in touch – the snow will be flying soon!