February 2, 2013 – Mary’s Peak

After missing the weather window for powder earlier in the week, finding some nice corn snow to ride in the warming temps seemed like the next best bet.  With the forecast calling for freezing levels around 5000 feet over the weekend with sunny skies, the timing seemed right to head for Mary’s Peak for some turns.  Ron had been wanting to get to the Peak at some point during the winter, and was game to make the drive south, so we made plans for a Saturday ski tour.  After meeting in Corvallis around 7:30, we headed west through the thick fog, which gave way to clear skies and sunshine a few miles outside Philomath.  Turning off highway 34 and cruising up the winding paved road, we eventually got our first glimpse of the mountain.

Thinking that the mountain would be caked white from the recent storm that dumped over three feet of snow in the Cascades, our hearts sank a bit when we saw the very meager coverage on the south side of the hill.  It appeared the storm had dumped quite a bit of rain on Mary’s before it moved out, leaving a patchwork of rain runnels and spotty snow.  Not to be deterred however, our plans changed from exploring the steep north side to lapping what snow we could find on the west prairie and beyond.  Parking just before Parker Creek Falls, we skinned up the road and our spirits picked up a bit when we saw the snow covered west prairie……

Ron and Mary's Peak

Ron and Mary’s Peak

One thing I always seem to forget is how quickly the snow on the south side melts out and that the south aspect is the first one visible from the road below.  With renewed spirits, we skinned onward towards the west prairie.  Crossing Parker Creek is always fun, and it’s enjoyable to skin along the rushing water and breathe in the fresh mountain air soaked with the scent of the beautiful hemlocks…..

Touring along Parker Creek

Touring along Parker Creek

After the creek crossing, we popped out on the south prairie and skinned up the frozen surface towards the summit.  Several minutes later, we arrived to one of my favorite views in the state of Oregon.  Looking out over the Willamette Valley, which was engulfed in a sea of clouds, we could see 13 volcanoes along the cascade crest, from Mt Rainier to the north to Mt Thielsen to the south.

Ron on the summit of Mary's Peak

Ron on the summit of Mary’s Peak

 

Skinning north from the summit

Skinning north from the summit

 

Mt Hood from Mary's Peak

Mt Hood from Mary’s Peak

Shortly after reaching the top, a solo skier named Malcom cruised up and we chatted a bit while enjoying the views.  A bit later, we decided to tour around the mountain and check out a few other aspects while waiting for the snow to corn on the summit prairie.  We made a short but fun lap off the easterly pitch above the summer parking lot, finding some excellent corn snow……

Ron enjoying some Mary's Peak corn

Ron enjoying some Mary’s Peak corn

 

Cruising down with the Willamette Valley below

Cruising down with the Willamette Valley below

After a our short lap on the east slope, we headed down below the summer parking lot on the low angle snow as far aw we could until we quit gliding, enjoying the fun turns all the way.  We found a nice noble fir with a bit of shade that made a great spot to stop for lunch.  The old growth nobles on Mary’s Peak are worth the visit alone……

Ron enjoying lunch on the Peak

Ron enjoying lunch on the Peak

After lunch, we motored back up and made another quick lap on the east side, stopping at the bottom to explore the trees.  Good lines exist, but none held enough snow to make it worth the while.  Someday though, I’ll get up to the Peak in the right conditions to make powder turns down through 35-40 degree old growth noble firs, but all we could do on this day was imagine how good it could be…

Ron scoping out the tree lines

Ron scoping out the tree lines

Back on the summit, the snow had corned enough by early afternoon to make for some great turns on the summit prairie.  Cruising down the low angle slope in perfect corn while being able to see ocean is such a treat.  At the bottom, I could tell Ron was pretty happy with the previous run, and the smile on his face said that one run justified him making the long trek down from Portland.  We cruised back up and made a few more laps, each one perfectly smooth and nice…

Corn turns on the summit prairie

Corn turns on the summit prairie

Heading out, we met up with a fellow named Kirk after crossing Parker Creek, and enjoyed a pleasant conversation while skinning back towards the car.  Rather than skinning back down the road, we elected to head down the west prairie to maximize our vertical for the day with the hopes of hiking down through the thick trees to the road below, thereby eliminating much of the road slog on the way out.  Our plan worked to perfection, and we had another three hundred feet of vertical to add to the day….

Ron making turns in the west prairie

Ron making turns in the west prairie

Hiking down through the trees went off without a hitch, but getting to the road proved to be a bit difficult due to the steep slope on the cut bank, but we managed without incident.  After a short 1/4 mile ski back down the road, we were celebrating the day with a well deserved IPA, reflecting back on what is always a unique experience in making turns on Mary’s Peak.  Back in Corvallis, we stopped off at McMenamin’s for a burger before calling it a day.  A good beer and a burger always hit the spot after a long day of riding!  Given our expectations for the day, I was happy with the riding we found!  Corn snow in the winter is always a treat, but I’m already dreaming of scoring some powder turns in the noble’s sometime in the future!

2 comments to February 2, 2013 – Mary’s Peak

  • John

    Hey I recently moved to Corvallis and am trying to get a handle on Mary’s Peak skiing. Any particular pointers, or just drive to where the snow stops and then skin up the road? I’m still looking for work so a close place to get out on the skis would be a nice break from the monotony of failing to find a job.

  • Hi John…..I usually just drive up to where the snow stops and skin the road. There are other options for hiking straight up from Parker Creek Falls but skinning the road is pretty quick. Access can be tricky depending upon the snow elevation. If you can get beyond the saddle and somewhere in the vicinity of Conner’s Camp you should be golden. Otherwise it can be a bit of an approach. Timing is always a bit tricky up there, but makes a mellow tour somewhat more interesting…… Cheers,

    Matt