November 4, 2015 – Mt Hood, Southside

Wednesday looked like the perfect weather window for November turns, provided enough snow fell at Mt Hood from the recent storm that passed over the Oregon cascades.  I decided it was worth the gamble to take a day off work, and met Joe at park and ride on I-5 early in the morning.  We cruised up the Interstate and soon found ourselves staring at a refreshing sight —- a snow covered Mt Hood.

Winter's first coat

Winter’s first coat, Mt Hood

Stepping out of the car, the temps were cold, and it was nice to experience the winter environment again.  We got our gear in order, donned skins, and started climbing up the road towards Silcox Hut, which was nicely tracked from a snowcat earlier in the morning.  The snow was around 8 inches deep at the lodge, and held that depth up to Silcox Hut…

Approaching Silcox

Approaching Silcox

I always enjoy skinning up to Silcox so much more than hiking, and especially enjoy seeing the rime ice on the roof of the old building after the first real snowfall of the season.  Below is a shot of Silcox under winter’s first coat of snow in black and white….

Silox

Silox

Once above Silcox, we found skinning on lookers left of the Palmer to be the easiest, and worked our way up the snow filled gullies to the top lift shack.  At the top of the Palmer, we took a quick break for lunch, then continued up under beautiful blue skies.  By the time we reached 9000 feet, the snow depth was somewhere on the order of 18-20 inches, and we were pretty stoked…

Going up

Going up

The snow between Crater Rock and Illumination Rock looked best, so we headed that way, following the smooth gullies and staying clear of the rime covered ridges.  The snow on the upper mountain was soft wind packed powder, which made breaking trail easy….

Joe skinning

Joe skinning

Illumination Rock

Illumination Rock

The rime on the rocks of the upper mountain on Hood is always impressive in the early season, and such a welcome sight after the long dry months of summer.  Joe and I snapped a few pictures below the Steel Cliffs, but the pictures don’t do justice actually being there in person….

Skinning below the Steel Cliffs

Skinning below the Steel Cliffs

At the base of Crater Rock, somewhere near 10,000 feet, we decided to call it.  Clouds had been rolling in and out of the crater for the past hour, and it looked like the sun was starting to lose the battle for good on the upper reaches.  We hiked over a few feet to the ridge to get a look down into the White River before strapping in for November turns…..

White River

White River

After soaking in the views for a few minutes, it was time to drop in.  I was extra stoked, as the coming turns would mark a turns all year milestone for me — 120 months (10 years) of consecutive riding.  Joe dropped in first with my camera, and made sweeping turns down the smooth snow.  A few moments later, it was my turn…..

First turns of month 120

First turns of month 120

Matt ripping

Matt ripping the November pow

We skied the middle of the smooth snow down, working our way down adjacent to our skin track.  I snapped a few pictures of Joe as well, enjoying the November pow…

Joe's turn

Joe’s turn

Dropping onto the Zigzag

Dropping onto the Zigzag

The snow was good all the way down to the Palmer.  We passed one other skier a few hundred feet above the Palmer, but for the most part nobody else was around on the upper mountain.  It certainly was nice to ride some fresh snow again after months of corn and firn….

Matt

Floating on air

At the top of the Palmer we stopped to enjoy a beer and some lunch.  Soaking in the view from the top of the Palmer is always nice, but even with the fresh snow, it was shocking to look out and see how little residual snow made it through the summer — definitely a different look than normal.  After our quick break, it was time to shred another 2500 feet back to the car.  Following our skin track down the Palmer worked best, and the snow quality remained good…..

Our tracks

Track on the Palmer

Once we made it back to Silcox, we followed the road back down to the parking lot.  Riding the road was fast and fun, and allowed us the ability to catch a pow turn or two off the track where there weren’t too many rock sharks lurking.  I captured a few shots of Joe heading down, including the one below….

Heading home

Heading home

Back at the car, we enjoyed a well earned beer, as well as some other snacks, including my personal apres ski favorites — fresh homemade salsa from the garden and pickled halibut caught in the Pacific earlier this spring.  Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better day, nor a better way to log 120 months of turns all year!

October 5, 2014 – Mt Hood, White River Triangle

Fall has officially arrived in Oregon, and we’ve been enjoying a beautiful Indian summer during the first part of October.  Unlike last year, when a big storm blanketed the cascades in a fresh coat of new snow, the mountains are nearly bare right now.  Rather than chance waiting on a storm for October turns, Dan, Joe, Cindy and I elected to head to Mt Hood on what would turn out to be an unusually warm fall day.  After the usual stop at Joe’s Donut’s for a quick coffee refill, we pulled into the parking lot at Timberline.  Stepping out of the car, it was rather warm and hadn’t even approached freezing the night before.

Climbers lot view

Climbers lot view

We quickly sorted gear, strapped on skis and boards, and headed up the climbers trail towards the White River Canyon.  The wind was non-existent, and even though I was wearing light pants and a light long sleeved shirt I felt overdressed.  We made quick time to the base of the White River glacier…

On the trail

On the trail

Down below a group of 4 folks were ice climbing on some cool features at the foot of the east side of the glacier.  I made a mental note that late September/early October would be a good time to come back for an ice climbing session.  We climbed up to somewhere around 8000 feet and stopped for a quick break to rehydrate and snap a few photos….

Looking south towards Jeff

Joe and the view south towards Jeff

Cracks on the glacier

Cracks on the White River

We continued climbing, now with a good view of both the glacier and the Palmer snowfield.  I was surprised the lifts were running, as it appeared people had to not only upload to get to the top of the Palmer, but they had to take skis off on each run because there wasn’t enough snow on the mid-station ramp.  Near the top of the Palmer, Joe snapped a picture of Dan and I with the glacier in the background…..

Matt & Dan

Matt & Dan

Our plan was to just run a few laps on the Palmer, but as usual we got suckered into the White River triangle above the Palmer because the snow “looked so good.”  Joe and Dan switched from hiking to skiing boots, and we started up.  A few hundred vertical feet later, the snow didn’t look so hot.  In fact, we did a quick game of Rock, Paper, Scissors to see if we should continue up or not.  I won, which meant we continued climbing, so we did.  The snow got more cupped, so a few hundred feet from the top of the Triangle we called it.  Below is a picture looking back down from our high point.

Looking down over the White River

Looking down over the White River

While we were breaking and getting ready to head down, we heard a huge rumble and looked up to see a substantial portion of the Steel Cliffs crumble away in a landslide.  The three of us stared in awe, and my initial thought was I may need to run if this gets any bigger.  Fortunately, it didn’t, but this was by far and away the biggest slide/rockfall any of us had seen on Hood.  I can still see rocks the size of cars hurtling off the face as the slope slid on itself.

Joe skiing the triangle

Joe skiing the triangle

After the rock show, we headed down the triangle, and it actually skied better than it appeared.  The snow was soft and actually quite nice.  I dropped in first and setup to snap a few pictures of Joe as he followed.  Dan came down last, and I got a few pics of him as well….

Dan's turn

Dan’s turn

Skiing above the crevasses

Dan contemplating his line down

Along the part of the triangle there was a small patch of fresh snow left over from the few inches of snow that had fallen a week earlier, and I left it open for Joe and Dan to rip, knowing they’d be stoked on it.  Clearly they were, as the smile on Joe’s face below indicates…..

October freshies!

October freshies!

We were able to “ski” to the top of the Palmer, but the road along the top of the Palmer had melted out and the skiable snow was a few hundred feet below us.  As we hiked along the road to the lift shack, we met Chris with ski patrol and chatted him up for awhile.  He indicated the rockfall/slide on the Steel Cliffs had been felt with the area’s instruments, and was possibly triggered by a tremor.  After trading a few stories, Chris headed out towards the White River and we got ready to rip the Palmer.  As usual, the snow was creamy and sweet on the snowfield….

October turns on the Palmer

October turns on the Palmer

At the mid-station, we stashed a couple of beers in the snow and hiked back up under the chair, making good time.  Roughly 20 minutes later there we were again at the top of the Palmer.  Dan grabbed my camera and snapped a few photos of me while I ripped some sweet October turns…..

Second lap

Second lap

At the bottom of the snowfield, we met up with Cindy, who likes to hike up from below at her own pace, and took a rest while drinking our ice cold beers.  Riding down the Palmer canyon was a blast, but I was surprised at how little snow there was.  We made turns to the top of the Mile canyon, but that was all as the lower canyon was melted out.  So, the boards went back on our packs and we hiked down the road in temperatures that approached 80 degrees.

Back at the parking lot, it felt damn good to change into shorts and flip flops, and sip on a cold beverage, eat some pickled salmon, and feast on fresh chips and garden salsa.  All in all it was an excellent day with better than expected snow, and all of us were glad we got out early for October turns.  Now let it snow!

September 1, 2014 – Mt Hood, Palmer Snowfield

The calendar said September, so it was time to head to Mt Hood in search of some late summer corn snow.  After talking with Dan, we made plans to head to the mountain on Labor Day and meet up with Todd who was planning on getting a twofer on the 31st/1st.  So, on Monday morning, I met Dan and Cindy at the cop shot in Albany and we set out.  After a brief stop at Joe’s Donuts in Sandy for a power breakfast, we arrived in the Timberline Parking lot around 8:30 and found Todd waiting there to greet us.  The weather was sunny and nice, with a slight breeze to keep us cool.  In short order our packs were shouldered and we were hiking up the White River trail above the climbers lot.

Mt Hood on the approach

Mt Hood on the approach

 

Dan and Todd hiking along the White River

Dan and Todd hiking along the White River

Before long we reached the usual vantage point overlooking the White River Glacier, stopping briefly to soak in the views.  The glacier looked about normal for late summer, and had retreated quite a bit from our previous trip in early August.

The lower White River Glacier

The lower White River Glacier

 

White River Glacier Abstract

White River Glacier Abstract

Continuing up along the climber’s trail, we found a suitable spot just below the top of the Palmer that was out of the breeze and worked great for a quick lunch break.  After lunch, we continued up beyond the Palmer and onto the White River Snowfield as a few clouds began to form.  Around 9200 feet or so, snow conditions started to deteriorate so we elected to head down.

Break time...

The view from our highpoint

Todd dropped in first, and dropped a knee, and was followed closely by Dan.  After the two skiers were several hundred feet below me, it was my turn.  I put my camera back in the camera bag, tightened my binding straps, and enjoyed sweet September turns on Mt Hood.

Tele turns on the White River Snowfield

Tele turns on the White River Snowfield

 

Dan getting September turns

Dan following Todd

We regrouped just above the top of the Palmer, then cruised down the snowfield along with a few other paying customers from the Timberline ski area.  Palmer skied about as good as I’ve ever skied it in September, and we ripped it.

Turns on the Palmer

Turns on the Palmer

A few thousand feet later, we stopped at the top of the Mile and debated options.  Dan and I were game to head back up, while Todd was ready to head for the barn, so we bid Todd farewell as he skied down to the car.  Dan and I strapped our sliding gear back to our packs and started up for another lap…

Hiking for a second lap

Hiking for a second lap

Less than an hour later, we were enjoying a well deserved beer at the top of the Palmer, lounging in the summer sun watching European girls in bikinis ski by lap after lap.  Eventually, the hour reached 2:30 and the lifts shut down, and the general public deserted the mountain.  This was our cue, as riding the Palmer after it’s closed with nobody around is about as good as it gets in the summer.  Cindy, who was nearing the mid-station, called us from below, and with plans to meet up we headed down for a second lap…

More perfect snow

More perfect snow

Surfing the Palmer corn

Surfing the Palmer corn

The snow on lap two was as good as lap one — so good in fact, that after we met up with Cindy, we headed back up halfway to the top for another session.  This time, we ripped the snow as before, but Dan grabbed a beer on the way down he’d stashed at the mid-station and pounded it while executing a perfect ski turn……

Pounding a cold one on the run out

Pounding a cold one on the run out

The snow in the Mile Canyon on the way back to the car was great as usual, with the last 100 yards a bit challenging due to all the snowcat tracks.  Hiking out the trail down to the car, it dawned on me we’d skied nearly 5000 vertical feet on the day —- ot bad for September!

The snow's end

End of the snow

Sitting in the climber’s lot in flip flops and shorts, we enjoyed some of the season’s finest offerings, including fresh salsa I’d made the day before, cucumbers and dip, and a great pale ale from Good Life Brewing Co.  Reflecting on our day during the car ride home, we agreed that though September might not offer the best terrain options and snow conditions, what we skied this Labor Day will not soon be forgotten.

September 3, 2012 – Zigzag Glacier

Four thousand five hundred….a number I’d be thinking about in my mind all week after an excellent September ski day on Mt Hood.  My morning started early, meeting Dan at the park and ride at the Corvallis exit off Interstate 5 and carpooling north as the sun began to rise over the Oregon cascades.  After a few stops, we pulled into the parking lot at Timberline near 8:30 am, shouldered our packs and set out up the Magic Mile canyon shortly after 9:00 am.  As usual, the views of Timberline Lodge and south towards Mt Jefferson were spectacular.

Timberline Lodge & Mt Jefferson

Timberline Lodge & Mt Jefferson

Not wanting to hike under the ski lifts, we headed west towards the Little Zigzag Canyon, finding snow around an elevation of 6800 feet, though it was pretty badly cupped, most likely from previous skier’s whose tracks affected the melting snow.  Continuing up the snowfield and onto the Zigzag Glacier, we made good time to Illumination Saddle, arriving at noon.  The saddle is always a nice spot to take a lunch break and soak in the views to the west overlooking Illumination Rock and the Reid Glacier.

Dan enjoying lunch at Illumination Saddle

Dan enjoying lunch at Illumination Saddle

The Reid Glacier is always fairly exposed this time of year, making for some cool picture opportunities of the crevasses and cracks.  One particular set of crevasses near the top of the glacier caught my eye on this trip….

Crevasses on the Reid Glacier

Crevasses on the Reid Glacier

After lunch, it appeared the snow was just starting to corn, so we strapped into our sliding gear with the intention of heading to the east side of the Zigzag, which appeared to hold the smoothest snow.  To get there however, we had to descend from the saddle on pretty hideous suncups and cross an large area of snow with significant rockfall.  Here’s a shot of Dan skiing from the saddle…

September turns off the Saddle

September turns off the Saddle

Once on the east side of the Zigzag, we found a nice line which was mostly free of suncups and bumps.  Heading down, the turns were pretty nice – not quite as nice as August, but pretty nice nonetheless.  I snapped a few photos of Dan as he headed down towards me with the mountain in the background…..

Skiing below Illumination Rock

Skiing below Illumination Rock

September turns on the Zigzag Glacier

September turns on the Zigzag Glacier

We continued down the Zigzag to the point where the snow started to become discontinuous a few hundred feet above the Mississippi Head Cliffs.  Given the work and effort to get to this point, both Dan and I agreed it was time for a break to enjoy a frosty beverage in the sunshine…..

Enjoying a frosty Vitamin R

Enjoying a frosty Vitamin R

After enjoying a cold one, we had about a thousand feet of work to do before putting ourselves in a position to head back towards the car.  Opting to climb instead of skin, we made quick time to the snow finger linking the west side of the Zigzag Glacier to the east side snowfield.  At this point, the boards went back on our feet for some more fun…

September ski turns

September ski turns

Enjoying summer turns on the Zigzag snowfield

Enjoying summer turns on the Zigzag snowfield

Since the snow on the lower Zigzag snowfield looked iffy at best, we made the decision to descend only a few hundred feet, opting instead to traverse over and climb back up to the top of the Palmer snowfield inside the ski area, which proved to be an excellent decision.  Arriving at the top of the Palmer around 3:30, the lifts had shut down for the day and we found ourselves staring down at at nearly 2500 vertical feet of perfect corn snow with not a soul in sight.  Both Dan and I strapped in and started down on what proved to be the best snow of the day by far, hooping and hollering the whole way down.  After several hundred feet, we felt the need to stop and rest our burning thighs.

 

Turns on the lower Palmer snowfield

Turns on the lower Palmer snowfield

Continuing down the Mile canyon and beyond, the snow was excellent the whole way down.  Sweet turn after sweet turn, we able to descend to within a few hundred yards of the parking lot.  Total vertical for the day was right around 4500 feet, by far the most I’ve ever made in September with the assistance of a lift.  Sitting at home later that night and reflecting back on a perfect day, I know this trip will rate up there as one of my all time favorite September ski days!  Here’s a parting shot from the Mile Canyon….

Cruising down the Mile Canyon

Cruising down the Mile Canyon

 

August 8, 2009, Palmer Glacier

I was looking forward to August turns as I headed up to Mt Hood’s Palmer Glacier, where I met Todd to make some lift-served riding.  I had been up the week before practicing glacier travel and crevasse rescue on the White River Glacier and wished I’d had my board for the ride down.  The weather was sunny and nice and the snow on the Palmer looked good as we loaded the Mile lift.  We spun several laps on the snowfield and conditions were good.  As usual, there were a few race courses set up with Olympic caliber skiers practicing their skills, and lots of campers down below at the ski and snowboard camps.  There weren’t too many people just out enjoying the riding on the snowfield though.

For lunch, we headed all the way down riding deep into the Mile canyon, having to hike the last bit to the parking lot. The afternoon consisted of more turns, and after several thousand vertical, we called it a day and headed down to Govy for our usual standard of a beer and burger at the Ratskellar.  Summer turns on Mt Hood are always lots of fun!  Here’s a shot from the day…

August 2009 – Palmer Snowfield