April 17, 2016 – Mt Bachelor

April was a busy month.  Work was hectic, budgets were due, and I took a week long vacation to Southern California to visit the mouse with the family.  And, we bought chickens, so several days were spent building a coop and run to house our new feathered friends.  I found myself needing a break from snowboarding after a grueling winter of ski patrol, and was really enjoying working around the house and property, getting the yard in shape and the garden in.  I did manage a couple days at both Willamette Pass and Mt Bachelor, but didn’t pack the camera with me.  Being able to free ride lifts in the corn snow without the weight of a pack and camera was pretty dreamy.  I actually only took one photo of snow the entire month of April, from the summit of Mt Bachelor on a perfect sunny morning.

Oregon volcano lineup

Oregon volcano lineup

Spending a couple days making runs with a few close friends down the likes of SDN and White Russian at Willamette, and the Cirque Bowl and the Southside at Bachelor, in great April corn snow, reminded me of great days from past years.  With the month of April past, and the busy season at work wrapping up, I’m definitely ready to head back out again for some more riding.  Conditions are shaping up to be an awesome May and June!

March days at the Pass

Winter decided to make a return to the northwest, and Dan and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for powder at the Pass, especially since neither of us were on duty on Sunday.  We hit the road early, and made it to the Pass before the lifts were spinning.  8-10 inches of fresh snow greeted us, however it was warmer and heavier than expected.  Nevertheless, we made a couple of fun runs on RTS, with ample face shots the reward for our efforts.  Due to all the new snow from the previous day and night, we headed over to Peak 2 to help out with opening.  The run down Northern was nice, and then after a bit of avy control, shoveling and fencing work, Peak 2 was open to the public.  We made pow runs until it became tracked up around 11:00, then headed down for lunch.  After lunch, I grabbed the split and we headed out for the backcountry, with it still snowing hard…

Patrol Room

Patrol Room

We skinned out to our destination, and discussed which line to drop first.  We decided on a line near the trees in case there was any lurking wind slab avalanche danger.  The turns were fun, albeit a bit heavy.  Dan and I took turns on the camera snapping photos…

Pow surfing

Matt surfing the pow

Dan

Dan on the uptrack

After our first lap, we elected to skin rather than boot given the depth of the new snow.  Back at the top, we enjoyed a cold beverage before dropping in for laps number 2 and 3…

Dan

Dan getting some

Matt

Matt slashing the mank

We skinned out to the area around 3:00, and were just in time to enjoy a nice pow lap down SDN.  Our timing wasn’t too great however, as we ended up getting roped in to a search with patrol for a lost party.  Dan and I ended up with the assignment of breaking trail along the cross country trails towards Gold Lake since we had our backcountry gear.  Around 7:30, after several hours of searching and wading through waist deep snow, the lost skier was found (he’d somehow skied out of the area to the Waldo Road, then walked out to Highway 58 and hitched a ride back to the area).  A snowcat from the area picked Dan and I up and gave us a heated ride a couple of miles back to the lodge, where cold beer was waiting.

Dan

Dan skinning out through the woods

The following weekend I found myself back at the Pass for a Level 2 avalanche class.  The weather was nice on Saturday, so we toured out to West Peak with the group and charted the area, testing the snowpack with various snow pit tests, and generally had a good time.

Avy 2 Class

Avy 2 Class atop West Peak

The snow was deep, and in one place I lost a 230 cm probe and had to dig down 4 feet to find the top!  We skied a few lines on West Peak in marginal snow conditions, and generally enjoyed touring outside the area.

Brian & Moth

Brian & Moth in the pit

The remainder of the class went well, with beacon drills and organized rescue scenarios on Sunday.  It’s a relief that the training is finally over, and the end of the lift serviced ski season is in sight.  While it may be bittersweet, I’m already looking forward to my most favorite season of all — volcano season!  Here’s to a great spring!

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 —- not 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.