December 29, 2019 – Last Patrol Day of the Decade

Sunday, December 29th would be the final patrol day of the year as well as the decade, and I headed up solo to the Pass to enjoy a day with Patrol 2. Given the meager snow depth, it would be a lower mountain show for the second week in a row. Nevertheless, it was good to be on the hill making turns.

Ed, David & Todd at the top of Twilight

After the morning meeting, I headed out to the Twilight chair, and spun a few laps on Duck Soup, Timburr Glades, and Rough Cut. I caught a picture of Ed, David and Todd at the top of the chair with my new Canon f/1.8 50 mm lens that I’d got a couple days earlier, and then headed out to make the short hike to High Lead Glades. Hiking out to the glades reminded me of earlier years gone by, when I made the same trek with Dan and Joe in similar conditions…

Looking out towards High Lead Glades

Diamond from High Lead

When I got to the Glades, I was welcomed by a great view of Diamond Peak and some smooth snow on the run. I sat there for a moment or two, enjoying the solitude, before strapping in and enjoying some fun turns back down to the intersection with Timburr Glades. From there, I figured it was time to spin a few runs on the Sleepy Chair. In fact, I think it was my first time (while patrolling) spinning 3 laps on Sleepy…

The view from the Sleepy chair

Sleepy and Diamond

After the exertion that is demanded from Sleepy, it was time for lunch, and then an afternoon cup of coffee. On my way to the lodge to get said coffee, I snapped a few shots of the lodge with my new 50 mm lens…

The Lodge

The rest of the afternoon was spent spinning laps on Twilight, with one more hike out to High Lead thrown in for good measure. Even though we were only skiing on 10 to 12 inches of snow, the riding was pretty good, all things considered. At 4:00 pm, it was time for lower mountain sweep, and I snapped a shot of the closing crew up top before we headed out.

Closing Crew

David on Sweep

A short time later, sweep was complete, and after our evening meeting, it was time to head down the road and say goodbye to 2019. Here’s to hoping that 2020 comes in stronger than 2019 went out…..

Parting shot of the Lodge

 

December 7, 2019 – Willamette Pass

The forecast wasn’t looking so hot, but Dan was game to head up to the Pass with me since I had to be up there anyway to help out in the afternoon with chair evacuation at the makeup patrol refresher. We met at his house in the morning, loaded gear into the pickup, and headed up the highway. As we pulled into the parking lot, we were both pleasantly surprised at the coverage on the hill. It looked like about 8 inches or so of a wet, heavy base.

The Patrol Room View

We changed into ski boots in the patrol room, shouldered packs, and headed out. The plan for the afternoon was to do chair evacuation on Sleepy at 2 pm, so we needed to be back to the patrol room around 1:00 to eat lunch and prep. I headed out a few minutes before Dan and snapped a few shots with the fisheye, and then we headed up the skintrack.

A fisheye view of the frontside

We headed up KP, and it was obvious from the tracks that a week or two earlier the snow conditions were decent due to the old tracks in the snow. It didn’t look like anyone was around this morning however, and it was a peaceful skin up the trail. We worked our way up Eagles, and to the top of KP, where the view looking out across the tree farm towards Peak 2 showed just how dire the snow conditions were…

Dan near the top of KP

Dan was pretty sure the backside wasn’t worth visiting, as he’d been up there the past weekend and it wasn’t worth skiing. Since it really hadn’t snowed more than an inch or two, we didn’t have high hopes, but decided to head over just to stretch the legs and take a look. On the way, we stopped to admire the new saddle sled tube….

Matt and the new saddle tube

We continued on to Peak 2, and the snow stake was so low getting a reading wasn’t even possible, but it looked like the depth was about 12-14 inches. Northern definitely wasn’t skiable, but before we left, I suggested we skin over and check out Waldo. To our amazement, it looked decent, so we decided to give it a go. Dropping in tentatively, we made a few turns, and as we descended it became better and better…

Dan dropping into Waldo

Approaching the headwall

We approached the headwall tentatively, and it looked like there were a few dicey spots, but not too bad, so I gave Dan the camera and headed down. I hit one rock, but other than that, it rode clean and mash potato turns felt great!

Dropping in below the headwall

We skied down to the intersection with Down Under, and called it there since the snow became super slow and heavy. Up to that point however, the turns had been quite good, and both Dan and I regretted not arriving at the mountain an hour or two earlier since it was already approaching noon and we needed to head back up to get over to the base for our patrol obligations,

Matt on skintrack back up

We set a track back up Waldo, following our turns for a ways and then busting trail. Looking back at the views to the northwest, I had to marvel at the beauty of the Pass — something that’s easy to take for granted when you’re up there a lot. As we approached June’s, I peered over the edge to check it out and see if it would go, and the answer was a definitive no! As Dan approached, I snapped a photo to document what it looked like…

Looking out over June’s Run

Once we made it back to the top of Peak 2, we pulled the skins and skied over to EPA before skiing down the frontside. From the skin up, we both agreed that Eagle’s would be the best bet for the descent, so we headed out, dodging rocks and sticks on KP on our way to Eagle’s…

Dan skiing KP below the top of EPA

We dropped into Eagle’s and Dan had the camera, so he snapped a few shots of me dodging the trees and rocks on the way down. Conditions were definitely spicy, but the turns really weren’t all that bad. We were extra careful, and made it down without tagging any rocks or taking any spills…

Turns on Eagle’s

Working down Eagle’s

At Wayne’s World intersection, I headed on down to the base while Dan worked over to ski George. Just cruising down KP making turns was fun, and back at the base we were both pretty stoked just to be able to be fortunate enough to have been able to get out in the mountains for the day.

Comatose IPA from Goodlife Brewing

The rest of the day was spent leading chair evac, and it went off without a hitch. The day ended with Dan and I lounging around the patrol room with a few other patrollers, enjoying a beer while reminiscing about previous good days and looking forward to the season to (hopefully) come. Here’s a parting shot of June’s from the day…

Parting shot from June’s

 

November 2, 2019 – Mt Hood, Palmer Snowfield+

Even though the calendar said it was November, the weather felt more like late September. With sunny skies and warm temps in the forecast, Dan and I headed up to Mt Hood with hopes of scoring some fall corn. Travel up I5 went smoothly, and we pulled into the climbers lot around 9:00 am. In addition to the weather, the mountain looked more like September than November as well.

Hood from the Climbers Lot

We set out on the road towards Silcox, and it was fairly warm already, which meant the snow had a great chance of corning on the Palmer. As usual, the views south of Timberline Lodge and beyond were as scenic as always…

Looking out over Timberline Lodge

We worked our way up to Silcox and then the bottom of the Palmer. It was easy booting to the top of the Palmer, and we chatted up a cat driver for a few minutes before heading up a bit further. The snow above the Palmer was a bit on the rough and dirty side, so after a few hundred feet we decided to call it.

Above the Palmer on wild snow

We took a deserved break to enjoy the views, eat a sandwich and re-hydrate, and then it was time to rip. I headed down first, and made some enjoyable turns on the soft, dirty snow, and Dan followed as I shot pics….

Turns near 9,000 feet

Dropping into the Palmer

We worked our way down and then onto the Palmer, where the snow improved considerably. Dan grabbed the camera and took a few shots of me, and we enjoyed prime corn turns down to the bottom.

November turns on the Palmer snowfield

Matt enjoying November corn

The snow was in good shape, so of course we headed back up for another lap. The boot went quickly, and soon we were back above the top of the Palmer, enjoying the views back to the south of Mt Jefferson and beyond….

Dan above the Palmer Lift shack

Jeff and the Sisters

Our beer, which we’d stashed earlier, was now ice cold after being submersed in the snow for 45 minutes, and went down smooth. My beer of choice for the day was a 20 oz. Dale’s Pale Ale from Oskar Blues Brewing. After downing our beers in quick fashion, we were both a bit tuned up for our second lap, and felt like heroes ripping the smooth corn on the snowfield…

Dale’s Pale Ale

Matt cruising down the Palmer Snowfield

I ripped big fun turns halfway down the slope, then grabbed the camera from Dan and snapped several shots of him skiing the November corn.

Dan on lap number 2

At the bottom, we both agreed that a third and final lap was in order, and this time without packs. We booted back up the slope to a few feet shy of the top, and let ‘er rip one more time.

Turns on the Palmer sans pack…

Ripping turns through our bootpack

The snow on the third lap was equally as nice as the previous two, and maybe even a bit softer. We milked the turns down to the bottom of the Palmer, and regrouped where we’d stashed our gear…

November turns on Hood

Riding the residual snow on the Palmer

At the bottom of the Palmer, we spotted what looked like a finger of snow on skiers left that went way down through the gullies and avoided the Palmer “canyon” to the west, which had been littered with rocks and dirt on the climb up. We decided to give it a go, figuring we could ski at least as low on this route as we could on our ascent route.

Dan skiing below the Palmer

Dan skiing the snow fingers

The snow wasn’t the best quality, but for some reason we both enjoyed the hell out of it. Cranking turns through the tight, gritty fingers was pure joy, and beat the hell out of walking. We skied down way lower than we expected, and ended up only a few hundred vertical above the lodge.

Heading down towards the lodge

Surveying the final few turns

At the bottom of the snow, we were both stoked on the day, and made the short hike down the trail and back to the climbers lot, where more cold beverages and good food was waiting…

Looking back at the final pitch

Heading down the trail

Back in the lot, we did something I don’t think either of had ever done in November on Hood —- we pulled out the grill and cooked up some brats. Normally, we be hunkered down in the cold, with a few extra layers on, enjoying some chips and salsa along with a cold beer. This day however felt more like September, and the temps were in the mid-50’s at the lodge.

Grillin’ in the parking lot

The brats hit the spot, as did hanging in the parking lot in shorts and T-shirts. Even though we weren’t skiing powder, I think both Dan and I counted this as one of our better days of the year, given the uniqueness of skiing corn snow in November on Hood. Winter will be here soon enough, and one thing is for sure — when it comes, we’ll be ready!

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September 2, 2019 – Mt Hood, Zigzag Snowfield

Summer was flying by, and it was hard to believe Labor Day was fast approaching. As the calendar approached September, Dan, Joe and I made plans to head to Mt Hood for September turns. Labor Day itself was looking like the best day for turns over the long weekend, so we opted to head to the mountain on Monday to try and score some good snow. We made it to the climbers lot around 8:30 am, surprised to find it already quite full. By 9:00 am, our packs were shouldered and we headed up the road towards the Palmer snowfield.

Hood from the Climbers Lot

Dan & Joe below Silcox Hut

The weather was nice, not too warm, but definitely looking like the snow would be corning soon. In no time we arrived at the Silcox Hut, which made for a good spot to take a quick break for a snack and drink of water while enjoying the views.

Silcox & Mt Hood

Self portrait in Silcox Hut

We worked our way up and over to climbers left of the Magic Mile and Palmer Canyon, eventually climbing a hikers trail towards the top of the Palmer. At the top, it was an easy decision to head over and check out the Zigzag. The hike over to the snow took a bit longer than anticipated, but we held a good line across the dry barren slopes and eventually reached the snowfield. After stashing a bit of gear at the midpoint of the snowfield, we headed up to the top…

Looking back towards the Little Zigzag

At the top of the Zigzag

We hung around the top of the snowfield for a few minutes, soaking in the views and refueling with a quick snack, and then it was time to step into the bindings and rip a few turns.

Dan skiing past Illumination Rock

Matt cruising down the upper Zigzag

The snow on the upper snowfield was so-so. Not real smooth, but soft enough for some fun turns. Dan and I headed over towards skiers right while Joe skied down the left side of the snowfield. Dan and I hiked across some glacial till and found a smooth section of snow that made for several fun turns…

September turns on the Zigzag

Dan carving down the Ziggy

As we continued to descend down the slope, the snow started to get better and better. After more turns, we traversed across the slope back over to where we’d stashed some of our gear, including beers, which were chilling on ice. We enjoyed a cold one and then continued down…

Dan skiing the upper snowfield

The boys halfway down

The snow on the lower half of the snowfield became better and better the further down we descended. The lower 700-800 feet was absolutely excellent, and we all agreed it was some of the best corn we’d ever skied in September. I snapped photos of the guys as they headed down to capture some of the action…

Joe and Dan ripping the lower snowfield

We milked the turns down to the terminus of the snowfield. The final pitch was short and steep, and ended in glacial till. It was so good that Dan headed back up to ski it one more time while I snapped a few pics…

Dan milking the last turn

At the bottom, we were all stoked on the snow conditions. We checked our watches, and it looked like our timing was about right — by the time we hiked up and out of the snowfield and back over to the Palmer it would be about time to ski down the Palmer after the lifts were closed down for the season.

Looking out over the glacial ice

We donned our packs and started hiking back up. Joe was in the lead, with Dan and I behind. After a bit, we decided to head over and check out some of the glacial ice I’d noticed on the way down. It was interesting to see, and made me wonder how long it had been since that stuff had seen the light of day. I couldn’t help but think of how massive this glacier once was, and recalled the stories I’d read in history books on Mt Hood about the Zigzag being so large that mules were swallowed up whole in it’s crevasses during expeditions up to Illumination Saddle. As I turned to leave, something caught my eye — it was a half of a splitboard with the binding and skin still attached. I grabbed it and decided to lug it off the mountain rather than leave it. Hiking back up towards the Palmer, I found myself wondering what the story behind this find…..I’m not sure I’ll ever know….

Dan on the glacial ice

Looking south from the Zigzag

Back near the top of the Zigzag, we worked our way over towards the Palmer, crossing the barren rocky landscape. It was around 2:30 pm when we reached the top, and there was still a group of riders hanging at the top, stoked to be hanging at the top of the Palmer for the last run of the summer. After they polished off a bottle of whiskey, they headed down, leaving the three of us up top to enjoy a beer and the scenery before it was time to shred.

Joe ripping the Palmer

September turns on the Palmer

I dropped in first and snapped some pics of Dan and Joe, then Dan snapped several shots of me as we continued on down. The snow on the Palmer was excellent as usual — it was so good in fact that we ditched our packs and climbed back up for one more lap. The second go around was equally as nice as the first. Down at the bottom, we picked up our packs and continued on. We had to negotiate a few rocks,  and then cruised into the Palmer canyon. Carving turns in the soft snow in the September sun is always a treat, and we ripped the snow all the way down to the Silcox…

Carving September turns on the Palmer

Matt

Below Silcox, there was dirty snow in the Mile canyon, but it looked like it would go, so we decided to slide it. It was slow going in places, but it was better than hiking down….

Dan skiing the Mile Canyon

Turns in the Mile Canyon

We were able to slide about a third of the canyon before the snow ended, and then it was time to don hiking shoes in place of ski/snowboard boots. It was a short hike down to the car in the parking lot, and we could hear the Grateful Dead music playing as we walked down.

Dan milking the final turns

Back at the car, we pulled out all the offerings of the season, which included fresh chips and salsa, as well as a garden salads with all the ingredients. Sitting in the climbers lot in shorts, t-shirts and flip flops, eating like kings and enjoying a cold beverage, we all agreed this is one of the things we look forward to most in September!

Apres food offerings

Dan and Joe enjoying the afternoon

All in all, this was one of the best September’s we could remember for a variety of reasons. After finishing our beers and enjoying the food, we bid the mountain farewell, with high hopes for the upcoming winter season!