Cutting at the Pass – 10/21 & 27

October 2018 was quite different from October 2017, so with no new snow to ski and warm temperatures dominating, Dan, Joe and I were looking for some exercise. We decided to take advantage of the weather window to do some cutting at the Pass in the hopes that it would pay dividends later in the winter. Prior to heading up on the 21st, I checked in with management to make sure they were ok with us doing some work in the area, and they gave us the green light. The following morning, we headed up, with the goal of doing some work on RTS.

Stopping for a quick break on the drive up

Dan’s truck made short work of the rough road, and we soon had ‘er parked most of the way up Amber’s Way. Heading out to cut with saw and pack almost felt like we were going out for a ski, but not quite…

Ready for a day of work

As we rounded the corner we got a good look at the run and what we’d be in for. The trees were thick, especially in the middle part of the run.

RTS before our work

The morning was spent working on the lower part of the run cutting shorter trees that had been lopped off the previous year about two feet from the ground.  After running through a few tanks of gas and oil, we started gaining ground on skiers left and began working up the run.

Joe working on some smaller trees

My Stihl on RTS

Wallowing around the steep slope with a chainsaw in one hand and pack in the other was somewhat challenging. The three of us cut until about 3:00 pm, and then worked our way back down to the truck…

Joe cutting near our high point for day 1

Matt laying waste on RTS

I snapped a few photos from the bottom of RTS, including the one below that shows our progress for the day. We made it about halfway up the run, as well as about halfway out.

RTS after day 1

With the work over for the day, it was time to relax and enjoy a cold beer and some fresh garden salsa. Sitting in the 65 degree sunshine was a start contrast to the cold deep powder we were enjoying a year earlier (almost to the day) a few miles from our present location.

The three essentials — saw, salsa and beer

Dan and Joe after a hard day’s work

With the day’s work done, we decided to take a drive around the area to see how it was looking — we’d heard that management had done quite a bit of work to the runs. As we headed up the haul road and got a look at the frontside runs, we were stoked. Timburr, High Lead, Charlie’s and Eagles were all baby butt smooth, with not a tree in sight. From the looks of it, they would be skiable much earlier than in year’s past. We eventually worked our way up to Peak 2 for a view, and were surprised and happy at the sight of new chairs at the top. The pic below was taken at Peak 2, with some of the new chairs on the lift and the rest on the ground. 

Peak 2

Satisfied with our work for the day, we left the area, but made plans to come up the next weekend to try and finish cutting a swath all the way to the top of RTS. After posting a picture on Instagram, Liam was interested in helping us out, and John was also game, so we made plans to head up on Saturday the 26th with a crew of five for a second day of cutting. Like the previous weekend, we drove up towards the top of Amber’s Way and set out to work. The weather was a bit cooler, and it had rained the day before, so the cutting conditions were definitely a bit on the wet side.

Dan way up on RTS

With five people, we made more progress than we were hoping for. It didn’t take long and we cut our way to the top of the run, and even made some good progress on skier’s right.

Liam cutting over some steep boulders

After running through about 5 tanks of gas, it was time to call it quits, and we trudged down the run which was now littered with cut trees. Going down was harder than going up, but we were all pretty stoked on how the run looked when we got to the bottom…

RTS after day 2

Like the previous week, we enjoyed some more fresh salsa and a couple of beers, before heading home for the day. Satisfied with our work on RTS and with how well the Pass was looking overall, we all agreed that all we needed now was a couple feet of fresh!

October 7, 2018 – Mt Hood, Palmer Snowfield

The stoke for fresh snow was running high, and with October turns looming for the weekend, dreams of powder turns from 10,000 feet back down to the lodge at Timberline were in my mind. Unfortunately, the storm came in warmer and drier than forecast, depositing only a few inches of fresh snow at the higher elevations of the mountain. Not to be denied, Dan, Joe and I made the best of it, and met up on Sunday morning. After meeting Joe at the Cop Shop, we headed up I5 and pulled into the climbers lot around 8:30 am. 

A light blanket of October snow on Mt Hood

Unlike the previous months of August and September, the air had a chill to it and the skies were a cloudy gray instead of sunny blue. After milling about the parking lot for a few minutes sorting gear, we shouldered packs and headed up the road towards Silcox.   

Looking out over Timberline

It didn’t take too long to reach Silcox, and once we did it was time to start up the dry Palmer Canyon. A few hundred feet above Silcox, a several hundred foot long “snow” patch allowed booting on snow. A couple of snowboarders were descending as we were heading up, and the firm, icy snow made the turns look like shit. After chatting with them for a bit about conditions up higher, we continued up.

Joe climbing the “snow” patch above Silcox

Dan hiking below the top of the Palmer

As we neared the top of the Palmer, the sun tried to poke through the clouds, and the icy firm snow appeared to soften ever so slightly. After a few more minutes of hiking, we topped out at the top lift shack and the impressive views looking out to the south.

The view from the top of the Palmer

The skies started to sock in higher on the mountain as we readied ourselves to drop in, and soon started to spit snow. I dropped in first, found my way through the rocks and onto the snowfield proper, and set up to snap a few photos of the skiers as they came down. Joe came down first, followed by Dan…

Joe skiing the Palmer

Dan scoring some October turns

We skied down a bit further, and Dan grabbed the camera and snapped a few photos of me. The snow quality was firm but softening, and so smooth that it skied awesome. We skied down to the “road” at the mid-station, and all of us were stoked on the conditions.

October shredding on the Palmer

At the bottom, everyone agreed another lap was in order, so we threw the boards on the packs and booted back up. The weather held nicely, and soon we were enjoying another round of October turns. This time the snow was even softer, and skied like perfect corn…

October turns on the Palmer

Matt scoring turns on a second lap

At the bottom, it was time for a quick break and a well earned cold beverage. My beer of choice for the day was a Fresh Squeezed IPA from Deschutes Brewing Co. After discussion, we agreed it was drink half now, head up for a third lap, and drink the remainder when we got back down….

Beer

Our third climb and ski went quickly, and the turns down on the third lap were probably the best of the day. Once we were back down to the beers, we loaded up our gear and skied down the “road” to the mid-station in preparation for the down climbing to the “snow” patch below…

Dan and Joe at the bottom of the Palmer

Dan at the end of the “road”

The hike below the mid-station down to the “snow” patch below was longer than all of us remembered on the climb up. Eventually we worked our way down to the “snow” and it was time to “ski” again. The turns were challenging, and we skied down way to far — all the way to the end of the filthy dirty snow. At the bottom, I looked at my base and it was in definite need of some TLC.

Hiking down below the mid-station

Skiing the “snow” patch down towards Silcox

At the bottom of the patch, we collected what was left of our skis, loaded them onto packs, and made the hike back down to the parking lot below. At the car, we enjoyed some of the season’s offerings, including fresh garden salsa, salad and of course another round of cold beers.

Snowcats ready to go when the new season arrives

Apres at the car

Sitting at the car, watching the fog roll in and out, we all agreed it was an excellent day of October turns. Furthermore, we all agreed it’s time for the snow to fly and for the new season to begin!

August 1, 2018 – Mt Hood, Zigzag Glacier

After one of the hottest July’s on record, August finally arrived and Dan and I decided to head up to Mt Hood to get some summer turns in. We left the southern Willamette Valley early, and arrived in the Timberline parking lot around 8:30 am to find conditions on the mountain looking more like September than August.

Mt Hood, August 1, 2018

It was already warm in the parking lot as we set about getting our gear organized, and a few minutes after 9:00 am we shouldered packs and headed up the trail. Conditions were dusty, but we made good time up the trail, eventually working our way up to the ridge over looking the White River Glacier.

Dan on the approach

The White River Glacier

The White River looked smaller than in previous years, and it was obvious the warm summer had taken it’s toll on the glacier. Dan and I both mused what it might look like in September or October if the weather didn’t change. We kept booting up the ridge, and soon came to the top of the Palmer. Another 5 minutes of hiking put us on the lower section of the White River snowfield, where we switched out of hiking shoes. The spot we stopped was adjacent to a large crumbling crevasse, which may have been melting from the inside out, and it made for a good shot to shoot a few pics….

Close up of the crumbling glacier

Matt adjacent to the crumbling glacier

After snapping a few photos and catching a quick bite to eat, we booted up the White River snowfield, staying on climber’s left to steer clear of the crevasses. The snowfield itself didn’t look to fun in terms of skiing, being dirty and rather bumpy. Around 9300 feet, we decided it was worth traversing west across the rocks to see what the Zigzag looked like. 15 minutes later we found the answer…..it was money!

Looking down the Zigzag

Dan clicked into his skis, and I strapped into my board, and we dropped in. Dan snapped a few photos of me ripping the corn, and I returned the favor shooting a few pics of him a little further down…

August turns on the Zigzag

Dan skiing on Hood

The snow was pretty sweet on the upper slopes of the snowfield, but as we descended, it became even better and turned into some of the smoothest, most perfect corn we’d shredded all season.

Dan skiing the Zigzag

Turns below Illumination Rock

We continued to milk turns, skiing down around the bend of the Zigzag to an elevation around near 7000 feet for a total vertical on the run of somewhere around 2300 feet. Not bad given the overall snow conditions in the Oregon cascades this summer.

Dan skiing a wall feature on the lower Zigzag

Looking back at our turns

At the bottom, we enjoyed a well earned beer — my choice was a Pineapple Kush from Cascade Lakes Brewing Co. — and then started the long boot back up. It didn’t take too long, and we worked our way over to the top of the Palmer for an exit ski out to the car.

Hiking out from the Zigzag

The lifts had closed an hour or so earlier, and we sat around up top for a few minutes to enjoy the views before dropping in for some more turns. It’s always fun ripping the summer snow on the Palmer snowfield, and I snapped a few pics of Dan as we cruised down.

Dan skiing the Palmer

Turns below Silcox

The snow below the Palmer in the Mile Canyon was a bit on the slushy side, but we weren’t complaining. Both of us were stoked that the snow extended down to a few hundred vertical above the lodge, and took full advantage…

Matt riding the Mile Canyon

Dan below a timberline snowcat

Once we made our way to the bottom, it was a short hike back down through the tourists to the climbers lot where cold beer, garden salads and fresh salsa was waiting. Changing out of ski and snowboard boots sure felt good, and it was nice to sit in the parking lot in flip flops, shorts and t-shirts. All in all, both of us were stoked on how the day exceeded expectations, and were already looking forward to September and what it would bring.

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