November 18, 2017 – Patrol Room Cleanup

The weather window for Saturday was lining up nicely with a scheduled work day for the patrol room cleanup, and Dan and I made plans to get to the Pass early to try to take advantage a couple of runs before the work started.  I got to Dan’s around 5:15 am, and we hit the road quickly.  By 6:45 am, we were gearing up at the base and enjoying a nice sunrise.  It was cold – around 22 degrees, and looked like 8-10 inches of cold, fresh snow had fallen.  Conditions were definitely going to be great.

Early morning at the Pass

Looking down from By George

The area had laid down a couple of tracks with the machine, which made for easy skinning not having to break trail.  Soon, we worked our way off of KP and onto Eagle’s.  At the top, we made the decision to ski Eagle’s before heading back up for a second lap from the top…the snow was just too good to pass up.

Dan at the top of Eagle’s

Coverage was excellent, and Dan grabbed the camera and headed down.  After he set up, I ripped some primo turns down the gut of run, exploiting the cold smoke.  Later, I returned the favor for Dan on the lower half of the run…

Ripping Eagle’s

Turns above Odell

After checking our watches and confirming we had time for another lap before needing to be down to the base, we skinned back up Eagles and then to the top of EPA.  The temps were staying cold, and the views were excellent as usual.

Atop Eagle Peak

We stashed a couple of beers in the snow in anticipation of returning in the afternoon, strapped in, and dropped into Success.  The coverage was great, and we ripped the steep slope all the way to the bottom.  The ski out via George down to the Patrol room was awesome as well…..nice, fast powder all the way.

Turns on upper Success

We skied right to the patrol room door, and met the rest of the small crew that was up for the day to help with the annual patrol room cleanup.  The rest of the morning consisted of checking out all the lift evacuation ropes, organizing the avy gear, prepping the rescue toboggans, making sure the radios were functioning properly, and a host of other patrol prep related activities.  Around 12:00 pm, we broke for lunch, and with the work mostly done, Dan, Todd and I geared up to head out for the afternoon.

The Cleanup Crew

An hour or so later, we arrived at the top of Peak 2.  There was about 42 inches of snow at the snow stake, and we agreed to ski a line on the left-hand side of Northern.  The snow on the northerly aspects was still light and fluffy, and the turns were great.

Todd skiing Northern

Dan getting some fresh pow

Halfway down the run, we worked our way through a choke point full of tall scrub trees, and continued on.  Everyone agreed on the skin up that Northern, and many other runs, are long overdue for a cutting party.

Todd skiing lower Northern

We were thinking of heading back to ski out the front and to the car, but Todd wanted to get one more run in, so we headed over to Destiny for one more on the backside.  Dan snapped photos of the action…

Destiny pow

Fresh tracks on Destiny

At the bottom, we donned skins and headed up Escalator one more time, with Todd nursing an injury (which turned out to be a broken rib) from a fall on the previous run.  We reached the top of EPA a few minutes later, dug out the beers we’d stashed earlier in the day, and enjoyed the views and a couple of cold ones.

The day’s offerings

Dan & Todd enjoying a cold one

Once the beers were gone, it was time to ski.  We’d been wanting to ski RTS all day long, and figured it would probably go given the snow conditions.  So, we strapped in and eased over the edge.  It looked thin, but doable, so we sent it…

First run down RTS

The snow was excellent.  There were quite a few obstacles, including rocks, trees, stumps, etc., but it was a damn nice run.  I even sent a small rock drop that is normally under several feet of snow.  At the bottom, I snapped a few pics of the guys enjoying the run…

Dan on lower RTS

Looking up RTS

We skied out Amber’s Way, and popped out on Rough Cut below.  Rough Cut looked excellent, so we continued down.  The two skiers went first, and I followed with the camera…

Todd taking a break halfway down

Skiing lower Rough Cut

We milked turns all the way back down to the car, and were pretty stoked on a 5000 foot day of powder skiing with a half day of patrol work thrown in.  All that’s needed now is a few more good storms, and it’ll be game on for the season!

November 12, 2017 – On-hill refresher

After spending all day Saturday practicing various outdoor emergency care scenarios in town, it was time for the patrol’s annual on-hill refresher at the pass.  This year was a bit different for me than previous years.  Since I’m going to be co-hill chief this year of Patrol 2, I didn’t spend the entire day leading the lift evacuation scenarios, which was cool because I got to spend some time doing rope work and other useful refresher activities.  Nevertheless, lift evac is the primary purpose for having the on-hill refresher, and Patrol 2 had our crack at it around mid-morning.

The first step is having the tower climber, Donny in this case, place the rope over the haul line.  I snapped a few photos of Donny looking small at the top of the Twilight lift with my wide angle lens. Lots of blue sky in the frame….

Donny on Twilight

With ropes placed and ready to go, we set about lowering everyone out and making sure all had a chance to get refreshed.  I snapped a few photos of the patrollers at work during our session….

Flipping the rope over the chair

Coming down

Once the lift was evacuated, the remainder of the day was spent reviewing avalanche, radio and search and rescue protocols.  Even though it was supposed to rain, the weather didn’t disappoint, with mostly sunny skies overhead all day…

View from the lodge steps

By 4:00pm, the day was nearly complete, and after getting all the gear put away, the refresher weekend was complete!  Now it’s just a matter of Mother Nature providing a few feet of needed snow, and the 2017-2018 season will begin!

Willamette Pass Lodge


April 1, 2017 – Willamette Pass, 80’s Day

April fools day at the Pass also happened to be long anticipated 80’s day, and it didn’t disappoint.  After meeting Dan early and making the quick drive up highway 58, we arrived at the patrol room around 7:45.  The great powder snow I’d found a couple days earlier with the family during spring break was gone, replaced with the typical spring mank.  Nevertheless, it was going to be a good day, and we set out to open the mountain.

Dan and I found some good tree skiing after opening for our first couple of runs in the trees between High Lead and Good Time Charlie.  It was soft enough for enjoyable turns, not having froze the night before.  After a few more runs, we took a quick break and checked out the scene at the base area.  I arrived in time for the snowball toss contest, and snapped a few photos of the players in their 80’s gear….

Some of the 80’s Crew

I had an 11:00 bump at EPA, and headed up a few minutes early to get there on time.  The weather, although overcast, was pretty warm, and it was pretty nice hanging out up top.  I snapped a few pics and them made myself comfortable for a few…

Top of EPA

Living the easy life

While lounging in the sled, I kept watching folks spinning laps off of EPA.  One group in particular caught my eye — some folks I’ve seen up at the pass over the years.  Their clothing was spot on for 80’s day…so I snapped a picture of them standing up top with Ed.  Right after that, Kerstin got off the lift, so I snapped a few shots of her too….

Ed and the 80’s crew


When bump was over, I made a quick run down RTS, which was in deceqnt shape.  The shenanigans were still happening at the base when I pulled up for lunch.  DJ Toby was spinning records and the beer garden was open, and people like Quin (below) were hanging out…

Quin at the base

DJ Toby

I headed in to eat some food, and then wandered out to listen to some music for a bit before hitting it hard the rest of the day.

The aid room door

I linked up with Dan for the remainder of the day and we headed out to Peak 2.  We skied a couple runs on Waldo and Junes, and the snow was sticky.  A quick rub-on was helped quite a bit.  Below is a shot of Dan looking into SDN…

Dan contemplating SDN

Matt atop Waldo

We finished the day running laps on Timburr with Peter, as well as a couple runs down RTS.  Timburr had been groomed a few days earlier, and the terrain park with the modest jumps provided some entertainment for me on the board.

Making turns on Where’s Waldo

Dan skiing above Odell Lake

The day ended with a fun sweep down the lower mountain, and then beers in the patrol room after the evening meeting.  It must be close to the end of the year, because everyone was enjoying the apres ski for sure, with the usual bs and talk about spring mountaineering objectives still to come.  One thing is for sure, it’s been a great year so far, but it’s not over yet!

February 25, 2017 – P1 Fun

It was a couple days before our annual hut trip to Tam McArthur Rim, and the conditions at the Pass were as good as they had been all winter.  I was up for a Patrol 1 day, having switched with another patroller so I could spend Sunday packing for the huts.  After carpooling with Brian and Shannon to the Pass, we arrived at the patrol room greeted by fresh groomers and a healthy base.  The morning meeting went quickly, and soon we were out in the sun opening the mountain.  Brian found some gnar on the backside and decided to drop in while Shannon snapped pictures…

Brian going big

We spent the remainder of the morning enjoying some of the powder stashes left on Peak 2 as well as the Big 4 on the frontside before heading in for an early lunch.  John was grilling burgers and brats, which hit the spot after a morning of fun turns.

John grilling — photo by Brian

After lunch, we spent the remainder of the day before bump and sweep enjoying the cold snow on the backside.  Brian grabbed my phone and snapped a few photos of me surfing some of our favorites spots riders left of Where’s Waldo run…

Afternoon pow at the Pass

Untracked Willamette Pass snow

All in all, it was an excellent day and a great primer for the upcoming hut trip to Tam McArthur Rim!

Level 1 Avy Class, WPSP

It was hard to believe the first week of February was here, but it was, and it was time for level 1 avalanche class at Willamette Pass.  This year’s class had 6 students, and we had several instructors to cover the large quantity of material required by NSP to meet the 32 hour requirement.  With the classroom sessions already in the books, our group met on Saturday the 4th at 8:00 and headed to the top of EPA shortly thereafter to begin fieldwork with beacon practice.  We staged off of Boundary, and I snapped a few photos of the action, including patrol heading by us to open Peak 2…

Patrol heading back to open Peak 2

Students learning to follow flux lines

After a couple hours of beacon work, including small group rescue, we skied down Boundary to the back of Lighthouse Knob for some stability tests.  Students dug pits and performed shovel shear, compression and extended column tests.  We even threw a Rutschblock test in for good measure.  The tests yielded some interesting information.  With about 6 inches of snow on top of a crust layer, we found failures on the compression tests after 6-8 taps.  Extended column tests failed, but didn’t propagate…

Stability testing

After the snowpit tests, the students did some more beacon work and I slipped away for a few runs in the fresh snow during lunch.  The turns on Peak 2 were excellent.  Below is a shot of Laurie on Boundary after we finished the stability tests…

Laurie on Boundary

After lunch, it was time for spot and formal probing.  Laurie, Matthew and Joe had setup a nice simulated avalanche, and the students spent some time tromping around the slide, probing clues and likely catchment areas.  After they’d exhausted spot probing, it was time for an organized probe line….

Marking clues

Organized probe line work

Once the probe work was done, we finished the day off on the frontside doing small group rescue.  Working our way down Eagle’s Flight, the students alternated hiding beacons, then finding them and digging them up.  Looking out from Eagle’s, I noticed Odell Lake was starting to ice up, something I haven’t seen in the last several years…

Looking out to Odell Lake

Back down at the aid room, it was time for a well deserved beer.  Dan and I headed out around 5:30 and made our way to the cabin.  There was over 3 feet of snow on the cabin roof, and the weight of snow on the roof made it difficult to close the cabin door:)  After starting a fire and getting our gear drying, we made the short drive down 58 to Manley’s for dinner.  A cheeseburger and margarita hit the spot, and then it was time to head back to the cabin for the evening.  The next morning came quickly, and we took the class out to do an actual avy route on Peak 2.  Here’s a shot of the students and instructors before dropping into Dragon’s…

The class and instructors

After showing the students the ropes (literally) and ski cutting some of the sketchier slopes on belay, we skied the meadow and broke out into small group for touring, which included route selection, stability testing, beacon searching, etc.  I was tasked with getting the final scenario ready, so I hit up a few runs out of bounds with Dan before getting to my duties.  Around 10:30, we geared up to get the scenario ready.  Here’s a shot of Dan and Matthew, who helped set up the scenario, at the top of EPA…

Dan & Matthew atop EPA

Setting up the “scenario” includes trampling up some of the best snow on SDN, about 70 yards long and 25 yards wide.  Trying to simulate an actual avalanche, we stomped out a crown, flanks, and a big toe at the bottom.  Then we put out several “victims” including two deep burial beacons, and three other buried carpeted boards in various places in the slide to be found by either spot probing or probe line.  Several clues complete the scenario.  Around 1:00, we met the class at the top of Peak 2 and it was game time.  Laurie led the scenario, and an hour later, the class had found all the victims using the skills gained over the weekend.

The final scenario

We were done by 2:45, including debrief, and it was time to finish the weekend off with some turns down through some of the best tree runs in Oregon.  Brian joined me, and we made 4 or 5 laps in the soft snow of SDN.  Each run was excellent, and I snapped a few photos of Brian in action….

Brian ripping the trees

Last run

Our last run right before sweep was the best of the day, and a perfect way to cap off a great weekend of training and riding.  I’m already looking forward to more pow turns at the Pass!