April 28, 2019 – Hayrick Butte

As hard to believe as it was, April was winding down, and Dan, Joe and I wanted to get another day of turns in the books before the month came to a close. After getting shut down at our original destination due to an unexpected snow drift blocking the road, we headed over to Hoodoo where we knew there would be access. Driving into the snowpark, it looked like the eastside of Hayrick was holding good snow, so we decided to check things out….

Dan on the approch

It was a short skin out before switching to booting, and the slope was in pretty good shape, with only one snowmobile track on it. As we neared the top, the winds picked up considerably, but the views didn’t disappoint…

View from the summit plateau

After a 30 minute excursion hiking over to the opposite side of the summit plateau (it’s a lot bigger up there than I was thinking), we worked our way back to the skis and were ready to drop in. Dropping down through the top section we had to negotiate a spicy little chute, which was pretty fun, and then the bowl opened up and we were able to rip…

Dan dropping off the top

Skiing down below the crux

The turns were soft corn in the bowl, and we worked our way to the right where the snow was even more smooth, milking it all the way to the bottom.

Joe skiing Hayrick’s east side

Of course we decided it was worth heading back up for another lap. We set an easy bootpack, and within 20 minutes had climbed back up to below the crux and out onto a rock ledge that afforded a nice view of Mt Washington to the south. It was also a good time to pull the beer out of the pack and put it on ice….

Outta’ Line by Rogue Ales

Lap number two was even better than lap one, and we made turns down to the bottom before making a hard traverse back out towards the car.

Skiing in front of Mt Washington

Having done a couple of laps on the east side, we figured it was time to head over to Hoodoo and check out the snow there. Surprisingly, there was only one or two other tracks on the hill. We soon found out why as we skinned up — the winds were stiff and the snow firm. Skinning up the gut of the main bowl proved challenging. Once we made the top, we found some shelter from the wind in the sled tubes by the patrol shack.

Matt and Dan on top of Hoodoo

After hanging out on top and eating lunch, we skied down the east face in snow that was on the firm side of corn, and elected to put a couple of laps in on the west face of Hayrick.

Climbing Hayrick’s West side

Looking out to TFJ from Hayrick

The snow here was smooth and nice, and we made multiple “mini-golf” laps on the 200-300 foot slope. It was also sheltered from the biting winds we’d experienced at the top of Hoodoo.

Joe at the base of the cliff

Late April turns down Hayrick

To end the day, we climbed up into a small amphitheater bowl on the southside of the west face. Although it was a short climb, it was steep, and the scenery and the turns were pretty sweet!

Climbing Hayrick’s West Face

Skiing a steep pitch to end the day

We enjoyed the turns all the way back to the car, and were pretty stoked on the day. Sitting in the parking lot in the sun, enjoying a beer and some chips and salsa, all of us were looking forward to more days of spring corn to come.

 

April 11th, 2019 – Dusk Patrol at the Pass

The forecast looked promising, and given the time of year, Dan and I both agreed it would be best to take advantage of the possibility of fresh snow, because if we found some it was quite possible it might be the last of the season. We made plans to leave after work from Dan’s house, and didn’t leave Springfield until 5:00 pm due to traffic. We ended up being stuck in construction traffic two different times near Oakridge due to the recent landslides, and I had to drive like a maniac up the remainder of highway 58 to ensure we may have a chance to even get to ski. When we finally arrived at the ski area we had to burn another 15 minutes digging out a spot for the car at the gate.

Our parking spot at the Pass

Dan putting the skis on

All told, we didn’t leave the car until 6:53 pm. We skinned across the parking lot, by the patrol room, and started up By George. There was about 5-6 inches of heavy pow at the base, but breaking trail wasn’t too bad. Nobody was around, and it looked like we’d have a pretty good run if we could get to the top before it got dark…

Dan skinning by the patrol room

Looking back to the base

We ended up skinning directly up Timburr Glades and Timburr, at a pace that really wasn’t sustainable for more than an hour, which happened to be about how long it took us to make the top.

Skinning up  Timburr Glades

Looking back down Timburr

Relieved that we still had some daylight (at least for a few minutes), we quickly transitioned over to ride mode, chugged a beer, snapped a couple of quick photos, and dropped in…

Matt at the top of Eagle Peak

Beverage of choice for the evening

Our plan was to ski RTS, however, given the direction of the wind and how the snow was piling up nicely on our skin up Timburr we figured the southside runs might be better. We traversed over to RTS and found it was very scoured as expected, so we dropped into Success and it was cold smoke blower – some of the best turns of the season. I tried to snap a few pictures of Dan as he skied, but it was so dark everything turned out really grainy….

Dan skiing Success

After work April pow turns

We enjoyed face shots all the way down Success, then skied By George basically by braille as the light got darker and darker. The turns were superb all the way down, and by the time we reached the parking lot both of us were stoked! Back at the car, huddling in the cold, we both agreed that even though we only managed one run, it was well worth the effort for another great day at the Pass!

March 3-6, 2019 – Tam McArthur Rim, Three Creeks Huts

It’s hard to believe, but this year marked my 10th consecutive trip to the Three Creeks Huts with Three Sisters Backcountry. Over the years, there have been some pretty special trips with memories that will last for a lifetime. This year was no exception, and may have been one of the best to date.

As in years past, our trip started out with a carpool/caravan over to Sisters, with a quick stop for a cup of coffee before heading up to the Upper Three Creeks Snowpark, where we met the rest of our crew. This year’s crew consisted of Adam, Andy, Brian, Dan, Ethan, John, Mark, Mike and myself. We met Anna and Jonas a few minutes after we arrived, and loaded three nights worth of gear on the sleds for the haul into the huts. The weather was clear and cold, with sunny skies a welcome sight after nearly 4 feet of snow had fallen in the recent days.

Jonas heading up towards the Jellyroll

The ride into the huts went by quickly, and we soon were unloading gear from the sleds and organizing our living space for the trip. Six of us ended up in the Raven hut, while three other joined our new friends John and Glenda in the Owl hut. We wasted little time getting our huts in order, and set out on the skin track in search of some fresh snow. We skinned our way up towards the Jellyroll, which had slid big a few days earlier during the storm cycle.

Adam ripping some cold smoke

Jonas led the way, and it was nice to get some time on the skin track with him, chatting about the years past. As we worked our way up past the Jellyroll, it looked like the crown face was from two to five feet thick. Given that it has already slid, and the bed surface had about a foot of new light snow on it, we ripped skins and made some pretty stellar turns down the slope and then over into the Playground…

Dan skiing above the crown

Adam dropping into the Playground

As the afternoon progressed, we continued to enjoy several laps in the area, finding the snow very stable, as well as being light and fluffy.

Brian slashing a turn in the Playground

Eventually we worked our way back down to the huts to settle in for the evening. The first order of business was to grab a cold beer, followed by dinner prep. Mark and Mike brought the ingredients for the first night, and we feasted on some pretty tasty pasta. When dinner was over, I made some gourmet (at least for the backcountry) margaritas, complete with agave, triple sec, lime juice and fresh snow.

The Huts before sunset

After it had been dark for awhile, I headed out on the lake to give my wife a call, then came back to the huts and setup the tripod and fisheye lens. It took a few minutes to find a suitable subject, but the sauna and Raven yurt proved to be worthy. With the photo shoot complete, I headed in for another drink with the boys before we hit the sack in anticipation of a larger tour on day 2.

The sauna and Raven Yyurt

We woke on day 2 to crisp, sunny skies, and cold temps. Breakfast consisted of a variety of good food including bacon, eggs and sausage, which would provide the needed fuel for a big tour day. Once the dishes were done, we shouldered packs, stepped out of the yurts, and into our bindings.

Morning light outside the huts

After a quick beacon check, we hit the skintrack up through the forest. It wasn’t too long before the views started opening up of the surrounding peaks…

Brian with Mt Jefferson

Adam and Broken Top

The plan for the day was to hit Snow Creek and check out the conditions, so we worked our way out towards Broken Hand to look for a suitable drop in spot. The coverage was pretty nice, so we didn’t need to go all that far.

The “Powder King” surveying his domain

Mark and Mike skiing upper Snow Creek

Brian, John and Andy continued out further towards the Hand, and I stayed back to snap a few photos before dropping in. The pow was primo, and we ripped turns down through the basin, working our way down the drainage for about a mile before stopping for a bite for lunch in the sun.

Brian dropping in

Dan making turns

Our lunch spot was cozy, and it felt good to nice to warm up a little in the rays of the sun. After downing a sandwich, Mark and I headed out first to put in a skintrack for another lap. As usual, run number two was as good if not better than run one…

Skinning out of Snow Cr

Mark getting some second lap pow

Further into our second run, I wanted to hit a little feature I’d had my eye on, so Andy grabbed the camera and snapped photos of John and I coming down. Unfortunately the lens on the camera didn’t have the reach from his vantage point, so we settled for a couple of shots on the mellow slopes below the bowl…

Matt getting some of the action

The “Fish” in his element

To cap off our second run, I grabbed some shots of Brian and Ethan ripping. They’re both aggressive riders, and the shots turned out nicely…

Brian slashing on the Hovercraft

Ethan charging down Snow Cr

The group skinned back up one more time, with various goals in mind. Mark, Mike, Ethan and Adam headed back to the huts (Mark and Ethan were skinning out to road to head home, and had a long trip still in front of them), while Dan, John and Brian headed over to ski a different line they’d been eyeing. Andy and I decided to do another lap where we’d been skiing since the snow was so good.

Mt Jefferson from Snow Creek

Andy on lap 3

After three laps, Andy and I decided it was time to skin out and head back to the huts. I wanted to drop the western most bowl on Tam, so we skinned over to check out the conditions.

Andy skinning out of Snow Cr

Matt at the top of the west bowl

Standing at the top of the west bowl, we were a little concerned about how much snow had fallen in the previous week, but conditions had been proving stable everywhere we’d been skiing. There were four sets of fresh tracks down our line (we found out later they were from Jonas and Gabe, followed by Mark and Mike), with tons of room to still ski. I dropped in first, made a quick ski cut, and then enjoyed some of the best powder turns of the trip. Andy headed down after me, and I snapped a photo of him at the bottom of the steep section with a big grin…

Partway down the west bowl

We skied the rest of the bowl in good pow, then hit the dogleg towards the east for the exit and the snow got a little dicey from sun damage. The turns down to the bottom were still fun however, and soon we were at Little Three Creeks lake skinning back towards the huts.

Looking back up towards the Prow

Twenty or thirty minutes later, we hit the main lake and skinned back to the huts, about the same time as Brian, John and Dan were arriving from their ski back via the Playground. All of us were stoked on the day, and settled in to the hut life for the evening. More margarita’s were had, and dinner was courtesy of Rob who made a dinner but couldn’t make the trip. The usual bullshit session ensued after dinner, and we hit the sack around 10 pm in anticipation of the coming day.

Fisheye view of the hut

Day 3 dawned clear, but quickly clouded up as the morning progressed. We had another hearty breakfast of potatoes, eggs, and toast, and were soon out on the skins again to check out some more local terrain around the Rim. We made short work of the well worn skin track to the top of the Rim, and then toured out along the top looking for a suitable place to drop. Adam, John, Mike and I skinned out towards the Prow to ski a favorite line, while Dan and Brian wanted to drop off the Proboscis directly. Rolling over the top, we made a ski cut and then opened it up.

Adam skiing the Orchard Bowl

The turns were blower, and everyone was stoked. Adam and John headed skier’s left, and I headed over skier’s right to set up and snap some photos of Dan and Brian dropping from the Proboscis. A couple of pics are below, but don’t do a good job showing the scale and exposure of the line…

Brian dropping off the Proboscis

Dan skiing further down

We regrouped at the bottom, and Brian, Dan, John and I headed back up for another lap off the top while Mike and Adam stayed put in the bowl. The second line was equally as glorious as the first. For lap 3, we decided to skin directly back up the Orchard Bowl, which gave me a chance to test out my Karakoram Sender Plates at the upper steep section. They worked beautifully…

Climbing at the top of the Orchard Bowl

Matt riding in the Orchard Bowl

With three lines in the books in the Orchard Bowl, it was time to head to a different spot and find something else to play on. We decided that east was a good direction, which would allow us to play on a few cliff features, and finish up with turns down to the huts.

Hanging at the bottom of the Orchard

Brian airing over the rocks

We spent an hour or so shooting pics on a few small cliffs, and it was a good opportunity for me to shoot some interesting angles with the fisheye. When we tired of that, we finished up with a lap in the Playground through the eastside steep section and rode the skintrack back down to the huts.

Dan and Andy at the huts

Dinner for the third night was fish tacos, made by Andy and I. I brought along some halibut I’d scored earlier in the summer with my dad on an August ocean fishing trip, and we had all the fixings. Everyone was stoked, and I think this is going to become an annual tradition. More margaritas and mixed drinks followed, and as we crawled into our bunks, the stoke was high for some fresh pow in the morning.

We woke on day 4 to about 4 inches of fresh snow, and it was snowing as we fixed breakfast. The plan for the day was to stay local and check out the conditions in back of the huts. We skinned up towards the Playground and worked our way up to the Jelly Roll, where we were able to produce some shooting cracks off the top in the main section of the bowl. We cautiously backed away and rode a mellower line down to the Playground where we found good snow. A couple of more laps east of the Playground also produced good snow, and Brian sessioned a cliff for the camera….

Brian sending a Tam Rim cliff

By 1:00 pm or so, we headed back down to the huts, to get ready for the snowmobile haul out. Jonas and Anna showed up shortly thereafter, and we got the sleds loaded with gear and ready to go for our 2:00 pm departure.

The gang ready for the sled ride out

The sled ride out went without incident, and before long we were loading gear into the cars, our 1oth season at the huts coming to an end. We decided to finish our trip the way it started, with a cup of coffee and some eats at Angeline’s Bakery. Overall, this was one of the best trips yet to the huts, with some of the best snow we’ve had, which is saying something because we’ve had a lot of good snow over the years.  All of us are already looking forward to year number eleven!

Brian at the bakery

February 14, 2019 – Willamette Pass

I wanted to get some February turns in outside of ski patrol and Dan was game to take a half day off of work to head to the Pass for a little out-of-area play. The weather was looking iffy after a few days of decent snow, but we decided to head up anyway to see what we could find. When we arrived around 1:00, we were happy to see it was “snowing” although the flakes were pretty wet.

The Pass

We donned our gear in the patrol room and chatted a bit with Laurie and Kip, who confirmed the snow was pretty sticky. After a quick bite of lunch, we headed out to catch the lift, and made a quick run down Peak 2 before heading out to the sidecountry. The snow on Peak 2 was decent, and soon we found ourselves on the skin track. It didn’t take long and soon we were standing at the top of our first objective of the afternoon.

Matt at the Pass

Dan getting ready to drop in

Dan wanted to dig a quick pit to check out the conditions, so we did that and didn’t really find anything too interesting in the snowpack. With our curiosity satisfied, it was time to step into the bindings and make a few turns. The sun came out as we descended, and I snapped a few photos of Dan skiing….

Dan getting some February turns

Taking a brief rest on the descent

The snow actually skied really well, compliments of the steep slope we had chosen. Lower down, we eventually worked our way back to the resort boundary and down to the bottom of the lift. The snow became super sticky at the base, to the point of barely being able to slide, so we went in for a quick hot wax before heading back out. With a freshly waxed base, it was time to hit the lift again and make another run.  Within minutes, we were on the skin track again, and soon dropped in for lap number two. At the bottom, it was time to enjoy a well deserved cold beverage…

Cumulus IPA from Coldfire Brewing

The snow was holding well, so we skinned back up for another lap, with the hope of maybe hitting the Peak 2 lift before it closed at 3:30. This time on the descent, Dan grabbed the camera and snapped a few photos of me ripping down the slope…

Matt slashing a heelside turn at the Pass

In the whiteroom

Our second run was pretty sweet. At the bottom, we drank the rest of our beers we left from the previous run, then skinned up and out. Looking at our watches confirmed we wouldn’t make the final chair at Peak 2, but another run was still in the cards. We phoned Mindy, the P4 Hill Chief, to let her know we’d be down late and not to worry, then set out for one more run.

On the skintrack

Before we dropped in for our last run, the skies cleared just as the sun was setting above the clouds. I snapped the below shot of Dan before we headed down…

The sun above the cloud bank at Willamette Pass

Our final run down through the trees was really nice, as the snow was starting to sublimate as the temps cooled down. We worked our way back to the ski area, and headed down the empty runs towards the base. Skiing in a ski area after it’s closed is always a great treat. At the base, we headed back into the warmth of the patrol room, and found a couple of beers courtesy of P4 waiting for us. As we enjoyed our brews and snacked on some chips and salsa, both Dan and I agreed that taking the afternoon off from work was the right call!

January 6, 2019 – Willamette Pass

Sunday’s forecast looked to be promising earlier in the week, but that changed on Saturday, and neither Dan or I had real high expectations of a great day. Since we’d already made plans to head to the Pass, we figured it was worth the short drive up highway 58 to see how the day would develop. The snow phone was reporting 5 inches overnight, which was better than the snotels, so the morning was filled with cautious optimism. It was snowing hard when we arrived at the area, and continued to snow all morning long.

Dan heading out to a local stash

We ended up catching the first chair with Jensen and a couple other locals, as well as Joe who we met up with in the patrol room. The turns were pretty sweet, with about 8-10 inches of fresh on both the upper and lower mountain. We continued to pound out runs on both the front and backsides of the hill until about 11:30, then headed down for a quick lunch and to grab the skins for a little sidecountry action.

Turns outside the ski area boundary

Joe had to leave a little earlier that we did, so he stayed at the Pass, and Dan and I headed out on skins to check out one of our favorite local spots. Switching over to skins is always a good feeling after riding the lifts for a few hours, and the snow was light and deep underfoot — around 16-18 inches deep. A short time later, we were in position to drop in. After making a couple of ski cuts, it was time to open in up for some untracked powder turns…

Dan ripping the pow

Matt about to enter the whiteroom

The powder was some of the best in recent memory, and we both were stoked at the bottom of the run. It didn’t take long to change over to skins and head back up to do it all again…

Dan on the uptrack

Skinning outside the area during a snowstorm is always so quiet and serene. Less than a mile away hundreds of skiers are ripping it up and the lifts are noisily spinning, while outside the area the pace is calm, steady and quiet. We reached the top in short order, and enjoyed a quick break to drink a beer and transition before dropping in for more turns.

Matt back up top

Beverage of choice for the day

Our second line was as good as the first, and faceshots were had all the way down. We ended up making a third lap before it was time to head back to the car, and it continued puking on us all afternoon. By the time we worked our way back to the area, there was 20 inches of fresh snow on the ground.

More early January pow turns

Parting shot

We had enough time left to make a couple more runs in the area before the lifts shut down for good, and both of our legs were pretty burned by the end of the day. Sitting in the car in the parking lot, munching on chips and salsa, it continued to snow heavily. Neither of us could believe how good the day turned out to be, and it just goes to show, you never know what it’ll be like unless you go!