June 19, 2017 – Mt Hood, Newton Clark Headwall

I‘d had Mt Hood’s eastside on the brain for the past couple of weeks, and was stoked when Dan and I could finally coordinate our schedules for a trip to the mountain.  Dan swung by my house on Sunday evening around 5:30pm, and we loaded our gear and headed north towards Hood.  After a quick stop in Sandy for dinner, we were treated to a great view of the mountain on our way up Highway 26.  There was a ton of traffic on the road, and I had to wait about 10 minutes to get a shot without any cars in the picture…

Mt Hood on Sunday evening

We continued on around the mountain, and ultimately ended up deciding to sleep at the White River Snowpark after scoping out the area around Meadows.  It was about 9:45pm or so by the time we finally settled on a place to camp, and being so close to the solstice it was just getting dark.  Dan found a nice patch of hay along the asphalt to pitch his tent, and I camped out in the back of the car for the night. We woke early the next morning at 3:20am, packed camp, ate breakfast and made the short drive to Meadows, departing the car around 4:10 am.  We were able to skin right from the parking lot, and made good time up towards the top of the ski area.

Morning alpenglow at Mt Hood Meadows

Looking up at the Objective

It didn’t take too long to make it to the top of the Cascade Express, and the morning alpenglow and following sunrise were beautiful as always.  I really enjoy the vistas from high up on the east side of Mt Hood, especially the glistening shine of the mighty Columbia River in the morning light.  Given my family settled in the Sandy area in the late 1800’s and came across on the Oregon Trail, I always think about the pioneers and the challenges they faced when I see the Columbia from high up on Hood.

Sunrise over the Columbia Basin

South view to Mt Jefferson

After the sunrise, we continued working our way up the mountain, booting along the exposed ridge below the Wy’East Face.  Snow conditions were pretty soft for the most part, and it was refreshing when we made it to the point to get our first view of the Newton Clark.  Around 9000 feet, we switched over to crampons, and battled a stiff wind as we continued the climb.

Dan going up

About 500 feet below the top of the Wy’East Face, we had a very close call with some rock fall.  Snow conditions were soft, but not overly soft, and I thought we were doing good as the time was right around 8:30am.  Turns out a few rocks from the saddle above us had loosened enough to break free and hurtled down the slope at frightening speeds, missing Dan’s knee by mere inches.  We moved further out onto the face proper, picked up our pace, and topped out shortly thereafter, enjoying the stellar views into Mt Hood’s summit crater….

Looking into the Crater

Dan and I had been talking all morning about skiing the Newton Clark Headwall, but Dan was a bit unsure about going further given our time around 9:15am.  Knowing Dan was a big Sylvian Saudan fan, and wanting to ski the headwall, I causally mentioned that the headwall was first skied by Saudan in the 1970’s in a famous first descent well publicized by the media.  That was all it took, and we hiked the short distance out the ridge.

Looking down the Newton Clark Headwall

High on Mt Hood

Looking down the line, both of us were stoked, and knew we were going to drop it.  We snapped a few pictures, but otherwise wasted little time, not wanting to let the warm sun soften the snow anymore than it already had.  Dan dropped in first, and made a ski cut before settling in for some enjoyable steep skiing…

Dan dropping in

After watching Dan ski down to a safe spot, I dropped in an enjoyed some excellent steep corn turns of my own.  I was super stoked on the conditions and the ride down.  When I got to Dan, he grabbed the camera from me, skied down a ways and then motioned for me to come down so he could shoot a few photos.  The results are below…

Shredding the steeps

Turns above the crevasses

The headwall itself is a couple thousand feet of steep turns and definitely the highlight of the run, but the remainder of the Newton Clark and the Superbowl below aren’t too shabby either.  After the headwall, we started a long traverse across the Newton Clark, and negotiated our way around several large crevasses, eventually reconnecting with our up route.

Skiing the steeps

Dan and Mt Jefferson

I stopped a couple of times during the traverse across the Newton Clark to shoot pictures of Dan, who was leading the way and was looking really small on the big slope….

Feeling small on the Newton Clark

We eventually worked our way down and out of the danger of crevasses, and were really able to open in up in the nice snow.  Earlier in the day we’d made the decision to ski the Super Bowl all the way down into Heather Canyon, so we cruised on down, snapping a few pics and enjoying the corn.

Corn harvest on the Amplid

Dan working his way down

We skied through an hourglass feature at the bottom of the Super Bowl and then into Heather below.  The snow conditions stayed very nice through the descent, and we worked our way down to the bottom of the canyon where it was time for a well deserved break.

Turns in Heather Canyon

Dan skiing Heather

We skied over to a flat spot at the bottom of the canyon, made sure it was out of danger of rockfall or other objective hazards, and drank a well deserved beer.  My beer of choice was a Logyard IPA, which I’d brought back from the Olympic coast in Washington a few days earlier.

Cheers to a great line

After our beer and a little food, we donned skins once more for a final climb out of the canyon and back to the ski area.  Looking back at our entire line from the top of the ridge, both Dan and I agreed it was a good one…

Looking back at our line

Back in the area, we skied down from the top of the ridge, then made another short climb to get to the best looking snow directly under the Mt Hood Express, before finishing our turns with a fun ski back down to the parking lot.  I found a ski on the ride down (my second of the spring) and hauled it to down to the base.  We chatted a lift op up for a bit at the base, before eventually heading out.

The view from the base of Meadows

I snapped a pic of Dan on the stairs at the base of Meadows with our line in the background.  Visiting Meadows again for the first time in a few years brought back memories from my youth, enjoying great winter day trips to the area with friends and watching snowboard videos of Joey McGuire featuring the area.  I made a mental note to visit it again sometime when it’s operating for old time’s sake.

Looking back at Meadows and our line

Back at the car, it sure felt good to air out our feet, change clothes, and enjoy a fresh garden salad and cold beverage.  Dan and I both agreed that the middle of June is one of our favorite times of the year, and that this trip was one that would not soon be forgotten.

Sept 4, 2016 – Mt Hood, White River Snowfield

Rain was in the forecast over Labor Day Weekend, but it looked like Sunday would be a decent day to get out for some September turns.  Dan and Joe were game, so we agreed to head to Hood to check out the conditions.  It was drizzling in Sandy when we made the usual stop at Joe’s Donut Shop, but the skies were partly cloudy skies by the time we left the climber’s lot and headed up the trail.  There was even some frosting on the upper mountain from the previous day’s storm….

Hood

Hood in September

Dan & Joe

Dan & Joe on the trail

The trail was in good condition after the rain, and we made good time up to the White River Glacier as the clouds rolled in an out.  The glacier looked to be in decent condition after one of the worst winter’s on record…

Climbing

Climbing in the clouds

White River Glacier

The White River Glacier

At the top of the Palmer, we made the decision to go higher, and explore the White River snowfield.  As we were climbing up, the clouds rolled in and engulfed us in a sea of white.  We climbed to about 9000 feet, and decided to head down.  The turns were better than expected, with some fresh snow intermixed with  the old.

Turns

Turns in the September fog

Back at the top of the Palmer, the clouds rolled out again, so we decided to give the snowfield one more go.  This time we climbed a bit higher, to a high point around 9100 feet.

Joe

Joe admiring the view

Of course the clouds rolled in again, so there we were stuck in a white out again.  Not to worry, about 5 minutes later we got a window and headed down for lap number two.  This time I snapped a few photos of the skiers, and then Dan snapped a couple of me…

Dan

Dan on the White River

Matt

September turns

We enjoyed nice turns down to the top of the Palmer, then made the short hike over to the top of the lift terminal.  The time was about 1:30, so we stepped into our sliding gear, and ripped a thousand feet of the best September turns I’ve enjoyed to date.

Dan

Dan skiing the Palmer

The turns were so good we definitely had to make another lap.  30 minutes later we were at the top of the Palmer again, and the lifts were done spinning for the season.  Sitting atop the Palmer at the end of the season is always one of my favorite parts of summer.

September turns on Hood

Ripping turns on the Palmer

Dan

Dan skiing the Palmer Canyon

We enjoyed turns down to the bottom of the Palmer Canyon, and eyed the Mile Canyon below Silcox Hut.  It wasn’t open, but it looked like we could make some turns, and some turns are better than walking.  So we skied.  It wasn’t the best snow, but the turns were still fun.

Dan

Dan in the Mile Canyon

Dan & Joe

Dan & Joe partway down the Mile

We were able to link turns down through dirty snow to about halfway to where the snowcats are normally parked.  Not as low as normal for September, but much better than last year.  Below is a shot of Joe at the end of the snow…

Joe

The bottom of the snow in the Mile

We scrambled down the canyon, and made the quick hike back to Timberline and the climber’s lot.  As has become usual for September, we enjoyed some bounty from the harvest season, including fresh garden salsa, grapes, and sweet pickled salmon.  Some dark chocolate and salami completed our feast, along with the usual cold beverage.  All things considered, this was one of, if not the best, September ski in my eleven seasons of making turns all year!  I’m looking forward to what October brings.

July 16, 2016 – Mt Hood, Southside

The weekend weather forecast looked good, so Dan and I made plans to head to Hood for some easy southside turns in mid-July.  From the webcams, it looked like the snowpack was holding up nice, and we weren’t disappointed when we pulled into the climbers lot and got a view of the mountain…

Hood

Hood from the climbers lot

The cloud deck was hovering just below Timberline all day, and we even had drizzle in Sandy, but above treeline the mountain was basking in the summer sun.  We hiked the climbers trail up towards the Palmer, and the summer wildflowers were in full effect…

Dan

Dan on the approach

Hood

Looking south to Jefferson

Above the Palmer, we took a break on the White River Snowfield to eat a quick bite and rehydrate, when some snowboarders started descending our way.  I recognized Jeff Steele as he rode down to us, and it was good to catch up with him and his wife Kelley.  Seems like we always meet up somewhere on the side of a volcano!  After a good chat, we continued booting up the White River, and traversed over towards the base of Crater Rock.  Illumination Rock looked pretty nice against the cloud bank to the west….

Illumination Rock

Illumination Rock

At the base of Crater, we made the decision to head up higher, but agreed to pay close attention to the clouds that were starting to pose a threat to visibility as morning shifted to afternoon.  Here’s a view looking south from below Devil’s Kitchen….

Hood

Southside view

We punched steps in the final slopes to the Hogsback ridge, skirting a crevasse or two.  The east facing snow below the ridge was pretty ripe.  Upon reaching the ridge, we worked our way up towards the bergschrund, which at 10,7000 was what we decided to call our high point for the day.  The upper slopes looked nice, but the clouds below and the perfect snow were more than enough to persuade us to make some sweet turns….

Dan

Dan above Crater Rock

Matt

Matt below the bergschrund

After soaking in the views, it was time to make turns, and I dropped in first while Dan snapped a few photos of me with my camera.  I returned the favor with a few shots of my own from my cell phone, which actually turned out pretty decent…

Dan

Dan skiing below the bergy

Matt dropping in

Matt dropping in

The snow below the bergschrund was excellent, and each of us had mile wide smiles on our faces when we regrouped above Devils Kitchen.  After working our way past the crux point between a couple of crevasses and over a snow bridge, we had to work our way around a group of gumby climbers who had no business being that high on the mountain (basically if downclimbing a 30 degree slope in corn snow conditions is a problem you have no business being on the mountian, but hey it’s Mt Hood, right?).

Dan

Dan skiing above Devil’s Kitchen

Dan

More turns

The snow above the White River Headwall was the only poor snow of the day, and was pretty hideous.  Thankfully it only lasted a few hundred vertical, and then we were back to the smooth snow we came for.  Here’s a few shots of Dan ripping on the Zigzag snowfield…

Dan

Turns on the upper mountain

Dan

Dan skiing by Illumination Rock

We skied down quite a ways on the Zigzag, and stopped to have a beer and eat some food.  Unfortunately, my beer decided to blow up in my pack, so I had the good fortune of getting to drink no beer, but still pack the weight and smell like a brewery.  Oh well, it was hardly a damper on an excellent day.  After our quick break, we made big, high speed sweeping turns down the Zigzag before traversing over to the top of the Palmer….

Matt

Matt riding the Zigzag

Gaining access to the top of the Palmer required a very short hike, and then we were able t enjoy the views from 8500 feet.  Since the lifts had quit spinning, it was just us and the ravens on the mountain….

Ravens

Ravens on the top of the Palmer

Palmer

Looking down the Palmer

At the top of the Palmer, we soaked in the views for a few minutes before heading down for 2400 feet of excellent July turns.  I always love riding the Palmer in the summer and fall after the public has gone home for the day…..

Palmer

Dan skiing the lower Palmer

It’s such a treat to ski out the Mile Canyon as well.  This option hasn’t been available late in the year for the last couple of years, and it sure was nice to ride almost all the way back to the lodge.

Mile

Looking up the Mile

Back at the car, we enjoyed some fresh garden salsa, as well as a fatty garden salad.  Summer in Oregon is the best.

September 6, 2015 – Mt Hood, Palmer Glacier

“Sunday looks like the day” I said to Dan on the phone.  We were debating on whether to try for September turns on Thursday or Labor Day weekend.  We preferred Thursday, but the forecast for the weekend looked better, so we opted for Sunday.  Dan showed up at my house just after 5:00 am on Sunday, and we loaded the car and headed out.

Driving up I-5, we could see the mountain from Salem and things were looking good.  As we approached Portland, clouds were moving in and I could sense some unplanned weather might be headed our way.  The mountain was shrouded in clouds by the time we reached Sandy and stopped for a donut at Joe’s, and by the time we reached the parking lot it looked like it may actually rain.  Regardless, we packed up our gear and headed up the road to Silcox…

Timberline Lodge

Timberline Lodge

Silcox was visible as we left the parking area, but a few minutes later it was shrouded in clouds.  By the time we reached the top of the mile, it had started to rain.  Bummer.  We continued up and soon arrived at the mid-station of the Palmer, which had exactly zero snow…..

Palmer mid-station

Palmer mid-station

Pushing on, we eventually reached what was left of the snow on the Palmer “Glacier.”  The rain came down harder.  We found some fresh snow left over from the previous storm, mixed in with the residual dirty older snow.

The bottom of the snow

The bottom of the snow

Climbing for September turns

Dan Climbing the Palmer

We topped out just below the top lift shack, switched over to ski boots, and started down.  It was raining harder now.  The turns were actually pretty good.  Dan and I took turns snapping a few photos to document the event….

September turns

Matt getting some September turns

Dan

Dan enjoying the skiing

We managed about 500 feet on the first lap, and decided to head back for another.  At the top, we met fellow turns-all-year enthusiasts Jeff and Aaron, and enjoyed some brief conversation while enjoying a beer and continuing to get soaked.  At this point, both Dan and I had come to the realization the weather wasn’t going to improve (despite the forecast) and that we couldn’t get much wetter, so we just enjoyed what we had — a fun time skiing and boarding in September.  The second lap was even better than the first….

Matt

Matt enjoying another lap

We decided to climb back up for a third lap, and milk the day for somewhere around 1500 vertical.  The last lap was great, and so, completely soaked, we headed down the hill for the long hike out over snowless terrain.  An hour or so later, it was sure nice to be in a set of dry clothes, siting in a warm car, and enjoying a cold beer and fresh chips and salsa.  Although it wasn’t epic riding, both Dan and I agreed, we’ll probably never forget these September turns!  Here’s a parting shot from the day…

Heading Home...

Heading Home…

 

August 2, 2015 – White River Glacier, Mt Hood

Finding time for turns this summer has almost been as challenging as finding a place to make turns.  On the same weekend my family and I moved into a new house for the first time in 11 years, I headed out with Dan on Sunday the second day of August to try to find some skiable snow to keep the streak alive for another month.

Given the meager snowpack everywhere, we elected to head up to Mt Hood and ride the White River Snowfield.  I called the Timberline snow phone on the way up to the mountain, and it looked like this would be the last day of lift served riding for the season as well.  I didn’t know it at the time, but this would be Timberline’s earliest closing day in some time — maybe ever since they started summer operations.  In the poor snow year of 2005, closing day was August 18th.  Nevertheless, we arrived in the parking lot and found the mountain pretty naked with respect to snow…..

Hood in the morning

Hood in the morning

We set out on the trail from the climbers lot, and it was already warm.  I hiked in shorts and a t-shirt, one of only a few times I’ve hiked and made turns in shorts while snowboarding.  After an hour or so up the trail, we came to the overlook of the naked White River Glacier…

Climbing adjacent to the White River Glacier

Climbing adjacent to the White River Glacier

Crevasse jumble

Closeup of a crevasse jumble

With the lack of snow, we were able to keep trail shoes on until we reached the White River Triangle, at which point it was easier to switch to snowboard boots for the climb.  The snow on the White River Snowfield looked fairly decent, but was starting cup out a bit.  Clouds had been forming all morning, and by the time we reached our high point at 9400 feet it started to drizzle.

Looking down the White River Glacier

Looking down the White River Glacier

We took a brief break, and the cloud that had been following us cleared enough that some sun broke through for the descent.  I dropped in first, then snapped photos of Dan as he skied down.

Dan dropping in...

Dan dropping in…

The best turns were on the east side of the snowfield, and we skied as close to the crevasses as we dared.  With all the stress of moving the past few days, it felt good to let my Lib Tech run and make fast turns on the dirty corn snow…..

August turns

August turns

We found a connector patch of snow and skied down to the dry road bed along the top of the Palmer, before hiking over to sit at the top of the lift shack and enjoy the view and a cold beer.

The bottom of the triangle

The bottom of the triangle

At the top of the lift, we me of a couple from Idaho who were at their first or second year of doing turns aanll year, and talked about volcano skiing for awhile.  Sitting at the top of the Palmer, eating lunch and enjoying a beer and the view, I reflected back on all the great seasons of riding at Timberline and enjoying the same view in September and October.  I was saddened briefly at the prospect that there might not be any snow on the mountain this year in September, but the thought only furthered my resolve to find snow in this leanest of years and continue the streak.

Timberline groomer

Timberline groomer

With lunch eaten and beers consumed, we dropped in and skied the Palmer to the mid-station.  The snow was really nice, so we headed back up for one more lap from the top.  Arriving at the top, it started drizzling on us — somewhat ironic given the fact that this has been one of the driest and warmest years on record.  Pushing off in the rain, we enjoyed great turns down to the mid-station, ducked the rope, and continued down to within about 300-400 feet from the top of Silcox Hut to where the snow turned to ice and then rock, and hiked the rest of the way back to the parking lot.

Skiing the lower "Palmer"

Skiing the lower “Palmer”

Sitting back at the car, eating chips and salsa and pickled herring, I was stoked just to get out for a good day of turns in the middle of summer.  Whatever September brings, what will be will be.  I just hope there’s a patch of snow left out there where a few friends and I can have fun and continue this crazy thing called snowboarding year-round.