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!

August 3, 2019 – Mt Hood, Zigzag Glacier

Somehow the summer had blown by, and before I knew it the calendar said August, which meant it was time to head up to Hood for some turns. Joe and Dan were game, so agreed to give Saturday a go. Dan and I met Joe at the cop shop in Albany a few minutes before 6:00 am, and we headed north on I5. We made a quick pit stop for some breakfast items at Joe’s Donut shop in Sandy, and arrived at Timberline a little after 8:30

Joe’s

Hood from the climbers lot

We organized gear, loaded packs, and set out up the trail from the climbers lot. The climbers lot was as packed as I’d ever seen it, and it was nice to get away from all the commotion. I snapped a picture of Mt Jefferson to the south before we headed out, and then a pic of Hood with some wildflowers shortly up the trail… 

Mt Jefferson’s north side

Flowers on Mt Hood

We worked our way up the trail, putting some distance between ourselves and the parking lot below. The morning was warm, and any concerns we had about the snow turning to corn were pretty much gone by 9:30. The wildflowers were readily abundant, indicating it had rained some in the past couple of weeks, and made the hike really pleasant.

An old stump on Mt Hood

Hiking through the flowers

We made it to the top of the Palmer in just under two hours, and hiked a few feet above the area where a few folks were practicing self arrest as part of a group. We pushed on a bit further, then decided switching from tennis shoes to boots would be a good idea before heading further up the snowfield.

Wide angle view of the White River Glacier

Joe hiking the White River snowfield

It didn’t take too long to hike to the top of the White River triangle, near the base of the White River headwall. From there, we decided we may as well hike further up towards Crater Rock and see what type of condition the snow finger was — if nothing else it would make for a long descent down onto the Zigzag…

Dan hiking the White River Glacier

Wide angle view towards the summit

We crossed over the rocks towards the finger, and soon got a glimpse of the snow —- and it was pretty rough. There were quite a few rocks on the surface, and it was dominated by large suncups. We hung out for awhile up top, taking a needed break to refuel, and then decided there was no way in hell we were going to hike back down, so we dropped in…

Dan dropping into the finger

Joe skiing above Illumination Rock

There were a few decent turns, mixed with mostly garbage, but it was still better than hiking down. That said, none of us were considering heading back up for more. Eventually we worked our way on to the Zigzag snowfield, where the snow smoothed out and the turns became pretty nice…

Matt riding the upper reaches of the Zigzag

Skiing below Crater Rock

We continued down the slope, ripping turns on the perfect corn. Ironically, given all the unconsolidated snow we’d skied this season, this was some of the best corn of the year. I snapped some pics of the skiers as they came down by and below Illumination Rock…

August turns on the Zigzag

The skiers descending the Ziggy

The lower we went, the better the snow became. From 8,500 feet on down, we found the best snow of the day, and were stoked to keep on going. Dan snapped a few shots of me as we continued on….

Descending down the Zigzag Glacier

Harvesting some August corn

We milked turns down to the bottom of the snowfield, near 7,700 feet — not bad, considering we’d started around 10,000. I caught a few shots of Dan and Joe skiing down the last sections…

Dan skiing the lower snowfield

Joe milking the final turns

At the bottom, the clouds were starting to build higher on the mountain, so we wasted little time transitioning over and started hiking back up the snow. The hike up the Zigzag is always a bit on the mundane side, but soon we were ready to make the traverse back over to the Palmer…

Hiking back up the Zigzag

Ready to ski back towards the Palmer

As luck would have it, we were able to ski a short pitch before the traverse, so we made the most of it. I snapped a shot of the skiers heading down, and then it was a short hike back over to the top of the Palmer for a well deserved cold beverage….

Skiing a pitch between the Zigzag and Palmer

A new favorite from Deschutes

While sitting at the top of the Palmer and enjoying a new favorite hazy IPA from Deschutes Brewing, we heard the familiar hum of a couple snowcats coming from below. Soon, one of the cats was moving a healthy dose of snow a few feet away from us on the road above the top of the Palmer. 20 minutes later when his work was done, he headed down and they began grooming the glacier for the next day of skiing — score! We headed down and ripped the smooth snow, enjoying every turn!

Dan working down the Palmer

Ripping turns down the Palmer

Below the mid-station, the corduroy was extra nice — pretty much hero snow. It didn’t take long to make short work of the groomer and get down to Silcox Hut…

Dan skiing below the mid-station

Slashing the corn in the Palmer Canyon

The snow in the Mile Canyon was tracked out by the snowcats, but it still skied pretty nicely because it was plenty soft. We were able to ski down below the cats, and ultimately to a few hundred feet above the lodge, making for a pretty decent sum of 5,000 feet of vertical on the day…

Turns below Silcox

Joe skiing the cat tracks in the Mile Canyon

At the end of the snow, we shouldered our packs and made the short trek down the trail and back the car, where cold beer, garden fresh chips and salsa, and fresh garden salads were waiting. Sitting in the parking lot enjoying the feast, all of us were stoked on the day, and already looking forward to what September would bring. Until then, here’s a parting shot from the day…

Timberline Lodge on the hike out

 

November 16, 2018 – Mt Hood, Palmer Glacier

The days in November were starting to slip away, and I needed to get some turns in. The weather forecast was calling for sun on Friday, so I headed out solo since both Dan and Joe had skied the week before while I was stuck at work. The drive up I5 went smoothly, and I soon found myself cruising up Highway 26 with Mt Hood poking through the clouds…

Mt Hood from Highway 26

A few minutes later, I pulled into the climber’s lot at Timberline and was the only car there until a friendly hiker pulled up while I was organizing my gear. The mountain was looking pretty, with a thin coat of new snow still remaining from the previous week’s storm.

 

Mt Hood from below Timberlilne

Once my boards were strapped to the pack, it was time to set out on the road up to Silcox. I stopped at the usual spot to snap a picture of the mountain, and then continued on up. The road had a few inches of snow on it, but I booted for a quarter mile or so before switching to skins.

Mt Hood in mid-November

Looking back at Timberline Lodge

I made good time up to Silcox, and was happy to have been able to skin the entire way. After working my way over a few bands of rocks, I was out onto the Palmer. The Palmer looked similar to when Dan, Joe and I had skied it in October, but had definitely melted down since then. I stopped for a couple of minutes at the top to eat a snack and snap a few pictures.

Looking down from the top of the Palmer

The new snow from the previous week looked pretty skiable above the Palmer, but there was a heavy cloud layer flirting around 9500 feet. I decided to head up, not wanting to pass on the opportunity to ski some wild snow above the area boundary. As I skinned up, the clouds below continued to creep up the mountain, ultimately engulfing the bottom of the Palmer lift.

Self shot above the clouds

The snow on the southeastern exposure was starting to corn nicely, so I climbed up to about 9000 feet and decided to call it there, given the dense clouds above me and the fact that the coverage above was pretty sparse. I pulled the tripod out of my pack, snapped a few shots of myself with the remote timer, and then hung out in the sun and enjoyed a beer I’d brought with me.

Looking out from my high point

Stoker Red Ale — the beer of choice for the day

I scrambled across a few rocks and got a good view of Illumination Rock and out towards the Zigzag Glacier, where some pretty fun summer turns were had a few months earlier. The skiing looked decent out that way, but given the aspect and the likelihood that the snow would be firm, I decided to pass and ski down the way I came up.

Illumination Rock

Rime ice formation on Mt Hood

Being solo, I didn’t get any action shots on the ski down, but the turns were pretty fun. The snow above the Palmer was excellent corn, as was the first half of the Palmer. From the mid-station down, I had to ski in the dense clouds, which was quite a contrast to the sunny slopes between 8000 and 9000 feet. After the Palmer, I was able to link snow fingers down to Silcox, and then ski the road to within a couple hundred vertical of the parking lot. Once I was back at the car, I hung out for a little bit to enjoy some late season chips and garden salsa before heading home.

Enjoying some late season salsa in the parking lot

All things considered, it was a pretty great November ski, and worth taking the day off work. Now however, it’s time for the powder to fly…..:)

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.