September 10, 2017 – Mt Hood, Southside

After enduring countless days of smoke filled air in one of Oregon’s worst fire season’s on record, I was happy to be heading to the mountains with Dan and Joe for some September turns.  A recent rain event had cleared the air, and we pulled into the climbers lot around 8:30 am.  The mountain looked good, as did the coverage…

Mt Hood from the climbers lot

The air was crisp, and it felt like Fall.  After going through the gear, we shouldered packs and headed up towards Timberline Lodge, opting to take Mile Canyon approach rather than the White River since the lifts had quit spinning the previous weekend…

Timberline Lodge

Looking out over cloudy seas

I was pleasantly surprised to see snow all the way down below the spot where the snowcats normally park, which meant turns all the way back in the Mile Canyon would be possible for the first time in September since 2014.  We started skinning at the first snow, and before long had made our way up to the Palmer Canyon…

Skinning up the Palmer canyon

At the top of the Palmer, we made the decision to head up the White River Snowfield, which was looking to be pretty smooth.  Dan and Joe had skied it a few weeks earlier, and it appeared the rain had smoothed it out quite a bit.  A short bit later, and we made it to Beer Rock at around 9300 feet.  Sitting there enjoying the views, we could look out to the south and see the Whitewater Fire still burning in the Mt Jefferson area.

Dan and Joe at Beer Rock

Looking down on the White River Glacier

Sitting at the rock, a few butterflies flew by, and reminded me of the epic California Tortoiseshell migration a month earlier on the Middle Sister.  Soon, after enjoying the views and eating a snack, we prepared to enjoy some of those September turns we’d come to get.  Before we set out, Joe snapped the below picture of me looking to the south…


To gain access to the good snow, we had to negotiate through a finger of snow that was less than stellar.  Once in though, the quality was excellent.  I rode down first and found a suitable spot to snap a few pictures of Dan and Joe enjoying some turns….

Dan and Joe enjoying the upper snowfield

Skiing alongside the crevasses on the White River

We worked our way down the snowfield, taking care not to ski too closely to the open crevasses, and eventually made our way down to just below the top of the Palmer.  A short carry brought us up to the top shack on the Palmer snowfield, where we took a quick break to enjoy a beer and snap a few pics….

One of my new favorites

Zoomed view of the Volcanoes from the top of the Palmer

The Palmer was in excellent shape, even though it hadn’t been groomed in a week since closing day on Labor Day.  This time, I dropped in while Joe snapped a few photos of me as I ripped the perfect September corn….


Partway down the snowfield, I grabbed the camera back and returned the favor, snapping some pics of Joe.  I had my telephoto lens on, and it works great for getting in close to the action.  The grin on Joe’s face says it all about how good the snow was….

Joe ripping the Palmer

We skied down to the mid-station, and it was so good we had to head back up for another lap.  20 minutes later, we were back on top enjoying the rest of our beer and readying for another round of turns.  As expected, the snow didn’t disappoint….

Dan skiing below the top shack

September turns on the Palmer

The exit ski out the Palmer Canyon was superb.  As Dan put it, it was probably one of the best September ski’s ever.  The snow was perfectly corned, and the coverage was excellent.

Turns in the Palmer Canyon

The Mile Canyon skied nicely as well.  There were a couple of “crux” spots, but overall, we found smooth but dirty snow all the way down to below the snowcats.

Dan skiing through the Mile “crux”

At the bottom, we were all stoked on the day, and looking forward to a cold beer and an assortment of the season’s offerings to grub on.  The hike down the trail went quickly, and soon we were back at the climbers lot.

Joe hiking out

Sitting there in the warm sun enjoying a cold beer, eating fresh salsa (both an onion salsa and regular garden salsa) along with pickled Chinook salmon caught on the Pacific, I must admit that life really doesn’t get much better…

Season’s offerings

As we loaded up the car and got ready to make the drive back to the southern valley, we all agreed, this September’s ski was one that would not soon be forgotten!

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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 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 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 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 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 on the White River


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 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


Joe 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 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…


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 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 on the approach


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….


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 above Crater Rock


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 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 skiing above Devil’s Kitchen


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…


Turns on the upper mountain


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 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 on the top of the 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…..


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.


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 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 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…

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