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.

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…

Matt

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….

Matt

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

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

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

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.