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.

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