June 5, 2015 – Mt Adams, Avalanche Glacier Headwall

Conditions were shaping up just right for a trip to Mt Adams, and with both Morgan and Joe game to give the Avalanche Glacier Headwall a try, I knew it would be a great trip.  Joe and I left the Southern Willamette Valley on Thursday afternoon just in time to hit rush hour traffic through Portland, but eventually we made it through and found smooth sailing east bound on I-84.  We worked our way to the town of Trout Lake, grabbed a couple of climbing permits, and headed for the South Climb trailhead.  The mountain had been shrouded in clouds for most of our drive, but did pop out for a view as we neared the trailhead….

The mountain on the drive in

The mountain on the drive in

The parking area at Cold Springs was relatively quiet, and we found a nice place to camp for the evening.  I enjoyed a fresh salad from the garden for dinner, along with a cold beer.  While waiting for Morgan to arrive, we met fellow splitters Jeff and Kelly, and enjoyed their company around the campfire for a couple of hours.  Kelly even made smores.  Morgan arrived around 10:00 pm, and we hit the sack around 10:30, hoping to get on the trail the next morning around 6:30 am.

I was up at 5:30 am on Friday morning, and after a power breakfast of cereal and a banana, Joe and I hit the trail right at 6:30 am, with Morgan shortly behind.  After a mile and a half or so, we reached treeline and started up below the Crescent Glacier.  The views back to the south towards Mt Hood weren’t too shabby either…

Mt Adams & the Crescent Glacier

Mt Adams & the Crescent Glacier

Looking south at Mt Hood

Looking south at Mt Hood

We continued climbing, and worked our way up to climbers left of the Crescent Glaicier, following an old somewhat melted out bootpack.  Morgan caught up with us before we gained the ridge, and the three of us continued up the slopes below Pikers Peak.  Looking west, the snow coverage on Mt St Helens looked more like late July than early August…

St Helens

St Helens

Around 8500 feet, I switched to skins, joining Morgan who was already sliding uphill.  Joe continued booting.  Around 9200 feet, it was time for a quick rest and some lunch before tackling the 2000 foot Suksdorf Ridge below Pikers Peak.  As we climbed, the completely blue sky started to develop a few whispy clouds.  By the time we were nearing the top of Suksdorf, the clouds had thickened considerably, and were threatening to ruin our visibility.

Hiking below Pikers

Joe hiking below Pikers

Morgan climbing Pikers

Morgan on Suksdorf Ridge

As luck would have it, we topped out on Pikers in a whiteout around 11:30 am, so it was time to chill for a half hour to see if conditions improved.  Morgan drank the beer he was hoping to drink on the summit as a sacrifice, and soon a sucker hole formed so we packed up and skinned off towards the summit.  Of course the clouds rolled back in, and most of the climb to the top was in limited visibility.  The clouds did break periodically however, affording excellent views down onto the Klickitat Glacier and back towards Pikers…

More Klickitat

Looking down onto the Klickitat Glacier

Looking back at Pikers Peak

Pikers Peak from below the summit

Around 1:45 pm or so, Joe and reached the 12,276 foot summit of Mt Adams.  Morgan elected to turn back partway up and checkout our line to ensure it would go rather than fight the clouds.  A really nice window in the clouds around 2:00 pm let Joe and I rip corn from the summit, and we rode down towards Morgan, who was ready to rip the headwall of the Avalanche Glacier.  When we met back up with Morgan, we discussed our line and proceeded to drop in to rip 3000 feet of steep corn.  Morgan dropped first, and made big smooth turns on the lower angle slopes above the headwall…

Morgan dropping in

Morgan dropping in

We stopped briefly at the rollover, and then cranked out dozens of turns on the 45 degree face.  Morgan shredded while I fired pictures with the camera….

Ripping the headwall

Ripping the headwall

Morgan

Morgan

Joe dropped next, and skied the line like a knife through butter, making effortless turns down the perfect pitch.  Once Joe was down, I put the camera back in my chest pouch and enjoyed perfect turns down the face for nearly a thousand feet.

Joe

Joe cruising on Mt Adams

Joe

Skiing the Avalanche Glacier Headwall

The line kept going and going, so we kept shredding.  Morgan found some nice turns on the northerly side of the headwall, and proceeded to rip while I captured the below shot of him in the sun and shadows….

Morgan

Morgan

Looking back up the headwall

Looking back up the headwall from halfway down

We rode the lower half of the line with the camera put away, just enjoying the excellent June turns.  At the bottom, we traversed across some avalanche debris and discussed our exit strategy.  Looking back up the slope, a good chunk of our line was still in view at left….

The Line

The Line

Joe

Joe headed down and out

More turns followed on the lower Avalanche Glacier, and then it was time for the final traverse out. I snapped a few more pictures of the guys before we departed….

Morgan stoked after shredding the headwall

Morgan stoked after shredding the headwall

Heading out

Morgan & Joe

Joe and I skied down as far as we could to the round the mountain trail, and were able to link turns down to around 6800 feet.  Morgan headed back around the mountain to pick up his trail shoes, and the three of us met up later at the trailhead.

Headin' home

Headin’ home on the round the mountain trail

By 5:00 pm, we were back at the car enjoying a cold beer, stoked after a day of climbing 7000 feet and riding around 5600 feet in a really poor snow year.  Joe and I wolfed down dinner, finished our beers, and bid Morgan farewell, heading out to spend a couple of days on Mt Jefferson.  As expected, Mt Adams delivered, and I’m already looking forward to a return trip.  Here’s a parting shot looking down at the large cracks of the Klickitat Glacier…

Mt Adam's Klickatat Glacier

Mt Adam’s Klickatat Glacier

 

 

January 17, 2013 – Mt St Helens, Worm Flows

For the first time in three and a half years, in the never ending search for optimal snow conditions, I found myself venturing outside the state of Oregon looking for corn snow in the middle of January.  I’d been eyeballing the weather forecast all week, and conditions appeared right to try and tackle the Worm Flows on the south side of Mt St Helens.

I woke up just before my alarm at 3:30, and was on the road by 4:00, heading north on Interstate 5 towards Portland to pickup Ron.  After a brief stop to pickup a climbing permit in Cougar, we pulled into the Marble Mountain trailhead a few minutes before 7:30 and found Joe, who’d spent the night there and was planning on skiing with us for the day.  After donning ski boots and packs, we started skinning through the snow covered forest roads towards the mountain over an incredible mid-January base of 72 inches at 2600 feet.  Soon, we popped out near the treeline and the mountain was in full view in the sunshine.  Remarkably, the temperature was pushing 50 degrees – a stark contrast to the valley fog and freezing temperatures at home.  Stripped down to nothing but my baselayer, I still found myself sweating as we started climbing the steeper pitches of the 5500 vertical foot climb to the summit rim.

Joe booting up St Helens

Joe booting up St Helens

I was digging the traction provided by my nylon/mohair mix Black Diamond skins I received as a Christmas gift, but was happier with the glide, which allowed me to keep up with the skiers with less effort than normal.  After a quick break for lunch around 6000 feet, Ron and I resumed skinning while Joe booted.  The views from the upper mountain were excellent, with Mt Adams looming large to the west and Mt Hood visible to the south.  The snow was starting to corn nicely, and a couple of splitboarders descended down from above us around 11:30.  Their turns looked good, but I figured another couple of hours would be primo.  For the last 1000 feet, both Ron and I switched to crampons and booted the final pitch to the summit rim.

Looking into the crater from the summit rim

Looking into the crater from the summit rim

From the summit rim, the views were incredible.  Not a wisp of wind was detectable on the summit, and looking down into the steaming crater was such a treat.   Spirit Lake was incredibly blue, and looking north Mt Rainier dominated the skyline, with Goat Rocks and the Olympics also in full view.  We crept up to the edge of the cornice on the rim as close as we dared and snapped several photos.  Below is a picture of Ron looking to the east with the summit rim and Mt Adams in the background….

Ron with Mt Adams

Ron with Mt Adams

Travel time to the summit rim from the parking lot took about 5 hours, so we lounged around a bit soaking in the sun’s rays and enjoying the views.  Looking down into the massive crater, I could only imagine how much destruction took place back in 1980 when the mountain erupted.  The amount of material moved in a matter of minutes was ridiculous….

Looking downs into St Helen's crater

Looking downs into St Helen’s crater

 

Zoomed view of Ron with Mt Adams

Zoomed view of Ron with Mt Adams

A few minutes before 2:00, conditions looked prime to begin making turns.  After putting the split back in board mode. and repacking our gear, it was time to ride.  We elected to drop the main bowl off the summit rim with the thought of riding Swift Creek all the way down if conditions looked good in the canyon.  I dropped in first, and the snow was excellent.  I could tell after several turns that it was going to be one long ride back to the car!  Ron and Joe followed, and I snapped a few photos as they cruised down.

Ron cruising on the upper mountain

Ron cruising on the upper mountain

 

Corn turns on St Helens

Corn turns in the sunshine

The snowfields seemed to go on and on, as we linked turn after turn in the warm sunshine.  After a few thousand feet or so, we made the decision to cruise into the Swift Creek drainage and made that our descent line down the rest of the mountain.  Swift Creek is nice in that you can cruise down into the canyon and then back out to the larger snowfields on the east side pretty easily.

Enjoying a mid-winter corn harvest!

Enjoying a mid-winter corn harvest!

Ron and Joe in Swift Creek on St Helens

Ron and Joe in Swift Creek on St Helens

Lower down in Swift Creek, the snow remained firm on the shady east facing side of the canyon wall, but started to turn from corn to mush on the sunnier west facing slopes.  I snapped a few photos of Joe cruising through the canyon, including the two shots below.  The first image is looking south with Mt Hood in the background and the second is a bit more abstract….

Joe skiing Swift Creek on St Helens

Joe skiing Swift Creek on St Helens

Playing on the canyon wall

Playing on the canyon wall

After about 30minutes, several thousand feet of corn turns and plenty of big grins, we finally exited the canyon at a point back down near the gentler slopes above treeline.  At this point, our legs were starting to grow a bit weary after a full day of climbing and riding, so we took a quick break, drank some water, snapped a few photos and continued down for more turns.

Joe and Ron near the bottom of Swift Creek above treeline

Joe and Ron near the bottom of Swift Creek above treeline

 

Ron looking back at our ski route

Ron looking back at our ski route

The runout from Chocolate Falls to the car was pretty taxing on the legs due to the sticky snow and long day.  The upper section was really mushy due to the warm temps while the snow on the lower section on the road below treeline had started to refreeze and was a mixture of skin, snowshoe and foot tracks, requiring us to pay attention or risk taking a digger.  We passed a few people on snowshoes on the way out, and were able to ride right to the parking lot without taking the boards off, making for a great descent of nearly 5500 feet on the day!  Celebratory brews from Deschutes hit the spot at the parking lot as we changed out of sweat soaked clothes.

Joe and Ron looking on after a great run

Joe and Ron looking on after a great run

Ron and I bid farewell to Joe, who was heading north for a day of lift skiing with family in Washington the next day, and headed south to Portland for a well earned burger and Terminator Stout at McMenamin’s.  Portland traffic was congested as usual, but I missed the majority of rush hour at the pub, and was able to make great time back to the southern Willamette Valley.  After such a great day, I’m pretty sure it won’t be another three and a half years before I head out of state again in search of good turns…….it may not even be three and a half months!  Here’s a parting shot of the mountain from the drive home….

St Helens on the drive home

St Helens on the drive home

 

 

July 13-14, 2009, Fryingpan Glacier, Mt Rainier

Looking back on the turns I made on the Fryingpan Glacier in July of 2000, I have to say they definitely rate up there as some of the best backcountry turns I’ve ever experienced……perfect texture, perfect weather & perfect scenery!

Lower Fryingpan Glacier, Mt Rainier

I had been dreaming of snowboarding on Mt Rainier for several seasons when I finally decided to make it happen.  I met my old ski buddy Andrew at PDX mid-Sunday morning and we headed north on I-5 after a brief stop at REI and the Mountainshop in Portland.  Andrew hadn’t been on skis in 5 years, but not to worry –  he didn’t miss a beat.  We camped near the mountain Sunday night after terrible traffic in Olympia.  Early Monday morning, we headed into Mount Rainier National Park, got our permits from the White River Ranger Station, and parked at the Fryingpan trailhead at approximately 3900 feet. The weather was cloudy and misting, which made the 4 mile hike very pleasant.  Our load was heavy carrying our boards and overnight gear, but we saw lots of wildlife and flowers in the 4 miles to Summerland, including a bull Elk and a coyote.

We made it to Summerland and pitched our bivy and tent.  That afternoon, we set out to harvest some of the corn east of camp to get Andrew’s legs under him. A 35 degree pitch in the fog isn’t exactly a warm up run after not skiing for 5 years.  We hiked about 500 vertical feet up the nice snowfield, dug a pit at the top of the moat to enable us to get skis and boards on, then made nice creamy turns down to the trail.  I held my breath for the first few turns Andrew made, but after that I knew he would be all right, as he appeared to not miss a beat from 5 years ago.  We made a couple more laps to round out the afternoon.  There were several Marmots out along the trail on the way back to camp, and we lounged on our bivies for awhile before the weather finally cleared.  Here’s a shot of our turns from our camp….

July turns above Summerland

The forecast for Tuesday was mostly sunny, so we hit the bivy sack shortly after dark to prepare for the next days adventure. Tuesday morning dawned clear and we left camp at about 6 am. The views of the mountain were excellent.

Andrew booting towards Goat Bowl

Hiking up through the first bowl outside of camp we saw a bunch of mountain goats.  I counted 35.  They happened to be near our line of ascent, so we hiked somewhat close to a few of them, including this one behind me……..

A mountain goat in goat bowl!

We spend considerable time pondering how to get out of the bowl and up onto the glacier above.  The only good route appeared to be a steep snow chute directly in front of us, which we were able to climb with crampons and ice axes.  Once through the chute, we traversed over to the  bottom of a big snow finger coming down off the Fryingpan Glacier.  From this vantage point, we could see Adams, Hood & St Helens to the south.

Hiking on the lower Fryingpan

We stopped for a rest to soak in the views and power up with some gatorade and Gu.  There weren’t any crevasses showing on the Fryingpan Glacier, and the snow was surprisingly smooth.  We topped out at Whitman Crest at an elevation of approximately 9150 feet, after scrambling the last 50 feet over bare loose rock.

Little Tahoma from Whitman Crest

The views were well worth the effort, and  we soaked them in for a bit before heading down for the corn harvest.  Here’s a shot looking down canyon over the Fryingpan Glacier to the east and ultimately to the trailhead way below.

Fryingpan Glacier from Whitman Crest

The turns down the Fryingpan were fast and smooth, and we shot quite a bit of video.  Andrew was racing along like he’d never stopped skiing and it was pure fun.  Rolling over to rider’s right, we descended the way we climbed, carving every inch of the perfect corn.  Here’s several shots of the good stuff below the rollover off the main Fryingpan proper……

Andrew carving turns

Corn turns on the Fryingpan

We were able to connect snowfields all the way down through the Goat Bowl to within 1/4 mile of the trail.  Overall, this was one of the finest rides of the year, and definitely one of the most scenic.

Turns in the lower Goat Bowl

Creek crossing on the return to Summerland

Back at camp, we packed up after some freeze dried lunch, and hit the trail out so we could try the Muir snowfield on Wednesday.  The slog out was brutal with the heavy packs, but very scenic.

Headin’ out

Andrew with Mt Rainier & Little Tahoma

We were definitely happy to be back at the truck to some fresh food and ice cold beer.

Overall, the snow quality rocked, and the trip exceeded my expectations. I can’t wait to check out a different aspect of the mountain soon – the potential for late season splitting is endless.

Our packs at the trailhead

July 15, 2009 – Muir Snowfield, Mt Rainier

Mt Rainier’s scenic south side…

Matt & the Nisqually Glacier

After a sweet trip to the Fryingpan Glacier on Monday-Tuesday, Andrew and I headed to the southside of Mt. Rainier to check out the remnants of the Muir snowfield.  We camped at the Cougar campground after a good meal at one of the small town on the southeast side of the mountain.  That evening we had a small fire and enjoyed a beer while taking it easy.  The next morning, we made the short drive up to Paradise – what a difference compared to the east side of the mountain.  There were quite a few people in the parking lot, a little reminiscent of the south side of Mt Hood (without the lifts of course).  We hit the Paradise trail the trail by 6 am and it was clear the snow was pretty thin.  Here’s a shot of the mountain from above the parking lot….

Mt Rainier from Paradise

We hiked on the dirt trail for a good portion of the climb.  Soon we made it to Panorama Point and were soaking in the views.  After gaining a couple thousand vertical feet, we were able to switch to skins.

The Muir Snowfield

We climbed to just below Anvil Rock, where we lounged and took a rest break and snapped a few photos.  Snow conditions were really starting to deteriorate, and there were major sun cups higher up, so much so that we felt it didn’t warrant climbing any higher.

Andrew taking a rest break

The views south to Mt Adams and the Tatoosh Mountains was excellent. Probably not much riding left in the Tatoosh, but I would like to come back sometime in the Spring and see what it’s all about…..

Mt Adams & the Tatoosh Range

The ride down wasn’t bad, all things considered.  We were able to link turns most of the way back down to Paradise.  There was a nice rollover up higher on the Muir, and Andy found a nice cornice off to the east towards Paradise to play on.

Our tracks descending the Muir

A few turns down low…

We hit one of the last snow patched above the big bowl just above Paradise, and there weren’t any ski tracks in it.  We found out later why, as we had to downclimb loose rock for a few hundred feet and then traverse through a stream.  Here’s a pic of the area we downclimbed…

A pretty shot above Paradise

The flowers were out in the meadows and the weather was great.   We made the final turns down past all the wandering tourists, and then shouldered the packs for the short hike out to the car.  This tour would have been sweet a few months ago, but I still can’t complain given the late date.  Back at the truck, we hit the road for the long return to the southern Willamette Valley, where fresh food from the garden and a weekend of rock climbing was waiting….

Rainier wildflowers