June 19, 2017 – Mt Hood, Newton Clark Headwall

I‘d had Mt Hood’s eastside on the brain for the past couple of weeks, and was stoked when Dan and I could finally coordinate our schedules for a trip to the mountain.  Dan swung by my house on Sunday evening around 5:30pm, and we loaded our gear and headed north towards Hood.  After a quick stop in Sandy for dinner, we were treated to a great view of the mountain on our way up Highway 26.  There was a ton of traffic on the road, and I had to wait about 10 minutes to get a shot without any cars in the picture…

Mt Hood on Sunday evening

We continued on around the mountain, and ultimately ended up deciding to sleep at the White River Snowpark after scoping out the area around Meadows.  It was about 9:45pm or so by the time we finally settled on a place to camp, and being so close to the solstice it was just getting dark.  Dan found a nice patch of hay along the asphalt to pitch his tent, and I camped out in the back of the car for the night. We woke early the next morning at 3:20am, packed camp, ate breakfast and made the short drive to Meadows, departing the car around 4:10 am.  We were able to skin right from the parking lot, and made good time up towards the top of the ski area.

Morning alpenglow at Mt Hood Meadows

Looking up at the Objective

It didn’t take too long to make it to the top of the Cascade Express, and the morning alpenglow and following sunrise were beautiful as always.  I really enjoy the vistas from high up on the east side of Mt Hood, especially the glistening shine of the mighty Columbia River in the morning light.  Given my family settled in the Sandy area in the late 1800’s and came across on the Oregon Trail, I always think about the pioneers and the challenges they faced when I see the Columbia from high up on Hood.

Sunrise over the Columbia Basin

South view to Mt Jefferson

After the sunrise, we continued working our way up the mountain, booting along the exposed ridge below the Wy’East Face.  Snow conditions were pretty soft for the most part, and it was refreshing when we made it to the point to get our first view of the Newton Clark.  Around 9000 feet, we switched over to crampons, and battled a stiff wind as we continued the climb.

Dan going up

About 500 feet below the top of the Wy’East Face, we had a very close call with some rock fall.  Snow conditions were soft, but not overly soft, and I thought we were doing good as the time was right around 8:30am.  Turns out a few rocks from the saddle above us had loosened enough to break free and hurtled down the slope at frightening speeds, missing Dan’s knee by mere inches.  We moved further out onto the face proper, picked up our pace, and topped out shortly thereafter, enjoying the stellar views into Mt Hood’s summit crater….

Looking into the Crater

Dan and I had been talking all morning about skiing the Newton Clark Headwall, but Dan was a bit unsure about going further given our time around 9:15am.  Knowing Dan was a big Sylvian Saudan fan, and wanting to ski the headwall, I causally mentioned that the headwall was first skied by Saudan in the 1970’s in a famous first descent well publicized by the media.  That was all it took, and we hiked the short distance out the ridge.

Looking down the Newton Clark Headwall

High on Mt Hood

Looking down the line, both of us were stoked, and knew we were going to drop it.  We snapped a few pictures, but otherwise wasted little time, not wanting to let the warm sun soften the snow anymore than it already had.  Dan dropped in first, and made a ski cut before settling in for some enjoyable steep skiing…

Dan dropping in

After watching Dan ski down to a safe spot, I dropped in an enjoyed some excellent steep corn turns of my own.  I was super stoked on the conditions and the ride down.  When I got to Dan, he grabbed the camera from me, skied down a ways and then motioned for me to come down so he could shoot a few photos.  The results are below…

Shredding the steeps

Turns above the crevasses

The headwall itself is a couple thousand feet of steep turns and definitely the highlight of the run, but the remainder of the Newton Clark and the Superbowl below aren’t too shabby either.  After the headwall, we started a long traverse across the Newton Clark, and negotiated our way around several large crevasses, eventually reconnecting with our up route.

Skiing the steeps

Dan and Mt Jefferson

I stopped a couple of times during the traverse across the Newton Clark to shoot pictures of Dan, who was leading the way and was looking really small on the big slope….

Feeling small on the Newton Clark

We eventually worked our way down and out of the danger of crevasses, and were really able to open in up in the nice snow.  Earlier in the day we’d made the decision to ski the Super Bowl all the way down into Heather Canyon, so we cruised on down, snapping a few pics and enjoying the corn.

Corn harvest on the Amplid

Dan working his way down

We skied through an hourglass feature at the bottom of the Super Bowl and then into Heather below.  The snow conditions stayed very nice through the descent, and we worked our way down to the bottom of the canyon where it was time for a well deserved break.

Turns in Heather Canyon

Dan skiing Heather

We skied over to a flat spot at the bottom of the canyon, made sure it was out of danger of rockfall or other objective hazards, and drank a well deserved beer.  My beer of choice was a Logyard IPA, which I’d brought back from the Olympic coast in Washington a few days earlier.

Cheers to a great line

After our beer and a little food, we donned skins once more for a final climb out of the canyon and back to the ski area.  Looking back at our entire line from the top of the ridge, both Dan and I agreed it was a good one…

Looking back at our line

Back in the area, we skied down from the top of the ridge, then made another short climb to get to the best looking snow directly under the Mt Hood Express, before finishing our turns with a fun ski back down to the parking lot.  I found a ski on the ride down (my second of the spring) and hauled it to down to the base.  We chatted a lift op up for a bit at the base, before eventually heading out.

The view from the base of Meadows

I snapped a pic of Dan on the stairs at the base of Meadows with our line in the background.  Visiting Meadows again for the first time in a few years brought back memories from my youth, enjoying great winter day trips to the area with friends and watching snowboard videos of Joey McGuire featuring the area.  I made a mental note to visit it again sometime when it’s operating for old time’s sake.

Looking back at Meadows and our line

Back at the car, it sure felt good to air out our feet, change clothes, and enjoy a fresh garden salad and cold beverage.  Dan and I both agreed that the middle of June is one of our favorite times of the year, and that this trip was one that would not soon be forgotten.

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May 17, 2017 – Willamette Pass Redux

A few days after some of the best May powder of our lives, Dan and I were hoping for a repeat.  The forecast looked decent, so we decided to take a day off mid-week with the intention of heading to Bachelor and riding lifts.  We threw the skins in just in case, and by the time we got to the Pass around 7:15 we decided it wasn’t worth fighting the crowds and it could be just as good at the Pass.

Gold Lake Shelter

We started skinning around 7:30, and it was clear it had been windy in the past couple of days since we were last there.  And, for the first time since November, the snow base was finally starting to diminish on the southside, with a few trees and bushes starting to poke through on George as we skinned up.

Looking up ByGeorge

The haul road

Unfortunately, there wasn’t as much fresh snow as we’d hoped for, with most of it blowing away in the heavy winds.  But by the time we reached the top of Peak 2, the backside looked inviting…

Peak 2 Chair

Dan dropped into Northern, and although it wasn’t deep, it still provided for some fun turns, with about three to four inches over a firm crust…

Dan skiing Northern

Since the conditions were marginal, we elected to tour out of the area a bit and see if we could find better snow.  That proved to be more difficult then it should have been however, as the wind had really done a number on slopes facing all directions with the only unaffected areas on the flats…

Tait’s Loop Trail

We toured out towards Rosary Lakes, making a few turns along the way and found a nice spot with a view to break for lunch.  Looking out across the lake, it still felt like mid-winter, even though the calendar said it was mid-May…

Rosary Lake

Lunch break above Rosary

With our urge to tour satisfied, we skinned back to the area and back up to Peak 2 for a few more laps on the backside.  This time Dan grabbed my camera and snapped a few shots of me cruising down Northern before we hung a left and cruised over to Down Under….

May turns on Northern

Skiing Down Under

We skied down below Down Under and onto Junes nearly to the Peak 2 lift.  The snow was pretty nice, and appeared to be getting better as the temps warmed in the afternoon. Rather than skin back over and out to Escalator, we put a new skin track in up Junes.

The skintrack out…

Of course, we couldn’t put a track in and then not use it, so we made one more run down through the trees between Northern and Junes, and then out onto the run.  It was pretty nice….

Turns down June’s

Back at the top, both of us were getting tired after several thousand feet of vertical, so we skinned over to the top of EPA for a finishing run down RTS.  RTS skied very nicely, and was the cap to a great day.  We skied Swoosh out all the way to the lodge — not bad for mid-May at the pass!

Dan skiing Swoosh

Willamette Pass Lodge

Back at the car, we enjoyed a cold beer while drying out our gear.  And then it was time for something I’d been looking forward to all day — heading into Oakridge for a burger and beer at the Brewer’s Union.  As it turns out, this was my last trip to the Pass for the 16/17 season, and I can say without hesitation that it has been one of the best in recent memory!  Here’s to an equally good season for 17/18!

At the car