January 19, 2020 – Sled training in the sun

It was shaping up to be a beautiful day at the Pass. The big storm event had come to a close a few days earlier, and we were greeted by sunshine and gorgeous weather for our Sunday. After gathering for the morning meeting and discussing the day’s plans, we headed out to open the mountain.

P2 crew up top on EPA

Looking out towards Peak 2

The groomers were in good shape, and once we had the front side open, we headed to Peak 2 to spin a couple of laps. Around 10:00 am, it was time for sled checkoffs. I’d been asked to get a few pictures of our new UO Edge sled, and even though my allegiance is to Oregon State, I obliged by taking a few photos…

Shannon and Greg with the Edge

Greg and the Edge

After shooting a few pics of the sled, I swapped out lenses, and was eager to shoot a few portraits with my 50 mm f/1.8 Canon. Matthew made a good subject, and then I snapped a picture of Greg, Joe and Shannon before we headed out to do some loaded sled work…

Matthew at the top of EPA

Greg, Joe and Shannon

We took a run down Eagles Flight, and I drove the 100 while Shannon drove the Edge. After half the run, I swapped out from the handles to the tail rope, and then we finished out the run and took the sleds down to the base, and then back to the top of EPA.

Telephoto shot of Diamond Peak

Matthew ready for a sled check run

The next several runs were spent checking off the other alpine patrollers on the sleds, and we were able to get everyone through by noon. On the last run, I was ballast for John, and with the aid of my fisheye lens, was able to take a few pictures from the vantage point what would normally be a patient…

Brian coming in hot to the top of Eagles

Fischer pulling me down Eagles

Once the sled training was done, I went in for a quick lunch, and the remainder of the day was spent dealing with a multitude of issues, including several injuries in the afternoon.

A portrait of Shannon at the top of EPA

Below are a few shots of Hannah and Shannon pulling Greg down the hill in the new Edge sled from earlier in the morning…

Hannah and Shannon running the Edge

Headed down Eagles Flight

When 3:30 finally rolled around and it was time to close Peak 2, I was relieved. After deploying many of my resources on different events that required attention, I was ready for the day to be over. We were able to sweep Peak 2 and EPA without incident, and closing lower mountain went without issue as well.

Moments prior to closing EPA

We closed the day with an evening meeting at the base, and called it another good day of patrolling at the Pass.

 

January 11, 2020 – Powder at the Pass

Saturday looked to be pretty epic, and for the first time in awhile, it appeared P2 was going to score the goods. I met up with the the crew in the patrol room after driving up 58, and the stoke factor was high for the day. The wind was blowing hard, and a significant amount of snow had fallen overnight. After the morning meeting, we headed out, ready for a morning of avalanche work and powder turns.

John and Greg

Given the storm conditions, EPA didn’t open until 9:45am, so we made the most of it hanging out in the lift line waiting for the icing issue to be resolved and the chairs to spin. Once we got word of opening, it was time to head up and run the avalanche route on RTS.

P2 ready to open the mountain

OEC candidates at the base

Dan and I loaded the first chair with Deverton and Greg, and headed up. The wind was howling up top, with sustained winds around 30-40 mph, and gusts up over 50m mph. We cautiously dropped over the rollover into RTS one by one, and the wind was ripping about as hard as I could remember. Lower down, we performed several ski cuts, without result, and finished with a few enjoyable powder turns on the lower run…

Pausing on RTS during avy work

Deverton ripping a turn down RTS

Given the snow and wind, it appeared Peak 2 wouldn’t open for another hour or so, so we spun a few laps on the front side while we waited. A bit later, we got the call, so Dan, John and I headed over, along with Hutch and Jon for avalanche work on the backside…

John and Hutch heading up for Peak 2 Avy work

Jon and Hutch were ahead of us, and when we got to the top of Peak 2, we heard the call on the radio that conditions were looking extremely sketch. As we readied to head out, Rick pulled up with the cat, so we checked in with him prior to heading over to June’s.

Dan and Rick up top

Rick groomed a nice path out to Waldo, and we followed, ski cutting the trees below the run. Shooting cracks were running everywhere, and the snow was extremely wind effected. Hutch and Jon got pretty good movement out of the snow on the nose, we worked our way out the ridge line, cutting cornices and getting some nice slabs to cut loose as well.

Dan on June’s

After we controlled the ridge, I worked my way down and across the meadow, and met up with Hutch and Jon. It was snowing hard, the wind was blowing, and conditions were sketch, so I didn’t get any good pictures of the actual action from the morning, but the slog fest up the ridge in waist deep snow, along with the sweat I worked up told me it was a classic day for doing control work.

First chair on Peak 2 after control work; Photo by Jon Marshall

With control work done, the rope at the closure dropped and it was game on. I spun a few laps on Northern, which was riding great, and met up with Jon and Shannon who also were ripping it. The snow was pretty blower up top, but definitely wind effected, especially down low, where it required effort to keep speed up and not sink to your waist.

Jon shredding down Northern

Shannon getting the goods

We spun a few more laps on Peak 2, enjoying it until our legs became tired, finally heading down to the front a few minutes before 2:00 pm to get a quick bite to eat and return the avalanche gear. The remainder of the day was spent enjoying a few turns down RTS, followed by Peak 2 sweep and then upper mountain sweep. Dan and I hung out up top during upper mountain sweep, and vacated via RTS as the evening light started to wane.

Afternoon turns down RTS

Dan up top with the lift crew at the day’s end

On our last run down RTS, the snow was still skiing nicely, and it was an awesome way to end the day. Down in the patrol room after sweep, everyone was pumped on a good day, and the beers after the evening meeting hit the spot as usual. Day like this one are definitely what makes patrolling at the Pass special, and don’t happen often enough!

January 4, 2020 – Willamette Pass

After a dismal start to the season, things were finally starting to move in the right direction. It looked like Saturday had potential to be good at the Pass, and Dan, Joe and I weren’t going to miss the first possible pow turns in over a month. We agreed to check the snotel site in the morning, and make a decision based on how much new snow had fallen.

The Patrol Building at the Pass

When we woke, the snotel wasn’t reporting properly, but the snow phone at the Pass was reporting 4 inches so we agreed it was worth heading up. We met at Dan’s house, and Joe and I headed up in his truck, while Dan went in his truck since he was patrolling on Sunday and would be staying the night at the Pass. When we pulled into the parking lot, the Pass was looking a lot better than the previous week. We said hello to P3, who was on duty for the day, and quickly loaded packs and started out on the skin track.

Skinning up Timburr Glades

With the area being open (lower mountain only was what was planned per the website and snow phone), we headed over towards Sleepy and worked our way up towards Timburr Glades, and then to High Lead Glades. The snow on the skin track was about a half a foot deep. As we worked further up on High Lead, we had to put the skis on our packs and boot the last few hundred feet up to the top of EPA due to a stiff crust.

Booting up High Lead

Looking towards Peak 2 from EPA

We skinned over to the top of Peak 2, and were delighted to see 36 inches at the snow stake. We were even more stoked when we peeled skins and dropped in for our first lap on Northern. The top half was excellent, with about 8-10 inches of fresh, cold snow.

First turns on Northern

Lower down the run, the wind had hammered the bottom section, but the turns were still good. We made a quick changeover and then skinned up Escalator and back to the top for another lap. This time we decided to hit the trees on the left of Northern. I made a few turns while Dan shot photos, and could feel the cold smoke plastering my face, and it felt good….

Powder turns on Northern

Exiting the whiteroom

We continued on down, and decided a lap on Down Under was in order. I went down in front of the skiers and made some fun turns through the trees, then shot pics as they came down.

Joe enjoying the pow

First turns down Down Under

We skied down to the intersection with June’s and then kept going, working our way to below the rollover below the cliff. The skiing through the trees was even nice, and we soon popped out below Escalator and Destiny, and punched in a skin track through the wind driven snow back up to Escalator.

Skinning back up

Matt on top of Peak 2

On top for a third time, we decided to head over and put some tracks on June’s. This was a good choice, as the snow on June’s was the best of the day.

Joe skiing June’s

January Turns on June’s Run

Like before, we skied down below the cliff, and worked through the trees back to our skin track. This time we took a well deserved break up top, and replenished with some food and a cold beverage. This day’s beverage of choice was a Bandon Dune’s pale ale, as well as a Pelican cream style ale.

Beverage of choice for the day

After enjoying our beer and a nice break, we headed over to harvest some more of the good snow on June’s. Dan snapped pictures of me heading down, and a couple of the ones below turned out pretty nice…

Matt enjoying the pow

Cruising down June’s

Down at the bottom, we again put the skins back on, and on our fourth lap up our legs were starting to feel the burn. We made it back to the top of Peak 2, and looked over to see EPA turning. Dan and I agreed that we needed one more lap before heading back to the front, so we headed over to June’s again while Joe stayed put.

Dan ripping the pow

Skinning up Boundary

The snow didn’t disappoint, and by the time we left we’d put 15 tracks down the backside. To finish our day, we skied back down Southbound, and dropped into the trees before the gate closure, and rode through SDN and into RTS. RTS skied pretty nicely, in large part due to our efforts with saw work over the past couple of years.

Dan skiing RTS

Skiing RTS

We finished the day with a run down Swoosh, and skied right to the patrol room door. Changing our gear in the warmth of the patrol room, we all agreed it was nice to hit such good conditions after several days of riding nothing but the lower mountain. And, little did we know, this weekend would be the start of a pretty epic storm cycle that would kick the mountain into full operations for the season. Nothing like ringing in the new year right! Here’s a parting shot from the day…

Parting shot

 

December 29, 2019 – Last Patrol Day of the Decade

Sunday, December 29th would be the final patrol day of the year as well as the decade, and I headed up solo to the Pass to enjoy a day with Patrol 2. Given the meager snow depth, it would be a lower mountain show for the second week in a row. Nevertheless, it was good to be on the hill making turns.

Ed, David & Todd at the top of Twilight

After the morning meeting, I headed out to the Twilight chair, and spun a few laps on Duck Soup, Timburr Glades, and Rough Cut. I caught a picture of Ed, David and Todd at the top of the chair with my new Canon f/1.8 50 mm lens that I’d got a couple days earlier, and then headed out to make the short hike to High Lead Glades. Hiking out to the glades reminded me of earlier years gone by, when I made the same trek with Dan and Joe in similar conditions…

Looking out towards High Lead Glades

Diamond from High Lead

When I got to the Glades, I was welcomed by a great view of Diamond Peak and some smooth snow on the run. I sat there for a moment or two, enjoying the solitude, before strapping in and enjoying some fun turns back down to the intersection with Timburr Glades. From there, I figured it was time to spin a few runs on the Sleepy Chair. In fact, I think it was my first time (while patrolling) spinning 3 laps on Sleepy…

The view from the Sleepy chair

Sleepy and Diamond

After the exertion that is demanded from Sleepy, it was time for lunch, and then an afternoon cup of coffee. On my way to the lodge to get said coffee, I snapped a few shots of the lodge with my new 50 mm lens…

The Lodge

The rest of the afternoon was spent spinning laps on Twilight, with one more hike out to High Lead thrown in for good measure. Even though we were only skiing on 10 to 12 inches of snow, the riding was pretty good, all things considered. At 4:00 pm, it was time for lower mountain sweep, and I snapped a shot of the closing crew up top before we headed out.

Closing Crew

David on Sweep

A short time later, sweep was complete, and after our evening meeting, it was time to head down the road and say goodbye to 2019. Here’s to hoping that 2020 comes in stronger than 2019 went out…..

Parting shot of the Lodge

 

December 7, 2019 – Willamette Pass

The forecast wasn’t looking so hot, but Dan was game to head up to the Pass with me since I had to be up there anyway to help out in the afternoon with chair evacuation at the makeup patrol refresher. We met at his house in the morning, loaded gear into the pickup, and headed up the highway. As we pulled into the parking lot, we were both pleasantly surprised at the coverage on the hill. It looked like about 8 inches or so of a wet, heavy base.

The Patrol Room View

We changed into ski boots in the patrol room, shouldered packs, and headed out. The plan for the afternoon was to do chair evacuation on Sleepy at 2 pm, so we needed to be back to the patrol room around 1:00 to eat lunch and prep. I headed out a few minutes before Dan and snapped a few shots with the fisheye, and then we headed up the skintrack.

A fisheye view of the frontside

We headed up KP, and it was obvious from the tracks that a week or two earlier the snow conditions were decent due to the old tracks in the snow. It didn’t look like anyone was around this morning however, and it was a peaceful skin up the trail. We worked our way up Eagles, and to the top of KP, where the view looking out across the tree farm towards Peak 2 showed just how dire the snow conditions were…

Dan near the top of KP

Dan was pretty sure the backside wasn’t worth visiting, as he’d been up there the past weekend and it wasn’t worth skiing. Since it really hadn’t snowed more than an inch or two, we didn’t have high hopes, but decided to head over just to stretch the legs and take a look. On the way, we stopped to admire the new saddle sled tube….

Matt and the new saddle tube

We continued on to Peak 2, and the snow stake was so low getting a reading wasn’t even possible, but it looked like the depth was about 12-14 inches. Northern definitely wasn’t skiable, but before we left, I suggested we skin over and check out Waldo. To our amazement, it looked decent, so we decided to give it a go. Dropping in tentatively, we made a few turns, and as we descended it became better and better…

Dan dropping into Waldo

Approaching the headwall

We approached the headwall tentatively, and it looked like there were a few dicey spots, but not too bad, so I gave Dan the camera and headed down. I hit one rock, but other than that, it rode clean and mash potato turns felt great!

Dropping in below the headwall

We skied down to the intersection with Down Under, and called it there since the snow became super slow and heavy. Up to that point however, the turns had been quite good, and both Dan and I regretted not arriving at the mountain an hour or two earlier since it was already approaching noon and we needed to head back up to get over to the base for our patrol obligations,

Matt on skintrack back up

We set a track back up Waldo, following our turns for a ways and then busting trail. Looking back at the views to the northwest, I had to marvel at the beauty of the Pass — something that’s easy to take for granted when you’re up there a lot. As we approached June’s, I peered over the edge to check it out and see if it would go, and the answer was a definitive no! As Dan approached, I snapped a photo to document what it looked like…

Looking out over June’s Run

Once we made it back to the top of Peak 2, we pulled the skins and skied over to EPA before skiing down the frontside. From the skin up, we both agreed that Eagle’s would be the best bet for the descent, so we headed out, dodging rocks and sticks on KP on our way to Eagle’s…

Dan skiing KP below the top of EPA

We dropped into Eagle’s and Dan had the camera, so he snapped a few shots of me dodging the trees and rocks on the way down. Conditions were definitely spicy, but the turns really weren’t all that bad. We were extra careful, and made it down without tagging any rocks or taking any spills…

Turns on Eagle’s

Working down Eagle’s

At Wayne’s World intersection, I headed on down to the base while Dan worked over to ski George. Just cruising down KP making turns was fun, and back at the base we were both pretty stoked just to be able to be fortunate enough to have been able to get out in the mountains for the day.

Comatose IPA from Goodlife Brewing

The rest of the day was spent leading chair evac, and it went off without a hitch. The day ended with Dan and I lounging around the patrol room with a few other patrollers, enjoying a beer while reminiscing about previous good days and looking forward to the season to (hopefully) come. Here’s a parting shot of June’s from the day…

Parting shot from June’s