September 1, 2011 – Illumination Saddle, Mt Hood

Since I had a busy September planned,, I headed up to Mt Hood on the first day of month to get some turns in.  I’d wanted to check out the Collier Glacier on the Middle Sister, but the time requirement for that trip didn’t pencil out.  Since I took the day off work, I was solo, but not to worry I found plenty of fun to keep me busy.  I arrived in the Timberline Parking lot around 8:30 after a long drive from the southern Willamette Valley.  The sun was shining and I could tell it was going to be a gorgeous day.  Since I hadn’t paid for a lift ticket at any resort since last September, I splurged and bought a day pass to maximize my riding.  After riding the Mile and Palmer Chairs to 8500 feet, I made my first turns on the groomed slopes which were a bit icy.  By the next run, the snow had softened nicely on the eastern half of the Palmer snowfield, and I was able to rip turns.  I continued to spin laps until about 10:15, at which point I put the board on my back and started hiking out towards Illumination Saddle to check things out.  The coverage on the Zigzag still looked really good from Highway 35, and after I climbed a few hundred feet, I got my first views of the snowfield and it confirmed what I had seen from the highway below.  Crossing the Zigzag, you get a nice view up the Old Crater Route…

Looking up at the Old Crater Route and Crater Rock

Within about 40 minutes or so of leaving the top of the Palmer, I was standing at Illumination Saddle and looking down onto the Reid Glacier to the west.  Riding down onto the Reid looked inviting, but being solo I didn’t venture past the saddle.

Reid Glacier - September 1, 2011

I hung out at the saddle for about 20 minutes or so, soaking in the views in all directions and admiring the substantial snowpack for this late in the year.  Looking to the north, there still appeared to be some snow in the Leuthold’s Couloir.  That area looks beautiful and would make for a great ski descent, but is always somewhat dangerous.  Maybe someday I’ll ride it when the conditions are right!

The upper Reid Glacier

I snapped a few photos, including the one below looking down on the Zigzag Glacier and out towards Mt Jefferson to the south.  The haze in the background was from a large wildfire burning near Madras.

Looking south from Illumination Saddle

I climbed up the snowy ridge to the high point near the base of Illumination Rock, strapped on my board and proceeded to make some sketch turns down the steeper portion of the slope.  The snow was firm and pretty cupped directly off Illumination Rock, but fairly smooth and enjoyable down on the Zigzag Glacier.

September Turns on Illumination Rock

The ski down the Zigzag Glacier was fun.  I pretty much repeated our descent line from the previous year, with the exception of riding down to the toe of the glacier near the start of the canyon.  I had to hike back up a bit to link up with the snow finger that descends down to near 6500 feet.  I didn’t find any noticeable crevasses on the Zigzag, though for the first time I did see some odd cracks that resembled crevasses (but they were only about 6 inches wide?).

Looking up the Zigzag Glacier

I continued to make turns following the large snow finger down to near 7000 feet, stopping a few hundred feet above where the snow ended so I could hike back to the ski area and make a few more laps before the day was over.  The snow finger had an amazing amount of snow for the first of September!  Below is a shot from where I unstrapped from my board…

The lower snow finger below the Zigzag

After packing my board and gear up, I was back at the ski area within 15 minutes and hopped back on the lift for another 7 or 8 laps on the Palmer before heading down 3000 feet to the parking lot.  Riding down in the Mile Canyon, I was able to make turns to within a couple hundred yards of the parking lot!

Near the end of the snow in Mile Canyon

Back at the parking lot, I made a quick change of clothes before making the long drive home, quite satisfied with another September in the books and several thousand vertical feet of turns under my belt!  I’m looking forward to what October brings!