Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. Not only do the hot temps of the summer begin to fade, but the leaves start changing colors, new gear fills the ski shops, and dreams of endless powder for the upcoming season fill my head. This year, the cascade range was blessed with an unseasonably wet and cold series of storm events at the end of September which left the mountains blanketed in a few feet of fresh snow. After nearly going nuts by having to work and missing out on a mid-week trip with several friends to Mt Hood, it looked like the weather window would remain through Saturday morning for a chance for some fresh powder. I headed out solo early in the morning, stoked to be chasing fresh snow this early in the season.
As I headed over Willamette Pass, the thermometer dipped to 23 degrees, and Diamond Peak was glistening in the fresh snow and sunshine. Before long, I was driving north on the Cascade Lakes Highway, and could see the Three Sisters and Bachelor cloaked in a fresh blanket of white. When I arrived at Sparks Lake, I decided it was too good an opportunity to pass up, so I grabbed my tripod and camera and set out to shoot some pictures. The frost on the dead grass reminded me of many early mornings I’d spent in the fall while hunting in the Eagle Cap Wilderness with my father several years ago. After snapping a few photos, the sun crested the ridge to the east, and with Mt Bachelor reflecting in Sparks Lake, I got a really nice shot……
With my photo session complete, I headed back to my car just as a fly fisherman clad in waders made his way into the lake in search of an early morning trout. Pulling into the parking lot at Mt Bachelor, I could tell the Cinder Cone had been plundered by the locals, but with about 12 inches in the parking lot, both the lower and upper mountain looked really nice. I set out on a skin track under the Pine Martin Chair, stoked to feel the soft light snow under my sticks. Before long, I reached the mid-mountain, and could tell the upper mountain was going to ride really nicely…
The temperatures started to warm a bit, but the snow still stayed soft as I skinned up the northwest ridge, enjoying the views to the west and north. Besides myself, it appeared one other skier was on the upper mountain, and he was a few hundred yards above me. After a quick break for a snack and to rehydrate, I continued skinning to within a few hundred feet of the summit, from which I decided to boot the last bit to the top. The rime ice formations were pretty cool to see this early in the season, and definitely gave me the feel that winter had returned to the northwest…
Just before I reached the summit, the skier who was ahead of me dropped in for some fresh October turns, so I pulled out my camera and snapped a few pictures, knowing they may be the only action shots I would get on this trip, being solo….
A few more steps and I was on top of the mountain, and rewarded with one of the best views I’d had in quite awhile. Looking to the north, 8 volcanoes were glistening white in the sun, including all Three Sisters, Broken Top, Mt Washington, Mt Jefferson, Mt Hood & Mt Adams.
Traversing over across the top of the summit, the views to the south included the volcanoes of Diamond Peak, Mt Thielsen & Mt Scott. Even Maiden Peak had ample snow coverage and looked like it would be fun for some early season turns. Looking down into the Cirque Bowl, I knew my ride was going to be good….
Before I dropped in, I snapped a few more photos, including the shot below of my board looking out towards the Sisters and Broken Top…..
After a few tentative turns to test the snowpack, I opened it up and made several nice big turns in the bowl. The snow consistency was wind packed powder – what more could I ask for in early October? Here’s a couple of shots from my turns in the Cirque Bowl….
Exiting the bowl, I found a snow finger that provided fun, playful turns down to the mid-mountain. I had to dodge a rock or two, but was able to ride right to the mid-mountain road. In the below shot you can see my tracks in the snow finger in the midle left….
I hiked along the road to the Pine Martin Chair, hoping to score some still fresh snow in the warming temperatures. As luck would have it, part of the run was still in the shade, and yielded excellent powder turns all the way down. I had to stop a couple times and rest tired legs, since my quads weren’t quite in mid-season powder riding shape! As a bonus, I was able to ride right to the car….
After a 45 minute hiatus of being locked in the parking lot (along with several others who were playing around on the lower mountain), mountain security opened the gate and let us out. Hanging out in the parking lot in flip flops and shorts after riding nearly 3000 feet of powder didn’t suck! On the way home, I dropped my fishing line in Crescent Creek to test my luck, but couldn’t find any trout willing to take my panther martin. Wading around the creek up to my knees was reward enough though, and it felt good to get one last day of summer like weather in the Oregon cascades, with the added bonus of October powder in the morning! Here’s to a great powder filled winter!