Where to go for August turns? Seems like that’s the question every year. After spring and summer adventures during the volcano season, August can sometimes feel like a let down. That is, until I head out to Mt Hood. This year, like the last, Dan was game to head north for some turns, so we met in Albany and carpooled up to Timberline. After a quick stop at Joe’s Donuts for breakfast, we arrived in the lot about 8:45, and were hiking up the climbers trail adjacent to the White River drainage about 9:15. We met a skier from Vancouver, WA who kept up company to the top of the Palmer. Hiking up the trail, numerous wildflowers were in bloom from the recent rain, and the White River Glacier was making it’s summer retreat….
While watching the glacier, we heard a rather loud rumbling at the bottom, and turned to see a huge outburst of rock, mud, ice and water flow from the bottom of the glacier. The slurry ran down the bottom of the canyon for several thousand feet, pouring over the remaining snowfields in the bottom. Though there was no reason to be down there, it was a good reminder of the mountain’s power and why the bottom of the canyon is no place to be in the summer.
At the top of the Palmer, Dan and I continued on while our skier friend headed down to lap the public park on the Mile run. We climbed up the While River Snowfield, which was surprisingly well filled in given the below average snow year, an eventually worked our way up to the base of the White River Headwall.
Our original plan had been to ski from around 9500 feet, but once we were there it looked like the snow higher up would be decent, so we continued on. Crossing the rock ridge near the base of the White River headwall, I could tell the snow on the Zigzag and upper mountain looked really nice, so our decision to descend the White River snowfield was trumped by the Zigzag Glacier and higher snow around Crater Rock.
As we worked our way up to the Devil’s Kitchen, a large cloud started to form quickly. Both Dan and I watched, as it hung around and looked menacing. Lightening was on both our minds, as it was humid, but not too warm given the slight breeze.
We crossed over and around a few crevasses near the Devil’s Kitchen, and worked our way up the slope towards the Hogsback. The snow above Devil’s Kitchen and below Hogsback was somewhat inconsistent, and as we continued climbing the cloud looked more and more menacing. Given the hour, the snow conditions, and the weather, we opted to turn around a few hundred feet from the Hogsback and head down. Once we were back down on the flat below Devil’s Kitchen, we stopped for a few quick pictures before strapping in for some August turns….
I headed down first, and the turns were pretty decent on the snowfield above the White River Headwall. Dan followed, and I snapped shots of him as he skied down to and then past met…..
At the top of the White River Headwall, we elected to traverse over to a connecting snow finger well above the Zigzag Glacier, which dropped several hundred feet down to the Ziggy. Dan skied down in front of me with my camera, and shot a few pictures as I made turns above Illumination Rock…..
The snow finger skied well, but once we were onto the Zigzag proper was when the snow went from good to great. Unlike the year prior, the Ziggy was perfectly smooth with no suncups. We both opened it up and descended down for another thousand feet of smooth, excellent August corn….
It’s easy to forget that Hood is a big mountain, and the below shot puts that into perspective — in the photo I’m snowboarding on the upper Zigzag below the connecting snow finger (upper right) that nearly connects to the White River headwall.
Midway down the Zigzag Glacier, Dan and I traversed skier’s left and continued to make turns down while angling back towards the Palmer snowfield. After riding as far as we could, we gauged the weather, which seemed to be holding, and climbed over and up to the top of the Palmer…..
Once to the top of the Palmer, it was time for a well deserved beer and a break. 15 minutes later, we were ready to ride the fresh corduroy laid down by the Timberline cats, and dropped in just after Patrol swept off the hill…….
We skied down the 2500 vertical feet of the Palmer and Magic Mile canyons to within a few hundred feet of the lodge, one of my favorite things about summer turns at Mt Hood. On the brief hike down to the lodge, I snapped a few pictures of Timberline with an orange filter and the below picture was the result….
Back at the car, Dan and I enjoyed another beer, along with some summer favorites including fresh chips and salsa made from the garden, as well as fresh cucumbers and dip. On the drive home, we were fortunate to make good time heading south (I5 north had three separate wrecks), and enjoyed reliving the day as well as planning for September turns to come. One thing about August turns — they never seem to be a letdown, even after a great spring/summer volcano season! Here’s a parting shot from the day…..