Fall has officially arrived in Oregon, and we’ve been enjoying a beautiful Indian summer during the first part of October. Unlike last year, when a big storm blanketed the cascades in a fresh coat of new snow, the mountains are nearly bare right now. Rather than chance waiting on a storm for October turns, Dan, Joe, Cindy and I elected to head to Mt Hood on what would turn out to be an unusually warm fall day. After the usual stop at Joe’s Donut Shop for a quick coffee refill, we pulled into the parking lot at Timberline. Stepping out of the car, it was rather warm and hadn’t even approached freezing the night before.
We quickly sorted gear, strapped on skis and boards, and headed up the climbers trail towards the White River Canyon. The wind was non-existent, and even though I was wearing light pants and a light long sleeved shirt I felt overdressed. We made quick time to the base of the White River glacier…
Down below a group of 4 folks were ice climbing on some cool features at the foot of the east side of the glacier. I made a mental note that late September/early October would be a good time to come back for an ice climbing session. We climbed up to somewhere around 8000 feet and stopped for a quick break to re-hydrate and snap a few photos….
We continued climbing, now with a good view of both the glacier and the Palmer snowfield. I was surprised the lifts were running, as it appeared people had to not only upload to get to the top of the Palmer, but they had to take skis off on each run because there wasn’t enough snow on the mid-station ramp. Near the top of the Palmer, Joe snapped a picture of Dan and I with the glacier in the background…..
Our plan was to just run a few laps on the Palmer, but as usual we got suckered into the White River triangle above the Palmer because the snow “looked so good.” Joe and Dan switched from hiking to skiing boots, and we started up. A few hundred vertical feet later, the snow didn’t look so hot. In fact, we did a quick game of Rock, Paper, Scissors to see if we should continue up or not. I won, which meant we continued climbing, so we did. The snow got more cupped, so a few hundred feet from the top of the Triangle we called it. Below is a picture looking back down from our high point.
While we were taking a break and getting ready to head down, we heard a huge rumble and looked up to see a substantial portion of the Steel Cliffs crumble away in a landslide. The three of us stared in awe, and my initial thought was I may need to run if this gets any bigger. Fortunately, it didn’t, but this was by far and away the biggest slide/rockfall any of us had seen on Hood. I can still see rocks the size of cars hurtling off the face as the slope slid on itself.
After the rock show, we headed down the triangle, and it actually skied better than it appeared. The snow was soft and actually quite nice. I dropped in first and setup to snap a few pictures of Joe as he followed. Dan came down last, and I got a few pics of him as well….
Along part of the triangle there was a small patch of fresh snow left over from the few inches of snow that had fallen a week earlier, and I left it open for Joe and Dan to rip, knowing they’d be stoked on it. Clearly they were, as the smile on Joe’s face below indicates…..
We were able to “ski” to the top of the Palmer, but the road along the top of the Palmer had melted out and the skiable snow was a few hundred feet below us. As we hiked along the road to the lift shack, we met Chris with ski patrol and chatted him up for awhile. He indicated the rockfall/slide on the Steel Cliffs had been felt with the area’s instruments, and was possibly triggered by a tremor. After trading a few stories, Chris headed out towards the White River and we got ready to rip the Palmer. As usual, the snow was creamy and sweet on the snowfield….
At the mid-station, we stashed a couple of beers in the snow and hiked back up under the chair, making good time. Roughly 25 minutes later there we were again at the top of the Palmer. Dan grabbed my camera and snapped a few photos of me while I ripped some sweet October turns…..
At the bottom of the snowfield, we met up with Cindy, who likes to hike up from below at her own pace, and took a rest while drinking our ice cold beers. Riding down the Palmer canyon was a blast, but I was surprised at how little snow there was. We made turns to the top of the Mile canyon, but that was all as the lower canyon was melted out. So, the boards went back on our packs and we hiked down the road in temperatures that approached 80 degrees.
Back at the parking lot, it felt damn good to change into shorts and flip flops, and sip on a cold beverage, eat some pickled salmon, and feast on fresh chips and garden salsa. All in all it was an excellent day with better than expected snow, and all of us were glad we got out early for October turns. Now let it snow!