September 2, 2018 – Mt Hood, Zigzag Snowfield

“I wonder how much snow will be left in September” was the question Dan and I were discussing over the phone a few weeks prior to the month arriving. With August being a scorcher of a month, we were both curious to see if anything would be left on Mt. Hood after our visit in early August. We made plans to head out over Labor Day weekend and find out. Joe was game to go as well, so after meeting at the cop shop in Albany we headed up I5 and arrived at the mountain a few hours later. Significant melting had occurred over the previous month, but it looked like there would still be plenty of turns to be had, so we loaded up our gear and headed up the trail.

Hood from the Climbers lot
Dan on the approach

The temperature was warm as we started climbing, and it didn’t take long for the convertible pants I had on to be put into shorts mode. An hour or so after we started climbing, we came up on ridge overlooking the White River Glacier. The glacier had looked pretty paltry in August when we observed it, and it looked even smaller now.

Joe, Dan & the White River

After a quick snack, we continued climbing the ridge, eventually making our way to the top of the Palmer, where we met a few other TAY folks who were riding lifts. After a quick chat, we headed for our intended destination — the Zigzag snowfield. After 20 minutes of scrambling, we made our way to the snowfield. It looked pretty good so we stashed a couple of beers in the snow, and kept climbing…

Climbing up the Zigzag

Around 9200 feet, we reached the top of the snow and were ready to drop in. The last couple hundred feet was a bit roughneck, but we figured it would be worth it. Dan dropped in first, and Joe and I followed. After we made our way through the rough patch, the snow surface smoothed and became premium September corn…

Dan skiing the upper patch
Skiing down the Zigzag

We worked our way down towards our beers, and snapped a few pictures along the way. After about 800 vertical feet of sliding, we arrived at our spot, and paused for a quick break to enjoy our chilled beverages.

September turns on the Zigzag
Our beverage of choice for the afternoon

Once our brief beer break was over, we headed on down for more fun. The lower half of the snowfield was in excellent shape, and Dan and I took turns with the camera and snapped photos along the way…

Joe skiing by Illumination Rock
Matt cruising on the Ziggy

As we worked our way a little lower down on the snowfield, I setup to snap a few photos of Joe and Dan. One spot in particular caught my eye…it was overlooking Mt Jefferson, and there was also a very large boulder in the canyon that had melted out of the snow. I wasn’t able to get setup to get both features in one photo, so I settled for a couple of different shots….

Dan with Mt Jefferson
Joe skiing next to the boulder

It was striking how much snow had melted on the Zigzag since we were there a month earlier, and the canyon was really showing. Dan and I estimated as much as 10 feet of snow had melted over the past month. We were able to ski down to within a hundred vertical feet or so from where we did in August before the snow yielded to rocks, but had to stop short of the rollover that Dan likes to ski…

Looking back at our turns
At the end of the snow

When there were no more turns to be made, it was time put skis on the packs and start the boot out. Hiking up, I saw what looked like a few remnant crevasses in the ice up towards Illumination Rock. It made me think of how big the glacier used to be — I remember reading about mules being lost in crevasses that were a couple of hundred feet deep while packing fireworks out to Illumination Rock back in the 1880’s…

Remnant ice on the Zigzag

Eventually we worked our way back to where we’d stashed some of our gear, stuffed it in our packs, and headed back towards the Palmer. It was around 2:30 or so when got there, and the lift was shut down for the day. One of the best things about the summer season on Mt Hood is having the Palmer all to yourself after the lift shuts down. We snapped a few pics, strapped in and headed down…

The view from the top of the Palmer
Joe skiing the Palmer

We skied down to the mid-station, and the snow was great. Wanting 4000 feet for the day, and having skied a couple thousand on the Ziggy, we made the decision to head back up for another lap. This time, we took a longer break at the top, enjoying the views to the south and the warm sunshine. A bit later, it was time to ski again.

Climbing back up the Palmer
Dan in the Palmer Canyon

We ripped turns down the main Palmer, and skied until our legs burned. We didn’t pull the camera out until we were in the Palmer Canyon, and Dan and I both snapped a few shots 0f the action…

September turns in the Palmer Canyon
Dan skiing down to Silcox

We enjoyed the turns down the Canyon until the snow stopped, just a short ways from Silcox, and then it was a long hike down a dusty road back to the car in the parking lot. Like the month before, it felt good to change into shorts and flip flops, pull out a cold beverage, and enjoy a fresh garden salad along with chips and freshly made salsa. As we sat back and reflected on the day, the three of agreed that it exceeded expectations, and was probably one of the better September ski’s in recent memory!