March 3-6, 2019 – Tam McArthur Rim, Three Creeks Huts

It’s hard to believe, but this year marked my 10th consecutive trip to the Three Creeks Huts with Three Sisters Backcountry. Over the years, there have been some pretty special trips with memories that will last for a lifetime. This year was no exception, and may have been one of the best to date.

As in years past, our trip started out with a carpool/caravan over to Sisters, with a quick stop for a cup of coffee before heading up to the Upper Three Creeks Snowpark, where we met the rest of our crew. This year’s crew consisted of Adam, Andy, Brian, Dan, Ethan, John, Mark, Mike and myself. We met Anna and Jonas a few minutes after we arrived, and loaded three nights worth of gear on the sleds for the haul into the huts. The weather was clear and cold, with sunny skies a welcome sight after nearly 4 feet of snow had fallen in the recent days.

Jonas heading up towards the Jellyroll

The ride into the huts went by quickly, and we soon were unloading gear from the sleds and organizing our living space for the trip. Six of us ended up in the Raven hut, while three other joined our new friends John and Glenda in the Owl hut. We wasted little time getting our huts in order, and set out on the skin track in search of some fresh snow. We skinned our way up towards the Jellyroll, which had slid big a few days earlier during the storm cycle.

Adam ripping some cold smoke

Jonas led the way, and it was nice to get some time on the skin track with him, chatting about the years past. As we worked our way up past the Jellyroll, it looked like the crown face was from two to five feet thick. Given that it has already slid, and the bed surface had about a foot of new light snow on it, we ripped skins and made some pretty stellar turns down the slope and then over into the Playground…

Dan skiing above the crown
Adam dropping into the Playground

As the afternoon progressed, we continued to enjoy several laps in the area, finding the snow very stable, as well as being light and fluffy.

Brian slashing a turn in the Playground

Eventually we worked our way back down to the huts to settle in for the evening. The first order of business was to grab a cold beer, followed by dinner prep. Mark and Mike brought the ingredients for the first night, and we feasted on some pretty tasty pasta. When dinner was over, I made some gourmet (at least for the backcountry) margaritas, complete with agave, triple sec, lime juice and fresh snow.

The Huts before sunset

After it had been dark for awhile, I headed out on the lake to give my wife a call, then came back to the huts and setup the tripod and fisheye lens. It took a few minutes to find a suitable subject, but the sauna and Raven yurt proved to be worthy. With the photo shoot complete, I headed in for another drink with the boys before we hit the sack in anticipation of a larger tour on day 2.

The sauna and Raven Yyurt

We woke on day 2 to crisp, sunny skies, and cold temps. Breakfast consisted of a variety of good food including bacon, eggs and sausage, which would provide the needed fuel for a big tour day. Once the dishes were done, we shouldered packs, stepped out of the yurts, and into our bindings.

Morning light outside the huts

After a quick beacon check, we hit the skintrack up through the forest. It wasn’t too long before the views started opening up of the surrounding peaks…

Brian with Mt Jefferson
Adam and Broken Top

The plan for the day was to hit Snow Creek and check out the conditions, so we worked our way out towards Broken Hand to look for a suitable drop in spot. The coverage was pretty nice, so we didn’t need to go all that far.

The “Powder King” surveying his domain
Mark and Mike skiing upper Snow Creek

Brian, John and Andy continued out further towards the Hand, and I stayed back to snap a few photos before dropping in. The pow was primo, and we ripped turns down through the basin, working our way down the drainage for about a mile before stopping for a bite for lunch in the sun.

Brian dropping in
Dan making turns

Our lunch spot was cozy, and it felt good to nice to warm up a little in the rays of the sun. After downing a sandwich, Mark and I headed out first to put in a skintrack for another lap. As usual, run number two was as good if not better than run one…

Skinning out of Snow Cr
Mark getting some second lap pow

Further into our second run, I wanted to hit a little feature I’d had my eye on, so Andy grabbed the camera and snapped photos of John and I coming down. Unfortunately the lens on the camera didn’t have the reach from his vantage point, so we settled for a couple of shots on the mellow slopes below the bowl…

Matt getting some of the action
The “Fish” in his element

To cap off our second run, I grabbed some shots of Brian and Ethan ripping. They’re both aggressive riders, and the shots turned out nicely…

Brian slashing on the Hovercraft
Ethan charging down Snow Cr

The group skinned back up one more time, with various goals in mind. Mark, Mike, Ethan and Adam headed back to the huts (Mark and Ethan were skinning out to road to head home, and had a long trip still in front of them), while Dan, John and Brian headed over to ski a different line they’d been eyeing. Andy and I decided to do another lap where we’d been skiing since the snow was so good.

Mt Jefferson from Snow Creek
Andy on lap 3

After three laps, Andy and I decided it was time to skin out and head back to the huts. I wanted to drop the western most bowl on Tam, so we skinned over to check out the conditions.

Andy skinning out of Snow Cr
Matt at the top of the west bowl

Standing at the top of the west bowl, we were a little concerned about how much snow had fallen in the previous week, but conditions had been proving stable everywhere we’d been skiing. There were four sets of fresh tracks down our line (we found out later they were from Jonas and Gabe, followed by Mark and Mike), with tons of room to still ski. I dropped in first, made a quick ski cut, and then enjoyed some of the best powder turns of the trip. Andy headed down after me, and I snapped a photo of him at the bottom of the steep section with a big grin…

Partway down the west bowl

We skied the rest of the bowl in good pow, then hit the dogleg towards the east for the exit and the snow got a little dicey from sun damage. The turns down to the bottom were still fun however, and soon we were at Little Three Creeks lake skinning back towards the huts.

Looking back up towards the Prow

Twenty or thirty minutes later, we hit the main lake and skinned back to the huts, about the same time as Brian, John and Dan were arriving from their ski back via the Playground. All of us were stoked on the day, and settled in to the hut life for the evening. More margarita’s were had, and dinner was courtesy of Rob who made a dinner but couldn’t make the trip. The usual bullshit session ensued after dinner, and we hit the sack around 10 pm in anticipation of the coming day.

Fisheye view of the hut

Day 3 dawned clear, but quickly clouded up as the morning progressed. We had another hearty breakfast of potatoes, eggs, and toast, and were soon out on the skins again to check out some more local terrain around the Rim. We made short work of the well worn skin track to the top of the Rim, and then toured out along the top looking for a suitable place to drop. Adam, John, Mike and I skinned out towards the Prow to ski a favorite line, while Dan and Brian wanted to drop off the Proboscis directly. Rolling over the top, we made a ski cut and then opened it up.

Adam skiing the Orchard Bowl

The turns were blower, and everyone was stoked. Adam and John headed skier’s left, and I headed over skier’s right to set up and snap some photos of Dan and Brian dropping from the Proboscis. A couple of pics are below, but don’t do a good job showing the scale and exposure of the line…

Brian dropping off the Proboscis
Dan skiing further down

We regrouped at the bottom, and Brian, Dan, John and I headed back up for another lap off the top while Mike and Adam stayed put in the bowl. The second line was equally as glorious as the first. For lap 3, we decided to skin directly back up the Orchard Bowl, which gave me a chance to test out my Karakoram Sender Plates at the upper steep section. They worked beautifully…

Climbing at the top of the Orchard Bowl
Matt riding in the Orchard Bowl

With three lines in the books in the Orchard Bowl, it was time to head to a different spot and find something else to play on. We decided that east was a good direction, which would allow us to play on a few cliff features, and finish up with turns down to the huts.

Hanging at the bottom of the Orchard
Brian airing over the rocks

We spent an hour or so shooting pics on a few small cliffs, and it was a good opportunity for me to shoot some interesting angles with the fisheye. When we tired of that, we finished up with a lap in the Playground through the eastside steep section and rode the skintrack back down to the huts.

Dan and Andy at the huts

Dinner for the third night was fish tacos, made by Andy and I. I brought along some halibut I’d scored earlier in the summer with my dad on an August ocean fishing trip, and we had all the fixings. Everyone was stoked, and I think this is going to become an annual tradition. More margaritas and mixed drinks followed, and as we crawled into our bunks, the stoke was high for some fresh pow in the morning.

We woke on day 4 to about 4 inches of fresh snow, and it was snowing as we fixed breakfast. The plan for the day was to stay local and check out the conditions in back of the huts. We skinned up towards the Playground and worked our way up to the Jelly Roll, where we were able to produce some shooting cracks off the top in the main section of the bowl. We cautiously backed away and rode a mellower line down to the Playground where we found good snow. A couple of more laps east of the Playground also produced good snow, and Brian sessioned a cliff for the camera….

Brian sending a Tam Rim cliff

By 1:00 pm or so, we headed back down to the huts, to get ready for the snowmobile haul out. Jonas and Anna showed up shortly thereafter, and we got the sleds loaded with gear and ready to go for our 2:00 pm departure.

The gang ready for the sled ride out

The sled ride out went without incident, and before long we were loading gear into the cars, our 1oth season at the huts coming to an end. We decided to finish our trip the way it started, with a cup of coffee and some eats at Angeline’s Bakery. Overall, this was one of the best trips yet to the huts, with some of the best snow we’ve had, which is saying something because we’ve had a lot of good snow over the years.  All of us are already looking forward to year number eleven!

Brian at the bakery