March 1-4, 2020 – Tam McArthur Rim

The calendar said it was the first of March, and that meant it was time for my 11th trip in as many years to the Three Creeks Huts at Tam McArthur Rim. This year looked to be different than most, in that there hadn’t been any new snow in several weeks. Nevertheless, it’s always a good time at the huts, and our crew was stoked as we set out from the valley and made our way over to Sisters. I rode over with Dan, bringing John’s gear in tow, and we met up with Brian, Shannon and Jon Marshall at the coffee shop in Sisters for a breakfast burrito and a caffeine fix. A short time later, we met up with the rest of the gang at the snowpark, and unloaded gear as Jonas pulled up.

The crew ready for the trip

After signing waivers and loading the sled, we headed up the road under sunny skies with Jonas driving one sled and Dan driving the other. We stopped at the usual spot to discuss snow conditions, and Jonas pointed out a few lines he’d skied a day or two earlier that were still holding. A few minutes later, we were at the huts and picking out bunks for the trip. Once camp was in order, it was time to head out for a tour. Mark and Mike headed out first, and the rest of us followed a short time after. We toured up to the Proboscis, and then decided to push on to the Prow since the weather was nice and the views were perfect…

On top of the Rim
The crew on top of the Prow

After soaking in the views and taking a few pics, we decided to head back to the Proboscis and drop in because the snow in that area looked better than elsewhere. The turns off the top were a bit chalky, but once over the rollover we found a few turns that would turn out to be some of the best of the trip….

Brian ripping a heelside turn

We worked our way around to the Orchard Bowl, and met up with Mark and Mike who’d already put in a skin track and took a lap. It was a pretty skin to the top of the bowl, and once we got to the top and switched to booting, the snow became really nice. I snapped a few pics of Mark as he topped out and ripped skins, and then we dropped in to enjoy the sweet turns.

Ripping skins up top
The elusive powder turn

Part of the way down, where the powder turned to dust on crust, I stopped and headed back up for another lap, it was just too good. This time I caught a few pictures of Jon heading down as I was climbing up, including the shot below….

John scoring the goods

With a few decent runs in for the afternoon, it was time to head back to the huts for the evening and to enjoy a good meal. Of course we had to ski a lap on the Playground on the way in, and found some pretty decent snow there as well. Back at the huts, someone (Andy and Mark I think) had a nice fire going on the deck, and it was time to grab a well deserved beer.

Back at the huts
The sign and the sauna

Brian set about getting the salmon cooking on the grill, and Adam put out a sweet hors d’oeuvre spread with some awesome habanero cheese that was money. As is usually the case, food always tastes better after a day of turns in the backcountry, and this day was no exception…

Andy at the Huts
Salmon on the Grill

Brian served up the salmon with some excellent pesto sauce and penne noodles, and we settled into the evening. Before long, margaritas were in order, and we needed fresh snow as well as water. Mark and Mike headed out to get the water, and Dan and I found some clean snow, and soon we were sipping on my favorite backcountry drink. An hour or so later, I headed out with my camera to see if I could get a decent night shot, and below is one that turned out ok. After the photo-shoot and another margarita, it was time to hit the sack for the night.

The Raven Hut at night

We woke on Monday morning to clear, sunny skies and calm winds. We cooked up a nice breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast and jam, and sausage links, and then were ready to hit the skin track. Andy decided to head up behind the huts with his ski blades, while Mike and Mark headed back to Rim via the Playground. The rest of us decided to skin across the lake and check out the Animal Bowl.

Heading to the Animal Bowl
Shannon after a few fun turns

We headed for a nice looking couloir that Jonas said was skiing decently a couple of days earlier, and started booting up. About halfway up, conditions became a bit firmer, and folks started turning around. Dan and I kept at it, and made it to within about 50 vertical before it became too firm to continue booting without crampons (which we left at the huts). Somewhat sketched, I dug out a platform to put my board on, and immediately felt safer with it strapped to my feet, and was able to snap a few pics of Dan as he started down….

Dan dropping into a spicy line

After Dan dropped, I was all alone at the top of the line. Taking a deep breath, I dropped in and was thankful for the sharp edge on my Amplid Milligram on the steep and firm slope. Partway down, the conditions gave way to better snow, and I set up to take a few photos of Brian and Shannon as they came down.

Brian ripping down the Animal Bowl
Shannon riding down the bowl

Near the bottom, we regrouped and decided to head over and check out the Pyramid. On the way over, the lower angle aspects held some of the best corn snow we’d find on the trip. Stoked on the conditions, we took a deserved break for lunch, and enjoyed the warm sunshine that was turning the snow to corn. When lunch was over, we pushed on to the gap by the Pyramid and looked for the best lines down. While Dan and a few others dropped in, I snapped a few photos of my beer as well as an old gnarled root wad…

Simon Says IPA from Silver Moon
Gnarled tree on top of the Pyramid

Looking over to the west, I could make out Brian as he was about to drop into a pretty spicy spot that ended up being quite a bit more firm than he was hoping….

Brian in the chocolate chips

As Brian worked his way back up the slope, I decided to scramble across the ridge and up the rocks to the true summit of the Pyramid. The views from the top were worth climb, and soon Dan, Brian and John joined me on top. Looking out to the west was a good view of the Sisters, which were partially engulfed in clouds, and over to the north and east we could see some mellow terrain that looked pretty fun to ski in the right conditions.

On top of the Pyramid

After enjoying the views, it was time to drop in and enjoy a few turns. The snow had turned to perfect corn, and we harvested it down through the trees to the bench below. From the bench, the turns were enjoyable back down to the lake.

Brian descending from the Pyramid
Looking back at the Rim

The skin back across the flats to the huts went quickly, and it felt good to crack open a beer and enjoy the fire on the outdoor deck. We put out another great spread of snacks to enjoy prior to dinner, and Mark and Mike started making dinner. Funny thing was dinner almost didn’t happen — a bunch of birds somehow opened their cooler and ate some of the meat and all of the tortillas. Luckily, we had extra tortillas, and were able to salvage the meat to have some pretty tasty burritos. After dinner, we settled into the evening, and enjoyed some good company and some great margaritas before heading to bed in anticipation of a big day of touring out towards Broken Hand the following day.

The third day of our trip dawned clear and sunny and like the previous morning, we cooked up a nice breakfast of eggs and toast. After the dishes were done and the skins were on the skis, we set out for the top of the Rim. Prior to heading out, I snapped a few photos of our group, including the one below that was taken of all of us (sans Mark) with my tripod….

The crew line up and ready to go

The tour up to the Rim went quickly, and soon we were headed out towards the Hand, admiring the beautiful views in all directions. There was a light breeze, and it looked like the snow in Snow Creek wasn’t going to soften, so our objective became the Hand itself.

Andy and South Sister
Skinning out to Broken Hand

As we worked our way out the long ridge, we found a good spot to take a rest and eat lunch with a view. Adam found a pretty nice easy chair with an excellent backdrop, and I busted out the camera, not wanting to miss a good photo op….

Easy chair with a view
A great IPA and Mt Jefferson

After lunch, we pushed on to the Hand, and it looked like the snow on the east side would ski nicely. Finding the ledge at the base of the Hand, it was time to take the skins off and get ready to rip. Below are a few pics prior to dropping in….

Brian arriving at the Hand
The guys prior to dropping in

I dropped in first, and found a suitable spot to set up and snap a few pictures of the others as they descended. Brian, never one to shy away from the camera, proved to be a worthy subject as he ripped down the slope by me. I especially like the second shot below, showing Mt Bachelor as well as Ball Butte, which was absolutely covered in rime ice….

Brian ripping the Hand
Turns in front of Mt Bachelor

We carved turns one by one down to the flats below, and took a quick break to enjoy some snacks and a cold beverage before heading back up to do it one more time. A few of us were game to head to the top of the snow on climbers right, so we set a skin track up the steep slope. At the top, my skin gave out while I was dropping a heel lifter and I nearly punctured my ear with my ski pole tip. Nevertheless, the view from the top was worth it, and Dan snapped a photo of us Brian, Jon and I with a commanding view of Broken Top in the background…

Ready to drop in for run 2

Once the camera was put away, we dropped in for a second lap on the Hand, and the corn was really nice. One by one, we ripped turns down to the bottom, with smiles all around. When the corn harvest was done, it was apparent we’d done a good job tracking up the bowl, and with the hour getting later, it was time to head back across the flats towards the Rim…

Leaving the Hand
Shannon and Adam on the trail home

After quite a bit of skinning and some fun split skiing, we arrived at the Rim and were able to enjoy a solid lap in the Playground before skiing the skin track back to the huts. On the menu for the evening were ocean caught halibut fish tacos, with all the fixings. Andy and I were tasked with making dinner, and it turned out amazing. After a long day touring, the meal definitely hit the spot, and as the evening wore on, it was time for a Crown and Coke before settling in for the night.

Wednesday morning, our last day at the huts, dawned clear and calm like the previous days of our trip. It promised to be a relaxing day, and started with a great breakfast at a leisurely hour. The sun was out, and folks enjoyed sitting in it’s warmth on the deck while contemplating objectives for the day and getting skins on the skis. For me, it was a good opportunity to bust out the camera and take a few pics….

The Raven Hut
John lost in thought

It was a perfect opportunity to try out my new portrait lens, a nifty-fifty f/1.8 50 mm lens from Canon. The bokeh on the lens is really nice, and I snapped several candid portraits of this year’s crew….

Adam ready for some morning turns
Mark enjoying a moment in the sun
Brian and Shannon goofing off as usual
The Fish getting skins ready

When everyone had their skins on and the photoshoot was over, we decided to head up to the ridge behind camp, and take the scenic way over to East Peak. It was firm on the west facing slope as we headed up, but the views didn’t disappoint as usual. We toured by Octopus’s Garden, and over to East Peak.

The lineup in front of the Rim

This year we decided to try something new, and made several short laps on the south side of East Peak. The skiing was low angle, but an absolute blast through the gladed trees that provide excellent corn. A short 10-minute hike back to the top allowed us time to make 4 or 5 good runs before heading down through the Playground and Dan’s Bowl on the way back to the huts for the shuttle out…

Hiking East Peak
Brian riding the Dan Bowl

When we arrived at the huts, Anna was just pulling up, and it didn’t take long to get our gear loaded for the ride out. As we headed out, I looked back at the Rim, thankful to have had the opportunity to come to this special place again with a great crew. As we headed down the road, the snow started to become thin, so Anna led us on a scenic route through the burn, which afforded excellent views of the Three Sisters — a nice way to end the trip!

The crew ready for the ride out

Back at the parking lot, we unloaded gear from the sleds and into our vehicles. Dan, John and I stuck around to enjoy some chips and salsa on the warm pavement, not wanting the trip to end. As with anything however, all good things must come to an end, so Dan and I hit the road, completing another great trip to Tam Rim courtesy of Three Sisters Backcountry, Inc. I’m already looking forward to our return trip in 2021!

Apres ski in the parking lot