September 5, 2020 – Mt Hood, Zigzag & Palmer Glaciers

Labor Day weekend was on the late side this year, so Dan, Joe and I made plans to meet up on Saturday to get our September turns in. Dan met me at my house early, and we cruised up I-5 in his Tesla, stopping for a quick charge in Sandy, before arriving at the mountain to meet Joe, who’d been up there for the past couple of days. The parking lot was a zoo, but fortunately Joe had saved us a spot to park. We set about getting our gear organized, and I walked over to my usual spot to take a picture of the mountain.

Charging the Tesla in Sandy
Mt Hood from the Climbers Lot

The mountain looked somewhat typical for September, although it appeared the Palmer was somewhat narrower than in past years. With the area closed to skiing as of August 31st, we shouldered packs and headed up the road to Silcox instead of our usual September hike along the White River Glacier. 

Looking south from above the lodge
Dan & Joe heading up the Silcox Road

Hiking up the road went quickly, and before long we reached Silcox Hut, which served as a nice spot to take a quick break, grab and snack, and drink a bit of water. From the hut, we headed up and under the Palmer lift, and worked our way up the hiking trail towards the top of the lift.

Joe at Silcox
Dan taking a quick break

Near the top of the Palmer, we split left, and headed across the rocks towards the Zigzag. It always is a bit further to the Zigzag then I remember, and a bit harder hiking as well across the loose rocks and boulders. Eventually we made our way to the last rock ridge before the snow, which afforded good views back to the south of Mt Jefferson and the Lionshead Fire burning on it’s eastern flank.

Looking south towards Mt Jefferson
Joe & Dan approaching the Zigzag

When we reached the glacier, I was a bit surprised at the lack of snow compared with years past. The snow surface looked like it would ski ok, but the glacier itself was quit a bit narrower than in previous years, and there was a significant amount of exposed ice and dirt showing. Nevertheless, we switched over to ski boots and worked our way up to near the top, finding a suitable place to drop in. We didn’t make it quite as high as in years past, due to the fact that the snow surface was just glacial ice covered in dirt and sand.

Hiking up the Zigzag
At the top of the Zigzag

We switched over to ride mode at the top of the glacier, and snapped a few photos. I took a picture looking down the Zigzag, and then we started down. I dropped in first, and made a few fun turns down a hundred feet or so, and then snapped some pictures as the skiers descended.

Looking down the Zigzag
Joe skiing down the Ziggy

The snow surface was in ok shape up top, but became much better as we traveled further down. The lower half of the glacier skied much better, and we made some fun turns down it’s lower half. Dan grabbed the camera and snapped a few photos of me as we cruised down the mid-section…

September turns on the Zigzag

We continued working our way down, and stopped below the bottom a few hundred feet to admire the Lionshead Fire on Mt Jefferson which appeared to be blowing up as the day went on (a few days later it would really blow up as much of western Oregon would burn in the worst fire season ever recorded).

Skiing above the Lionshead Fire
Pausing on the lower Zigzag

Finally, we skied the last section to the bottom of the glacier, milking turns all the way as we normally do. I caught a few pictures of Dan coming down with the mountain in the background, and then he got one of me at the very end of the snow…

Dan skiing the lower glacier
At the end of the snow

At the bottom, we loaded the skis onto our packs, and started out on the slog back up to where we’d stashed our beers, approach shoes and a few other items. I snapped a few pictures on the lower half of the snowfield, and then put the camera away until we made it back to our gear…

Looking up the Zigzag
Heading back up

By the time we had worked our way back up to our gear, the Lionshead Fire to the south on Jefferson had started getting even more aggressive, so I pulled out my telephoto lens and snapped a picture. It was also a good time to snap a few pictures of my beer of choice for the day — a large Mindhaze IPA from Firestone Walker Brewing Company. Rather than drink it on the Zigzag, I elected to take it with me to enjoy at the top of the Palmer.

Looking south to the Lionshead Fire
Beverage of choice for the day

The hike back across the rocks and scree to the Palmer is always easier and faster on the way back (or at least it seems that way), and soon we were sitting at the top of the snowfield, enjoying the view along with our cold beers, taking in a beautiful September day. The snow on the Palmer was looking pretty good, and soon we decided it was time to drop in and see just how good it was. I dropped in first, and there was no doubt — the turns were pretty nice. Joe and Dan came down after me, and we worked our way down towards the bottom at the mid-station below..

Dan skiing the Palmer
Joe cruising down the Palmer

A little bit above the mid-station, we stopped and stashed a little gear, and headed back up for one more lap. The skiers left their packs as well, and in about 20 minutes we were back on top and ready to drop in again. This time, Dan snapped a few pictures of me coming down as well…

September turns on the Palmer
Dan cruising on lap 2

We skied down to our gear, loaded it up, and headed down the road towards the mid-station until we ran out of snow. From there, it was a short hike into the canyon, where we enjoyed more turns down towards the Silcox…

Near the mid-station
Turns in the Palmer Canyon

The turns in the Palmer Canyon were really nice, and it’s always fun ripping from side to side, throwing snow on the rocks, etc. I snapped a few pictures of the skiers, and then put the camera away for the rest of the ride down to the Silcox.

Dan skiing the Canyon
Joe throwing some snow

At the Silcox, we crossed the road and milked the snow in the Mile canyon quite a ways down, and though it was dirty, it still made for fun turns. We skied down close to where the snow cats are normally parked and the snow ended, and made the hike back to the parking lot from there.

Skiing below Silcox
Hiking down to the car

Back at the car, it was super nice to change into shorts and flip flops, and enjoy a cold drink. We got the brats and grill out, and cooked ’em up while we enjoyed some fresh garden salads I’d made up the night before, as well as some fresh chips and salsa.

Salsa, Salad & a Splitboard
Apres-ski at the cars

Hanging out at the car, enjoying good food, drinks and friends is one of the best parts of September ski days, and this day was no exception. The brats . definitely hit the spot, and with bodies full from good food and our spirits high from good turns, it was time to hit the road. Dan and I bid Joe farwell, and pulled out in his Tesla for the road home. With September in the books, that usually means summer is coming to a close, with fall and the first storms of the season not far way. Winter will be here before we know it, and I can’t wait!