Wednesday looked to be the day, and it looked to be the last good day in quite a few, so I made plans to hit up Mt Hood with Jack, who was visiting from Montana, as well as Joe. For the three of us, this would be our second year in a row to head to Mt Hood for late fall turns, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. We met at the cop shop in Albany at 5:30, and headed up I-5, pulling into the climber’s lot around 7:30. To nobody’s surprise, there were three or four groups of folks already there with similar plans.
We wasted little time getting our gear ready to go, and hit the skin track by 7:50 am. Getting an earlier start would prove to work to our advantage later in the day. The mountain was looking really beautiful in the morning light, and I had to stop a few times to shoot a few pictures of it, as well as Joe and Jack heading up the skin track.
We followed a few other skiers, and worked our way up the road and eventually to Silcox, where we took a few minutes to get a quick snack and a drink of water. From Silcox, the mountain was looking mighty pretty, and we enjoyed the view up the hill as well as to the south towards Mt Jefferson and the Three Sisters.
After our quick break, we headed on up towards the Palmer. The mountain was looking quite a bit different than our trip up a few days earlier, and we skinned past some interesting wind sculpted features on our way towards the top of the Palmer.
We made good time to the top of the Palmer, arriving about an hour and 55 minutes after we left the parking lot. After our quick break, we headed on up. While departing from the top of the Palmer, I ran into Dave Watson, and chatted with him briefly about his thoughts on the day. We both agreed that the upper mountain was looking pretty good, and might really provide some fun turns. The skinning was pretty nice above the Palmer, with the occasional icy patch. We worked our way up, eventually getting to the point on the ridge where Dan, Joe and I had skied from a couple months earlier on the 1st of October.
Once we reached the traverse below Crater Rock, we had to remove our skis briefly, but soon had them back on our feet and were able to continue skinning. When we got to the Devil’s Kitchen, I was pretty surprised to see how melted down the snow in the Crater was since the last time I had been up a few years ago. We stopped to snap a few pictures, and then skinned up to the Hogsback.
From the saddle on the Hogsback, we decided it was worth heading up on foot. The climbing was really tedious, and we were wallowing through waist deep powder on the steep pitch. It was made even worse by the fact that the “climbers trail” was just one set of tracks, which turned out to be a down track made by a really light woman from earlier in the morning. The one thing that made it worthwhile however was looking up at the upper mountain and seeing it so beautifully enshrouded in rime ice. After struggling half the way to the bergschrund, I stepped aside and let Joe break trail the rest of the way, and he booted up like a champ…
We contemplated heading on up further, but an icy section caused us to reconsider that notion, especially since we’d elected to leave the ice tools in the car. Oh well, skiing from 10,730 feet wouldn’t be too bad:) My first order of business, besides ensuring we didn’t fall into the bergschrund, was to get my beer on ice and enjoy the views, which were incredible as usual from high up on the mountain. My beer of choice for the day was an excellent Hugs and Flip Flops Hazy IPA from Sunriver Brewing Company. This beer is seriously in contention from my perspective for one of the better hazy IPA’s around.
We sat around for a half hour or so, enjoying our beers, enjoying the views, and taking in the experience of enjoying the tranquility of hanging out high on Mt Hood in the perfect weather. We snapped a few pictures as well, including the two below…
Our friend Dave, who we met at the top of the Palmer and also talked with on the Hogsback, was continuing his push up the mountain, and after wallowing in deep snow had switched back to skins. I snapped a few photos of him as he continued his ascent, and then it was time for us to click into our bindings and head down for what we’d come for. Our plan was to ski the inside of the crater on skier’s right, so I headed down first along the ridge, and then set up to snap some photos of the skiers as they came down. The turns definitely did not disappoint!
Jack came down first, and ripped the fresh powder down to me, continuing on down to the Hogsback saddle below. Joe was next, and he also ripped up the fresh snow. I fired off a few photos, and then rode down to them to regroup.
At the saddle, Joe was game to take the camera and shoot a few photos of me skiing down from the end of the saddle. Before any turns could be made, I had to hike through the nearly waist deep snow to get there. It didn’t take long however, and soon I was standing at the end of the saddle and ready to strap in.
After a few seconds to catch my breath, I strapped into my bindings, and proceeded to make turns down the steep slope to Devil’s Kitchen below. The turns were really nice, and as Joe captured photos of me I enjoyed pow turn after pow turn, with a few face shots thrown in for good measure…
Jack and Joe came down after me, milking the powder turns for all they were worth, and then we headed on down towards the White River Headwall. We thought about dropping in, and made a few turns past the rollover, but the light was getting flat and there were a few icy sections that helped us decide that a descent along our uptrack would probably be the prudent choice so we traversed over to the ridgeline…
The clouds continued to move in and the light got even flatter, but the turns remained nice, and Jack and Joe ripped it up on our way down as I shot some more pictures…
The turns were many as we continued down, and I continued shooting pictures of the skiers as we worked down the slope, with Illumination Rock in the background….
We continued working our way down, and by the time we reached the top of the Palmer we all agreed to a quick break to rest our legs, which were starting to burn from cranking hundreds of turns on the slopes above.
At the top of the Palmer, there were several skiers milling about, and we found a quiet place over by the lift shack to sit down and get a quick snack and some water. While we were hanging out, a few ravens decided to investigate our area to see what was up, and provided me with an opportunity to snap a few pics, including the one below.
After refueling and giving our legs a break, we stepped back into our bindings and shoved off, finding some fun turns on skiers left of the Palmer. Joe grabbed the camera and snapped a few photos of Jack and I coming down, including the shots below…
The snow skied quite nicely, and we continued to hug skiers left on the way down, before eventually working our way back over towards Silcox. Once we got over towards the Mile Canyon proper, it was apparent that quite a few folks had already laid their turns down earlier in the day, but the skiing still remained nice.
We worked our way down skiers left of the canyon, and enjoyed the turns right back down to the car, skiing right to the climber’s lot. It sure was pretty nice to be able to ski mostly where we wanted to on the lower mountain without fear of hitting a rock or other obstacle. Once back at the car, the first order of business was to get out of the ski boots and get a few of Jack’s Cold Smoke’s on the snow. The next task was to fire up the grill and start cooking the meat, and before long, we were enjoying some tasty cold brews and hot brats.
After a bit of chat with the folks parked near us, as well as Dave who we saw strolling back through the climbers lot after skiing from 11,000 feet, the brats were gone and our beers were finished and it was time to hit the road. The three of us agreed that this was probably one of the best November ski days on Mt Hood any of us had seen in recent memory, and it was definitely a great way to start off the ski year. Until next time, here’s a few parting shots from the day….