After missing the huts last year after eleven consecutive trips, our crew was stoked to head back to Tam Rim for another stay in the huts operated by Three Sisters Backcountry. The weather forecast wasn’t looking real favorable for our stay, with a significant amount of rain on the way with high freezing levels, but it looked like our first and last day would provide some powder turns. Our crew of ten met at the Upper Three Creeks Sno-Park a little before 9 am and set about unloading gear and getting it ready to load in the sled trailers. Jonas and Gabe pulled in a little bit later, and it was great to see them again after missing them last season. A bit later, we had the sleds loaded and were ready to head out.
The six mile sled run in to the huts went quickly, and after unloading gear, we wasted little time getting out on the skin track to get a few turns in. The snow around the huts was heavy, but at least it was soft and it wasn’t raining. We headed out to the top of the Proboscis and it was pretty windy. After taking off the skins and getting my board in ride mode, I flipped it over stuck it in the snow, binding side down. Then, something that’s never happened in over 15 years of splitting happened — a really big gust of wind blew my board up and over and it took off down the slope — fuck! Peering over the Proboscis, which was wind loaded, I spotted it half way down the slope. Thankfully the damn thing stopped in the deep snow at a point where it was accessible and didn’t make it down to the trees below where it would have been gone forever. After retrieving it, the others came down, and we resumed our turns as normal. The snow was heavy and about 8-10 inches deep, but rode pretty nicely.
We worked our way down from the Proboscis, and wrapped around to the west, with the goal of heading into the Orchard Bowl to check out the conditions. I pulled out the camera and snapped a few photos of the crew coming down, including Shannon, as well as Hutch, who was enjoying his first trip to the huts.
Dan and Brian came down last, and I grabbed a few pictures of them as well after they navigated through the tight entrance to the lower bowl. Although the fresh snow was nice, the overall lack of snowpack in the area compared to prior years was pretty apparent.
At the bottom, we regrouped and everyone put the skins back on for a quick trip over to the Orchard Bowl. Even though the snow was heavy, the stoke factor way pretty high!
Once we had skins on, I headed out and set a track up and across the Orchard Bowl. It felt nice to head up the slope where Todd, Andrew and I first cut our teeth at Tam Rim so many years earlier. About halfway up, I stepped aside and let Hutch break trail for awhile, and a little bit later we made it to a high point that would serve as a good place to transition, just below the cliff band a few hundred feet off the top. A few minutes later, the others worked their way up, and we readied to drop in. Hutch and Rob dropped in first, and headed down to the bottom. I dropped in next, and stopped about halfway down to shoot a few pictures of Shannon while she came down after me.
The others came down one by one, and at the bottom we regrouped. Everyone was excited for another lap, and with the skin track already in, it was an easy decision to head up.
The skin to the top went quicker than our first run, since we weren’t breaking trail through deep snow, and before long, we were back at the top. Brian, Mark, Randy and Kate rejoined our group, after spending their previous lap checking out the west side of the Orchard Bowl.
Soon, it was time to drop in for a second lap in the Orchard Bowl and our third lap of the day. Hutch and Rob headed down first, and a moment or so later, I was ready to drop in. Right before I took off, I heard Mark say something. Looking up, I saw his ski take off down the slope while he was trying to clear it of snow and step into it. It picked up speed, launched off a small tree a couple hundred feet below us, and then it was gone. Fuck! Somehow, we managed to find in the tree farm below us about 20 minutes later, after searching for holes in the snow where it could have landed. It was buried under the snow, and again we felt super lucky. After backcountry skiing for almost 20 years without a single trip where we had a runaway ski or board, this made two in the in the last hour — pretty unbelievable.
After all the shenanigans, we were able to regroup at the bottom, and decided to head off to the east and check out a few shorter laps above the huts before calling it a day. Rob and John stayed back to get one more lap in the Orchard Bowl, while I set a skin track for the rest of the group back towards the Playground. Soon, we rejoined our track from earlier in the day. A bit later, it was time to drop in, and everyone found a good line down, but the snow was getting really heavy and it made the turns a bit cumbersome. At the bottom, most of the group decided to call it a day, but Dan and I wanted to get one more run in, so we stayed back with intentions of hitting the “Dan” bowl. It was also beer-thirty, and I pulled out my beer for the day, a tasty Mirror Pond from Deschutes Brewery.
A few minutes later, Dan and I were enjoying our beers and making the transition back to skins. A couple of swigs later, the beers were finished and we were ready to head out, except there was one problem. Dan tried several times to get his right ski on, but it wouldn’t take. As it turns out, a piece of his binding had broken, and he was pretty much screwed. Good thing he had an extra pair of skis at the hut. We ended up making a slow ski back to the huts, with Dan on one ski cruising through the deep, heavy snow. About halfway back, he switched the ski to his other foot to keep from getting too tired on one leg, and we made our way back down to the huts.
Back at the huts, it was time for a margarita after what turned out to be a pretty good day of turns. Everyone settled in for the evening, and Hutch set about making dinner for our first night. Hutch is an excellent cook, and everyone enjoyed the chanterelle ravoli in a brown butter sage sauce, along with an excellent salad. Even though the weather was going to be suspect on this trip, we all knew we were going to eat well! After dinner, it was time to sit back and relax, and enjoy some good company and the laughter that comes when you have a bunch of skiers hanging out in a yurt together.
Sleep came easy on Sunday night, and as predicted, we woke on Monday morning to the sound of rain beating down on the huts. It wasn’t just a light drizzle either, it was full on raining, and it was forecast to continue throughout the day. It looked like it was going to be a lazy day around the huts, and provide an opportunity to shoot a few photos from a different point of view.
Given the weather, nobody was motivated to get out for a tour, and the snow had turned to complete slop. We ate a leisurely breakfast, and then bid farewell to Kate and Randy, who were heading out a bit earlier than planned given the rain. As the day wore on, I grabbed my camera and looked for a few suitable subjects to shoot around the huts. The below shots of the fire, taken while turning my camera 180 degrees while depressing the shutter, as well as my goggles would have to suffice.
Around 1:00 pm, with nothing better to do, it was time to crack a beer. My planned offering for this day was a super tasty Phaser Hazy IPA from Ecliptic Brewing Co. The Phaser Hazy is probably my favorite of the hazy IPA’s out there right now.
Around 2:30 pm or so, the rain finally quit, and it seemed like a good time to head out on the lake to try to get a phone call out to my wife. Walking out to the lake, I couldn’t get any service, but I was able to see out into the Orchard Bowl where we were skiing the day before. The west side of the bowl had slid pretty big, and I just happened to look up when the whole east side released. The slide was massive, starting at the top of the bowl at the cornices, and it slid the entire length of the bowl. In all my years coming in to the huts at Tam Rim, this was probably one of the coolest things I had ever seen.
I headed back to the huts, and found Hutch who hadn’t witnessed the slide, but saw it’s aftermath from a point higher up behind the huts. We climbed back up to take a look, and I was able to get enough service to to get a call out. By the time I got back to camp, it was beer thirty, and it wasn’t raining, so we were able to get out on the deck and enjoy the fire.
Before long, it was time go get ready for dinner, and Brian and Shannon were preparing what has become a staple at the huts — Alaskan Coho salmon, served up with a side of pasta with a basil sauce as well as a garden salad. Brian has the salmon cooking dialed in, starting it on the wood stove, and then moving it out to the open fire on the deck.
The salmon hit the spot, and with the rest of the meal also being first class, we all agreed that even if the snow sucked for the rest of the trip it would be worth it just for the food. After dinner, Dan fixed up another round of margaritas, and then I headed outside to try my hand at taking a few photos with the fisheye lens. I took several shots, including both with and without the flash, but decided I liked the shots with the flash best, since there wasn’t enough ambient light from stars themselves.
After the photo shoot, I headed back inside and everyone enjoyed some more good company before settling in for the evening. A bit later, it was time to hit the sack, and get ready for another day in the morning. The next day, we woke to warm temps and a slight drizzle. Not to be deterred, we ate a hearty breakfast, and set about getting our skis ready to head up the skin track. Shortly before we headed out, we bid Mark farewell before he set out on the snowmobile track to head home for the week. Then, after a quick beacon check, it was time to hit the skin track.
The weather held at bay while we worked our way up towards the Proboscis, although there was a bit of wind. I caught a picture of Brian standing next to a dead snag on our way up, and then we continued on.
A short time later, we worked our way up to the Proboscis, and decided to tour on out to the Prow. Arriving at the top, we were greeted by some clouds and quite a bit of bare dirt. Even so, it was good to get back on the Prow again, and I was reminded of my first visit with Andrew and Todd so many years earlier.
As we walked about the Prow, the weather started to improve, and the clouds lifted enough to be able to see into the bowls below. It was pretty awesome seeing the crown lines and avalanche debris in all directions after the previous day’s rainfall. Then, just as we were getting ready to head back to the skis and step in for some turns, a pretty nice rainbow came out across Three Creeks Lake below.
I quickly grabbed my camera, and put the wide angle lens back on, and rushed back out to the end of the prow to snap a few shots. The shot below was probably my favorite from the whole trip. I also managed to get in a good shot of Brian and Shannon before we headed down.
Eventually, it was time to put the skis and boards on and head down. The slide down to the Proboscis from the top of the Prow was probably the slowest ride I’ve ever had while at Tam, due to the super stickiness of the snow, but finally we made our way down the ridge and then over to the Playground.
The skiers and dropped in first and took the line to the right, and left Brian, Shannon and I up top. Brian dropped in next, and headed down to the left, making a nice toeside carve down towards the ridge line. After Brian, Shannon dropped in to the right, and I followed Brian’s track, enjoying the steep, smooth snow on the wall above the chute.
At the bottom, Dan and I were game to head back up for another lap, while the others headed in to the huts. It was a short skin track back to the top, and the second lap provided fun, albeit wet and sticky, turns back down.
Back at the huts, we settled in for the afternoon. Then, before dinner, Dan, John, Rob and I decided it would be worth heading out behind the huts for one more lap on the west facing slopes, even though the snow proably wouldn’t be all that good. The skin up was short, and I remember being startled by the lack of snow on the ground compared to past years. It was even down to dirt in many places. However, I was optimistic that once we made it to the top, we’d find something good on the way down. Even if we didn’t, it was definitely nice to be hanging out in the mountains with good friends. In fact, it was time for a cold beverage once we got to the top, so my first priority was to put my Genuine Optimism Porter from Oakshire Brewing on ice.
After enjoying our cold beverages, Dan and I headed down while Rob and John decided to explore some terrain a little further out. The turns back down to the huts were fun, and it was time to start getting ready for dinner. On the menu was fish tacos, made with Pacific halibut from my freezer that I caught with my dad earlier in the summer. Dinner did not disappoint, and the tacos had all the fixings, touched off with a side of Spanish rice and black beans. After dinner, we all settled in to a lively game of “That’s what she said,” which produced a whole bunch of laughter, as well as some pretty good one-liners. As the evening wore on, it was time to hit the sack, and we retired to our bunks for a good night’s rest. The next morning dawned warm again, but it wasn’t raining and it looked like it would be a decent day for touring. The first order of business before hitting the skin track was to cook up a good breakfast, and the hashbrowns and eggs hit the spot!
After breakfast, we headed out on the skin track and worked our way up to the Rim. The sun was trying to come out, and like the day before, we headed up to the Proboscis and then on to the Prow. Dan, Rob, John and I decided it would be fun to keep touring out around the Rim, with the goal of making it to Snow Creek or maybe getting a look at the Yahtzee bowl.
The skin across the Rim between the Prow and the Yahtzee was pleasant, and as we approached the top of the Yahtzee the wind started to pick up a little. Standing at the top of Yahtzee was nice, and I was tempted to drop into our favorite line like we had some often on previous trips, but we figured a short skin out to look into Snow Creek would be more appropriate.
It was less than 5 minutes to get to the Snow Creek overlook, and we all had forgot how beautiful it is. The snowpack in the drainage was pretty thin compared to previous years, but it still made for some nice pictures.
With our curiosity for getting a look at Snow Creek satisfied, we toured back along the Rim as the weather started to move in. By the time we made it to the Prow, it started to spit snow, and it seemed like a good place to enjoy my beer that I’d been carrying around all day. This day’s offering was a great tasting Hearts and Hammer IPA from Coldfire Brewing.
We sat up top for a few minutes, enjoying our beers as well as the oncoming storm, and then it was time to drop in. Like the previous day, we worked down to the Proboscis, and the snow was quite a bit faster. Then, some fun turns through the Playground and down through the trees brought us back to the huts.
We settled in for the evening on what would be our fourth and final night at the huts. Hutch was in charge of dinner again, and cooked up a tremendous tasting smoky cod Israeli couscous dish, with a salad on the side. Everyone ate a double helping, and there was still some left over…..so good! Following dinner, it was time for another round of laughter, this time with a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity. As usual, we laughed so hard it hurt, and finally after the game was over it was time to crawl in the sleeping bags one last time. The following morning, we were all pretty happy to see 3-4 inches of new snow and temps that were below freezing. We cooked up a nice breakfast, packed all our gear and loaded it into the sauna, and headed out. The skies were sunny and it was looking to be a great day for turns as we topped out on the Proboscis.
The views from the top of the Proboscis were nice, and Middle Sister was visible as were some of the volcanoes to the north. While we were getting ready to drop in, a thick fog came in seemingly out of nowhere, and whiteout conditions prevailed for a half hour. Finally giving up on good visibility, we dropped in carefully and enjoyed the turns down, and then over to the Jelly Roll for some more skiing. The Jelly Roll was pretty smooth, with about 4 inches on top of a crust, and the turns were pretty nice coming down. I managed to catch a few shots of Shannon enjoying the conditions.
From the bottom of the Jelly Roll, I set a skin track up and over to East Peak. It was nice to visit East Peak before we were done riding, since we hadn’t been there the whole trip and it’s one of my favorite spots on the Rim. At the top, the weather cleared enough for us to be able to see across the Rim and back out to Middle Sister. Anna and Jonas also popped out on top while we were there, and it was nice to catch up with them for a few minutes.
The skiing off of East Peak was pretty nice in the open meadow, and by the time we were done we had seven tracks down the line. I snapped some pictures of the skiers and riders as they came down, and we regrouped at the bench below.
From the bench down to the huts, the snow was pretty heavy, which made for some challenging turns through the trees. Nevertheless, I still found some fun turns in the woods, and when we got to the huts the first order of business was to celebrate with a Ruby Ale from McMenamin’s.
Since it would be an hour or so before Jonas and Anna were back, we started loading our gear in the sleds while we enjoyed our beers. It also was a good opportunity to kick back and relax a bit on the deck, so we started a fire in the fire pit and did just that.
Soon, Anna and Jonas popped out of the trees, and after securing the loads with a few straps, we were ready to head out. I snapped a few final pics of our group before we departed, and also managed to get a shot of Hutch and Dan on the ride out without losing my balance or my camera!
On the way out, it was nice to see the Sisters and Jefferson basking in the sunlight. They looked to have survived the rainstorm all right, but there definitely was a lot of rock showing that shouldn’t have been for early March. The snowpack down low really took a beating as well, and we had to cross several patches of bare pavement that were covered by a couple of feet of snow on the way in. Even so, we managed to make it back to the parking lot without incident, and that brought the end to another trip to Tam Rim. Although it wasn’t best snow I’ve ever had in the area — if I’m being hones it was probably the worst snow I’ve ever had in the area — it still was a damn fun trip with great company. Next year’s hut trip is already reserved, and I know we’re all looking forward to heading back, hopefully with better snow!