September 2, 2022 – Mt Hood, Zigzag + Palmer Snowfields

As it somehow always does, summer was passing by rather quickly and it was hard to believe it was already September. Wanting to get out early in the month, Dan, Joe and I made plans to head to Mt Hood over Labor Day weekend to get our turns in. As usual, we met at early at the cop shop in Albany, piled our gear into Dan’s Tesla, and headed up the freeway. After a quick stop to charge in Sandy, we may our way up highway 26 to Govy, and pulled into the climber’s lot a few minutes after 8:00 am.

Hood from the climber’s lot

It didn’t take long to get our gear in order, and soon we were hiking up the road towards Silcox. Two-thirds of the way up or so we peered into the Mile Canyon to check out the conditions, and to our surprise there was a lot of snow still remaining – much more so than most of the previous September’s in recent memory. Happy to see the snow, we headed down and donned skins to make the climb up quite a bit easier.

Joe donning skins in the canyon
Skinning up the canyon

We worked our way up to the bottom of the Palmer lift, and then on up towards the mid-station, where a couple of cat drivers were farming snow to keep an access lane open for later in the month for maintenance purposes.

Dan heading up the Palmer Canyon
Pushing snow at the mid-station

Once to the top of the Palmer, we took a quick break, then headed off to the west to check out conditions on the Zigzag. The hike over across the rock and scree went quickly. Looking off towards Mt Jefferson to the south, there was a thick layer of smoke that kept the mountain hidden for most of the morning, but as reached the Zigzag, we finally got a view of the peak above the smoke.

Mt Jefferson rising above the smoke
A mini-moraine on the Zigzag

On the Zigzag, we switched back to skis and started the skin up. As we climbed higher, the haze lessened and the views improved. The snow surface was looking pretty smooth, and it seemed we were going to be in for some fun a little later on when it was time for the turns.

Heading up the Zigzag
Enjoying a quick break near our high point

We climbed up to about 9300 feet or so, and elected to call it and not work our way up the snow finger above us which was looking pretty rough. The first order of business was to get a beer on ice, and then enjoy lunch and the views. My beer for the turns on the Zigzag was a very refreshing Easy Day Hazy POG IPA from Worth Brewing Company.

A tasty Worthy Easy Day Kolsch
Looking out from 9300 feet

The relative solitude of the Zigzag is one of the main things I enjoy about the summer turns on Mt Hood. Sitting high on the mountain, enjoying a cold beer and getting ready to drop in — there isn’t a whole lot that can compare.

First turns of September
The skiers an Illumination Rock

I dropped in first and snapped a few shots of the skiers as they came down, and then I handed the camera off to Dan and he skied down to take some photos of me. The snow surface was really smooth, and we were pretty stoked on the skiing.

September on the Zigzag
Cranking September turns on Mt Hood

We worked our way down the snowfield, stopping every so often to catch our breath and discuss options. Mostly, we hugged skiers right, which proved to have the smoothest snow. A few more shots are below…

Dan enjoying the smooth snow of the Zigzag
Matt heading down

As we continued descending the corn continued to not disappoint. I fired off several pics of Dan and Joe as they headed down, and then put the camera away to rip the lower half of the snowfield myself…

Dan working the lower Zigzag
Working down the snowfield

As we usually do, we skied down to the end of the snow, enjoying our turns right to the very bottom. We were able to ski down to about 7200 feet before the snow gave way to the canyon — not too shabby for September.

Dan near the bottom of the Ziggy

We donned skins at the bottom of the snowfield and began the long, steady climb back out of the Zigzag under the heat of the sun. The skin out is always a warm one in the summer, but soon we reached the elevation to begin traversing back over to the Palmer. Dan decided it was time to have another beer, while I saved mine for later before the Palmer descent. His beer, a hazy IPA from Kulshan Brewing Co. was in a beautiful can, so I snapped a picture of it.

Ready to head back up
Into the Haze

After the Dan and Joe changed back into hiking shoes, we made the trudge back across the rocks to the top of the Palmer. I snapped a few shots of my beer, a tasty Another IPA from Buoy Beer Co., before burying it in the snow to get cold. A bit later, it was ready to drink and was quite refreshing as we readied to drop in for some more turns. I drank about half of it, and left it up top since we were planning on coming back for another lap…

Another IPA from Buoy Brewing
September turns on the Palmer

Just before we dropped in, I switched over to my telephoto lens, and managed to capture several shots of Joe and Dan as they came down the Palmer. The snow was excellent, and I could tell they were enjoying the turns as they came down towards me…

Joe shredding the corn
Dan skiing the upper Palmer

We continued working our way down the Palmer, and stopped a few feet above the mid-station to regroup, drop packs, and head back up for another lap.

September turns on the Palmer
Making turns on the Palmer

Our second lap was equally as good as our first, and this time I headed down with beer in hand. The upper portion of the Palmer held good corn, and then we dropped into the canyon, which had been tracked up a bit by the cats, but still held enjoyable snow.

Dan enjoying a turn
Enjoying the beer and the turns

We worked our way down through the Palmer Canyon and towards past Silcox and the Mile Canyon. We were all stoked on how great the snow was in the Palmer Canyon as well as how deep and wide it was. Expectations were high for skiable snow in October given the good coverage.

Skiing the Mile Canyon
Dan skiing by a big erratic

Once down to Silcox, we worked into the Mile Canyon, which also held great snow with excellent coverage. All told, we were able to ski to within a few hundred vertical of the car, which made for a short hike back to the parking lot. Needless to say, everyone was pretty happy with the riding…

Ripping the Canyon
At the bottom of the Mile Canyon

It felt good to get back to the car, change out of our boots, and get some well deserved dinner. Dan started the grill, Joe pulled out the brats, and I got out the fixings, as well as some garden fresh chips and salsa.

Making the short hike to the car
Enjoying beers and brats at the car

As usual, the food hit the spot, and we enjoyed it with a great view from 6,000 feet. All in all, it was a pretty special day, and I’m definitely looking forward to what October has in store. Here’s a parting shot of Joe from the day skiing high on the Palmer…

A parting shot of Joe enjoying some fine September Corn