The weather window for the end of October appeared to be shaping up really nicely to get some turns in on Mt Hood, and with my usual partners tied up with other obligations, I decided to head up solo to check out the conditions. My alarm went off early, and I almost hit the snooze button so I could sleep in, but I ended up dragging myself out of bed to hit the road early. Turns out I was glad I did. I made good time heading up the freeway, and pulled into Timberline a bit before daylight.
There was about two and a half feet of snow on the mountain, and the climber’s lot wasn’t plowed yet so I ended up pulling into the main lot and parked without issue. A few minutes later, I had my gear out, skins on, and was ready to head out. It felt good to skin right from the parking lot, and soon I was well on my way, skinning up the road I’d hiked up just a few weeks earlier.
There were one or two other folks around, but give the early hour I had the mountain mostly to myself. I worked my way up towards Silcox and a couple of snowcats joined me as I arrived. They headed on up towards the Palmer, working their way a bit to the east, and I headed on up as well.
As usual, I did stop at Silcox to snap a couple of pictures of the iconic structure. One of these days I suppose I’ll have to figure out a way to rent it for an evening….
I continued skinning up the Palmer, and was pretty happy when I made it to the top with a total time of 1 hour and 38 minutes from the parking lot. I met up with a fellow splitboarder there and we chatted for a few minutes about heading on up. Ultimately he decided to head down from the Palmer, while I decided to continue on up.
I followed my nose up above the Palmer, working with the terrain to find the best spot for skinning. After a bit of traveling, I came to (what we’ve come to call) the Vietnam Couloir. The snow here was looking prime, and I was really looking forward to shredding it on the way down. I took 10-15 minutes at the couloir and pulled out my tripod to snap a few selfies….
Once I had a few pictures on the camera, I put the tripod away and continued on up. The skinning was a bit tedious at times, but I worked my way up to a great vantage point overlooking Illumination Rock and Saddle, and then on up towards the Devil’s Kitchen.
The traverse across the snow above the White River Headwall went smoothly, and I was able to skin all the way to the Hogsback, where I was greeted with some excellent views as well as cold and windy conditions.
My total time to the Hogsback was just over 4 hours, which wasn’t bad considering my brief stop to shoot a few pictures with the tripod. It’s amazing how fast the travel is on wind buffed snow and when you can keep skins on for the entire climb. I put my beer on ice, even though it was already cold, and enjoyed the views from one of my favorite vantage points in the Oregon cascades. A few moments later, it was time to enjoy a tasty Big Black Jack Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter from Oakshire Brewing. Sitting there at 10,500 feet with absolutely nobody around, it occurred to me that I may have been the first person to ski from the Hogsback this season, which was pretty special. Regardless, it was definitely special to have the place to myself.
The beer hit the spot, and once it was finished it was time to do what I’d come to the mountain for. Stepping into my bindings with the wind in my face, I shoved off and headed down from the ridge, enjoying smooth wind buffed turns down towards the White River. The ride was super enjoyable, and soon I made my way to the perfectly smooth snow in the Vietnam Couloir. I ripped the couloir from top to bottom, and stopped near the bottom to snap a few shots of my tracks before heading down onto the Zigzag to make some more turns on the smooth snowfield.
For a moment I debated stopping part way down the Zigzag, but the snow was too smooth and the lure of continuing down got the better of me. Ultimately, I made my way all the way down to approximately 7,200 feet, where the snow and terrain indicated it would be a good place to stop. I also ran into a couple of other skiers there that had made their way over from the top of the Palmer. We visited briefly while donning our skins, and then headed back up. Halfway up I needed a break to refuel and regain some energy, and they continued on up so I bid them farewell…
Back on the skin track after a nice break, I decided to head up to around 9,400 feet to circumvent the usual traverse back to the top of the Palmer, which was pretty rimed up and didn’t look inviting at all for crossing. This meant an additional 1,000 feet of climbing however, and I was pretty spent by the time I made it to the point where I stepped back into my bindings for the ride down.
The ride down to the Palmer was nice, and I was able find smooth snow by working the areas in between the rimed up rocks. The turns from the Palmer down were fun as well, and my legs grew tired from the seemingly endless turns. I had to stop once or twice, but eventually made my way back to the parking lot, and was pretty happy two have scored around 6,700 feet of skiing on the day.
Happy to be back down at the base, I threw my gear in the truck and drove over to the now plowed climber’s lot to enjoy some chips and salsa as well as a cold Pilsner Lager from Good Life Brewing Co. Although it would have been nice to have enjoyed the beer along with brats and my regular ski partners, it was pretty nice to just sit in the sun and bask in the glow of having enjoyed one of my best days on Mt Hood in recent memory.
A short time later, I headed out, thoroughly satisfied with the day. I stopped briefly on the way down to shoot a few pictures of Mt Hood from the highway vantage point, before ultimately heading down highway 26 and Interstate 5 to get home. All in all it was another excellent day of October turns on Mt Hood, and one I won’t soon forget. Below is a shot of the Mountain from the drive home, as well as a parting shot from the day…