December 2, 2022 – Tombstone Pass

Fresh snow had been falling, and the weather forecast was looking favorable, so I made plans to head to Tombstone Pass with Joe to get out for some early in the month touring with Joe. I hit the road early, and made my way to the snowpark where I found Joe, who’d put in a few hours touring the day before and was camping overnight. Temps were in the upper 20’s as we geared up, and soon we were heading down the highway making our way towards the skin track…

My Outback in the snowpark
Joe skiing down the road

A few minutes later, we crossed the highway and donned skins to start the climb. About 4-6 inches of snow had fallen overnight, and the Cone Peak trail sign had a perfect cone of fresh snow on it, which was begging for a picture…

Cone Peak trail sign
Joe pulling the skins from the pack

We started up the skin track, and made our way through the lower meadow and up through the thicker trees. Every time I tour at Tombstone, I’m reminded of how much I enjoy the landscape and terrain in the area. We worked our way up to the bench, and then started up Cone…

Skinning through the meadow
Heading up Cone

As we continued up, the wind, which was pretty much non-existent lower down, started to pick up. We worked our way to the summit, and transitioned from skins to boards and took a few shots from the top.

Looking off to South and Echo Peaks
Summit view from Cone

We contemplated dropping in off the top, but the thin snowpack and underlying rocks had us thinking otherwise. I cut a couple of cornices with no results, and we elected to ski off the southeast side and work our way over to the north face from lower down.

Summit shot
Joe skiing the southeast side

We worked our way over the ridge to our typical drop in site, and had to negotiate quite a few rocks to work our way in. The snow was loaded up along the ridge that was to our left, but we headed right towards the middle of the bowl and worked our way down. The turns were really nice, and I snapped several pictures of Joe as he dropped in and again from halfway down…

Joe dropping in to the north side
Skiing the lower half of the bowl

At the bottom, we were pretty stoked on the snow, and quickly transitioned to skins to head back up. As usual, the first time up is a bit of a grunt, but we made our way back to our drop-in point and it was nice to have a track in. For the second lap, we decided to ski a similar line right next to our existing tracks. I dropped in first and set up to snap a few more pics of Joe…

Joe on lap number 2

On this lap, we were in for a bit of a surprise. In the back of my mind I was still keeping an eye on the loaded ridge on skiers left, but we ended up skiing a bit to close to it, and when Joe made his second or third turn, it released and headed down towards me. Fortunately, the slab was mostly to my right and Joe’s left, and only a small amount of snow headed down towards me. I held my position in front of the tree and watched it pass, and then took a few pictures.

Looking up after the slide
Looking down at the debris

Joe skied down to me and we discussed the events, and we both agreed we skied a bit to close to the localized wind loading along the ridge. Fortunately, the rest of the bowl wasn’t loaded in the same manner, so we made the decision to head on down and make another assessment once back on top.

Matt enjoying some early December pow
Turns in the lower bowl

At the bottom, we donned skins once more and headed back up the skin track. We made it to the top in relatively short order, and assessed the bowl again from the top. The wind was still blowing in the same pattern, but the loading was occurring below us and to skier’s left, so we elected to traverse into the bowl and out further to skier’s right, past our first set of tracks and to where there wasn’t any loading or wind affected snow. It turned out to be a good choice, and provide us with some of the best turns of the day…

Getting pitted on the north side of Cone
Enjoying a toeside powder turn

For this run, Joe had the camera, and snapped several shots of me enjoying the powder. The quality of the snow was really choice, and we thoroughly enjoyed the skiing down to the bottom of the bowl, where it was time for a well deserved break.

More powder turns
Joe enjoying a quick break with a view

It was nice to sit back for a few minutes and enjoy some food and the view. Hanging on the north side of Cone always reminds me of my first visit there so many years ago with Todd, and it’s definitely one of my favorite places in the Oregon cascades.

Joe on the skin track up
Looking out over Highway 20 country

A bit later, we hit the skin track once more and headed up again. We decided the snow was too good and that we wanted to do a fourth lap, so we left our beers and a few other items down below and worked our way back to the top.

Working up Cone with the range in the background
Nearing our drop-in point

Once back to our drop-in point, we put one more line down the bowl, this time again traversing out to skier’s right just beyond our existing tracks. No pictures on this lap, but it was damn fine and we enjoyed each and every turn to the bottom, where our beers were waiting. We decide to split Joe’s beer there, and then enjoy mine over on the ski out on the front side. Joe’s offering was a tasty Pilsner from 10 Barrell Brewing, and it was super cold and definitely hit the spot! After finishing his beer, we donned skins and made one final trek out from the northside, this time heading all the way back to the top of Cone.

A tasty Pilsner from 10 Barrel
Working up to the top of Cone

Back at the top of Cone, we de-skinned and spent a few minutes on top, enjoying the views and trying to stay warm. One thing about Cone, it may not be a big mountain but it always has the “feel” of a big mountain. And the views from the top never disappoint…

Looking off the north side of Cone
The view north to Jeff

After sending a text to my wife to let her know we were heading down, we shoved off, in search of the best snow on the sunny southeast side. I dropped in first, then setup to snap some picture of Joe as he came down. The snow quality wasn’t as nice as the north side, but it was still pretty good, and we enjoyed the  turns.

Turns down the southeast face
Skiing in front of South and Echo Peaks

We skied down as far as we could until it was time to traverse, and then headed south to link back up with our skin track and make our way back down to the bench below. The turns down to the bench were fun, and we stopped there to enjoy my beer and a last break before heading to the car. My offering was an excellent tasting Black Widow Porter from McMenamin’s, and it hit the spot.

Working down Cone’s southeast slope
Black Widow Porter

As we were sitting there enjoying our break and the beer, I snapped a few pictures of the surrounding area, including a pretty winter scene of the sun bursting over the trees with Iron Mountain in the background. Moments later, we stepped back into our bindings, and made turns down through the trees and into the Farm below. We spooned Joe’s tracks the previous day, and worked our way on down towards the trailhead….

Sunburst and Iron Mtn
Our turns in the farm

Making turns right down to the highway is always a treat, and from there it was a short hike back to the cars at the snow park.

Heading back to the cars

Both of us were looking forward to cooking some brats, but after several failed attempts to get Joe’s stove working due to a leaking hose, it was apparent it was not to be, so we had to settle for just being happy with the hefty serving of fresh powder we’d already enjoyed. All in all, it was a great day in the mountain, with a few lessons learned as always. Here’s a parting shot from the day…

Parting shot of Matt

1 Comment

  1. Joe
    January 12, 2023

    What a treat. I’d enjoy a trip back soon.

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