April 4, 2023 – Willamette Pass Dusk Patrol

After a pretty epic April Fool’s day at the Pass a few days earlier, I was stoked to get out for a mid-week dusk patrol with Dan, who spent most of the last three months nursing his shoulder back to health after surgery in early January. Starting in April, the Pass was on a Friday/Saturday/Sunday only schedule, so we were hoping to see if we could score some fresh snow after yet another storm had rolled in.

Gold Lake shelter buried

We headed up highway 58, making good time to the Gold Lake sno-park, where we found the Gold Lake Sno-park shelter absolutely buried. Wasting little time, we geared up at the sno-park, and donned the skins on the skis. I took a shot of a beer I was planning on drinking later in the evening (a tasty For the Win IPA from Old 99 Brewing Co.), and then we headed up the road to find a place to park.

Dan skinning up at the snow park
A tasty IPA from Old 99 Brewing

To our amazement, the lot near the PCT had been plowed, and there were a couple of cars parked there. We parked next to Jensen’s truck, and headed up the road. Near the ODOT building, we ran into Jensen and Hilliary and they both said the snow was pretty good. Stoked, we headed up the skin track, working our way up Sleepy and then KP. By the time we reached Eagle’s Flight, it was deep!

Walking up the highway
Looking up Eagle’s

The skin track continued up KP, and with 30+ inches of snow off-piste, we decided to continue to head up the track. By the time we got to the Big Corner however, the track continued up the road and out into the trees beyond. Not sure exactly what was going on there, we busted trail up KP and worked our way towards the top of EPA. The going was slow and the snow was deep, but eventually we topped out after stopping to fix a trails merge sign lower down…

Dan at the big corner
Adjusting some signage

The amount of snow on top was staggering. Looking at the Patrol bump shack, it was nearly buried! Heading on up to Peak 2, the size of the cornices looming above Southbound were also quite impressive.

The bump shack buried!
Heading up to Peak 2

When we reached to top of Peak 2, both of us were impressed with the total snow depth at the snow stake. It was about 3 inches from the bottom of the sign, and we later measured that to be an few inches shy of 144 inches! We cleared some of the snow off the ramp at the top to help the area out for later in the week, and then took a break to enjoy a beer.

12 feet of snow at the stake!
Clearing snow from the ramp

Everything in the shack was looking good, and we enjoyed a few minutes in the warm shack while it continued to snow outside. My beer of choice for the afternoon was a tasty Hazy Crazy IPA from Newport Brewing Co., and I captured it with the Peak 2 chair in the background in the photo below.

Enjoying a break in the top shack
Hazy Crazy IPA from Newport Brewing

A few minutes later, it was time to head back to the front and get ready to make turns. Dan was a bit worried about his shoulder, so we decided against dropping in on Peak 2 and skinned back to the top of EPA instead.

Ready to shove off from the top
At the top of EPA

We took a couple of obligatory summit pics, and then decided on skiing Good Time Charlie based on Dan’s assessment that it would be steep enough to provide good turns but also mellow enough that Dan wasn’t worried about falling on his shoulder. Shoving off, we worked our way down to the run and had to ski in the skin track because it was so deep.

Dan dropping in
Matt dropping into Charlie

Once we got to the run, we did a quick assessment and then dropped in. The snow was absolutely deep as could be, and the turns were excellent. Dan had the camera for the first half of the run, and snapped several shots of me, including the two shot sequence below…

Neck deep on Good Time
White room turns at the Pass

We worked our way down the run, and I snapped some shots of Dan who was ripping with his “improved” shoulder. The snow was so good I wished we had time for another lap, but the hour was getting late so we decided it would be best to ski through the trees and catch the haul road over to George. That proved to be an interesting choice, as the snow was 60+ inches deep on the haul road since no public had skied it the weekend prior. It took some time, but we skinned our way over to George after a bunch of effort.

Dan on Good Time
Ready to ski down George

The turns down George were nice, and reminded me of some of the fun dusk patrol outings from a few years prior during the pandemic. We milked it all the way to the bottom, and were able to ski out to the parking lot.

Down at base
Heading out from the Pass exit

The hike down the road went quickly, and it continued to puke snow as we walked. Even though it was April, it really felt like a mid-winter day.

Hiking back to the car

When we got to the parking lot, Dan’s truck was the only vehicle there. Although it was getting dark, we decided there was still time to cook up some brats, and that was definitely a great choice. The hot brats took the sting out of an otherwise cold evening, and we enjoyed them with a cold beverage.

Brats on the grill
Enjoying beers and brats at the truck

Soon, with the beers and brats gone, it was time to hit the road. Both of us wished we could come back in the morning, but worked beckoned, and we’d have to settle for turns later on the weekend. Even so, this dusk patrol was easily one of the deepest ever, and one that won’t soon be forgotten!