May 19, 2023 – Willamette Pass Dusk Patrol

The month of May was starting to slip away, and I was hoping to get an evening dusk patrol day in at the Pass, so I phoned up Dan and Joe who both were game to get some turns. I left work around noon and we carpooled up 58 in Dan’s Tesla, stopping at Gold Lake to gear up. Halfway up the highway I realized I’d left my skins at home, so booting it would have to be for me.

The view from the Pass exit

We arrived at the Pass a few minutes later, and loaded packs and headed out. The coverage was about what we expected, and it looked like we’d be able to ski all the way to the base on the way out. The weather was warm, and some big thunderheads were looming to our north and east, but stayed far enough away that we felt comfortable on the approach.

Joe skiing up Rough Cut
Skinning up Amber’s

We worked our way to the top of Twilight, and then up to Amber’s and RTS. The booting wasn’t bad, and soon Dan and Joe changed over to boots as well for the climb up RTS.

Topping out on RTS

At the top of RTS, I found a full 16 oz Rainer can sitting next to a tree that had melted out, which improved my mood significantly and made up for leaving my skins at home. We worked our way to the top of EPA, and then over to Peak 2 to check out the conditions on the back.

Checking out the snow stake
Maiden and the Peak 2 chair

At the top of Peak 2, we put a beer on ice and nervously watched a very large developing thunderhead to the northeast which seemed to be approaching our direction. My beer of choice for the day was an aptly named Maiden West IPA from Little Beast Brewing. I positioned it with Maiden in the background and snapped a few photos, including the one below.

Maiden West IPA from west of Maiden Peak
Matt & a huge thunderhead

At one point, we decided we weren’t going to drop into Northern because the clouds were looking pretty menacing, but after another 15 minutes or so they dissipated enough that we elected to give it a go. After taking a tripod shot of the three of us, I stepped into my bindings and headed down to shoot photos of the skiers making turns…

Tripod shot of the three of us on Peak 2
Dan dropping into Northern

I positioned myself just down the slope far enough to catch the skier’s coming over the slope as a silhouette. The turns looked nice and the corn was flying. Dan dropped in first…

Dan dropping into Northern
Peak 2 turns

After Dan, Joe dropped in and I fired off several shots from my Canon R5 as he headed down. Some of them are below….

Joe’s turn to drop in
Joe skiing Northern
May turns on Northern
Evening turns on Northern

We skied the run about halfway down, maybe a bit more, then decided to exit stage right because the snow was still a bit on the bumpy side from closing weekend a week before.

Skiing the lower half of upper Northern
Traversing over to head back up

We slid our way through the trees, and it was hard to imagine that only a month ago we were running sleds through here in the deep stuff while doing sled training for patrol. It was a short boot hike up to Boundary, and then we walked back up Kris Kross to the top of EPA.

Hiking back up Kris Kross
At the top of EPA

Sitting at the top of EPA, it was a good time to take a break, enjoy the views, and drink that cold Rainier that I found earlier while coming up RTS. We watched a marmot (most likely the same one from a month earlier that we saw during the season) and enjoyed the calm that comes with a pleasant evening in the spring at the Pass.

A cold Rainier beer
Hanging out up top

A few moments later, it was time to click into the bindings and shove off. We had to walk down from the top to the Success patch, but it was worth skiing as Dan demonstrates in the below photo.

Dan skiing the Success patch

The get in to RTS was a bit spicy as usual, but once in the skiing was really good. One of my favorite parts of skiing the Pass during May and June is hitting RTS when it’s at it’s most sketch.

Dropping into RTS
Joe skiing the upper pitch on RTS

We all made it through the crux without issue, and Dan gave me the camera back. I headed down a bit further, and took some pictures of Dan and Joe as they headed down. Joe skied all the way to the bottom and by the time I could get my camera out of it’s pouch he looked tiny at the bottom….

Looking down RTS with Joe at the bottom
Dan ripping RTS

At the bottom we were all pretty stoked with how good the run was skiing, and it wasn’t a hard decision to head back up to reuse the bootpack and put in another lap. The hike up went quick, and we dropped in again in perfect conditions and perfect weather.

Back at the top
Dan skiing through the crux

I took some more pictures, including ones of both Dan and Joe skiing through the throat near the top of the run while dodging rocks, trees and stumps…

Joe skiing though the throat
Dan enjoying a second lap

We skied the second lap top to bottom in perfect corn, and everyone was all smiles at the bottom. As usual, RTS delivered once again and we got to enjoy a perfect sunset as well as excellent snow.

Basking in the glow of a couple good runs
Looking back at RTS

At the bottom, we gathered our gear that we’d left below, shouldered our packs, and headed off down Lois Lane to ski Swoosh back to the car. To our amazement, Swoosh had firmed up just enough from earlier when it was roasting in the sun and it skied perfectly.

Heading down Swoosh
Joe skiing with beer in hand
Skiing on down to the base
Matt enjoying the action

We worked our way down the run, enjoying the smooth snow right down to the bottom. It definitely was a pleasure being able to link turns all the way to the lodge…

Evening turns at the Pass
Our tracks on lower Swoosh

At the bottom, it was a short push over to the parking lot, and then back to the car. Although it was hard to believe how much snow had melted in the week since closing, we definitely couldn’t complain at the quality of snow we had during this evening outing.

Looking back at the hill

Once back to the car, we made the short drive down to Gold Lake to enjoy a beer and cook some brats. I was looking forward to a cold Farmstand Fresh Mango IPA from Deschutes Brewing, and it hit the spot with a tasty brat hot off the grill.

Farmstand Fresh IPA from Deschutes
Grilling at Gold Lake

We hung out in the parking lot for a few, enjoying our beers and food, and even had to don jackets as the temperature dropped. A bit later, it was time to hit the road, and I think I can safely safe we all were pretty happy with how the day turned out. Here’s a parting shot from the day….

Parting shot from RTS