September 2, 2023 – Mt Hood, Palmer Snowfield

The summer was flying by and the calendar said it was September, so Dan, Joe and I made plans to head to Mt Hood to get some summer turns in. As usual, we met early and carpooled up to the mountain in Dan’s Tesla, and after a stop in Sandy to supercharge we pulled into the climber’s lot. Looking at the mountain, all three of us were amazed at how the snow had melted in the last couple of weeks, but it looked like the Palmer patch was barely holding on to allow us to find a few turns.

Mt Hood from the Climber’s Lot
Gearing up to head out

After a few minutes of sorting gear and donning approach shoes, we shouldered the packs and headed up the road towards Silcox. Partway up we were able to peer into the Mile Canyon and it didn’t look very good at all. Nevertheless, we worked our way up and I snapped a couple of pictures along the way.

Looking back to Timberline Lodge
Heading up to Silcox

We reached Silcox in good time, and headed up towards the Palmer canyon. Part way up, we found some skiable snow for a few hundred yards, but it gave way to grout before we reached the mid-station. Continuing on up, we worked past the mid-station and eventually were able to get on skis and skins for the final section of climbing.

Hiking dirt to the mid-station
Joe skinning the Palmer

We skinned to within a hundred feet or so of the top of the Palmer, and it was time to take the packs off, grab a bite of lunch, and put the beer on ice. My offering for the day was a tasty Redwood Highway Hazy IPA from SeaQuake Brewing, which I picked up earlier while on the northern California coast vacationing with the family. It definitely hit the spot!

A Redwood Highway Hazy IPA from SeaQuake Brewing
Matt up top

We hung out for a few minutes chatting with a couple of TAY aficionado’s while enjoying our beers, and then it was time to step into the bindings and head down.

Dan enjoying a swig of my IPA
First turns on the Palmer snowfield

I headed down first and set up to shoot a few pictures of Dan and Joe as they headed down. The turns were pretty nice even though the snow had some grit on it. In fact, the surface was remarkably smooth and we carved some sweet turns down to where it ended in grit a few hundred feet below…

September turns on the Palmer snowfield
Joe skiing some Palmer corn
September splitboard turns
At the end of the snowfield

At the bottom of the snowfield, it was an easy decision to head back up for another lap. Dan ditched his pack, we stowed a couple of beers in the snow, and donned skins for another ski back up to the top. A few minutes later we were clicked into our bindings and staring down the snowfield, ready to drop in for a second lap.

Dan heading down for a 2nd lap
September smiles on the Palmer
Joe loving the smooth snow
Dan near the bottom

Back at the end of the snow, it was time to enjoy a swig of beer before heading back up for one last lap. The second offering of the day was from Ninkasi Brewing and was a tasty Pale Ale in a new-look can.

Pale Ale from Ninkasi Brewing

This time, we all left packs at the bottom and made the short climb back to the top. Our third run was as enjoyable as the first two, and I shot a few more pictures as we headed down. Dan took a couple of me as well…

Third lap turns
Matt enjoying the third run of the day

With three runs in the books, it was time to load the skis on the packs and head down for a bit more skiing. None of us were sure how well the Palmer canyon would ski, but we didn’t want to walk it, so we worked our way over the rocks, grit and sand and finally came to a point where we were able to click-in to bindings again below the mid-station.

Ready to head down
Dan pounding one at the bottom of the Palmer
Hiking the lunar landscape to the Palmer Canyon
Looking up at the mid-station

The snow in the Palmer canyon wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t bad and turns were quite a bit better than walking, the same which could not be said for the snow in the Mile canyon (more on that later). We milked the snow for all it was worth, and then it was time for more walking out to the Silcox below.

Dan ready to step into skis
Joe skiing the Palmer canyon
Dan enjoying the snow below the mid-station
At the end of the snow in the canyon

After booting down to the Silcox, we worked our way into the Mile canyon to ski what little snow was left there, which wasn’t much. We worked our way past a ton of sand, rocks and grit, and eventually clicked into skis to make turns on a few hundred feet of “snow.” The sliding was quite slow, definitely rough, but preferable to walking and we slid down until it ended.

Joe skiing through the “crux”
Walking across a slurpee in the Mile canyon
At the bottom of the snow in the Mile

At the bottom of the snow in the Mile, we changed into approach shoes, climbed out of the canyon, and started the walk down the road to the climber’s lot. A half hour later, we were sitting at the car enjoying some freshly grilled brats and looking back up at the mountain and admiring our work from the day.

Looking back at the mountain from the hike out
Enjoying brats & brews after skiing

A bit later, with the brats devoured, it was time to hit the road home. I think all of us agreed that even though the snow quantity was quite a bit less this year than last, this September more than made up for it in quality. Until next month, here’s a parting shot from the day…

September turns on Mt Hood