For one reason or another, I’d watched the better part of the month of November slip by without finding a worthy opportunity to get our for some turns. I’d missed an opportunity early in the month due to work, and the weather after that was pretty bad, so when finally another storm system moved through I jumped on the chance to get out.
I called up Joe, and he was game to get out, so we met early in the morning at the cop shop in Albany before making the drive north to the mountain. We pulled into the climber’s lot around 7:00 am or so, and after donning skins and packs, we headed up. It was a treat to be able to skin right from the parking lot, and soon we worked our way up towards Silcox under blue skies and sunshine.
We made good time on the approach to Silcox, stopping for a brief break and then continuing on up. Coverage on the lower Palmer was sparse, but there was plenty of snow for turns. Both of us had our hopes on climbing higher than the Palmer however, but weren’t quite sure what the upper mountain would offer in terms of conditions.
We continued on, making good time to the top of the Palmer, where we stopped to hang out in the sun for a few minutes and enjoy the views. After refueling with a quick snack, it was an easy decision to keep climbing, and see what the conditions above would give us.
We navigated our way through a maze of rocks, rime and firm snow, and skinning was bit difficult at times. Neither of us were sure if it would warm enough to produce corn for the ride down, but I had a feeling we’d be in good shape. We continued on up and worked our way towards the Vietnam couloir, and in places the snow was pretty nice wind buff. In other places though, it was pretty slick and sketch.
We met a solo skier named Nikki who we climbed part of the route with. Eventually, we switched to booting, which proved to be much more secure than skinning. I kind of regretted leaving the crampons in the car, but after a few hundred feet kicking steps it was apparent we’d make due without them.
It started to warm considerably by the time we reached the bottom part of Crater Rock, and I had to take off my Pendleton wool shirt as we traversed above the White River headwall and continued climbing towards the Devil’s Kitchen and Crater Bowl.
Eventually we worked our way to the Hogsback ridge, and decided to call it there. Both Joe and I were a bit tired from the climb, which was more taxing than it should have been without crampons, and the upper mountain was basically out of the question without them as well. Sitting at the saddle and enjoying the views was easily a great consolation prize to continuing up.
Since we’d reached our high point, it was a fitting time to snap a picture of my beer and get it on ice. The beer I’d brought for the day was aptly named Devil’s Churn Imperial Stout from Yachats Brewing, and I thoroughly enjoyed it while watching the sulfur steam vent from Crater Rock and the Devil’s Kitchen below.
The temperatures had warmed considerably, and it was amazing to sitting there in just a base layer without a breath of wind. I spent several minutes watching and videoing the sulfur coming out of the rocks behind us, and eventually we figured it was a good time to step into the bindings and prepare to head down. It’s always bittersweet leaving the Hogsback — it takes considerable time to get there and the views are so special, however the turns beckon and the pull to put down some smooth tracks is strong.
I dropped in first, and enjoyed some smooth wind buffed turns down a few hundred feet before setting up to shoot some pictures of Joe coming down. The slope didn’t disappoint, and Joe ripped some nice turns down to me and beyond…
Once we descended down off the Hogsback, we continued on down past Devil’s Kitchen and then enjoyed some really nice turns above the White River headwall. The fresh snow was smooth, and with the deep blue sky as a backdrop, it provided for some pretty nice photos.
Once down to the Vietnam Couloir (so named because it looks like that in the summer), Joe and I both agreed that we definitely needed to ski it and continue down to the Ziggy. As soon as I made my first turn in the couloir I knew we were going to have a few thousand feet of sweet skiing….
The couloir was a “take your pick” between chandelier corn on skier’s right and wind buffed pow on skier’s left. It was baby butt smooth, and Joe and I ripped it from top to bottom. I’d say it was easily some of the smoothest November snow I’d had (at least since last year on Hood hahaha), and we both had huge smiles on our faces by the time we reached the Ziggy below.
Once down to the Ziggy, we continued descending and the snow conditions continued to be perfect. We worked our way down to the normal summer get-back spot, and ended up hitting it perfectly so that it spit us out right back at the top of the Palmer after a hard traverse.
Back at the Palmer, we enjoyed a well earned break and talked to a few rookie splitboarders who were up for their first ever spiltboard outing. The conditions continued to be beautiful and warm, and it felt good to soak up the rays and enjoy the views. Eventually, we started down, and Joe grabbed the camera and took several photos of me enjoying the turns on the upper Palmer.
The snow on the Palmer was in pretty good shape — not quite as nice as the upper mountain but still really nice nonetheless. We continued on down and I took a few pictures of Joe as we worked down towards the Mile chairlift.
Once down to the Mile, we elected to head skier’s left and followed our noses down some fun lines towards the car. The snow had melted out quite a bit down low from earlier in the day, but there was no need to take the skis off and we enjoyed some pretty nice turns that spit us out right at the climber’s lot.
Once back at the car, it felt good to get out of ski boots and take the packs off. Joe and I were looking forward to some apres’ grilling, so Joe fired up the grill and we got them cooking as soon as it was hot. A few minutes later, we were enjoying some tasty ‘brats along with some garden fresh chips and salsa to put the cap on what was a pretty great day of riding.
All in all, it was a perfect way to spend a late November day, and a day that neither Joe nor I will likely soon forget. Until next time, here’s a parting shot from the day…