September 1, 2014 – Mt Hood, Palmer Snowfield

The calendar said September, so it was time to head to Mt Hood in search of some late summer corn snow. After talking with Dan, we made plans to head to the mountain on Labor Day and meet up with Todd who was planning on getting a twofer on the 31st/1st. So, on Monday morning, I met Dan and Cindy at the cop shot in Albany and we set out. After a brief stop at Joe’s Donuts in Sandy for a power breakfast, we arrived in the Timberline Parking lot around 8:30 and found Todd waiting there to greet us. The weather was sunny and nice, with a slight breeze to keep us cool. In short order our packs were shouldered and we were hiking up the White River trail above the climbers lot.

Mt Hood on the approach
Mt Hood on the approach
Dan and Todd hiking along the White River
Dan and Todd hiking along the White River

Before long we reached the usual vantage point overlooking the White River Glacier, stopping briefly to soak in the views. The glacier looked about normal for late summer, and had retreated quite a bit from our previous trip in early August.

The lower White River Glacier
The lower White River Glacier
White River Glacier Abstract
White River Glacier Abstract

Continuing up along the climber’s trail, we found a suitable spot just below the top of the Palmer that was out of the breeze and worked great for a quick lunch break. After lunch, we continued up beyond the Palmer and onto the White River Snowfield as a few clouds began to form. Around 9200 feet or so, snow conditions started to deteriorate so we elected to head down.

Break time...
The view from our highpoint

Todd dropped in first, and dropped a knee, and was followed closely by Dan. After the two skiers were several hundred feet below me, it was my turn. I put my camera back in the camera bag, tightened my binding straps, and enjoyed sweet September turns on Mt Hood.

Tele turns on the White River Snowfield
Tele turns on the White River Snowfield
Dan getting September turns
Dan following Todd

We regrouped just above the top of the Palmer, then cruised down the snowfield along with a few other paying customers from the Timberline ski area. Palmer skied about as good as I’ve ever skied it in September, and we ripped it.

Turns on the Palmer
Turns on the Palmer

A few thousand feet later, we stopped at the top of the Mile and debated options. Dan and I were game to head back up, while Todd was ready to head for the barn, so we bid Todd farewell as he skied down to the car. Dan and I strapped our sliding gear back to our packs and started up for another lap…

Hiking for a second lap
Hiking for a second lap

Less than an hour later, we were enjoying a well deserved beer at the top of the Palmer, lounging in the summer sun watching European girls in bikinis ski by lap after lap. Eventually, the hour reached 2:30 and the lifts shut down, and the general public deserted the mountain. This was our cue, as riding the Palmer after it’s closed with nobody around is about as good as it gets in the summer. Cindy, who was nearing the mid-station, called us from below, and with plans to meet up we headed down for a second lap…

More perfect snow
More perfect snow
Surfing the Palmer corn
Surfing the Palmer corn

The snow on lap two was as good as lap one — so good in fact, that after we met up with Cindy, we headed back up halfway to the top for another session. This time, we ripped the snow as before, but Dan grabbed a beer on the way down he’d stashed at the mid-station and pounded it while executing a perfect ski turn……

Pounding a cold one on the run out
Pounding a cold one on the run out

The snow in the Mile Canyon on the way back to the car was great as usual, with the last 100 yards a bit challenging due to all the snowcat tracks. Hiking out the trail down to the car, it dawned on me we’d skied nearly 5000 vertical feet on the day —- not bad for September!

The snow's end
End of the snow

Sitting in the climber’s lot in flip flops and shorts, we enjoyed some of the season’s finest offerings, including fresh salsa I’d made the day before, cucumbers and dip, and a great pale ale from Good Life Brewing Co. Reflecting on our day during the car ride home, we agreed that though September might not offer the best terrain options and snow conditions, what we skied this Labor Day will not soon be forgotten.

September 3, 2012 – Zigzag Glacier

Four thousand five hundred….a number I’d be thinking about in my mind all week after an excellent September ski day on Mt Hood. My morning started early, meeting Dan at the park and ride at the Corvallis exit off Interstate 5 and carpooling north as the sun began to rise over the Oregon cascades. After a few stops, we pulled into the parking lot at Timberline near 8:30 am, shouldered our packs and set out up the Magic Mile canyon shortly after 9:00 am. As usual, the views of Timberline Lodge and south towards Mt Jefferson were spectacular.

Timberline Lodge & Mt Jefferson
Timberline Lodge & Mt Jefferson

Not wanting to hike under the ski lifts, we headed west towards the Little Zigzag Canyon, finding snow around an elevation of 6800 feet, though it was pretty badly cupped, most likely from previous skier’s whose tracks affected the melting snow. Continuing up the snowfield and onto the Zigzag Glacier, we made good time to Illumination Saddle, arriving at noon. The saddle is always a nice spot to take a lunch break and soak in the views to the west overlooking Illumination Rock and the Reid Glacier.

Dan enjoying lunch at Illumination Saddle
Dan enjoying lunch at Illumination Saddle

The Reid Glacier is always fairly exposed this time of year, making for some cool picture opportunities of the crevasses and cracks. One particular set of crevasses near the top of the glacier caught my eye on this trip….

Crevasses on the Reid Glacier
Crevasses on the Reid Glacier

After lunch, it appeared the snow was just starting to corn, so we strapped into our sliding gear with the intention of heading to the east side of the Zigzag, which appeared to hold the smoothest snow. To get there however, we had to descend from the saddle on pretty hideous suncups and cross an large area of snow with significant rockfall. Here’s a shot of Dan skiing from the saddle…

September turns off the Saddle
September turns off the Saddle

Once on the east side of the Zigzag, we found a nice line which was mostly free of suncups and bumps. Heading down, the turns were pretty nice – not quite as nice as August, but pretty nice nonetheless. I snapped a few photos of Dan as he headed down towards me with the mountain in the background…..

Skiing below Illumination Rock
Skiing below Illumination Rock
September turns on the Zigzag Glacier
September turns on the Zigzag Glacier

We continued down the Zigzag to the point where the snow started to become discontinuous a few hundred feet above the Mississippi Head Cliffs. Given the work and effort to get to this point, both Dan and I agreed it was time for a break to enjoy a frosty beverage in the sunshine…..

Enjoying a frosty Vitamin R
Enjoying a frosty Vitamin R

After enjoying a cold one, we had about a thousand feet of work to do before putting ourselves in a position to head back towards the car. Opting to climb instead of skin, we made quick time to the snow finger linking the west side of the Zigzag Glacier to the east side snowfield. At this point, the boards went back on our feet for some more fun…

September ski turns
September ski turns
Enjoying summer turns on the Zigzag snowfield
Enjoying summer turns on the Zigzag snowfield

Since the snow on the lower Zigzag snowfield looked iffy at best, we made the decision to descend only a few hundred feet, opting instead to traverse over and climb back up to the top of the Palmer snowfield inside the ski area, which proved to be an excellent decision. Arriving at the top of the Palmer around 3:30, the lifts had shut down for the day and we found ourselves staring down at at nearly 2500 vertical feet of perfect corn snow with not a soul in sight. Both Dan and I strapped in and started down on what proved to be the best snow of the day by far, hooping and hollering the whole way down. After several hundred feet, we felt the need to stop and rest our burning thighs.

Turns on the lower Palmer snowfield
Turns on the lower Palmer snowfield

Continuing down the Mile canyon and beyond, the snow was excellent the whole way down. Sweet turn after sweet turn, we able to descend to within a few hundred yards of the parking lot. Total vertical for the day was right around 4500 feet, by far the most I’ve ever made in September with the assistance of a lift. Sitting at home later that night and reflecting back on a perfect day, I know this trip will rate up there as one of my all time favorite September ski days! Here’s a parting shot from the Mile Canyon….

Cruising down the Mile Canyon
Cruising down the Mile Canyon

 

August 8, 2009, Palmer Glacier

I was looking forward to August turns as I headed up to Mt Hood’s Palmer Glacier, where I met Todd to make some lift-served riding.  I had been up the week before practicing glacier travel and crevasse rescue on the White River Glacier and wished I’d had my board for the ride down.  The weather was sunny and nice and the snow on the Palmer looked good as we loaded the Mile lift.  We spun several laps on the snowfield and conditions were good.  As usual, there were a few race courses set up with Olympic caliber skiers practicing their skills, and lots of campers down below at the ski and snowboard camps.  There weren’t too many people just out enjoying the riding on the snowfield though.

For lunch, we headed all the way down riding deep into the Mile canyon, having to hike the last bit to the parking lot. The afternoon consisted of more turns, and after several thousand vertical, we called it a day and headed down to Govy for our usual standard of a beer and burger at the Ratskellar.  Summer turns on Mt Hood are always lots of fun!  Here’s a shot from the day…

August 2009 – Palmer Snowfield

 

August 2, 2008 – Palmer Glacier

To get turns in for month 33, I met up with Todd early in the morning at the parking lot of Mt Hood’s Timberline ski area.  The weather was sunny and nice, and we elected to spin laps on the Palmer snowfield.  The snow was somewhat hard as usual in the early morning, but few people were around.

Todd riding the Palmer, August 2008

As the snow softened up, more folks ventured up the lifts, and the snowboard campers started up the mountain as well.  We spent most of our time on the upper Palmer, riding down to the mid-station without going all the way down.

Summer snowboard turns

Around 11:00, we headed over to the eastern boundary of the ski area and ventured out onto the White River Glacier to eat some lunch.  Looking up at the White River Snowfield, it actually looked to be in pretty good shape.  The usual large crevasses on the glacier itself were completely open in the mid-summer sun….

The upper White River glacier

After lunch, we made several more laps on the snowfield, with each one getting better and better.  We thought about hiking above the ski area since the White River snowfield looked so good, but elected against that since most people were off the hill by noon and we had the place to ourselves.

Todd lounging at the top of the Palmer between runs

Around 1:00, being pretty spent, we made the long run down to the parking lot, having skiied over 20,000 vertical feet for the day.  Down at Govy, we stopped in at the Ratskellar for an IPA and some grub, rounding out a near perfect day.  Here’s a shot of the mountain from the parking lot…..

Looking up at Hood at the end of the day

 

January 2, 2010 – Mt Hood Ski Bowl

I headed to Mt Hood Ski Bowl with Andy since I knew the majority of the month would be spent on ski patrol training at Willamette Pass.  My wife, son and I headed to Gresham to visit family on Friday night, and Andy picked me up the next morning.  We arrived at Ski Bowl just before opening, and there weren’t too many people there.  We rode the two chairs to the top and spent most of the day riding the runs off the summit.  The snow was pretty good, about five to six inches over a crust.  We did venture out to the Outback Bowl,which was closed and we found out why for good reason.  After riding down the mountian, there wasn’t enough snow to cover the runout back to the ski area and we were forced to walk out the road which took about an extra half an hour.  Overall it was a good day, but I’m looking forward to getting back into the backcountry.  Here’s the only shot I have from the day…

Matt riding upper Ski Bowl