April 4, 2022 – Willamette Pass

Eight days after the Pass had closed for the season, it looked like a storm would be rolling through that had a chance to produce a few fun turns. I made plans to head up with Dan in the afternoon to see if we could get lucky, and left work around noon and headed to his place. After loading gear in his Tesla, we headed up the highway. As we pulled off on the Waldo Road to gear up, we were greeted by a few inches of wet, heavy snow with the temperature hovering around 34 degrees.

Gearing up at the Waldo Road

We made the short drive to the Pass, and found a parking spot, only having to do a minimal amount of shoveling. The Pass was looking a whole lot better than closing day just over a week earlier as we grabbed our gear and headed out.

Fresh snow at the Pass
Ready to head out

We started skinning up ByGeorge, and the run, which was completely bare a few days earlier, had about 6 inches of new snow on it. We continued on up the hill, and soon made our way to the top of KP where we enjoyed a quick stop in the patrol shack before heading on over towards Peak 2 to check out the conditions.

Skinning up above the lodge
Heading up to the top

At the top of Peak 2, there was about 10-12 inches of new snow, and we wasted little time before dropping into Northern to sample the goods. The snow didn’t disappoint, and it really felt nice to rip a few powder turns after such an abnormally dry winter.

Dan skiing Northern
April pow turns at the Pass

At the bottom, we were both pretty stoked on the conditions, and quickly changed over to skins and set a track back up. A short time later, we arrived back at Peak 2, and enjoyed a quick break and a cold beverage before readying for another lap. My beer of choice for the day was an excellent Nebula Stout from Block 15 Brewing Co.

The view from the top of Peak 2
Nebula Oatmeal Stout from Block 15 Brewing

As we were preparing to drop in for our second run, Dan offered to grab the camera and I was happy to give it to him so he could get a few shots of me enjoying the snow. We elected to ski right near the trees at the top of Down Under, and then headed over skiers left to sample the snow there.

Matt enjoying a pow turn
Ripping a pow turn on Peak 2

The snow here was awesome, and after Dan handed me the camera back, we worked our way down Down Under and then onto lower Junes. Below are a few shots of Dan enjoying the skiing.

Cruising on Down Under
Heading towards lower June’s

We worked over towards the lift line, and then I spooned Dan’s tracks down over the roll over under the chair. From there it was a short ski back through the trees, and then we set a skin track back to our existing track and worked our way back to the top.

Looking up the liftline
At the top of Peak 2

Back at the top, I enjoyed a few more swigs of my cold beer, and after a quick break, we headed over to June’s to sample the snow there. By now the depth was pushing closer to 14 inches of new snow, and the turns just kept getting better and better. Below are a couple of shots from our third run of the afternoon…

Pow turns on June’s
Matt enjoying a turn below the chair line

We worked our way back over to our skin track at the bottom, and put the skins back on as it continued to puke snow. On the track back up, the wind started howling, snow was blowing everywhere, and both of us agreed it felt awesome to experience winter again!

Heading back up

On the way up, we ditched our packs at the top of Escalator for one more run because the snow was just too good to pass up. We dropped in around 6:20 pm, and it was definitely a good call. I snapped several pics of Dan on the way down, and enjoyed my share of face shots as well on what was probably one of my best powder runs of the season.

Dan cruising down Escalator
Evening pow turns at the Pass

The final skin up went quickly, and we punched in a new track back to the front, and spent a few minutes in the patrol shack before dropping in to check out RTS. The top of RTS was a bit scratchy, but once we were in the turns were excellent. The snow was baby butt smooth and we ripped the run top to bottom.

Turns at the top of RTS
Skiing RTS in the evening light

At the bottom of the run, I snapped a picture looking back up the run, and it looked better than it had since early January.

RTS from the bottom of the run

From the bottom of RTS, we skied Lois Lane out, and then cruised over to Swoosh for the final turns of the day. Swoosh skied awesome, with about 12 inches of new on the run, and we worked our way down skiers left. At the bottom, what was bare dirt only a day or two earlier skied really nicely, and we hit the haul road over to George and made turns right to the parking lot. Neither of us could believe how good the turns were, especially given the fact that everything was bare only a couple days earlier!

Back at the base

The walk to the car was a short one, and we loaded our gear while it continued to snow. Unfortunately the Tesla’s fronk (front trunk) was frozen shut and we couldn’t get it open, and that’s where the grill was so there would be no brats on this day. Even so, we celebrated with another beer before we hit the road. My second offering for the day was a tasty Hazy Falls Pale Ale from Three Creeks Brewing.

Hazy Falls Pale Ale from Three Creeks

The drive back down to the valley went smoothly, and although we got home late and both had to work the next morning, it was definitely worth it for the excellent turns and the satisfaction of getting to experience winter again. Hopefully the cold, wet spring weather continues. Until then, here’s a couple of parting shots from the day.

Fresh tracks on Peak 2
Skiing RTS in the late evening

February 27 – March 3, 2022 – Tam McArthur Rim

After missing the huts last year after eleven consecutive trips, our crew was stoked to head back to Tam Rim for another stay in the huts operated by Three Sisters Backcountry. The weather forecast wasn’t looking real favorable for our stay, with a significant amount of rain on the way with high freezing levels, but it looked like our first and last day would provide some powder turns. Our crew of ten met at the Upper Three Creeks Sno-Park a little before 9 am and set about unloading gear and getting it ready to load in the sled trailers. Jonas and Gabe pulled in a little bit later, and it was great to see them again after missing them last season. A bit later, we had the sleds loaded and were ready to head out.

The crew ready to head out

The six mile sled run in to the huts went quickly, and after unloading gear, we wasted little time getting out on the skin track to get a few turns in. The snow around the huts was heavy, but at least it was soft and it wasn’t raining. We headed out to the top of the Proboscis and it was pretty windy. After taking off the skins and getting my board in ride mode, I flipped it over stuck it in the snow, binding side down. Then, something that’s never happened in over 15 years of splitting happened — a really big gust of wind blew my board up and over and it took off down the slope — fuck! Peering over the Proboscis, which was wind loaded, I spotted it half way down the slope. Thankfully the damn thing stopped in the deep snow at a point where it was accessible and didn’t make it down to the trees below where it would have been gone forever. After retrieving it, the others came down, and we resumed our turns as normal. The snow was heavy and about 8-10 inches deep, but rode pretty nicely.

Brian cranking a turn
Kate slashing the heavy pow

We worked our way down from the Proboscis, and wrapped around to the west, with the goal of heading into the Orchard Bowl to check out the conditions. I pulled out the camera and snapped a few photos of the crew coming down, including Shannon, as well as Hutch, who was enjoying his first trip to the huts.

Shannon on the Hovercraft
Hutch getting some of the action

Dan and Brian came down last, and I grabbed a few pictures of them as well after they navigated through the tight entrance to the lower bowl. Although the fresh snow was nice, the overall lack of snowpack in the area compared to prior years was pretty apparent.

Dan heading down towards the Orchard Bowl
Brian ripping a pow turn

At the bottom, we regrouped and everyone put the skins back on for a quick trip over to the Orchard Bowl. Even though the snow was heavy, the stoke factor way pretty high!

The Crew at the bottom of the Orchard Bowl

Once we had skins on, I headed out and set a track up and across the Orchard Bowl. It felt nice to head up the slope where Todd, Andrew and I first cut our teeth at Tam Rim so many years earlier. About halfway up, I stepped aside and let Hutch break trail for awhile, and a little bit later we made it to a high point that would serve as a good place to transition, just below the cliff band a few hundred feet off the top. A few minutes later, the others worked their way up, and we readied to drop in. Hutch and Rob dropped in first, and headed down to the bottom. I dropped in next, and stopped about halfway down to shoot a few pictures of Shannon while she came down after me.

Hutch heading down the Orchard Bowl
Shannon carving through a pow turn

The others came down one by one, and at the bottom we regrouped. Everyone was excited for another lap, and with the skin track already in, it was an easy decision to head up.

Some of the crew at the bottom of the Orchard Bowl

The skin to the top went quicker than our first run, since we weren’t breaking trail through deep snow, and before long, we were back at the top. Brian, Mark, Randy and Kate rejoined our group, after spending their previous lap checking out the west side of the Orchard Bowl.

Rob and Hutch up top
Fischer transitioning

Soon, it was time to drop in for a second lap in the Orchard Bowl and our third lap of the day. Hutch and Rob headed down first, and a moment or so later, I was ready to drop in. Right before I took off, I heard Mark say something. Looking up, I saw his ski take off down the slope while he was trying to clear it of snow and step into it. It picked up speed, launched off a small tree a couple hundred feet below us, and then it was gone. Fuck! Somehow, we managed to find in the tree farm below us about 20 minutes later, after searching for holes in the snow where it could have landed. It was buried under the snow, and again we felt super lucky. After backcountry skiing for almost 20 years without a single trip where we had a runaway ski or board, this made two in the in the last hour — pretty unbelievable. 

Shannon and Randy heading back towards the Playground

After all the shenanigans, we were able to regroup at the bottom, and decided to head off to the east and check out a few shorter laps above the huts before calling it a day. Rob and John stayed back to get one more lap in the Orchard Bowl, while I set a skin track for the rest of the group back towards the Playground. Soon, we rejoined our track from earlier in the day. A bit later, it was time to drop in, and everyone found a good line down, but the snow was getting really heavy and it made the turns a bit cumbersome. At the bottom, most of the group decided to call it a day, but Dan and I wanted to get one more run in, so we stayed back with intentions of hitting the “Dan” bowl. It was also beer-thirty, and I pulled out my beer for the day, a tasty Mirror Pond from Deschutes Brewery.

Mirror Pond from Deschutes

A few minutes later, Dan and I were enjoying our beers and making the transition back to skins. A couple of swigs later, the beers were finished and we were ready to head out, except there was one problem. Dan tried several times to get his right ski on, but it wouldn’t take. As it turns out, a piece of his binding had broken, and he was pretty much screwed. Good thing he had an extra pair of skis at the hut. We ended up making a slow ski back to the huts, with Dan on one ski cruising through the deep, heavy snow. About halfway back, he switched the ski to his other foot to keep from getting too tired on one leg, and we made our way back down to the huts.

Dan limping out on one ski

Back at the huts, it was time for a margarita after what turned out to be a pretty good day of turns. Everyone settled in for the evening, and Hutch set about making dinner for our first night. Hutch is an excellent cook, and everyone enjoyed the chanterelle ravoli in a brown butter sage sauce, along with an excellent salad. Even though the weather was going to be suspect on this trip, we all knew we were going to eat well! After dinner, it was time to sit back and relax, and enjoy some good company and the laughter that comes when you have a bunch of skiers hanging out in a yurt together.

Fisheye view of the Owl Hut

Sleep came easy on Sunday night, and as predicted, we woke on Monday morning to the sound of rain beating down on the huts. It wasn’t just a light drizzle either, it was full on raining, and it was forecast to continue throughout the day. It looked like it was going to be a lazy day around the huts, and provide an opportunity to shoot a few photos from a different point of view.

The sauna in the morning rainstorm
Morning rain as seen through the Owl hut door

Given the weather, nobody was motivated to get out for a tour, and the snow had turned to complete slop. We ate a leisurely breakfast, and then bid farewell to Kate and Randy, who were heading out a bit earlier than planned given the rain. As the day wore on, I grabbed my camera and looked for a few suitable subjects to shoot around the huts. The below shots of the fire, taken while turning my camera 180 degrees while depressing the shutter, as well as my goggles would have to suffice.

Motion blur of the wood stove
My goggles reflecting in the hut

Around 1:00 pm, with nothing better to do, it was time to crack a beer. My planned offering for this day was a super tasty Phaser Hazy IPA from Ecliptic Brewing Co. The Phaser Hazy is probably my favorite of the hazy IPA’s out there right now.

Phaser Hazy IPA from Ecliptic Brewing
Looking out to the Sauna from the Owl hut

Around 2:30 pm or so, the rain finally quit, and it seemed like a good time to head out on the lake to try to get a phone call out to my wife. Walking out to the lake, I couldn’t get any service, but I was able to see out into the Orchard Bowl where we were skiing the day before. The west side of the bowl had slid pretty big, and I just happened to look up when the whole east side released. The slide was massive, starting at the top of the bowl at the cornices, and it slid the entire length of the bowl. In all my years coming in to the huts at Tam Rim, this was probably one of the coolest things I had ever seen.

Big slides in the Orchard Bowl

I headed back to the huts, and found Hutch who hadn’t witnessed the slide, but saw it’s aftermath from a point higher up behind the huts. We climbed back up to take a look, and I was able to get enough service to to get a call out. By the time I got back to camp, it was beer thirty, and it wasn’t raining, so we were able to get out on the deck and enjoy the fire.

Rob, Dan, John and Hutch
The crew enjoying the fire

Before long, it was time go get ready for dinner, and Brian and Shannon were preparing what has become a staple at the huts — Alaskan Coho salmon, served up with a side of pasta with a basil sauce as well as a garden salad. Brian has the salmon cooking dialed in, starting it on the wood stove, and then moving it out to the open fire on the deck.

Seasoning the salmon
Salmon cooking over the wood fire

The salmon hit the spot, and with the rest of the meal also being first class, we all agreed that even if the snow sucked for the rest of the trip it would be worth it just for the food. After dinner, Dan fixed up another round of margaritas, and then I headed outside to try my hand at taking a few photos with the fisheye lens. I took several shots, including both with and without the flash, but decided I liked the shots with the flash best, since there wasn’t enough ambient light from stars themselves.

The fire and the Raven hut in the evening

After the photo shoot, I headed back inside and everyone enjoyed some more good company before settling in for the evening. A bit later, it was time to hit the sack, and get ready for another day in the morning. The next day, we woke to warm temps and a slight drizzle. Not to be deterred, we ate a hearty breakfast, and set about getting our skis ready to head up the skin track. Shortly before we headed out, we bid Mark farewell before he set out on the snowmobile track to head home for the week. Then, after a quick beacon check, it was time to hit the skin track.

Shannon arriving at the saddle below the Proboscis
Florescent colored lichen on a pine tree

The weather held at bay while we worked our way up towards the Proboscis, although there was a bit of wind. I caught a picture of Brian standing next to a dead snag on our way up, and then we continued on.

Skinning by an old snag

A short time later, we worked our way up to the Proboscis, and decided to tour on out to the Prow. Arriving at the top, we were greeted by some clouds and quite a bit of bare dirt. Even so, it was good to get back on the Prow again, and I was reminded of my first visit with Andrew and Todd so many years earlier.

Brian and Hutch looking off the Prow
Matt on top of the Prow

As we walked about the Prow, the weather started to improve, and the clouds lifted enough to be able to see into the bowls below. It was pretty awesome seeing the crown lines and avalanche debris in all directions after the previous day’s rainfall. Then, just as we were getting ready to head back to the skis and step in for some turns, a pretty nice rainbow came out across Three Creeks Lake below.

A weathered tree atop the Prow
Hutch and Shannon in front of the rainbow

I quickly grabbed my camera, and put the wide angle lens back on, and rushed back out to the end of the prow to snap a few shots. The shot below was probably my favorite from the whole trip. I also managed to get in a good shot of Brian and Shannon before we headed down.

Rainbow over Three Creeks Lake
Brian and Shannon on the Prow

Eventually, it was time to put the skis and boards on and head down. The slide down to the Proboscis from the top of the Prow was probably the slowest ride I’ve ever had while at Tam, due to the super stickiness of the snow, but finally we made our way down the ridge and then over to the Playground.

Brian at the top of the Playground

The skiers and dropped in first and took the line to the right, and left Brian, Shannon and I up top. Brian dropped in next, and headed down to the left, making a nice toeside carve down towards the ridge line. After Brian, Shannon dropped in to the right, and I followed Brian’s track, enjoying the steep, smooth snow on the wall above the chute.

Brian cranking a toeside turn
Rob in the Playground

At the bottom, Dan and I were game to head back up for another lap, while the others headed in to the huts. It was a short skin track back to the top, and the second lap provided fun, albeit wet and sticky, turns back down.

Hutch and Brian at the huts

Back at the huts, we settled in for the afternoon. Then, before dinner, Dan, John, Rob and I decided it would be worth heading out behind the huts for one more lap on the west facing slopes, even though the snow proably wouldn’t be all that good. The skin up was short, and I remember being startled by the lack of snow on the ground compared to past years. It was even down to dirt in many places. However, I was optimistic that once we made it to the top, we’d find something good on the way down. Even if we didn’t, it was definitely nice to be hanging out in the mountains with good friends. In fact, it was time for a cold beverage once we got to the top, so my first priority was to put my Genuine Optimism Porter from Oakshire Brewing on ice.

Genuine Optimism from Oakshire Brewing
Dan, John and Rob above the huts

After enjoying our cold beverages, Dan and I headed down while Rob and John decided to explore some terrain a little further out. The turns back down to the huts were fun, and it was time to start getting ready for dinner. On the menu was fish tacos, made with Pacific halibut from my freezer that I caught with my dad earlier in the summer. Dinner did not disappoint, and the tacos had all the fixings, touched off with a side of Spanish rice and black beans. After dinner, we all settled in to a lively game of “That’s what she said,” which produced a whole bunch of laughter, as well as some pretty good one-liners. As the evening wore on, it was time to hit the sack, and we retired to our bunks for a good night’s rest. The next morning dawned warm again, but it wasn’t raining and it looked like it would be a decent day for touring. The first order of business before hitting the skin track was to cook up a good breakfast, and the hashbrowns and eggs hit the spot!

The crew enjoying breakfast
Looking down on the lake from near the top of the Rim

After breakfast, we headed out on the skin track and worked our way up to the Rim. The sun was trying to come out, and like the day before, we headed up to the Proboscis and then on to the Prow. Dan, Rob, John and I decided it would be fun to keep touring out around the Rim, with the goal of making it to Snow Creek or maybe getting a look at the Yahtzee bowl.

Looking into the Animal Bowl from the top of the Prow
Rob nearing the Yahtzee bowl

The skin across the Rim between the Prow and the Yahtzee was pleasant, and as we approached the top of the Yahtzee the wind started to pick up a little. Standing at the top of Yahtzee was nice, and I was tempted to drop into our favorite line like we had some often on previous trips, but we figured a short skin out to look into Snow Creek would be more appropriate.

John and Dan looking into Snow Creek
Rob and Snow Creek

It was less than 5 minutes to get to the Snow Creek overlook, and we all had forgot how beautiful it is. The snowpack in the drainage was pretty thin compared to previous years, but it still made for some nice pictures.

Matt and Snow Creek
Dan and both Three Creeks Lakes

With our curiosity for getting a look at Snow Creek satisfied, we toured back along the Rim as the weather started to move in. By the time we made it to the Prow, it started to spit snow, and it seemed like a good place to enjoy my beer that I’d been carrying around all day. This day’s offering was a great tasting Hearts and Hammer IPA from Coldfire Brewing.

Hearts and Hammers from Coldfire Brewing
Rob at the Prow

We sat up top for a few minutes, enjoying our beers as well as the oncoming storm, and then it was time to drop in. Like the previous day, we worked down to the Proboscis, and the snow was quite a bit faster. Then, some fun turns through the Playground and down through the trees brought us back to the huts.

John and Rob after skiing the Playground

We settled in for the evening on what would be our fourth and final night at the huts. Hutch was in charge of dinner again, and cooked up a tremendous tasting smoky cod Israeli couscous dish, with a salad on the side. Everyone ate a double helping, and there was still some left over…..so good! Following dinner, it was time for another round of laughter, this time with a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity. As usual, we laughed so hard it hurt, and finally after the game was over it was time to crawl in the sleeping bags one last time. The following morning, we were all pretty happy to see 3-4 inches of new snow and temps that were below freezing. We cooked up a nice breakfast, packed all our gear and loaded it into the sauna, and headed out. The skies were sunny and it was looking to be a great day for turns as we topped out on the Proboscis.

The crew on the Proboscis on our final day
Rob skiing the Jelly Roll

The views from the top of the Proboscis were nice, and Middle Sister was visible as were some of the volcanoes to the north. While we were getting ready to drop in, a thick fog came in seemingly out of nowhere, and whiteout conditions prevailed for a half hour. Finally giving up on good visibility, we dropped in carefully and enjoyed the turns down, and then over to the Jelly Roll for some more skiing. The Jelly Roll was pretty smooth, with about 4 inches on top of a crust, and the turns were pretty nice coming down. I managed to catch a few shots of Shannon enjoying the conditions.

Shannon Hovercrafting
Toeside spray on the Jelly Roll

From the bottom of the Jelly Roll, I set a skin track up and over to East Peak. It was nice to visit East Peak before we were done riding, since we hadn’t been there the whole trip and it’s one of my favorite spots on the Rim. At the top, the weather cleared enough for us to be able to see across the Rim and back out to Middle Sister. Anna and Jonas also popped out on top while we were there, and it was nice to catch up with them for a few minutes.

Brian and Shannon on East Peak
Shannon enjoying turns off of East Peak

The skiing off of East Peak was pretty nice in the open meadow, and by the time we were done we had seven tracks down the line. I snapped some pictures of the skiers and riders as they came down, and we regrouped at the bench below.

Hutch on East Peak
Brian charging on the last morning

From the bench down to the huts, the snow was pretty heavy, which made for some challenging turns through the trees. Nevertheless, I still found some fun turns in the woods, and when we got to the huts the first order of business was to celebrate with a Ruby Ale from McMenamin’s.

Dan picking out his line
Ruby Ale from McMenamin’s

Since it would be an hour or so before Jonas and Anna were back, we started loading our gear in the sleds while we enjoyed our beers. It also was a good opportunity to kick back and relax a bit on the deck, so we started a fire in the fire pit and did just that.

Dan and John taking a break from loading the sleds
The crew enjoying the fire before we headed out

Soon, Anna and Jonas popped out of the trees, and after securing the loads with a few straps, we were ready to head out. I snapped a few final pics of our group before we departed, and also managed to get a shot of Hutch and Dan on the ride out without losing my balance or my camera!

Ready to head out
Hutch and Dan on the snowmo out

On the way out, it was nice to see the Sisters and Jefferson basking in the sunlight. They looked to have survived the rainstorm all right, but there definitely was a lot of rock showing that shouldn’t have been for early March. The snowpack down low really took a beating as well, and we had to cross several patches of bare pavement that were covered by a couple of feet of snow on the way in. Even so, we managed to make it back to the parking lot without incident, and that brought the end to another trip to Tam Rim. Although it wasn’t best snow I’ve ever had in the area — if I’m being hones it was probably the worst snow I’ve ever had in the area — it still was a damn fun trip with great company. Next year’s hut trip is already reserved, and I know we’re all looking forward to heading back, hopefully with better snow!

January 24, 2022 – Mt St Helens

After a great day of turns on patrol the day before, I woke early with my alarm at 2:30 am. Since all my gear was ready to go the night before, I dressed quickly and was able to hit the road by 2:45 am and head north. The drive up the freeway through the thick fog went smoothly, and I was stoked to be heading out to visit a volcano I hadn’t been to in 9 years (could it really have been that long?). I pulled into the snowpark a few minutes before 6:00 am, and found Joe’s truck in the lot. We got our gear organized, took care of filling out the required permits, and shouldered our packs a little before 7:00 am. Skinning right from the snowpark was definitely a plus, and we worked our way through the trees. After a hour or so we got our first views of the mountain.

St Helens on the approach
Nearing Timberline

Coverage on the upper mountain was looking pretty good, and we skinned on under the firm snow as the sun rose above the horizon and created an orange glow. Looking back at Joe as we worked our way up the low angle slopes, I was definitely pretty happy about our choice to come here on this day…

Early morning light on St Helens
Sunrise over St Helens

A bit later, we caught up with a couple of guys who were on foot ahead of us. After some small chit-chat, we headed on and the slope steepened.  We were able to skin for a ways, but a couple of steep pitches caused us to switch over to booting to keep away from an unwanted slide.

Headed up
Enjoying a quick break

Soon, it was time to enjoy a deserved break, and we refueled with a bit of food and water. As we were sitting there enjoying our food and the views, a lone raven decided to pay us a visit to see if he could mooch any food off of us. I took the opportunity to snap a few photos of him, and then once he realized we didn’t have anything for him, he headed out.

A raven keeping us company
Heading up the boot track

With our break done, we headed on, and it proved to be easier to continue to boot for the time being. As we worked our way higher, the views became better and better, and I snapped a few pictures of Joe with Mt Hood in the background. A short time later, we were able to get back on the skins and get the skis off our backs…

Looking south to Mt Hood
Joe back on the skins

As we continued skinning, the views continued to improve, and we started to get good views of Mt Adams to the east. We kept skinning for as long as we could until the snow conditions became icy, and then it was time to switch to crampons for the final thousand feet or so. A few solo skiers were ahead of us and kept their skins on, but it was quite a struggle, and we quickly passed one of them.

Matt and Mt Adams
Joe nearing the top

One of the things about climbing St Helens is that it always seems like the top is just within reach, but it’s kind of like a mirage on the horizon —- always just a bit out of reach and a bit further out there. Finally, after working our way through some wind blown sastrugi near the summit ridge, we made our way to the top and were greeted with one of my favorite views in the cascades. Looking down onto Spirit Lake with Mt Rainier in the background is always such a visual treat…

First views into the crater
Fisheye view of St Helens

We made the top somewhere a bit before 12:30 pm, making for an overall approach time of just under 5 hours and 30 minutes. I pulled out the fisheye lens and snapped several photos, taking extra caution not to get too close to the edge of the cornices overhanging the caldera. In the below photo, Joe is visible hanging out at the rim on the far right…

Crater view
The view from St Helens

After snapping several photos with the fisheye, it was time to get my beer out and put it on ice, and we sat around and enjoyed the views for a bit. Joe offered to snap a picture of me in my usual pose with my board, and I returned the favor by shooting a pic of him on the rim as well….

Summit shot
Joe on the summit ridge

We hung out on top for about an hour, enjoying the views, waiting for the snow below to hopefully soften some and turn to creamy corn, and enjoying the beautiful weather. Eventually, we figured it was time to make turns, and it was also time to pull out our beers and enjoy them before our long run down. My beer of choice for the day was an excellent Overland Amber Ale from Yachats Brewing. It definitely hit the spot, and by the time I had downed it I was ready to shred.

Mt Adams from the Crater Rim
Overland Amber by Yachats Brewing

Taking off the crampons and putting on the board and skis was the crux of the trip, and once we had our sliding gear on we felt quite a bit better. I shoved off from the crater rim first, and the turns were a bit spicy for the first 800 feet or so through the sastrugi wind polished ice/snow mix. I caught a few pics of Joe coming down, and we were able to work slope for some pretty decent turns.

Joe dropping off the top
Skiing down through the sastrugi

Once we were through the marginal snow, conditions improved significantly, and we headed over to the line Joe, Ron and I skied several years ago. Our timing was perfect, and we were stoked to be in for a really nice corn harvest!

Joe harvesting some ripe corn
Matt heading down

Continuing down, we worked the slope for hundreds of turns. Joe grabbed the camera and fired off a sequence of shots of me harvesting the corn, including the ones below….

January turns down St Helens
Heading down the south side of St Helens

The benefit of climbing over 5500 feet on the approach meant that it would be a big run on the down, and we were definitely in the middle of it and it wasn’t disappointing. Above the worm flows, we spotted some good snow on skiers left, and worked our way over to ride it. Joe kept the camera, and snapped some photos as I rode through the lunar landscape…

Initiating a heelside turn on St Helens
Cruising above the worm flows

More turns followed, and eventually we had to stop to rest our legs from all the action. Needless to say, both Joe and I were pretty stoked to score such nice corn in January.

Joe working the corn
Carving through the corn

As we continued down, we started to run out of real estate and eventually had to drop into the canyon below. After scouting the ridge line, we found a spot that looked like it would go and it did…

Joe ripping
Dropping into the canyon

The ski out of the canyon was fun, and the snow stayed nice. We worked the natural quarter pipe down to the flats below, and retraced our uptrack from the morning back towards the treeline.

Joe working the canyon wall
Headed for the flats below

Once at treeline, we were able to cruise out the trail on the mostly flat slope really easily. The gliding was fast, and we needed to stop a couple of times to rest tired legs. I was able to ride the whole trail with poles out, and it was a remarkably easy glide right back to the pavement’s edge, where the first order of business was to get out of the ski boots and get the brats on the grill. While waiting for the brats to cook, we enjoyed one of Joe’s Sierra Nevada IPA’s along with the exhilaration that comes with an awesome day in the mountains.

Enjoying a beer after a great ski
The brats on the grill

Within a few minutes, the brats were done, and as usual they hit the spot after a great day of turns. It didn’t take long to scarf them down, and they were gone in no time. We hung out for a bit discussing Joe’s plans for the next few days, and then it was time for me to head out for the long drive home. I bid Joe farewell and headed down the road, but had to stop after a couple of miles to shoot one more shot of the mountain bathing in the afternoon sunshine.

St Helens from the road home

The drive home went super smoothly, and I made it through Portland without a hitch in rush hour traffic, which is unheard of. All in all, it was an excellent day of January corn, and completely worth the early morning start and long day. I’d do it again in a heartbeat, but really hope a return to winter comes soon. Winter corn great, but I’m definitely ready for some more pow turns! Until then, here’s a parting shot from the day…

Parting Shot from the Crater Rim