September 5, 2020 – Mt Hood, Zigzag & Palmer Glaciers

Labor Day weekend was on the late side this year, so Dan, Joe and I made plans to meet up on Saturday to get our September turns in. Dan met me at my house early, and we cruised up I-5 in his Tesla, stopping for a quick charge in Sandy, before arriving at the mountain to meet Joe, who’d been up there for the past couple of days. The parking lot was a zoo, but fortunately Joe had saved us a spot to park. We set about getting our gear organized, and I walked over to my usual spot to take a picture of the mountain.

Charging the Tesla in Sandy

Mt Hood from the Climbers Lot

The mountain looked somewhat typical for September, although it appeared the Palmer was somewhat narrower than in past years. With the area closed to skiing as of August 31st, we shouldered packs and headed up the road to Silcox instead of our usual September hike along the White River Glacier. 

Looking south from above the lodge

Dan & Joe heading up the Silcox Road

Hiking up the road went quickly, and before long we reached Silcox Hut, which served as a nice spot to take a quick break, grab and snack, and drink a bit of water. From the hut, we headed up and under the Palmer lift, and worked our way up the hiking trail towards the top of the lift.

Joe at Silcox

Dan taking a quick break

Near the top of the Palmer, we split left, and headed across the rocks towards the Zigzag. It always is a bit further to the Zigzag then I remember, and a bit harder hiking as well across the loose rocks and boulders. Eventually we made our way to the last rock ridge before the snow, which afforded good views back to the south of Mt Jefferson and the Lionshead Fire burning on it’s eastern flank.

Looking south towards Mt Jefferson

Joe & Dan approaching the Zigzag

When we reached the glacier, I was a bit surprised at the lack of snow compared with years past. The snow surface looked like it would ski ok, but the glacier itself was quit a bit narrower than in previous years, and there was a significant amount of exposed ice and dirt showing. Nevertheless, we switched over to ski boots and worked our way up to near the top, finding a suitable place to drop in. We didn’t make it quite as high as in years past, due to the fact that the snow surface was just glacial ice covered in dirt and sand.

Hiking up the Zigzag

At the top of the Zigzag

We switched over to ride mode at the top of the glacier, and snapped a few photos. I took a picture looking down the Zigzag, and then we started down. I dropped in first, and made a few fun turns down a hundred feet or so, and then snapped some pictures as the skiers descended.

Looking down the Zigzag

Joe skiing down the Ziggy

The snow surface was in ok shape up top, but became much better as we traveled further down. The lower half of the glacier skied much better, and we made some fun turns down it’s lower half. Dan grabbed the camera and snapped a few photos of me as we cruised down the mid-section…

September turns on the Zigzag

We continued working our way down, and stopped below the bottom a few hundred feet to admire the Lionshead Fire on Mt Jefferson which appeared to be blowing up as the day went on (a few days later it would really blow up as much of western Oregon would burn in the worst fire season ever recorded).

Skiing above the Lionshead Fire

Pausing on the lower Zigzag

Finally, we skied the last section to the bottom of the glacier, milking turns all the way as we normally do. I caught a few pictures of Dan coming down with the mountain in the background, and then he got one of me at the very end of the snow…

Dan skiing the lower glacier

At the end of the snow

At the bottom, we loaded the skis onto our packs, and started out on the slog back up to where we’d stashed our beers, approach shoes and a few other items. I snapped a few pictures on the lower half of the snowfield, and then put the camera away until we made it back to our gear…

Looking up the Zigzag

Heading back up

By the time we had worked our way back up to our gear, the Lionshead Fire to the south on Jefferson had started getting even more aggressive, so I pulled out my telephoto lens and snapped a picture. It was also a good time to snap a few pictures of my beer of choice for the day — a large Mindhaze IPA from Firestone Walker Brewing Company. Rather than drink it on the Zigzag, I elected to take it with me to enjoy at the top of the Palmer.

Looking south to the Lionshead Fire

Beverage of choice for the day

The hike back across the rocks and scree to the Palmer is always easier and faster on the way back (or at least it seems that way), and soon we were sitting at the top of the snowfield, enjoying the view along with our cold beers, taking in a beautiful September day. The snow on the Palmer was looking pretty good, and soon we decided it was time to drop in and see just how good it was. I dropped in first, and there was no doubt — the turns were pretty nice. Joe and Dan came down after me, and we worked our way down towards the bottom at the mid-station below..

Dan skiing the Palmer

Joe cruising down the Palmer

A little bit above the mid-station, we stopped and stashed a little gear, and headed back up for one more lap. The skiers left their packs as well, and in about 20 minutes we were back on top and ready to drop in again. This time, Dan snapped a few pictures of me coming down as well…

September turns on the Palmer

Dan cruising on lap 2

We skied down to our gear, loaded it up, and headed down the road towards the mid-station until we ran out of snow. From there, it was a short hike into the canyon, where we enjoyed more turns down towards the Silcox…

Near the mid-station

Turns in the Palmer Canyon

The turns in the Palmer Canyon were really nice, and it’s always fun ripping from side to side, throwing snow on the rocks, etc. I snapped a few pictures of the skiers, and then put the camera away for the rest of the ride down to the Silcox.

Dan skiing the Canyon

Joe throwing some snow

At the Silcox, we crossed the road and milked the snow in the Mile canyon quite a ways down, and though it was dirty, it still made for fun turns. We skied down close to where the snow cats are normally parked and the snow ended, and made the hike back to the parking lot from there.

Skiing below Silcox

Hiking down to the car

Back at the car, it was super nice to change into shorts and flip flops, and enjoy a cold drink. We got the brats and grill out, and cooked ’em up while we enjoyed some fresh garden salads I’d made up the night before, as well as some fresh chips and salsa.

Salsa, Salad & a Splitboard

Apres-ski at the cars

Hanging out at the car, enjoying good food, drinks and friends is one of the best parts of September ski days, and this day was no exception. The brats . definitely hit the spot, and with bodies full from good food and our spirits high from good turns, it was time to hit the road. Dan and I bid Joe farwell, and pulled out in his Tesla for the road home. With September in the books, that usually means summer is coming to a close, with fall and the first storms of the season not far way. Winter will be here before we know it, and I can’t wait!

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July 3, 2020 – Mt Bachelor

Dan and I left his house in Springfield early with hopes of finding July corn on Bachelor. Our plan was to meet John and Joe at the mountain, and the drive up highway 58 went quickly with little traffic in the early morning. We pulled up to the gate at Sunrise shortly after 7:00 am, and found Joe and John there. A few minutes later, we shouldered packs and headed out.

The cars along the highway

Hiking across the parking lot

There wasn’t nearly as much snow as our trip a couple of weeks ago, and we had to walk quite a ways on bare ground before we hit continuous snow. Eventually, we worked our way up above the Sunrise chair and onto the snowfields below the summit…

Hiking above the chair

Looking out over central Oregon

We worked our way to the top, and elected to head over to Cow’s Face for a lap to see if the snow was holding good corn like it was a few weeks back. The line looked good, and it appeared the morning sun had already done it’s work as the snow quality looked like creamed corn as well.

Joe at the top of Cow’s

We stashed some gear up top, including our beers, tennis shoes, and extra jacket, and strapped in for some July turns. Dan dropped in first, and snapped a few pictures of me heading down with my 70-300mm telephoto Canon. The resulting shots came out pretty nicely…

Matt harvesting the corn

July turns on Mt Bachelor

Partway down I grabbed the camera and took shots of the skiers as they descended. Joe came cruising by me first, followed by Dan. John of course was already halfway to the bottom:)

Joe skiing Cow’s

Dan shucking some July corn

We skied down skier’s right of the run, and ended up quite a ways down before we called it and decided to head back up. The boot back up went quickly with four of us to kick steps, and soon we were standing back at the top of the face, contemplating another run.

Skiing lower Cow’s

It didn’t take long for us to make the choice to put another set of tracks on the face, given how excellent the corn was. This time, we decided to ski down skier’s left, and worked the (even) smoother snow on that side of the run.

Joe enjoying lap 2

Matt cranking turns

The snow in the middle of the run was superb. I continued shooting pics of the skiers as they descended, and even captured a few photos of John as he skied behind me.

The Fish enjoy July corn turns

Near the bottom, John bid us farewell as he needed to head back to his cabin on highway 58 to do some home repairs. Dan, Joe and I continued down for another 500 vertical or so before the snow started getting mushy, and then began the long slog of booting back to the top.

Skiing above Kwolh Butte

We worked our way back up the hill, eventually rejoining our bootpack from the first lap, and made it to the top to collect our (now) cold beers and remaining gear. From there, we headed to the summit to enjoy a deserved rest, along with the views. Prior to reaching the top, I snapped the below picture of my beer of choice for the day, an enjoyable Hawaiian Crunk from Riverbend Brewing Company with South Sister as a backdrop.

Beer

A few minutes later, I rejoined Dan and Joe, and was enjoying the summit views as well as the delicious beer. It felt good to take a rest and enjoy the views, and it looked like the snow in the Cirque Bowl was in good shape too.

Telephoto view from the summit

Matt on top

After our beers were drank and we’d taken a couple of obligatory summit pics, it was time to strap in and enjoy the steep turns off the top. I dropped in first, and worked my way over to the rollover and setup to snap a few shots of the skiers coming down. Joe came down first, followed by Dan. The snow was corned perfectly, and the steep pitch skied really nicely…

Joe skiing below the headwall

Dan dropping into the Cirque Bowl

At the bottom, we had to negotiate a section of dirty, icy snow where the upper snowfield was melting away from the lower snowfield. It looked like it would only go for another week or so, and we were happy to be able to ski it cleanly without having to take skis off…

Looking back at the upper bowl

Joe and Dan

We made turns down the rest of the snow in the bowl, enjoying the corn on the lower angle slopes, and then decided to work our way over to the rope tow patch for the ski down to the road. The rope tow patch was holding nicely, and took us right down to the road above Skyliner…

Heading down to the road

At the road, we were able to ski a snow finger back over to Sunrise, and then work the snow patches quite a ways down the mountain before having to switch to sneakers for the short hike back to the car. Given where we thought we’d have to take the skis off from our approach in the morning, we were pretty stoked to be able to ski down as far as we did….

Skiing the final patch

Back at the car, we loaded gear and headed down to the horse camp near Todd Lake to enjoy some post-skiing food, including brats, chips and salsa, and cold beverages. The brats definitely hit the spot after a long day. After enjoying the food, I loaded into Joe’s truck for the drive home (Dan was staying over for the night), and we headed out, satisfied with an excellent day of July corn. Here’s a parting shot from the day…

Dan enjoying July corn on Cow’s

 

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