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January 20, 2024 – 1st Patrol Day of the 23-24 Season

After waiting for what seemed like forever, it was finally time for the Patrol 2 opener, and the stoke factor was high as Shaun, Carson, Dan and I headed up to the Pass. The week before had delivered some big snows at the Pass, and a huge ice event in Springfield that had me putting in extra hours while helping our community navigate through what turned out to be a pretty large natural disaster. Needless to say, I was looking forward to getting some patrol time in at the Pass.

A few of the crew ready to catch the EPA chair

We pulled into the Pass early, and geared up quickly before having our morning meeting. Patrol 4 and the area had done some great work a few days earlier and had EPA setup and running, so working on Peak 2 was going to be one of our priorities for the day. After our meeting, everyone set to work. Opening the mountain was our first priority, and then it was time to get the Peak 2 gear ready to deploy. The SPY made up sled packs and loaded sleds, patrollers drug gear and sleds out to EPA, and we took them up and staged them at the top of EPA.

Gretchen pulling out a Cascade 350
Patrollers sorting gear at EPA

Hannah, Matthew and Andy were up with a crew of OEC candidates, and they set up at the top of EPA to do their training and also be a resource if needed. I snapped a few pictures of them as well as Dan, Chris, Gretchen and Craig loading a sled with gear to take over to Peak 2 a little bit later.

OEC trainers getting staged at the top of EPA
Loading gear at EPA for Peak 2

I was on the radio with dispatch and lift ops checking in about when Peak 2 would turn, and we got word it would be ready around 11:00 am or so, so Craig, Anna, Dan, Chris and I staged the Peak 2 gear at the bump shack and waited inside for 20 minutes or so to stay out of the cold.

Looking out from the Bump shack
Dan and Chris enjoying a quick break

A bit later, after heading back down to the base to replace a lost binding strap on my board, I booted up and joined the crew at the top of Peak 2 for some shovel work on the ramp before we started out to run the avy route for the first time all year.

Peak 2 shovel crew
Anna and Dan on Waldo

Craig and Chris worked on getting gear stashed at the top of Peak 2 while Anna, Dan and I headed out on Waldo to run the route. The amount of snow at the top of Waldo was pretty impressive, especially given that there wasn’t hardly any only a week or so prior.

Anna heading down Waldo
Heading out on the Avy Route

We worked our way out the ridge line beyond June’s Run and cut a few cornices above the cliff’s. The snow surface was crusted up pretty good from the warm up/rain event a few days prior, and we weren’t able to get anything to slide. My main concern was the buried deeper layers several feet down, but it proved difficult to do anything to trigger them.

Anna clipping in to the Avy rope
Anna on the nose

We made our way out to the nose and then setup the anchor, and Anna donned the harness and clipped into the rope. Dan provided the belay, and I snapped a few pictures while surveying the action.

Anna working down off the nos
Dan providing the belay

After working the area below the nose and knocking some sluff/cornices down, Anna came back up and headed out the main ridge line to start the next portion of the route.

Ready to start the main route
Heading out beyond the nose

Anna worked the slope over well, doing several ski cuts and stomping on the slope to try and elicit a response, but the snow layers were bonded well and nothing moved. Even so, it was a lot of work, good practice and nice to clear the area so that Peak 2 could open tomorrow to the public.

Anna on the sharp end
Working the avy route on Peak 2

After Dan came down and he and Anna setup the second belay, I headed down to leave them to their work and enjoyed a nice groomer down Waldo. It was my first lift-served turns on Peak 2 for the season, and it was nice to get to the bottom and catch the lift back to the top.

First look at Peak 2 spinning for the season

I rode the chair up, did a quick check-in with Brett to inform him of our progress, and then headed down to get Carson who’d been waiting patiently in the patrol room while we worked on getting Peak 2 ready to go. We had enough time before sweep to enjoy a few runs on the front side, and I captured a few shots of him skiing, including the one below on Upper Rosary.

Carson skiing on Rosary

Before long it was time for sweep, and I caught up with Shaun and Dan at the base of EPA. We rode the lift together and met up with a gaggle of patrollers at the top for upper mountain sweep. Before we kicked it off, I snapped a picture of our group at the top, for the first EPA closing shot of Peak 2 of the season.

Shaun and Dan at EPA
Patrol 2 Closing Crew

Upper mountain sweep went off without a hitch, and I headed down after the upper mountain was clear to put the bean dip in the microwave, sign duty cards, review incident forms and get ready for our evening meeting while the rest of the crew swept the lower mountain. I had just enough time to snap a picture of a 6-pack of a super tasty Hopw0rks Abominable Winter Ale that I was looking forward to enjoying after our evening meeting.

Abominable Winter Ale from Hopworks

A few minutes later, the rest of the patrol started trickling in from sweep, and once everyone was in we cleared the hill with dispatch and debriefed the day, including several incidents and lessons learned. A bit later, after patroller of the day nominations, we cracked open some beers, the SPY enjoyed sodas, and everyone devoured the bean dip. All in all, it was a great first day of patrol and a great, albeit late, start to the season. Here’s a couple of parting shots from the day.

Anna skiing Waldo
Controlling the Nose

December 16, 2023 – Hoodoo

After sitting around waiting for winter to arrive for several weeks, I was able to persuade Dan to get out for a day of turns. Our goal was to ski a peak that I’d skied once before a few years earlier, but I didn’t know if it would go or not. We met at Dan’s house early with the goal of finding out, knowing that Hoodoo would be a possible backup option in the event things didn’t work out.

Dan ready to head out
Heading up the road

We made our way to the Santiam Pass area and then drove up the road to where we wanted to access our peak from. There was some snow on the road, and it looked promising as we started out on skins. After a mile or two, we got a good look at our objective. Unfortunately it didn’t go. It looked like the warm inversion that had been plaguing the mountains had caused the upper slopes to melt out, so we turned around and enjoyed the slide back down the road, getting a few decent turns along the way.

Getting closer
A couple miles in

The ski down the road was a bit crack headed, but we made it back to the truck in one piece with plenty of time to head up and check out Hoodoo. Before we headed out, Dan skinned up a side road and made a few fun turns back down to the truck. We enjoyed a Hazy IPA from Ninkasi Brewing while changing out of ski boots, and then hit the road.

Dan getting some turns at the truck
Enjoying a Hazy IPA from Ninkasi

After a short drive, we arrived at Hoodoo and the snowpack was looking pretty dismal — maybe 6 inches for a base? We figured it would go however, and hope was that maybe we could find some soft turns somewhere on the hill. It didn’t take long to get the skins on and soon we were working our way up the slope.

Skinning up Hoodoo
The view from the top

W followed our standard route up and it was quite warm. Before long, we arrived at the top and enjoyed the views of the volcano’s to the north and south. I snapped a picture of Mt Washington looking pretty fine in the early afternoon sunlight with the telephoto lens. It was also a good time to enjoy a cold beer, and my Hippy Haze IPA from Wild Ride Brewing in Redmond hit the spot.

Mt Washington looming large
A tasty Hippy Haze IPA

We enjoyed our beers along with the sunshine and views on the summit, and then it was time to drop in. The north facing terrain was pretty firm and cut up from skiers who made turns a few weeks earlier, but I thought the east face might yield some corn so we checked it out.

Sponsor shot from the top of Hoodoo
Dan dropping in on the east face

After the first turn I knew it was going to be great skiing, and immediately I wished we would have come here earlier instead of spending a few hours slogging up and down some out of the way Forest Service roads. Regardless, I enjoyed some choice turns before setting up and shooting a few shots of Dan as he came down.

Corn turns on the ‘doo
Dan harvesting some December corn

We skied down the bowl, then cut out early since the lower half was snow free, popping out at the top of Ed’s chair. From there, we were able to find a few soft turns in the sun, but the rest of the ski down was on an icy crust. Even so, it was fun to get out and make turns, and we were all smiles by the time we reached the parking lot.

Corn skiing in December at Hoodoo
A quick break on the descent

We made turns right to the truck, and decided to drive up the lot a little ways to find a spot in the sun to enjoy a beer and grill up some brats. It was really warm as we fired up the grill. In fact it was so warm that Dan was able to sit comfortably in shorts and flip flops! A few minutes later, the brats were ready to go, and we enjoyed them along with some chips and salsa to cap off a day that turned out to be pretty damn nice.

Dan enjoying a cold smoke in the parking lot
Grilling after enjoying turns

After we scarfed down the brats and finished our beers (thanks Jack for the Cold Smokes!), it was time to load up and head out. The temperature was above 55 degrees as we headed down the road from Hoodoo towards highway 20, and although it felt great to sit in the sun and enjoy the nice afternoon, I’m ready for some cold smoke to fly and looking forward to a return to winter!

November 20, 2023 – Mt Hood, Southside

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.

Hood in the early morning

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.

Looking back at Timberline
A snowcat at Silcox

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.

Looking back at Silcox
Joe heading up the Palmer

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.

At the top shack
Looking down from above the Palmer

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.

Joe heading towards Crater Rock

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.

Nikki above Illumination Rock
Nikki booting up towards Crater Rock

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.

Joe above the White River Headwall
Looking up beyond Devil’s Kitchen

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.

Joe at the Hogsback
Devil’s Churn Imperial Stout

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.

Looking up to the Hogsback and beyond
The view down to Devil’s Kitchen and out to central Oregon

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.

Hogsback sponsor shot
Joe dropping in off the Hogsback

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…

November turns high on Mt Hood
Skiing down towards Devil’s Kitchen
Looking back at the Crater Bowl on Mt Hood

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.

Turns near Devil’s Kitchen
Matt enjoying a turn above the White River
Joe working his way towards the Vietnam Couloir

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….

Enjoying some quality November chandelier corn
Matt skiing some perfect November corn

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.

Joe enjoying the smooth snow in the Couloir
November corn turns on Mt Hood

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.

Skiing the upper Zigzag

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.

Coming down from the top of the Palmer
Cruising down the Palmer snowfield

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.

Cruising down the Palmer
Working our way towards the Mile

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.

Skiing back to 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.

Apres in the climber’s lot

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…

Parting shot of Joe