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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

 

October 21, 2023 – Cutting at the Pass

Summer like weather was holding into late October, and conditions were looking favorable for a day of cutting at the Pass, so I made plans with Dan, Joe and John to head up for some saw time. The plan was to meet early at the Pass and work on the RTS area. Laurie, Matt and Austin were also planning on coming, so we left early from Dan’s house and made our way up Highway 58.

Morning pit stop at Gold Lake

After a quick pit stop at Gold Lake, Dan and I pulled in and opened the gate. A few minutes later, the rest of the crew showed up and we drove our way up the haul road to the top of Twilight. At the top Twilight we scoped out the approach via Lois Lane but decided that Amber’s would be the better choice. There were some fresh elk tracks at the top of Duck Soup, and after cutting a couple of logs out of the way were parked the rigs and were ready to go.

At the Pass ready for a day of cutting
Ready to go on Amber’s Way

The plan for the day was to head up hill and work on cutting some of the endless trees that seem to grow on the run (even with our work over the last several years) and then spend some time in the afternoon on the runout. Packing the saw and gear up the steep slope is always fun, and soon we were working away…

Ready to work on RTS
Dan cutting on RTS
Austin and Dan taking a break from cutting
Laurie, Dan and Matt

We cut until about noon or so and then headed down to take a break and enjoy some lunch and a well-deserved break. After lunch, John, Dan and I headed down to the runout to open a few lanes that would hopefully pay dividends later in the year. It got pretty warm in the afternoon, and I had to remember to hydrate as well as take my helmet off multiple times to dump the sweat out of it!

Dan and Laurie heading in for lunch
Fischer working on the runout

Around 3pm or so we called a day and headed back up the hill to the trucks. It was time to enjoy a cold beverage and I didn’t turn Dan down when he offered me a cold Ninkasi Hazy IPA from his cooler.

Ninkasi Hazy IPA

The next order of business was to get brats on the grill, so we pulled out the grill, meats and condiments right at the pickups and decided to grill right on Amber’s. It wasn’t long before they were ready, and we quickly devoured them after a hard day working on the hill. I grabbed the tripod from my bag and snapped a few photos of the group, including the shots below.

The crew relaxing after a hard day’s work
Grilling brats on Amber’s Way

A bit later, it was time to head down, so we loaded in the truck and drove down from Amber’s. Dan and I wanted to drive around towards the big corner, so we turned left below the top of Twilight and worked our way up the haul road. The mountain was looking good from the truck as we drove up and then back down, with the only ingredient needed for opening being snow. All in all, it was a great day to be on the mountain, and I hope the next time I head up it’s to make turns! Until then, here’s a parting shot from the day of a tasty Pumpkin Patch Ale from Rogue Brewing.

Pumpkin Patch Ale by Rogue Brewing