Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Memorial Day Turns on Barrett Spur

Bohle dropping off of Barrett Spur into 2000+ feet of perfect corn
Over Memorial Day weekend, Mt. Hood delivered again, serving up untracked slopes of perfect corn snow and incredible vistas of Cascade volcanoes.  We departed Portland early on Saturday morning - around 5 am - headed for the wild and free north side of our local volcano.  Our goal was to ski Barrett Spur, a little peak surrounded by the massive glaciers, ice falls and ridge lines of a remote corner of Mt. Hood.  Our efforts paid off, and we harvested several thousand of feet of beautiful spring snow before stopping in Parkdale to drink some local micro brews en route to a not-so-secret but still untrammeled rock climbing crag. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Applegate and Garfield Peaks -> The Wombat

Crater Lake National Park
Smith Rock State Park
Oregon is a state of many faces, marked by a wide diversity of landscapes, from the sand beaches and rocky cliffs of the coastline, up and over the Ring of Fire and the Cascade Crest, to the High Desert of the east.  When you gaze down from far above, all these unique places look so close together, one blending seamlessly into the next as mountains rise of out foothills, and rivers wind themselves in broad arcs across valley bottoms and fertile plains as they had for the ocean.  It can seem like the distant reaches of the state are far away from each other, but in reality all this diversity is crammed into a pretty small package.

And it's a good thing too, because this varied landscape creates some crazy and unpredictable weather.  Sometimes, storms roll in from the Pacific for months on end, and it seems like endless days of powder shots will never last forever (remember the winter of '98-'99).  Other times, like this year, a blocking ridge of high pressure can make Oregon feel more like Colorado for weeks and months at a time.  We are exposed to wide extremes in temperature, precipitation and geography, and its awfully hard to predict when conditions will be good for whatever it is that floats your boat in the outdoors.   

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Photoset from Whitsler, Joffre Lakes

Finding turns in the Joffre Lakes Basin
I celebrated my birthday last weekend with a three-day trip to SW British Columbia, continuing the elusive 2013-14 search for powder snow.  We caught a great day at Blackcomb with 6-10" of fresh snow on top of a very firm base, with clear skies and amazing views.  The masses were stoked!  The next day, we explored the backcountry around Joffre Lakes and found a thin layer of windbuffed powder on top of a very thin, crusty snowpack with lots of exposed rocks.  In a NE facing basin at the height of winter, the light was tough, but I got a few shots of the peaks across the valley and some half decent images in the shade.  The temps were really cold - around 15 deg F - and we had to hike out because of the low snowpack, but we managed to log some mileage on our old-man legs.  On our drive back to Portland, we stopped in at Squamish and checked out the nesting bald eagles down by the Squamish River - so cool!  Coastal BC is drop-dead gorgeous and only a few short hours from Oregon - go check it out! 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Ashes, Stars and an Unbreakable Crust

Sunrise and Broken Top
Mother Nature has been anything but generous to the skiers of the Pacific Northwest so far this year. Bouts of snow have been sandwiched in between long periods of warm and wet or bone dry days.  The downhill crowd is getting a little stir crazy, myself included.  This past weekend, despite a recent stretch of arid conditions, I convinced myself that the sunny forecast in central Oregon would yield spring-like corn snow in the Sisters backcountry.  Unwilling to face the prospect of another day of laps on the Palmer snowfield, I struck out on my own hoping to find the goods, eternally optimistic.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas Comes Early - 2013 Ice in the Gorge

Tim Holscher on Ainsworth Left
Santa delivered an early present this year - a cold Arctic air mass and record low temperatures.  The temps started dropping last Sunday night, and over the course of the last week they stayed consistently below freezing with overnight lows in the Gorge dropping down to 10-15 deg. F.  It's been a few years since we've had a good, solid freeze in the area, and people were stoked to go check out the ice conditions!

Rumors started to trickle in during Thursday and Friday, and it didn't sound overly promising.  Despite the cold temps, most routes in the Gorge either hadn't come in at all or were super thin.  Many of the lines depend on seeps and spray, which is kicked up by the strong east winds that prevail when a powerful low pressure system moves onshore.  But we've had a relatively dry fall and for some reason this system didn't bring those traditional mean winds.  Still, it's not too often that we get temps that are this cold, so out we went in search of the elusive Columbia River Gorge ice climbing.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Eearly Season Epicness on Mt. Hood

November corn at Illumination Saddle
One of the best parts of living in the Cascades is that feeling of familiarity that grows between you and your local mountain.  Experiencing an alpine landscape as it transitions through the seasons, from year to year, minute to minute, you start to see notice all the little details and you grow to appreciate the unique privilege of living in such a beautiful place.  Wind patterns, snowpack, temperatures, precipitation - these all change throughout the year and give a place its own unique character, a shifting, breathing, living landscape.

This past weekend, Mt. Hood put on an incredible show for the folks who were lucky enough to experience truly rare early season conditions.  A powerful storm blew through the weekend before, leaving 1-2 feet of snow above 6000 ft, but since that time the weather had been stable and the snowpack had consolidated.  The forecast called for clear skies, moderate temps, and dead calm winds.  On top of that, Timberline Ski Area had just opened for the winter season and was scheduled to run the Palmer lift both days.  Equation = fun!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fall sun at Beacon Rock

Kristin topping out pitch 2 of Young Warriors
Our bomber fall weather pattern continues!  Kristin and I enjoyed Beacon Rock on Saturday in perfect conditions in the Columbia River Gorge - crispy clean air, calm winds, and a warm sun. 

After an early October system dumped lots of snow in the mountains, I was tempted to break out the planks, but resisted the urge and have enjoyed some amazing climbing conditions.  It looks like we'll have at least one more week of cool, sunny weather.  Get out and enjoy our fall bounty!