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!

Satrurday, Kristin and I ripped a few fast, buttery laps on the snow field before skinning up and climbing towards Crater Rock.  Around 9600', the snow turned to bullet proof hard pack, and we sat down to enjoy the amazing weather.  We peeled the skins, dropped onto the Zig Zag snowfield, and enjoyed incredible turns with amazing views of the southern Cascades before bearing hard left back towards the Mile.  Sheer bliss.

Sunday, Kristin and I headed back up to Timberline to harvest more spring-like corn snow.  We left the house at 7 am and by 10 am, we were at the top of the Palmer.  This time I came armed with a pair of spikes and an axe, and I took off towards Crater Rock with Jaime and Ryan.  By noon, I was on the summit ridge, where I carefully clicked into my bindings after peering down the north face towards the Elliot Glacier.  After 200 ft of side slipping, I pulled a couple of turns on 50-55 deg hard pack and started carving fast turns down the Old Chute.  After stopping to catch my breath, I continued down through the hour glass on West Crater Rim.  Woohoo!

"Amazing, incredible, best day in 20 years" - I heard all of these exclamations this past weekend from appreciative locals.  Thank you, Mt. Hood.

Showing off in the morning

Kristin skinning up on Sat morning - IRock in the background
Unknown folks enjoying a morning walk
One of my best ski partners
Kristin skiing down the Zig Zag snowfield

Kristin on the Zig Zag looking south towards Mt. Jefferson and the Sisters

More mountains
Bohle, Ryan and company skiing through the gut after descending skiing the Old Chute to West Crater

Looking west towards the Reid Headwall

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