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. 

Mt. Hood in early morning light from the Upper Hood River Valley
With an early departure from Portland, we made our way to the trailhead outside of Parkdale, Oregon by shortly after 7.  On the way through the Hood River Valley, Mt. Hood put on an incredible show that got us really excited for the day ahead.  Our anticipation built as we drove closer and closer to the mountain, until we had to stop along the side of the road, jumping out of the car to capture some images of a perfect May morning.

We started out hiking through the area that burned in the Dollar Lake fire back in 2011.  The blaze started in August and ultimately spread out over more than 6,000 acres of primarily high elevation forest before petering out in October of that year.  The burned area is visible from miles around, and the hike up towards Barrett Spur includes a tour through some of the most heavily impacted spots.

A small stream flows through some riparian vegetation amongst many snags and partially burned trees

Hiking through the burned snags, which have mostly shed their heavily burned bark
We hit snow around 5,200 feet, lost the trail, and started hiking up towards tree line, eventually popping out on the ridgeline that leads directly up to the spur.

More burned snags with a snowpack that is still hanging on

Above treeline and headed towards Barrett Spur
Once in the alpine, we were treated to scenic views of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens and, of course, the rugged beauty of the north side of Mt. Hood.

The Coe Glacier in the center, Cooper Spur on the left hand skyline, and the Elliot Glacier headwall in the top center
The Wilderness Act of 1964 lists "solitude or an unconfined and primitive type of recreation" as one of the intangible values to be protected by setting aside roadless expanses of public land.  On this holiday weekend in 2014, no more than a 2-hour drive from a major metropolitan area, we were surprised to find ourselves utterly alone in an alpine playground.  We maybe saw two tiny specks crawling across the Snowdome towards the Sunshine Route, but we saw nobody else the entire day.

After enjoying a leisurely lunch and basking in the sun, we finally decided to harvest some corn right around noon.  Jaime dropped in first, carving elegant turns down the northern ridgeline of the spur towards the basin below.

Dropping off the top of Barrett Spur with Mt. Adams in the background

Good times
We harvested 2100' of buttery corn snow down into the basin below the spur, where we enjoyed a beer and took in more incredible views.

The southwest chutes of Mt. Adams tempt us with other fun descents

We finally put the skins back on and climbed 900' back up towards the ridgeline, carefully cross hilling on a slope that was warming rapidly under the sun.  With 2-3 inches of ski penetration through softening snow, we tread carefully across the slope without kicking off any sloughs. 

2000' of turns and a climb back to the ridge
After gaining the ridgeline and before dropping back into the woods, we managed to eke out a few more turns and to soak up many more incredible views of our local mountain.  What a day.

Perfect Memorial Day conditions

Our turns frames by the wild glaciers and ice falls of the north side
On the way down to the Solera brewpub in Parkdale, we stopped one final time to admire the mountain.  The warm glow of of the morning had faded to cool afternoon tones as a light cloud cover started to move over the north side of Mt. Hood.  The mountain is ever changing, and we were lucky to catch it on a perfect day for backcountry turns without another soul in sight.

No comments:

Post a Comment