Writings

Thoughts, ideas, comments, diatribes, and rambles. A subjective take.

Breaking the Curse: Mt Mcloughlin Ski Descent

Mt McLoughlin is an often forgotten volcano of the Cascades chain. Hidden in southern Oregon along the highway between the modest towns of Medford and Klamath Falls, it was a feature of Taylor’s childhood. Legend has it that her mother, Cecilia, hiked Mt McLoughlin with Taylor in her womb. We all know what that does to a child.

“We all know what that does to a child.”

Taylor has hiked Mt McLoughlin four or five times in summer, but never in Winter. As an isolated cone of a mountain, it just begs to be skied, so we’ve already tried twice. But we were cursed. It was not to be.

Climbing along the upper crater rim.

First attempt: We drive 4.5 hours to Southern Oregon and spend the night with Taylor’s mother. The conditions are perfect for a spring ski descent, with cloudless skies and a deep snowpack adorned with a late spring dousing of powder. Unfortunately, Taylor left all of her avalanche gear in another backpack in Portland. We go hiking instead, dejected.

Second attempt: We drive 4.5 hours to Southern Oregon and spend the nigh with Taylor’s mother. The weather forecast is terrible and we call it off, agreeing to at least ride road bikes in the rain the following morning. On skinny tires heading towards Jackson, OR the following day, Mt McLoughlin pierces the perfect weather with taunting expanses of smooth white corn. Dejected, we’re forced to go wine tasting.

Splitboarders approaching the summit with the SE face cornfield stretching below them.

 

Booting towards the summit.

Finally, the third attempt, this past weekend. Perfect one day weather window, high temperatures,  no wind. We drive 4.5 hours to Southern Oregon to stay with Taylor’s mother after Taylor notices that I’ve forgotten my beacon and shovel in the house and saves us from certain doom.

Taylor follows on the upper slopes.

Taylor approaches the summit.

We approached first up snow covered road and then up the rough route of the summer trail, thankful for a deep snowpack making for easy forest travel. A prolonged trip through low angle woods led to a steeper climb through trees that marked the beginning of Mt McLoughlin’s steep angle of repose.

The upper reaches, with endless sky beyond.

At tree line, I was impressed. This mountain is maybe the best ski terrain that I’ve seen on any of the volcanoes that I’ve climbed. The angle is steep. The descents are long. The Northeast bowl is adorned with rock spires and a truly sustained descent.

The NE bowl of Mt McLoughlin is one of the most appealing ski descents in the Oregon Cascades.

A few splitboarders were ahead of us as we approached the summit. Warm temperatures permitted us to skin within a few hundred feet, after which skinning to the summit would have been feasible for the stubborn, but we booted the last few.

This is what we work for.

 

Taylor logging her umpteenth and maybe best trip on McLoughlin

On the summit it was warm, calm, and the Southern cascades lazed in the distance. Shasta reminded us that we’d yet to ski it. We ripped skins and ripped 2500′ of corn to the trees. Egress shennanigans were standard, with thinning snow as we approach the lot. Still, the curse was broken.

So broken.


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