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Tagged ‘schralpinism‘

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.

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Mt Baker Easton Glacier Ski Descent

Author’s note: This post is one week old. I’m now sleep deprived and sporting the dorky combination of scrubs and a white coat. Looking back on this gives me a satisfied smile. Enjoy!
I’m on a ferry, out on puget sound, sailing from Friday Harbor to Anacortes. Despite my best efforts (hours of quietly watching at the rail), I’ve yet to see an Orca. That’s the only hope I had for this trip that I have yet to fulfill.
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Sunset over Mt Baker

In eighteen hours or so, I’ll be starting one of the rights of passage that every medical student is forced to endure: a surgical rotation. For four weeks, I’ll work longer than twelve-hour days for six or more days per week. Sometimes I’ll be there overnight. Thank goodness there are restrictions; I’m not supposed to work more than 80 hours per week averaged out over four weeks, or more than 28 hours at a time. So reasonable.
That’s not to say that I resent the rotation, or that I’m not excited. I don’t, and I am. This is what I signed up for. Still, it’s a transition moment from a few months that have afforded me a lot of time in the mountains to a few that will afford me little.
To mark the occasion, and to ornament some travel that we were making to a wedding on San Juan Island, Tay and I decided a few weeks ago to climb and ski Mt Baker It is one of the cascades volcanoes that has managed to avoid attempts by either of us.
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Punching through the snow line.

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Wy’East Face Ski Descent

The Wy'East face at sunrise with descent route marked.

The Wy’East face at sunrise with descent route marked.

My dream of a Wy’East Face ski descent has been parked in the closet for a while. The first time that I saw the Wy’East Face was as a freshman at Reed College, in 2006. Riding the Vista chair at Mt Hood Meadows ski resort, the face spread across the upper reaches of Mt Hood, a huge white expanse which from afar looked steep and serious. In 2007, from the same chair, I saw someone skiing the face. Later that year, I also saw an enormous avalanche crown in the same spot, and in the following years, the face ripped each spring, at times depositing debris near the bottom of the Heather Canyon chairlift several miles down-canyon.

Approaching up some particularly dirty spring snow.

Approaching up some particularly dirty spring snow. (Photo: Taylor)

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Skiing Pahto (Mt Adams)

Route: Suksdorf Ridge

TH: Cold Springs campground. Road to trailhead is unimproved. High clearance and AWD recommended.

Map: Green Trails Maps 367S. Strava track here.

Stats: Approx. 12.5mi and 6700′ vert car to car.

Gear: Entirely non technical, but crampons and ice axe/whippet recommended.


Saturday was a long day for all of us, but we were determined to rally and ski Mt. Adams (hereafter refered to as Pahto) for the first time. Shortly following a “brutal” race at the Yakima 50k, Ethan and Richard drove three hours to meet me in Trout Lake as stars began pricking through the sky.

Pahto towers over Trout Lake as a Guardian of Serenity

The guardian of serenity towers over Trout Lake.

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Spring Is Here, So We Ski It

Figure 1: The illusion of winter.

Figure 1: The illusion of winter.

I’m now resigned to the fact that true winter may never actually arrive in the Pacific Northwest. Though global warming appears to have nothing to do with this unfortunate situation, it sure looks like the sunshine and warm temperatures are here to stay for months to come. It’s not what we had hoped or expected from this season, but frankly, there’s nothing to be done about it.

Fun is where you make it, right? Well, recently, fun has been at and above treeline on warm days. With the exception of one storm about a week ago that left ten inches of 20% density snow, it’s spring skiing out there. Though we tried our best to make it look like winter (figure 1), it’s now Spring.

Sure, as the temperatures warm up, that means more days on the mountain bike, and more miles on the trail running shoes, but I think that the devoted will agree with me that now begins the longest spring-skiing season of them all.

In celebration of the new spring weather, Peter Innes and I decided to pull out all the heavy metal things and go climbing on Mt Hood. Photos follow. We climbed via the Pearly Gates variation of the dog route, with a short but still engaging bulge of 80-degree ice guarding the summit. The ski down was stiff, but we found additional amusements climbing (us) and skiing (me) crater rock, and then by skiing out the White River Glacier from the top with feeling.

The "Hogsback" feature on Mt Hood, which leads to the "Pearly Gates".

The “Hogsback” feature on Mt Hood, which leads to the “Pearly Gates”.

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Winter Woes and Skiing the Wy’east Face

Peter, frosted but not frosty.

Peter, frosted but not frosty.

Editor’s Note: I’m excited to introduce you to Mountain Lessons’ newest contributor, Peter Innes. Peter and I met mountaineering in Wyoming, and after he relocated to Portland, he’s become a frequent partner on my adventures. Pete’s a collegiate cross-country runner for Lewis and Clark college, and precocious ski-mountaineering upstart. You may recognize him from photos here and on instagram (@alpenflow). Now, here’s Peter:


 

For the past month my news feeds have been rife with the woes and complaints of skiers bemoaning the disappearance of winter in the Pacific Northwest. January has become “Juneuary,” humorously summing up the recent weather and conditions of the Cascade Range. In many places the snow pack looks worse that it did last July, especially on Mt Hood. Large islands of rock restrict eager schralpers, gullies are sporting muddy guts, and from afar one cannot help but grimace at the brown shading of the snow on Mt Hood’s lower flanks. Time to ditch the skis, lube the chain of your mountain bike, and beg for a refund on your season pass, I suppose.

No! Surrendering in a mopey cloud of “throwback Thursday” instagrams of skiing powder earlier in the season surely won’t bring about the graces of Ullr, and nor will booking tickets to Japan. The way I see it the only way to improve the situation is by embracing what we have and getting creative. After all, Juneuary has its upsides, even for a skier. Avalanche danger on Mt. Hood is low as a result of over two weeks without snowfall (correct me if I’m wrong, it’s been so long I’ve lost track), and several days of melt-freeze cycles have smoothed out the icy chicken heads that previously riddled Hood’s upper slopes. If that isn’t a recipe for some good-old-fashioned Cascade ski mountaineering, I don’t know what is.

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Ethan approaches the Wy’east face amidst the morning alpenglow. The route centers in the obvious face.

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