Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Oregon Volcanoes - 06.27-28.10

Yet again I found myself with a free weekend and no partners wishing for similar objectives. So I headed south for better weather and mountains I could easily solo...on skis.

I Took a casual drive down on Saturday and decided there is no way to avoid traffic in the Seattle to Tacoma corridor. Hit a little traffic between Portland and Salem too, but not as bad. If traveling off hours, I5 is the way to go for speed, although a bit boring. Highway 22 in Oregon was not boring, and was pretty enjoyable and scenic. Stopped once or twice to take in views of Mount Washington.

South Sister
5000' elevation gain
12.5 miles RT
Left car: 6:15 am
Summit: 12:15 pm
Back at car: 3:15 pm
9 hours car to car

Arrived at the Devil's Lake camp area with surprisingly little amount of cars (5.) I was expecting more of a Mount Adams parking lot scene. But I guess people don't care about the third highest peak in Oregon like they do about the second highest peak in Washington. Barely slept due to the combo of 45° bag and below freezing temps. (Water puddles in the parking lot completely iced up, and I had glaze ice on my skis when I took them off the car in the morning. Alarm went off at 5:30am.

Very cold hiking through the southern end of the trail by the lake. (Trail? more like hiking a stream or bog.) After crossing the street, patchy snow made it difficult to stay on trail. Continuous snow started within 500' vertical of the road. I started skinning at that point. The snow was firm, but better for skinning than booting. Popped out of the trees, and crossed the flats. Very annoying sun cups and runnels on the flats made progress a little slower than I would have liked. Near the end of the flats I took a path climber's right that wasn't my favorite. Steep side hilling with some step turns before crossing a thin bridge over a moat to gain higher ground. (Never would have held if I was bare booted.) Once on higher ground I noticed there was an easier way, and vowed to take it on the way back.

I started making my way climber's left to an area that did not look climbed. The area with all the tracks looked dirty and had multiple glissade chutes down it which I knew would not be fun to ski. So I followed the rule of backcountry skiing and went up what I intended to come down. I was starting to get a bit sluggish on this steep section and opted to boot up the last bit before taking a break. This is around the point I saw the first other people on route. (A man and a woman who were bare booted, passing me.)

Here is where I fail as a scientist. I recently read that ginko can help with AMS. So I had brought some along. I took a rest above this section and drank water, ate snacks and ingested ginko. The last 1500' to the summit I felt significantly better, but I cannot attribute that to the ginko. But I'll try again.

The last go up was fairly routine, although a touch icy as I made what seemed like endless switchbacks up the south ridge. Within 1000' of the crater, I started seeing some people descending, on bare boots, snowboards and skis. Then I had the mountain to myself for the last 500' or so. Popped into the crater and skinned across. Booted up the rime covered summit and snapped some pics before returning to my skis and returning to the south rim of the crater.

Views were amazing. I could see most of the northern Oregon volcanoes and perhaps a hint of the Washington volcanoes. Looking to the south provided more views of volcanoes and a great view of the Rock Mesa obsidian flow. The summit was completely rimed up so I was robbed of the opportunity to see any fulgurites. Since it was also early season, the Teardrop Pond had not started to form in the crater either.

I Took a good break for food/water and started to descend. Dropped the first 1000' of corn snow in about 10 minutes then I had to start picking my way down. The snow got to deep mashed potatoes quickly and slowed me down. Cut some wet slides off the section only I had come up and then had to slog the flats back out. It took me half the flats before I realized it would be easier if I released the heels on my bindings. I also developed a blister again, although I am not sure it happened on the flats, but it started to hurt then. I then skied the continuous snow as far to the road in the woods, and then had a short hike out.

I met up with an old timer, Jeff, in the campground, who inquired about beta on South Sister. After hearing my tale, he decided to join me on Bachelor the following day. (We figured north aspect would have less sun cups, and more corn.)

Mount Bachelor (Bachelor Butte)
2800' elevation gain
6 miles RT
Left car: 7:00 am
Summit: 9:00 am
Back at car: 10:00 am
3 hours car to car

Next morning we drove over to the Sunrise Lodge parking only to be blocked by the gate. A few minutes hiking got us to the parking lot and continuous snow. Other than having to take our skis off to cross a road they had bulldozed into the slope, we had continuous skinning under the Sunrise Express and then Summit Express chairs.

I was a bit sluggish from the previous day and probably the altitude. We reached the top in two hours. Views were just as nice as South Sister. Jeff pulled out binoculars to confirm we could see Shasta all the way up to Hood, and perhaps St. Helens or Rainier. Wind was brutal. Jeff tested out the snow for the cirque runs with a few turns. Knee deep glop, so our fun steep runs were not going to be had. We skied back to the lift house and hammered the blue runs down. Snow was pretty good most of the way with some areas that were a bit gloppy. The low angle stuff near the parking lot was still pretty solid and sun cupped. Must have been an inversion the night before.

This was a great trip and marks the first time I skied the backcountry two days in a row. Both mountains were a lot of fun, even if Bachelor was developed and has lifts on it. The weather was better than in Washington, but that may have contributed to less than stellar snow conditions. It was also really nice to be in an area I had not been in before. I also tried out my new $40 helmet cam. It wasn't aimed well, and mostly just looks like snow, so I won't be posting any video at this time. I drove back east of the mountains. Aside from it being hotter, it was significantly longer, or so it seemed. But better than trying to fight traffic in the cities on the way back.

My pics are here.

No comments: