Thursday, February 21, 2013

Another week, another weekend

I sat in the middle seat, nodding off on the way to Corvallis.  I was deposited at Jacks house with my skis in hand.  Another week had ended, and another weekend had begun; open for me to do with it whatever I pleased.  We spend the morning packing the car, shopping for a group dinner and waiting for the rest of the carpool to arrive.  By the early afternoon, we were headed to Mt. Hood and the cabin in ZigZag where we had spent the weekend one year ago.

The living room/dance floor
Once we arrived, there was a mad dash for the hot tub.  Soon, we were packed in thigh to thigh, beers in hand as the sound of the jets mingled with excited chatter and punctuated loud laughter.  This is one branch of the friends we made at the Bailey cabin over a year ago.  We only see them a few times a year, but they are always warm and friendly as ever.  I love every minute I get to spend with these people.
Jack's birthday was our reason for gathering.
The party lasted until the wee hours of the morning.  I was waking up for a pre ski day dip in the hot tub as the last holdouts were going to bed.  By 9, Peter, Clay and I were headed for the mountain.  It hadn't snowed in a while, but there were a few inches in the forecast for the day and we eagerly awaited the arrival of dark snowy clouds.

Eventually, the snow came.  Peter and I stayed a few hours into night skiing, lapping cruiser runs blanketed in new buttery snow.  When we returned to the cabin, we faced another night of dancing, merrymaking and the hot tub.  We had decided to do a short tour the next day, so Peter and I embraced the night and I found myself just leaving the tub around 5am.
Can't have the cabin party without the range.
 After sleeping in, we discovered that the weather was perfect for climbing Hood.  We raced to Timberline and were skinning up under the Palmer lift by 11am.  It was warm and sunny below 9000 feet, but as we ascended the wind picked up and kept us cool.

Skinning up the groom.
Wind ice features
On foot from here.

Not far above the Palmer, the icy wind features- while very beautiful- made it too difficult to skin.  We hoisted our skis onto our backs and continued the long slog toward the crater.  Near the crater the air was filled with the overwhelming smell of sulfur as it belched from a hole in the snow.  We had a quick snack and traversed to the Hogsback, which was covered in shin deep powder.

Crater and vents.

Traversing to the Hogsback.  Peter Moore photo.
Due to the last minute nature of the climb, neither Peter nor I had crampons.  There was a decent crust and soft snow, but the last few pitches of steep snow and ice were a little unnerving.  The sun was getting low in the sky as we topped out Old Chute and walked the last hundred yards to the summit.

Steep climbing to the summit. Peter Moore photo.
Mountain Shadow

We had to down climb the top twenty feet of rime covered Old Chute in order to start skiing.  The top was rather icy, but with a light layer of skiable soft snow on top.  After traversing one very steep, very icy section, we were at the Hogsback- the crater's amazing powder stash.

Peter down climbing Old Chute.
First section of skiing. Peter Moore photo.
Pow turns on the Hogsback.  Peter Moore photo.
 Once we hit the crater, it was the end of nice snow.  For the next 1500 feet we burned our quads on the bubble ice and searched for tiny patches of soft snow.  I stopped periodically to rest my legs take photos of the spectacular sunset views.  The light was almost gone as we cruised the last few hundred feet of the Palmer groom, making it back to the car in under 7 hours.

Illumination Rock at sunset.
Until this year, I've thought of skiing as something to do until climbing season returns.  But as I completed my biggest skiing challenge to date (in good style, to boot!) I realized something:  I don't want winter to end.  Though a sunny weekend on the rock at Smith sounds oh so enticing, I want to suck every last turn out of this season.  I think that now, I can really call myself a skier.  Here's to another few months of snow!

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