Report from Thursday, October 26, 2023
It’s here! It’s here! The first snow of the year touched down on the glorious south side slopes of Mt. Hood this week. Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to spend the morning (and most of the day) in the snow above the famous Timberline Lodge.
Let’s start with the drive. From Portland, once I was out of Zigzag, it sure felt like winter. Government Camp had plenty of snow. The road to the Timberline Lodge was *lightly* plowed and toward the top there was plenty of ice on the “bare” road and frozen slush that made the drive a tad nerve-wracking. The parking lots were in pretty solid shape, though there was a veneer of frozen slush in most places. The bottom line is that a 4WD car is necessary to reach Timberline. This was also true on the way down; even after 2pm I was very glad to have good traction to make the descent less harrowing.
An electrifying bonus: Timberline Lodge now has electric vehicle chargers. Although they are not currently online, an employee notified me that the Forest Service would be certifying them and getting them online in the coming weeks. There are eight new chargers, all from the brand Flo.
Now, on the to the important stuff: the sliding! I started skinning around 8am and, though the sun had technically risen, it was fully socked in from the parking lot. The wind created a patchwork of deep snow (2+ feet) on some wind-ridges and very exposed rock gardens in other spots. The skinning was not too tough and I cut a path zig-zagging under the Magic Mile lift to stay on a series of ridges that were less sharky.
After an hour of skinning, I was just below the Silcox Hut (just a little under 7,000 ft) when the sky opened. The cloud-layer stretched all the way to Portland and sure validated my decision to get up there on a Thursday. The sun warmed the otherwise pretty chilly temperature, but it did little to calm the brisk breeze that left me with a substantial facial wind-burn.
Once I got to the Palmer Lift, I stayed generously west of the lift-line to stay on a contiguous snow route. Later in the day I watched skinners having a pretty bad time trying to come up the lift line and further east. I chatted with a couple folks who mentioned that their trip up was relatively “garbo.”
From there, it was a pretty fluffy day (with a somewhat generous sprinkling of sharks). I toured a little above the top of Palmer and took a peek at the Zigzag Glacier. Unfortunately, there was not quite enough snow to make the glacier’s wind-loaded spots tempting. I took a first lap within eyesight of the lift, but outside Timberline territory on the west side. I had some excellent turns on the wind-ridges, but there was one section for which I had to pop the planks off to ensure I didn’t rock my world (skis).
I took two more laps! My second lap was just to the east of the lift line, which was a game of “is that powder or are there rocks?” Tragically, my trusty Icelantics received some bounces and scrapes— and some great swishes in fresh snow! My third and final lap was even further east, in the heart of what was (and will again become) the Palmer Snowfield. That route had bigger powder loads, but featured more and bigger rocks.
I am looking forward to more consistent coverage in November, but feel very lucky to have taken advantage of a stellar first day on the snow in October!