Roll Call: Asit Rathod, Charlie Nesbitt, John Pew, Humaira Falkenberg, Frank Palermo, Erik Schmidt, and Lindsey Clark
|Making some fun turns on West Crater Rim. Photo by Erik Schmidt.|
On Thursday during my lunch break, I happened to check out facebook and noticed a new message. It was from Asit Rathod: the outlandish Oregon ski personality I had never met in real life, but had recently developed an internet-based friendship with due to our common obsession with all things skiing.
"Hey hey Lady!! Have a 4am CAT for tomorrow. You and you husband should come join for a summit ski/party!!"
Phone calls to Erik during work hours are typically reserved for emergencies only, but I immediately called him without a second thought. Of course he was in! We got home from work around 6, packed up all our gear, and rallied in the van up to Timberline. The views were spectacular on our drive!
|Nice view of Mt. Jefferson in the sunset!|
On the way, we invited our climbing buddies Humaira and Frank, who were equally willing to come to Hood on such short notice. Humaira drove over from the Washington coast, and Frank came from the John Day Fossil Beds in eastern Oregon.
No strangers to our 3 AM alarm, Erik and I got dressed, grabbed our gear, ate some cold pizza (breakfast of champions!) and walked over to the climber's cave to meet up with the crew. We met John, Humaira and Frank... but where were Asit and Charlie? Right before 4 AM, a yellow FJ flew up the wrong way on a one-way road and into a parking spot right in front of the cave. They were here!
In the snowcat, we groggily swapped stories of ski adventures and speeding tickets while passing a handful of climbers slogging up the snowfield. At the top, the driver unloaded our gear and drove away, leaving us at the top of the Palmer glacier under the light of the full moon.
Looking back (and I'm glad we did!), we were treated to a perfect shadow of the mountain cast on the valley below us.
|Amazing alpine moment. Photo by Erik Schmidt.|
|Devil's Kitchen in the morning sun... glorious!|
|Papa John? John Sandwich?|
Based on weather observations and beta from a descending climber, Erik, Frank, Humaira and I decided to ascend the Old Chute rather than the Pearly Gates. We were experiencing a little bit of icefall as the rising sun began to soften the rime on the cliffs above us.
On our way up Old Chute, chunks of ice began whizzing past us with increased frequency. I wasn't too worried, as I had a helmet on and kept my head down. Then, one particularly large and well-located chunk of ice smacked into me... right on my right boob! Bam! That one hurt for sure!
|Humaira ascending Old Chute, with Erik and I following. Photo by Frank Palermo.|
Topping out after climbing the chute leaves you on a nice, narrow ridge to the summit. It is easy enough to walk up, but the exposure up there is a little intense!
I walked up the last small slope up to the summit, encouraged by cheering from Erik, Frank, Humaira, and John.
Frank and Humaira descended after a short time on the summit, downclimbing back to Crater Rock where they'd left their boards. Asit and Charlie, taking a purposefully leisurely pace up the mountain, had yet to arrive. John, Erik and I hung out for well over an hour on the windless summit, meeting a handful of people as they came and went off the top of the mountain.
I started feeling pretty crappy after being up there for a while: dizzy, disoriented, and nauseous. I descended just a bit -- maybe 50 vertical feet -- which made me feel much better. We were still waiting for the snow to soften, and for Asit and Charlie to show up.
Finally, I'd had enough and was ready to descend. I stopped caring about the firm snow as I was concerned about having my wits about me while skiing Old Chute. Right as I turned around and started walking, I saw a bright orange figure pop out of the rime at the top of the Pearly Gates. Asit and Charlie had arrived!
I walked back up to the summit for Asit's party. It was the first time summiting for three of us! We were all really happy to be standing on the top of Oregon on such a perfect day!
|Asit's dance party, comin' at you live!|
John, Erik, a new summit buddy and I headed over to the top of Old Chute to ski down. I was feeling woozy and slow, so I sat at the top of the line and watched everyone else drop in. It occurred to me that maybe I should take a photo, so I caught one just as our new summit buddy dropped in.
|Check out the teeny Palmer chairlift way down below!|
I worked my way through the narrow entrance, then started making some cautious turns as the chute widened. With open, steaming fumaroles directly below you, falling is really not an option! My skis got going faster than I wanted, and the snow was pretty firm and chattery, but I was able to link some decent turns together and was relieved to meet up with John and Erik at the bottom of the chute.
John took off at that point, as he had to get to work in Hood River. Erik and I made the most of the rest of our descent, by first skiing West Crater Rim, then over to Illumination Saddle. The lower we descended, the better the snow skied!
West Crater Rim:
|Photo by Erik Schmidt|
|Photo by Erik Schmidt|
Once we reached the elevation of the Timberline ski area, it was really hot out! I had to ditch all my layers at the Silcox Hut just to ski comfortably. Then it took tons of concentration to ski to the Timberline Lodge without being grabbed by the snow yeti and thrown over the handlebars!
|Photo by Erik Schmidt|
Back at the parking lot, we met back up with Frank and Humaira who had skied down on their own. The four of us had originally met a few years ago on the north side of Hood, so we celebrated our successful reunion!
Here's a bonus photo of our luxury, slopeside accomodations:
|Rumble Vanskin is his element!|
Many thanks to Asit for inviting us along for the quintessential Oregon ski mountaineering experience!! And congratulations to Charlie for your first trip to the top of Oregon!