Aside from the second meeting of the Clatsop County Snow Riders Association, I got my first ten days of skiing for the year in without a hitch. Day eleven, however, proved to be difficult.
First, I tried to go skiing on a Sunday afternoon. I got to the trailhead and there were five cars parked there already. I immediately got back in the car and left, because I didn’t move to Montana to have to see other people while in the wilderness. My second attempt was the following Tuesday or Wednesday. I was the only person in the parking lot, so things were going better this try. I got my skins on my skis, put on my boots, and headed towards the gate. Below the gate there was snow, above the gate there was not. I decided to hike up a bit in hopes of reaching the snow again. After about a quarter mile (maybe more, maybe less – I’m terrible at estimating distances), I hit the snow. On went my skis and up I went. Until I ran out of snow, about 200ft later. I gave up since it was patching from there on up. I was sad. After getting back to my car, I went off on attempt number three, however the next trailhead I checked was patchy snow as well, so on home I went.
Last week, Nick came to town. It was great to see him again and it was an awesome little reunion of Missoula folks. On Saturday Nick, Daryl, Ozzy, and I got all our stuff together and drove out to St. Mary’s Peak to skin, ski, and camp for the weekend.
However, about five minutes up the road to the trailhead, we ran into a glacier. We turned a corner and found ourselves amid a sea of ice. We couldn’t stop (and we had Nick driving right behind us), so we continued up the hill. We got back to dirt and pulled over.
We decided we were definitely not continuing up the road, as we could see it iced up again just ahead of us. D had a set of chains for our Subaru but Nick didn’t have any for his. We (and by we, I mean they) put one chain on our car and one on Nick’s.
Size 14 tire and only have a size 16 chain? No problem!
The boys drove their cars about halfway down, then D drove Jamie down and walked back up to drive Nick’s Subaru. It was so icy and ridiculous.
For my fifth attempt, we decided to head to Trapper Peak. Daryl has skied it in April and figured we could get up the road far enough to be able to skin the rest of the way since it’s nearly mid-March. A bit before we reached the turn off, there was solid snow on the ground. Daryl and I decided to head up the road a bit to see what the snow was like. It seemed promising, however we started to get high centered. We probably could’ve made it up, however Nick’s Subaru is a 1993 and therefore lower than ours (plus, as mentioned earlier, his tires are smaller and don’t provide as much lift). We backed down the road (a bit harrowing, let me tell you!) and parked in the pull out.
We spent about an hour getting our stuff together. Non of us really packed, just threw everything in the cars, so now we had to organize. We got ourselves together, hooked the sleds up to the boys’ packs, then started skinning up the road. We got probably twice as far as we drove up before we turned to the south facing slope and were back on the dirt. We got out of our skis and hiked up the road for a bit. Nick and Ozzy went ahead and there was no snow. No snow + sleds = not happening. We got back on our skis and went back to the cars.
We decided to head farther south and go to Lost Trail.
We got to Lost Trail not long after the area closed. We pulled all our stuff back out and we were ready to go. The great thing about Lost Trail is they are pro-backcountry skiing. During the day, you can buy a $5, one time lift ticket to the top of the mountain. Ski off the backside and bam, fresh lines and camping! Obviously, since they were closed when we got there, we didn’t take the lift. But we did head straight up a green run with our sleds and the dog and it was fantastic.
Skinning is so awesome, especially on open runs like that. We spent around an hour heading up, maybe a bit longer? The sleds definitely slowed us down a little bit – they’re super easy on flat roads, but they do pull a bit on the slopes. We got near the top of the ski area and popped out of bounds into the woods.
Our first task was digging a pit for the fire, setting up the snow kitchen, and work hardening the tent area. Nick tackled the fire pit, D got the kitchen situation (otherwise known as the kitch-sitch) under control, and I walked around in a circle for nearly an hour.
Beer fridge number one.
Ozzy curled up and proceeded to ignore us.
We slept until about 11 or so the next morning and at the crack of noon started melting snow to make water for the day.
Did you know you can burn snow? When you’re melting it in a pot, you have to make sure you start with some water and add the snow to it, otherwise you can singe the snow as it melts.
After coffee and a delicious breakfast of chicken apple sausage and banana pancakes, we packed our ski bags and hit the slopes. We skinned up through the woods for a bit, then along a trail, then back up through the woods. We ended up next to the top of the highest lift, the Saddle Mountain Lift.
It was so beautiful. Untracked lines, skiing for free, with a dog while people a couple hundred yards away were paying to head down the slopes.
The mountain across from us is Saddle Mountain. We’re definitely planning on coming back and skiing it – there’s what looks to be a great trail from right next to where we camped over to the summit. The Explorer wants to ski that crazy couloir, but I will definitely be passing on that.
We chilled there for a bit while grabbing a little snack, then de-skinned our skis and Nick turned his split board back into a snowboard. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was.
I finally sewed the Fort George pack onto D’s ski bag. It looks great! Next I’m going to add a McMurdo Antarctic Hospital patch. =D
We skied down through the woods, but the snow was a bit weird. Daryl and I kept catching our edges while trying to turn and Nick was having an issue with his board. We attempted to find a place to jib, but ended up going back to camp after about 20 minutes.
We just bought a new toy Swedish Brush Ax and this was the perfect time to break it in. Emptied both the sleds, then off we went in search of snags for the fire. We went all of fifteen feet before we found a plethora and started collecting. We ended up getting about three and a half sleds full of wood. A short two minute skin back to the camp and we were in business!
After getting the fire started, Nick and Daryl started preparing dinner. Nick made some crazy delicious pasta, tofu, veggie, sauce thing and D and I had mac&cheese with tuna.
We had such a great fire! We definitely melted the back of the pit a good foot or two. I’m sure Oz appreciated the warmth, as it started snowing and we got about two inches of powder while we were hoopin’ and hollerin’.
The coals were still hot when we got up the next morning, so we had a breakfast fire! I love fires in the morning. Nick made us some more banana pancakes and sausage, though this time we had spinach, feta, and turkey.
Our beer can art installation!
Around noon we packed up our stuff, cleaned up camp, and headed back out to the slopes. We had to skin for 15 or 20 minutes since it was fairly flat until we got to the road, but it was wonderful. A nice little work out before flying down the slopes!
We got to the top of the run and stripped off our skins. It felt good to ski in some fresh pow, with no one on the slopes in front of us!
Nick had a bit of trouble at the get-go and Daryl totally schooled him with some fancy turns and his sled following him perfectly.
But then his sled started rolling and everything came to a crashing halt.
I tried to get a photo, but the light wasn’t quite right. BUT! I made beautiful linked turns all the way down the run. Fresh tracks. They were awesome!
When we made it back to the car, the boys decided they wanted to skin up and ski a bit more. My left knee gets sore from skinning (repetitively bending and straightening in parallel is not what my body is used to), so I stayed in the car to nap and play Angry Birds while they had some boy time.
It was a great weekend! I love being out in the woods and I love skiing. I’m also super glad I finally got day eleven under my belt (and day twelve and thirteen too!).
Thirteen down, 87 to go!