December’s lack of snow in California forced us to consider other opportunities. Oregon opportunities. So, Mark Chon and I hopped in the Jeep and headed for the border.
We arrived at Rim Village on Wednesday, secured a permit and were off and jibbing by 1pm.
The new skis, Rossi BC 110 for me and Voile Vector BC for Mark, worked well. Freed from our skins, we glided, gripped and skated along, heading towards The Watchman – the peak on the left. The day was sunny but cold. The snow was about 3-4 feet deep. We were carrying 45 pound packs loaded with 5 days of food and some extra layers.
The weather called for a windy storm on Thursday. Our plan was to ski in for several miles and hunker down on Thursday.
About 100 people a year jib around the lake. 70 skiers and 30 snowshoers. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and the 7th deepest lake in the world. It is filled only by rain and snowfall; an average of 66 inches of rain and 44 feet of snow per year. No streams or springs feed into the lake. It took 250 years for the lake to fill with water. Over a thousand feet deep, it is one of the cleanest and purest lakes in the world. The water clarity has been recorded at a record breaking 142 feet.
The average height of the caldera rim is just over 7,000 feet with Mt. Scott being the highest peak in the park at 8,929 feet. The lake is 6.02 miles wide (east-west) by 4.54 miles (north-south). The route follows Rim Drive, the road around the lake, making the circumnavigation 31 miles long. Most people take 3 days to do the trip. Cross-country ski racers complete the route in under 8 hours.
We started out heading clock-wise around the lake. Two hours of skiing brought us to just past The Watchman. A small group of trees would be our home until Friday. Winds were predicted to be 40-50 mph on Thursday. We found some good protection for the tents and settled in. The winds arrived later that night as predicted. Not much snow overnight. The wind could be heard racing over the tops of the trees, but the ridge we were on deflected most of it. Our camp spot was perfect.
We slept well overnight. On Thursday we woke, then went back to sleep. The weather outside was nasty so we pretty much slept all day. Just beyond our little group of trees, the wind tore away at Hillman Peak, the highest peak on the rim, on our left and The Watchman, to the right. Towards the end of the day, it looked like it was starting to clear up. The wind had died down and we took advantage of the break in the storm to walk around. Any loose snow was now in the lake. We were camped in the middle of an ice field.
Walking around was tricky. My North Face down booties weren’t much help on the ice, I was slipping and sliding around. At one point, I walked away from the trees onto the ice. I was about 50 feet from the trees in a large opening or meadow. Suddenly, the ice beneath me dropped with a loud WHOMP! I could hear cracks shooting out in all directions. My heart jumped and I started running back. Well, I tried running. I wouldn’t have thought the slope was steep enough to slide, but it was too steep to run with my choice of footwear. Only about a 20° slope, but I wasn’t sticking around to test any theories. Two more loud WHOMPS! were heard as I frantically and gingerly made my way back to the trees across the slippery slope.
By the time I got to the trees, which seemed to take forever, I had gained momentum. I didn’t take into account the fact that the snow was grippier here. Two or three strides into the trees I fell flat on my ass. Safe and unharmed but with my heart still racing, I looked back at the slope. It hadn’t moved. I tucked myself back into my -30° down sleeping bag, prepared dinner, and we spent one more night in the trees.
Friday dawned cloudy and windy. Getting back up to the road was challenging. The ice was bullet-proof. Too stubborn to use our skins, we sidestepped and edged up the slippery slope. What should have taken maybe five minutes, took almost 30. We had gotten up early. I struggled and edged my way up the the crater rim to catch the sunrise.
Now the trip was starting. We had only skied about 3 miles on Wednesday. The storm on Thursday was expected so we were still on track. My GPS watch wasn’t holding enough juice to keep track of the miles and I had left all the info and maps we got from the rangers in the Jeep. I did have my topo map though, so we were able to get somewhat of an idea of how many miles we traveled each day.