Oct 04 2013

TR: Freshies on Mt. Hood’s ZigZag Glacier

September 26th freshies on the Zigzag, Mt. Hood

from BackcountryTalk.com

There was fresh snow up high, but not a flake was left alive at the parking lot.

There was fresh snow up high, but not a flake was left alive at the parking lot. Photo by KLW.

Ryan and I had tried to make turns together after we met through a mutual friend last fall but for one reason or another we didn’t make it work until Thursday. Oregon got a two day storm that dropped what we were hoping was enough snow to cover up the summer crud so we decided on short notice to check out the Zigzag “glacier” on Hood.

We met in the parking lot at the early hour of 8:00 AM and were happy to see a significant amount of new snow on the upper mountain though not a flake of it stuck down low.

It felt good to be skinning again.

It felt good to be skinning again.

We headed up the dirt path with ski boots and transitioned to skis in a half hour by dropping off the climbers trail down into the canyon. A light dusting was covering the frozen snirt beneath and made skinning for the first time in a few months a welcomed activity. We followed the cat track up and popped out at the base of the Palmer snow field.

The Palmer looked to be in fine condition but we were hoping that the Zigzag glacier to the west was in even better shape so we headed up and traversed through the rocks and scree to check it out. Coverage was better than we had been hoping for and we were both surprised to be able to gain the Zigzag without ever having to remove our skis!

"...we were able to cross over without removing our skis."

“Coverage was better than we hoped for…”

As we crested the top of the scree piles we were greeted with the finest sight either of us had seen in months! Not a suncup in sight and nothing but smooth fresh snow covered the majority of the glacier. We were still a bit apprehensive about conditions as from our vantage point we still couldn’t tell if the wind whipped streaks visible throughout the snow field were crusty ice chunks or not.

We wasted no time and quickly gained the glacier. Our worries turned out to be unfounded and the “ice streaks” I was fearing appeared to be a non-issue. Several inches of dense but fresh snow was all we found!

Zigging up an untracked Zig Zag.

Heading up the Zig Zag.

The skinning went by quick and we were both enjoying it more than we really would care to admit. The weather was staying just about perfect and having dropped down onto the Zigzag we were both feeling like we’d stepped into another world as the mess of the resort was now no longer visible over the ridge. While Ryan waited for me to catch up with him he booted up to the top of the saddle and scoped things out.

When I arrived we wasted no time in ripping skins and getting on with it. Though I wouldn’t call it Powder the dense, but most definitely FRESH, snow was a welcome relief to the massive suncups we’d both been skiing since late June.

Booting up to the top of the saddle beneath Illumination Rock.

Booting up to the top of the saddle beneath Illumination Rock.

In my excitement I skied right up to the edge of the drop off into Zigzag canyon not realizing that a significant cornice was already forming. Felt like standing on the edge of the world when I realized what I’d done. :-)

I cautiously backed away and informed Ryan that although the view was good I’d not recommend doing as I do and staying back a couple of feet. ;) We certainly hadn’t had enough so we re-skinned, snapped a couple pics and headed back up toward the Palmer.

11th month in a row.

Awesome day in the hills…

We traversed the gullies fairly easily again and took a good long break basking in the sun on the bench at the top of the Palmer. After my sandwich I packed up camp and we headed down the Palmer. My only big crash of the day happened near the bottom as I made fairly hard contact with something hard under the snow and face planted over my tips at speed. If you’re not falling you’re not trying hard enough though, right?

Awesome day in the hills with great weather, awesome snow and a solid partner who didn’t mind waiting for me! I feel really lucky to live in a place where I can walk 20 minutes in September and put my skis on let alone get to ski nearly a foot of freshies! This was month 11 for both Ryan and myself in a quest to ski in the back country every month of the year in Oregon. It really wasn’t that hard and with the weather we’re getting right now it looks like October turns are nearly in the bag!

Ski season has ARRIVED!

Original submission at BackcountryTalk.com

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