Jan 27 2012

TR: Crater Lake Circumnavigation

© 2012

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.

The view from Rim Village

We arrived at Rim Village on Wednesday, secured a permit and were off and jibbing by 1pm.

Mark ready to get his jib on.

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.

45 pound packs.

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.

Map view of Crater Lake and major landmarks.

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.

Wizard Island just before The Watchman.

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.

Camp I

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.

Moon rising over camp.

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.

Sunrise over Wizard Island.

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.

keep reading on Page 2

  • http://www.thompsonpass.com Valdez Telehead

    Wonderful ski trip! Thanks Craig.

  • snowymonk

    That’s a pretty sweet sun pillar on that sunrise shot! Nice TR, looks like some fun turns could be made, just don’t fall or get caught in an avy near the bottom eh?

  • http://www.twentytwodesigns.com 22Chris

    This must be some super new skool Jibbing you speak of.

  • Brent Heffner

    Remember when snowboarding was just getting started? Back in the day, before terrain parks. My friends and I would watch them from the lift. They would build a kicker and ride down, go off the jump and then hike back up to do it again. All day.
    The word ‘jib’ is/was used by skateboarders and then snowboarders. A jib is a trick. The winner of a terrain park/half pipe competition is/was known as the ‘jibmaster’. While I have been known to hang out in the terrain park, this was not the reason for my username.
    The snowboarders who were hiking up to hit that jump again and again, weren’t really riding the resort. In our oppinion, they weren’t taking snowboarding very seriously. They were simply having fun.
    So – my friends and I started to call our outdoor sports (mt. biking, skiing, kayaking, rock climbing) jibbing.
    We weren’t at work, we were having fun.


    So one day-about 15 years ago, my buddy calls me up and asks if I had done any jibbing on my weekend. I told him that I had gone skiing, kayaking and mt. biking. He says, “Damn dude! You’re always jibbing. You’re like the…jib…master!

    And it stuck.


    Too this day, the word ‘jib’ in all it’s forms is stuck in our vocabulary. It can be used as a verb, noun or adjective.
    If you’re not at work, you are jibbing.
    If you’re changing the oil in your car – you are jibbing on your vehicle.
    You can also jib to the store.
    All the people at the resort/backcountry are considered jibbers.

    It can also be used in the derogatory sense. Like when everyone used to bash on the poor knuckle-draggers.
    If you’re stuck in traffic – “Damn all these jibbers!”
    Someone cuts you off – “$#@! jibber!”
    In a busy mall/resort – “Look at all these jibbers!”

    Does that help?! ;)
    Get your jib on!

  • sfhef

    Great trip report, and epic pics…

  • geezer

    Brent if you answer, please do so by email. i did not specify on the page where i asked the question. after all i’m a geezer, what would you expect.


  • Brent Heffner

    What the Hull?

  • AlphaQ

    Crater Lake is one of the most beautiful places i’ve been to. I remember when I was 12.. there was a group of older teenage males trying to work up the courage to clif dive 30 feet down into about 20 ft deep of water.. as soon as I put on my trunks i walked up to the cliff they were on.. looked at the water and hopped in..

    Big mistake! The water was FREEZING!! I could swear I almost jumped the 30 feet back up to the cliff and tried going home to rethink my choices in life. But nope.. I only climbed the nearest rocks to avoid being in the coldest water I have jumped into at that point in my life. (still is to this day).. Sad thing was.. I did not want to jump into the water and swim 3-4 ft to the sanctuary rock slab that woulda taken me up to where my clothes were.

    Hell I even looked up the rocks I was clung to, too steep and I didn’t want to chance slipping and falling back in.

    I will say this.. in that split moment I was underwater before the cold shock shot me out of the water. Looking around underwater and down into the depths was probably the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. The water was so crisp as if looking through a window that wanted to give me hypothermia, but still insisted on seeing its true beauty.

    Honestly I’m glad I did that.. Despite it taking my father 10 mins to convince me to jump back in the water just to make it over to him.