During a busy Easter weekend, I snuck away Saturday morning for a quick ski up the Palmer lift. Tele-buddy Katie was my partner in crime.
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|Here I go again!
It was a gorgeous blue-sky day. Not a cloud to be found. Covered in a thick coating of white, Mt. Hood never looked better.
|Beautiful sunny day on Hood
When we pulled into our usual parking lot, Katie and I discovered it full of search and rescue vehicles. Teams of people from law enforcement and volunteer organizations were gearing up for a serious mission. We learned they were searching for a lost young woman. She'd apparently left the previous Sunday to climb Mt. Hood, and hadn't been heard from since.
|Search helicopter in the sky
As Katie and I began our climb up the cat track, we heard a loud noise. A helicopter appeared in the sky. It hovered over Timberline Lodge before finally landing in a blocked-off portion of the parking lot. It sat in the parking lot for several minutes before rising back up and flying away.
|Katie watching the 'copter land
The entertainment now over, Katie and I returned to our slow slog up the mountain. But today I was feeling way more energetic than my last Palmer ski, and made it to the top of the Mile in good time.
I made Katie pose for a couple of self portrait shots. Katie, being her usual feisty self, popped up her middle finger on my first try. After that, I made sure all fingers were down before clicking the shutter.
|Katie starts pooping out
Above the Mile, things again got steep. But having a companion to talk to (and commiserate with) made the trek uphill so much more enjoyable. The time seemed to pass quicker than my previous solo attempt.
|This view was worth all that climbing
About halfway up the Palmer lift, we began to see teams of rescue workers coming down the mountain. Katie asked one person if the search was over and she replied "sorry, we can't say anything." Hmmm....that didn't sound good.
|Self portrait attempt
However, the second search party we encountered was a little more helpful. One of their members confirmed the search was over and that it had a "happy result." Checking the web later that evening, I read that the helicopter we'd seen earlier had spotted the woman. She was alive but injured, so the 'copter plucked her off the mountain, and whisked her away to the hospital. For being lost six days, the woman was in good condition. Her docs predicted a full recovery. It was nice to hear this story had a happy ending.
|A group heading above the Palmer
Nearly noon, Katie and I finally crested the last rise to the Palmer's top terminus. We staked out a spot on the snow and dug into our lunch bags. Being tomorrow was Easter, I packed a special treat for my friend and I (Reese's peanut butter eggs! Is there anything better?)
A man and wife team had been snowshoeing behind us. They arrived at the top a few minutes later. In our morning's conversation, Katie told me how much she loves Kahlua. When the man sat down next to her, Katie jokingly asked him if he had any Kahlua. To our surprise, he pulled out a flask and offered her a nip! (Turned out it was some other type of liquor, but still a very funny moment)
|The snowcat was back
The sky was crystal clear, and the temps balmy. It was wonderful just to sit on the side of Hood and take in the fantastic scenery from on high. Timberline's snowcat was running again, and we had fun watching it chug up the steep slope, unload a group of skiers, and crawl back down.
|My skis get a break
One of the disadvantages to being above treeline on a wide-open mountain - where to go when nature calls? After refueling and hydrating, Katie and I both needed a potty break. The bare snowy slopes left no place to hide.
|Katie starting down
If there wasn't anything to hide behind, Katie and I did the next best thing - we traversed around the mountainside until we were far away from the main climber's route. Although still exposed, we made enough distance from the crowd to be unrecognizable.
|There she goes!
Now, the moment we'd been waiting for. With our tummies filled and our bladders emptied, there was just one thing left to do - ski back down! Yahoo!
|Skiing down is the best part
The sun's solar energy had transformed a firm, icy surface into butter-soft corn snow. A delight to ski through! Katie and I whooped and woo-hoo'ed on our descent. The great conditions held up until about halfway down the Mile. Then our wonderful snow turned into sticky, grabby glue. The rest of the way down we carefully picked our way through snow the consistency of mashed potatoes.
|Timberline Lodge pano
Finally Timberline Lodge came into view. Such an amazingly beautiful place! Taking off our skis in the parking lot, I attempted to capture the west wing in a two-shot pano.
Our early afternoon finish gave me plenty of time to get home and complete preparations for tomorrow's Easter dinner (Hmmmm......and maybe have just one more of those peanut butter eggs. I think I burned enough calories!)