Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Up The Palmer

I'd been itching to get in some backcountry skiing practice.  But January came warm and dry, turning the snow outside the ski areas into a crusty sheet of ice.  Not fun nor safe to navigate on skis!

That left me with only one option.......

Colorful snowcats, all lined up in a row

Skiing up the Palmer Lift at Timberline ski area.

Although not exactly the "backcountry," Timberline provided a semi-groomed climber's trail for snowshoers and uphill skiers to follow.  And the great thing was, once at the top of the Palmer, you could ski the groomed runs back down.

Katie strikes a sexy pose

So on a sunny MLK day, I recruited my friend Katie to join me for a trip up the Palmer.  The temps were already above freezing as we approached the beginning of the climber's trail, just outside of Timberline Lodge.  A colorful line of snowcats greeted us, and Katie couldn't resist striking a couple of poses next to the machines.

Timberline Lodge gets small quickly

Shouldering our backpacks, and strapping on our skis, Katie and I began our slow, uphill climb.  Happily chatting away, it didn't take long until I noticed Timberline Lodge becoming smaller and smaller.

Silcox Hut

We made it to the top of the Magic Mile Lift, a 1000 foot climb, in just under an hour.  An occasion for an extended snack break, we took a breather beside the historic Silcox Hut.  Normally covered in huge drifts of snow, this year most of the building is visible.

Katie sees her shadow!

Continuing from the Magic Mile, we began to follow one of the groomed ski runs from the Palmer.  Abundant sunshine meant not only great views, but also nice shadows.  I tried to capture a shot of both Katie and I's shadow as we skied side by side, but it didn't work out.  The best shadow photograph was this one of Katie by herself (and if she sees her shadow does it mean we'll get six more weeks of winter?  Please?)

Glittering icy slopes

A ski patrol guy came down the groomed run and nicely told us that for our safety we should be following the climber's trail and not the side of a downhill ski run.  So Katie and I struck out cross-country on a patch of crusty snow, to intersect with this trail.

Skirting the groomed ski run

We shuffled by bumpy rutted icy snow, small frozen drifts, and one extremely large rock.

A long uphill trudge

Finally, we reached the climber's trail.  The snowcats using this trail had left it a mess of bumpy, icy snow globs.  Not exactly fun to slide skis across.  But Katie and I made do the best we could, taking advantage of smoother snow on the track's outer edges.

Clear skies mean mountain views

The best part of being up on Mt. Hood this sunny day was the magnificent views.  Clouds and fog clung low in the valleys, while Cascade peaks towered above, contrasting against the blue sky.  In the above photo, from right to left, is Mt. Jefferson, the Three Sisters, Broken Top, and the small peak with a white gleam on top is Black Butte.  It's not often the sky is clear enough to see all these mountains.


Here the trail got steep.  Huffing and puffing, I warmed up quickly.  Katie and I stripped down to our base layers, only to discover we had on the exact same top!  (Evidently both of us do our outdoor gear shopping at REI.)

Enjoying some hot tea

The final climb up to the top of the Palmer Lift is always tough.  It's super-steep, by this point the legs are tired, and it feels like you'll never get there.  I concentrated on sliding one foot in front of the other, promising myself a quick break after each ten strides. 

Yahoo!  We made it to the top of Palmer!

But finally....finally.... the upper lift terminus came into view.  Yahoo!  Time for a lunch break!  I broke out my PB & J and washed it down with a thermos of hot tea.  Katie and I perched on a sun-drenched rock and took in the views.

Now for our reward - a lovely ski down

It was a mighty fine day to be on the mountain.  We enjoyed watching the skiers unload from the lift and start down the groomed run below.  The sun's rays warmed our bodies.  Slowly, my belly filled, and energy returned to my tired legs. 

Katie pauses to take in the scenery

Then it was time to reap the reward for our big climb.  To cash in those turns we'd earned!  Katie and I removed climbing skins from ski bottoms and prepared to have some fun.

Watch out for the rocks!

By early afternoon the sun had softened the hard icy groomed run into velvety-smooth snow.  Our ski edges glided effortlessly down the slope.  Ahhh.....this was the moment we'd worked so hard for.

Another great trip up the Palmer

It had taken Katie and I three hours to climb the 2500 vertical feet from Timberline Lodge to Palmer's top terminus.  And it took us less than 30 minutes to ski back down.  But it was a glorious 30 minutes!

Always great to get out and do a little skiing on a wonderful, sunny winter's day.

Sharing with:  Our World Tuesday.


  1. Looks like you had another wonderful ski day..
    and to top it off
    lots of new snow
    is on the way!

  2. The whole experience must be so invigorating!
    I'm in love with the Silcox Hut, and that crazy giant rock!
    We got out on snowshoes over the weekend at last, since it warmed up to a peak of 9 above.
    Out in the woods the snow is like champagne powder. It fills right in over the tops of the snowshoes, I'm not sure if they were helping or hindering sometimes. Still - it felt good!

  3. Linda, what a great day for skiing. I can not get over the beautiful scenery and mountain views. Great shadow shot! Beautiful photos!
    Have a happy day!

  4. Looks like a fun day. Beautiful mountain shots as always!

  5. Just gorgeous shots, and what a view across the snowy vistas! Bet you had a wonderful time

  6. First I am amazed at the beautiful photos....just gorgeous! I have never thought about actually climbing the mountain in your skis!!! Wow...I'm sure I would be lazy and take the lift. Speaking of lazy....all I could think about was can you imagine how many calories Linda has burned?...if only you could burn some for me...:) Great trip again and thanks for taking me along!

  7. What fascinates me the most are the clouds wrapped around the mountain tops. These landscapes are so fantastic that you can't turn anywhere and not see an amazing sight. Thanks so much for these images.

    Mersad Donko Photography

  8. Another spectacular day. Sure hope the expected snow arrives for you.

  9. Well you look to be having a grand time. - The views you've captured are indeed gorgeous. Happy that you got to play in the snow to your hearts content.

  10. Beautiful and fun series, Linda!

  11. I bet you're smiling BIG time right now because of today's weather:) I was thinking today, that I wished I had kept my skis (as old as they were) so I could try them out in my backyard.
    I LOVE all your photos above Timberline Lodge--the views are truly amazing and makes me wish I was in better shape so I could see it for myself.
    Blessings + Happy Snow Dreams,

  12. Looks like such a gorgeous day with a beautiful blue sky! I bet it is so rewarding to ski down after all your hard work making it up to the top.

  13. Those rocks look scary. But check out those views. Breath taking!

  14. The scenery is magnificent. You deserved a great 30 minutes after climbing so far up. ;)


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