Friday, January 6, 2017

Icy Day at Timberline

When November rolls around, I watch the weather like a hawk.  While others bemoan the rainy days and colder temperatures, I rejoice.  The mountain is getting snow!

And when the snowpack gets deep enough, it's time to strap on my skis.

Young and I team up again!

I set my sights on the first Saturday of December for a quick trip up Timberline Ski Area's upper lifts, conning my friend Young and her hubby to join me.  But the forecast didn't look great...Friday temps on the mountain warmed above freezing and a bit of rain fell.  The following day was supposed to get cold again, and I was afraid all that wet snow would freeze solid.

Still, you don't know if you don't go, so Saturday morning I packed my car anyway and headed up to Mt Hood.

Ice-crusted trees

Driving up Timberline Road, strong winds buffeted my car and snowflakes clouded visibility.  Parking at the climber's lot, I could hardly make out the nearby lifts, let alone the top of Hood.  It didn't look promising!

But when Young, her husband John, and their son pulled up, the only words from John were "suit up, let's go!"

Young is happy to be outside

Since Young and I are slower uphill skiers (and also like to stop and take photos) we buddied up, and let the men move at their own pace.  Bundling up against the wind gusts, we started out climbing a tall bank and crossing a snowy knoll before finding our groove on the packed snowcat track.

Low clouds and blowing snow

Snow was falling, but the wild winds blew it around so much visibility was low.  Although happy to see the white stuff, I was dismayed to discover a thick layer of ice under the meager accumulation.

Taking a photo (aka rest) break!  (photo by Young)

But my friend and I were happy to be outside, even if the weather was less than perfect.  Climbing uphill soon warmed out bodies, and we chattered away, getting caught up on each other's lives.  And, of course, every once and awhile we'd stop for a photo break!

Hood peeks out of the clouds

Many uphill skiers tackle the steep climb from Timberline Lodge up Mt Hood's snowy slopes.  First, one follows the snowcat track that parallels the Magic Mile ski lift's trails (but for safety we're required to stay off the designated runs).  The first leg ends at the top of the Magic Mile and the Silcox Hut.  The second leg climbs above the Magic Mile, following the Palmer Chairlift (which due to extreme weather usually isn't open in the winter but is only used for spring/summer skiing).  Our destination today was the top of the Palmer, approximately two miles and 2500 feet of climbing.

Mt Hood and the Silcox Hut come into view

Although battling wind and near-whiteout conditions, as Young and I neared the top of the Mile, we suddenly noticed clearing skies.  The Silcox Hut's snow-covered roof came into view.

John is waaayyyy ahead!

And then, the clouds parted, and Mt Hood's lovely white summit emerged from the storm.  We also got a glimpse of John, wayyy up the slope!

Silcox Hut is hiding behind a snowbank

Nearing the Silcox Hut, our track became bumpy and icy.  Navigating the tall berm around the building was a real challenge.  But Young and I made it!

Checking out the hut

The Silcox Hut is a rustic mid-mountain lodge.  Built by the WPA, it was originally the upper terminal for the Magic Mile Lift, and also served as a warming hut and starting point for climbers.  Restored in the 1980s, the hut is now rented out to groups for weddings and overnight lodging.

Snowed-in front door

Reaching the hut, Young and I used it's walls as refuge from the wind, and took a quick snack break.  It was also a great opportunity for some photographs of the building's details.  Well, those that weren't covered in snow!

Yup, it's the Silcox Hut!

I especially noticed the metal inscription on the front door.

Fantastic views above the hut

John and Young's son were raring to reach the top of the Palmer Lift, and opted to forego a stop at the Silcox Hut.  However, although the skies had cleared by the time we'd reached this point, the snowstorm wasn't done yet.  As Young and I prepared to leave our sheltered break area, we were slammed by an new squall.  And topping it off, the slopes above this point were nothing but ice.

Magic Mile and Palmer Lift houses

Traction on this glittering surface was difficult.  Young took a hard fall and bumped her knee.  With visibility worsening, and the snow treacherously slippery, turning around wasn't a hard decision.  As Young and I were removing the climbing skins from our skis, John came sliding back downhill.  He'd also been forced to turn around by the icy conditions.

The trip back downhill was not fun.  The bumpy, icy slopes were difficult to navigate.  I must've fell at least a dozen times.  Not only were skiing conditions terrible, visibility deteriorated, making it hard to see where you were going.  Some of my falls were due to skiing into tall berms that I couldn't see.  It was survival skiing at its finest!

Foiled by icy conditions!

But near the lodge, John directed us into a small gully.  Wind-blown snow had filled in the very bottom and I enjoyed a few sweet turns in the light, fluffy powder.  Almost made the strenuous uphill and terrifying downhill worth it.  Well - almost!

Everyone in our party made it to the parking lot in one piece.  And we all agreed, even though the day's conditions were challenging, it was good to get outside and enjoy a bit of winter on the mountain.


  1. What an amazing amount of snow. Your images are incredible.
    You're a wee bit nutty adventure woman.. but glad you are!

  2. Great shots, I've only seem Timberline in July. Thanks!

  3. Fantásticas estas paisagens de neve.
    Um abraço e bom fim-de-semana.

  4. Hello, wow it looks like it was a challenge. The mountain and snow look beautiful! It is great to be outside. Wonderful post and photos. Happy weekend to you!

  5. That looks really cold and difficult! But I get it...any day spent outside getting exercise in Mother Nature is a good day!

  6. What a gorgeous and absolutely delightful series of winter photos, Linda!!! It makes me happy to know that I am not the only person who loves winter! Thank you so much for sharing! :)

  7. The only white on the ground I've seen this year is the yew days of frost we had getting down to -9degC one night, it's warmed up now and I'd love to have gone on those hills you were on

  8. I'm not that adventurous on my snowboard. I'd like the hike up, but looking at your pictures, I'd probably walk down!

  9. It looks beautiful but I wouldn't enjoy skiing in those conditions.

  10. I still can't believe how close Portland is to that gorgeous mountain. You are spoiled! :) Even if the skiing was terrible, it makes a good story for later. I hate skiing in that flat light, it's almost impossible to see the bumps.

  11. Such physical challenges are good for us, right? Glad you survived uninjured!

  12. What a great post of daring and adventure and with beautiful winter images. I cannot even imagine such snow (being an Africa with very thin blood!) But you are brave... Your teal hoody shows up beautifully against the stark white snow. Have a wonderful day, Linda. Greetings, Jo

  13. Happy New Year! It looks like a adventure. When you noticed the clearing skies. I felt you were very happy. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Wow, all that snow! Looks like you had a really good time!

  15. Very atmospheric photos. Just as well you are experienced skiers as I've been out in similar conditions here and had to walk back down most of the way as none of us were good enough to try it without serious mishap. Mount Hood looks fantastic under snow.

  16. Sensational effort by everyone in sensational surroundings.
    I just love that I know exactly where this is!

  17. please be careful. you don't want to get hurt before skiing season gets started good

  18. Wow... what an experience! Glad you enjoyed your day, and made it back in one piece to ski again. Hope conditions are getting better, now that we're seriously into winter.

  19. Spectacular views =- you look so happy to be there.

  20. The views and scenery look so beautiful, but with the stormy weather and icy conditions I would have been afraid of an avalanche! Does that happen often there? Does the ski patrol do avalanche mitigation? Please be safe!

  21. You guys are so brave - and NUTS! :) I will stick to enjoying the photos and tales of your cold adventures on the mountain!

  22. What a great trip! Beautiful pictures too

  23. Survival skiing is pretty much all we get in the UK but it's still kind of fun! As you sometimes it's just great to get out and enjoy the snow


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