Although chairlifts are nice, once and awhile I get the urge to earn my turns. So I strap on climbing skins and head to Timberline Ski Area. Timberline allows uphill skiing on it's upper trail when the Palmer Lift isn't running.
|Morning light on Mt Hood
The sun was just lighting up Mt Hood one beautiful January morning as I pulled my car into Timberline's parking lot. After capturing the tail end of sunrise, it was time to gather my gear and head up her slopes.
|My trek begins...
My uphill trek started near Timberline Lodge, elevation 6,000 feet. Today's goal - the top of the Palmer Lift, approximately 2 miles and 2,500 feet up.
|The view behind
Because uphill travelers must avoid the ski trails of the Magic Mile lift, my journey started in an out of bounds area just to the east of the resort. A wide open area of snowy plains, finding my way was no problem due to the numerous ski tracks and bootpaths criss-crossing the landscape. And Mt Hood's gleaming white summit anchored the skyline, beckoning me on.
|The sun is trying to break through
I'm not the speediest uphill skier, and before long other people began to pass me by. But I poked along, enjoying the wide open skies and good weather. Not in any particular hurry, I stopped when I felt like a break, or when a lovely scene appeared, just begging to be photographed.
I had a little fun with my camera's self timer, trying to capture the perfect skiing selfie.
|Still a long way to go!
Once past the top of the Magic Mile Lift, uphill travelers are allowed to follow a groomed ski track adjacent to the Palmer Chairlift. This lift, the highest on Mt Hood, normally only opens for spring and summer ski seasons. These wide open slopes catch high winds, and are often too stormy to allow winter operations.
But - never fear! Timberline offers another option for snow-riders who want to ski the Palmer in winter. When weather permits, anyone purchasing a lift ticket can ride a snowcat to the top terminal. While toiling up the mountainside, I watched this little yellow cat make a couple of laps.
|Following the Palmer lift towers
But, those skiers were cheating! No easy ride for me - I was out here earning my turns. Feeling smug, I continued my slow uphill slog. But the slopes adjacent to the Palmer lift were steep, and climbing was getting tougher.
And, boy, the lift terminus didn't appear to be getting any closer...... But the views looking ahead to Hood's summit were mighty fine, so that helped.
|Snowboarder and his dog
About halfway up the Palmer's slopes, I began to encounter skiers and boarders heading back down. Envious, I watched them gracefully carve up the groomed track. Some people made slow, elegant turns, while others gleefully bombed downhill. One snowboarder came tearing down the slopes, accompanied by his dog.
|There they go!
The dog looked like he was having as much fun as his master.
|The last pitch is steep!
Counting the lift towers, I slowly inched my way upward. When only two remained until my goal, I looked back downslope. A steady line of uphill skiers and hikers fanned out below. The Palmer's lower terminal looked so far away.
The last pitch was super steep, necessitating a bit of fancy side-stepping to traverse. But I'd made it! Time to grab a seat on the snow, have a snack, and soak in the glorious views.
|Relaxing on top of the Palmer
My tired legs appreciated the R 'n R. And my camera reveled in the stunning mountain scenery from on high. Not bad rewards for a morning's climb.
|Unloading the snowcat
I watched the snowcat slowly motor it's way to the top. A waiting ski patroller opened the door, and a dozen skiers spilled out. Again, I felt a glow of self-satisfaction. Although those folks may have gotten an easy ride, I'd earned every inch of my downhill trip.
It was entertaining to watch the skiers all pick up their skis from the snowcat's rack and head downhill. Deciding to wait until the mob cleared, I busied myself with people-watching. By now, a steady flow of uphill skiers and snowshoers began crawling over the berm. A couple of young ladies sat down next to me, and one of them attempted several headstands. Although she had no trouble getting into position, the weight of her ski boots kept pulling her over. I did manage one photo before she toppled.
|People pushing towards the summit
Looking behind, I noticed many people continuing up from the Palmer's top terminal. Most were skiers, attempting to climb higher for a longer downhill run. The mountain climbers had already descended for the day. (They begin their climbs in the middle of the night while the ice is frozen, and descend in early morning) The summit didn't look very far away, but I knew that it was still a very tough 2700 vertical feet of climbing.
Seeing a lull in the downhill traffic, it was time to remove my climbing skins for the final reward - a nice, easy ski down the Palmer's groomed runs.
|The Silcox Hut
A most enjoyable end to my trek! Taking my time, I soaked in the surrounding snowy foothills as I made my way down. Back at my car by noon, I'd fit in a good bit of exercise, fresh air, great scenery, and exhilarating downhill run into a glorious winter morning.