Home > Trip Reports > June 15-20, 2001, Truncated S. Volcanoes Tour

June 15-20, 2001, Truncated S. Volcanoes Tour

Posted by ema on 9/15/02 9:15pm
The plan was to spend four days at the Wy'East Tele camp, then spend the following 6 days skiing Mt. Adams (southwest chutes), Mt. Jefferson (Jefferson Park Glacier) and Mt. Shasta (Hotlum-Wintun)....plus whatever else happened to turn up along the way.

June 15th: Zig Zag Glacier, Mt. Hood.

The first day at the telecamp went about as expected: I drove down the night before, arrived in the Timberline parking lot around 3 in the morning, napping lightly before getting up early for our lift-assisted backcountry tour. We dawdled for a while, then rode the lifts to the top of Palmer and skinned from there to Illumination Saddle on bulletproof snow. Apparently it had snowed 16 inches two days before, which had whitened things up and evened out the cups and runnels; all looked very pretty, lacking only a couple of hours of strong sunlight to soften things up. There is a single crevasse opened just below the saddle--small and easily turned, but deep. Also of note was the steady rockfall coming from above and just east of the saddle, even early in the day while everything was still hard frozen. At least two of our small group were Telemarktips.com regulars (I'll leave it to them to name themselves if they choose). It happened that Shelly Butler, Wy'east owner, had just turned 39 once again, so one of our group hustled on ahead to the saddle with two sections of homemade chocolate cake in their tins, a jar of frosting, bowls, forks, napkins and a giant thermos of high-quality hot coffee (with Starbucks cups)....thereby substantially raising the bar for middle-aged men everywhere. When I arrived he was hunched over in the cold, frantically spreading icing on the assembled cake as Shelly approached. By positioning myself carefully I was able to eat more than my fair share.

The snow was softening only very reluctantly, so eventually we all set off down the Zig Zag Glacier prematurely. I convinced myself (and a few others) that the steeper shots to skiers right would have better snow (which turned out to be not in the least true), and though I skied the steep parts successfully I finally tripped on some frozen avalanche debris, which gave me the opportunity to feel very self-congratulatory about carrying a Whippet. On the other hand, I also promptly let go of my other pole, precisely as I was only recently swearing I never do in falls. By the time we'd dropped a couple of thousand feet and climbed back up again the snow was perfect velvet, making it ungodly difficult to stop descending this second time down, though there was at least another 2000 feet of skiable snow below us when we turned back uphill. Along the way back into the ski area I was not persuasive enough to convince more than one other person to drop off the small cornice at the head of Zig Zag Canyon and plummet down the soft 50 degree slope below. We then finished our traverse and skied the groomers directly to the parking lot. Plenty of snow remains in the ski area to the bottom of Magic Mile lift, and the usual gully still has snow right to the edge of the pavement, no more than 30 feet from where I had parked. Why waste time hiking?

June 16-17: Wy'east Telecamp, Mt. Hood.

The following two days were pure lift-served instruction, in which various telemark movers, shakers and luminaries taught us all about how very many wrong ways (and how few right) there are to telemark. They were very nice about it ("The people in this group are such good skiers now that it's all a matter of making subtle changes for you."), but the comparison between how they skied and how I skied made it perfectly clear why I was there. Jimmy Ludlow was up there too, teaching the running of gates to his own set of students on one of the Palmer lanes. I don't think I've ever seen such angulation in a tele skier; nor have I ever seen quite such a stack of shims--65 mm, I think he said. Maybe I'm just showing my backcountry naivete. On Saturday I took the prize by acclamation for the best fall on videotape, which happened absolutely without warning right in front of the camera. No problem: it's just a habit I've developed over the years, falling ingloriously as soon as someone points that thing at me.

The camp went rather well, I thought, although cold temps and high clouds kept the snow up high from softening much, particularly on Sunday (refer to Ron's photos on a separate report of skiing on Adams the same weekend). This was the day, too, when the devil himself tempted me into trying out the bumps course, for which I am ill-equipped, even under the best of circumstances. These, of course, were not the best of circumstances: the bumps themselves were frozen solid, and most were sprinkled liberally with death cookies. The rest of the class (including our cloven-hoofed instructor) flailed variously while occasionally hinting at the possibility of grace. I fell almost immediately and somehow managed to torque my left ankle badly (my TRP's did not release) with attendant popping sensations and pain. I limped down the hill wondering where the nearest x-ray facilities might be, and whether I'd be able to walk once I removed my boot.

June 18-19: Intermission.

The following day, Monday, the traditional Snowdome backcountry trip was cancelled due to a still-gated access road, so various folks made various noises about skiing the Wy'east face. While I limped around and felt sorry for myself they proceeded to take forever getting going, and apparently made motions in that general direction but turned back early. I drove up to the Meadows base area just to take a look at the route: there'd be 500 feet or so booting up, then more or less steady coverage all the way to the top of the face, about 5000 vertical feet total.

I made arrangements to meet a couple of others at Mt. Adams on Tuesday night, and drove down the hill for x-rays. The report was, basically, that I had strained some tendons badly enough to warrant a giant splint and a week on crutches. I negotiated a bit, and my doctor seemed willing to accept the possibility that I might not be willing to follow directions quite so literally as all that, and might in fact choose to push my luck a bit. In the end I persuaded him to say that the worst I was likely to do was the same but more so, which I chose to take as a suggestion that I take a day off before the next 6000 v.f. climb and ski. The radiologist looked at my x rays and said there was a broken bone in there--"Not a very important bone"--but that it appeared to be an old break. This was news to me, since I've never had any clue that I'd broken my ankle. I thought of all the times I've kept going in pursuit of one sport or another while suffering intense pain. I'm not sounding exceptionally intelligent, am I?

June 20: Mt. Adams South Climb.

At any rate, the two rest days seemed to help, so I drove up to the south climb trailhead on Adams. The first sections of road are in outstanding shape, right up to Morrison Creek or so (I stopped to see "Big Tree," which turned out to be in fact an impressively big tree, probably the largest Ponderosa Pine I've ever seen by a margin of at least 50%). The last five miles are rough, but perfectly doable in an ordinary car, though I'd recommend leaving the Corvettes and MGB's at home. There are patches of snow in the woods at the trailhead, about 5600 feet.

On Wednesday we got underway a bit after 6 am, booted to the Lunch Counter and skinned to the false summit. My ankle hurt at times, and it made for a somewhat slow and clumsy climb, but skiing seemed entirely possible, and conditions were pretty reasonable: firm base, recent snow softening rapidly in the sun. We had some discussions about the options for traversing back from the bottom of the SW Chutes to the regular route; it'd be a shame to ruin 3 or 4000 feet of steep, fall-line descent by thrashing endlessly around down low. I thought I'd just take a little practice run before committing myself to the descent. I did a single kick turn and something started to hurt like hell; I skinned up a couple of hundred feet of low angle snow, then tried to ski down. Pain. No way, and no doubt about it. I took off my skis and put them on my pack, trying to think about all the undone chores I would now have the chance to finish once I got home, four days earlier than expected.

In the end I butt-glissaded to the lunch counter, carrying skis and backpack on my lap and dipping in one side or the other to steer. After a couple of thousand feet of that, I walked the rest of the way to the car: 6000 vertical feet altogether, of which all but the last 500 would have been skiable without interruption. I thought about mountaineering, which at one time seemed a perfectly natural thing to do: first you walk up, then you walk down. It used to be a lot more fun, this mountaineering thing, before I learned to ski. My partners opted out of the SW chutes after all, skiing gracefully down the normal route, arriving at the parking lot a bit before me with reports of sticky, awkward snow and the suggestion that about 12 noon would have been a good time for a decent on that route. For comparison with Ron's report on the same route, this was a warm day, in the eighties in the Columbia valley, with a clear night preceding.

Winding our way north on the forest roads we stopped to admire the best views of Adams, the SW chutes slashing in a most aesthetic way down and to the right for three or four thousand feet off the false summit. The traverse at the bottom didn't look too unreasonable. Maybe next year, right before the telecamp. Jefferson and Shasta, too. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a lot of chores to do.



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2002-09-16 04:15:31