Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Hunt for White October


College football is back, there's a chill in the air, leaves are fading to hues of orange, yellow, and red, and (most importantly) snow has returned to the high peaks of the Cascade Mountains.  Fall is finally here.

I happened to be in Bend last weekend to see my parents who were visiting from Virginia.  As I was packing last Thursday, I remembered the not-so-ancient proverb, "You're going anyway.  Might as well bring your skis."  Having read a few earlier trip reports from around the northwest, it was a no-brainer.

After a couple days of delicious beer and food with the folks (I highly recommend Chow in Bend), on Monday I finally managed to sneak away to the not-yet-open Mount Bachelor to hunt for my first turns of the year.  The main parking area at West Village was gated, so I parked at the Dutchman Flat Sno Park and hiked across Century Drive a couple hundred yards to the base of the Skyliner Express lift.  From there, I donned skis and skins for the first time in three months.  Three hours later I was standing atop Mount Bachelor's 9,068-foot summit ready to drop in for the first run of the season.

The lower mountain was covered with a thin but dense skiable layer

I followed Skyliner Express to mid-mountain. Forty-five minutes into the hike I had my first clear glimpse of the summit

The empty mountain felt very surreal

Above tree line I ascended this gully just north of the cirque

As the terrain steepened, I traversed left to the northwest ridge, where I booted up the last few hundred yards to the summit

Summit!

Mount Bachelor's summit crater

After snapping a few photos, I checked the snowpack and prepared to drop into the cirque...

...where I found my first turns of the 2013-2014 ski season

Halfway down the cirque, I paused to take in this view of Broken Top

Peering up from the bottom of the cirque, it felt good to be back on skis

At the bottom of the cirque, I hopped left to this gully, which held surprisingly good snow for October

Half an hour after standing on the summit, I had earned 2,800 vertical feet of ski descent-- not bad for October!




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