Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Mount McLoughlin

Once again, I had big weekend plans to climb Shasta. But, as UW meteorology professor Cliff Mass writes in his popular weather blog, we seem to have a weekend weather curse going in the Pacific Northwest. By my count, it was the fifth week in a row southern Oregon had some sort of weather system move in on a weekend (despite perfectly clear weekdays). And for the second time in three weeks, one of those systems intervened with my weekend plans to summit mount Shasta. 

Mount McLoughlin from the Dead Indian Memorial Highway

But Shasta or no Shasta, I was determined to earn some volcano turns. By Thursday, I had successfully convinced Galen and Phil to make the four-and-a-half hour drive from Reno and join me on Mount McLoughlin Saturday. Friday night we were sitting around a table at Granite Taphouse in Ashland, discussing the day to come over pizza and local brews.  Saturday morning, we were awake at 4:30, still groggy from the imperial IPA's we were drinking the night before (we thought they were regular IPA's!), and rallied at the McLoughlin Trailhead by 6:30. Our plan was fairly straightforward-- climb the standard east ridge route to the summit, and, depending on conditions, ski the northeast bowl or southeast face. 

We quickly geared up and hit the trail with skis and boots on our packs for the two mile hike to skinable snow.

Setting out on the McLoughlin Trail at 7 AM 

We reached skinable snow at 6,500 feet, after about two miles of walking (save for a couple bare spots)

Cresting the east ridge with Klamath Lake in the background

View north from the east ridge - Mount Scott is the high point on the horizon at right, and the Crater Lake Rim to its left

As we approached the ridge around 11 AM, something didn't feel right. I looked down and,  in one of those "oh crap" moments, noticed three screws missing from the toe piece on my right ski. (I use Binding Freedom inserts, which allow you to move a binding from ski to ski. However they need to be tightened from time to time to avoid loosening, and in my haste that morning I neglected to do so.)

Thankfully, I managed to find one of the missing screws nearby. I now had two missing screws for one toe piece (and a complete set of four on the other). Figuring two toe pieces with three screws is better than one toe piece with two screws, I transferred one screw from the opposite ski.

Would three screws hold without disaster? (They did)

We pushed on. In the meantime, the snow on the south-facing route had become soft. Very soft. We were having difficulty getting any purchase on the uphill and became increasingly concerned about wet avalanches, as there was slide debris scattered around us from earlier in the week. Given the snow conditions and my potential for equipment failure, at noon we decided it would be a good time to head down. We rolled a couple rocks off the north side of the ridge and determined that it still held a reasonably firm snow surface.

Looking up the east ridge towards the summit of McLoughlin

Galen and Phil ready to drop into the northeast bowl

We skied this section from the ridge and took a hard right, traversing the east to maximize our vertical

Galen carving the lower part of the bowl while Phil looks on

Despite the soft conditions elsewhere, the north side of the ridge held excellent corn snow

Wide angle of our entire first run (beginning top right)

Surface conditions were good enough on the first run that we re-climbed the ridge for a second lap

Galen and Phil about to drop in for our second run

Sidestepping for a few extra vertical feet

Excellent corn on the northerly slopes

Kaleidoscope clouds

Looking back at our second lap

After descending the ridge into the bowl for a second time, we turned east toward the trail

Hiking the last two miles of the McLoughlin trail

Our approximate route


Sam W. said...

Sweet photos. I gotta get down to McLaughlin sometime soon. How long do you think the season will be going?

Pete said...

At least well into June on the north side (thanks to late season storms). I'd be down to head back at some point.