Sunday, May 4, 2008

Skiing Black Butte

Last night I drove up route 20 about 20 miles past Sweet Home to meet up with the COAS crew 

at their camping weekend. I arrived to find them all huddled around a big campfire listening to someone play guitar. The spot Hodak picked was the Longbow Organizational Camp. It had a nice picnic area, a well with a water pump, outhouses and lean-to’s by the river. I showed up at about 9pm after spending a day

cleaning the yard and my truck at home. I could tell it would be a cold night and I really doubted that everyone was prepared for the cold night. There was a keg but it was pretty foamy and most people seemed to be drinking their own stuff. It was nice to see everyone again. I was toasty warm in my 0 degree bag all night but others such as Robyn seemed to freeze overnight. I left early in the morning, only stopping to chat with 

Eleanor for a bit, so that I could get any early start on a day of backcountry skiing.

Turns out that every hike I had planned was snowed in and the trailheads were not plowed out so my options quickly became limited. I was forced to stop in Sisters for some gas and

looking up I saw Black Butte and wondered how that would be. I noticed the road leading to the trailhead was opened and started down it only to find a couple miles in that about a foot and half of snow still covered the road. Being cocky I thought my truck would make it… nope. Got stuck. After several minutes of digging with my

pack shovel and a nice couple who showed up sitting on the tailgate for weight I was able to drive forward out of it. The couple from Bend hopped in and we drove another half mile up the road before it became snowed in again. I parked, got my ski gear together and day pack, threw on my Garmont boots and headed up the road for what I thought would be about 

4 miles added to my trip. Following my GPS I was able to cut through some switchbacks of the road to save time and arrived in about an hour and half 

at the trailhead which said the summit was 2 miles away. I must have passed the couple on one of my shortcuts up the road. My right foot was developing a blister but I pushed on to the summit through completely dry slopes facing the hot sun.

At the 6,325ft summit there was a cool lookout tower which had the lower staircase pulled up. It took some effort but I hoisted myself up onto it and climbed as high up as I could for some great photos of the surrounding peaks such as the Sisters, Jefferson, Washington, and Three Finger Jack. I then popped on my skis, directed my GPS to 

point me back to my truck and headed off down the backside of the mountain where there are no trails. It was by far the shortest way back to my truck being only a mile of descent but I didn’t know what I would encounter. I was pleasantly surprised to see an enormous upper field of well-spaced burned trees that I had a great time slaloming through down to the tree line. I found a few narrow paths through the trees for another 500 feet or so. It then got pretty rough with debris so I decided to take my skis off and just slog down through the forest towards my truck. About 5 minutes

into the bashing I stumbled open and open corridor through the forest left over from logging operations as well as what kind of looked like very old snowboard tracks from earlier in the winter. I followed this path down the slope, occasionally falling into

deep holes in the snow next to buried down trees without looking at my GPS again. Then, faster than I expected I emerged to the trailhead road below, looked to my right and about 200ft away saw my truck! How convenient J. It was a long ascent up the road and the 2 mile trail to the summit but in about 40 minutes or so I skied most of the way down the backside and then emerged exactly where my truck was forced to stop due to snow in the road. It was the perfect day. Then, on the way out I actually caught up driving to the couple I had met who told me they had turned around at the trailhead and come back to the car. So, in the time it took them to walk 4 miles and a thousand feet, I had gone 6 and also skied down from the summit. Not bad. I definitely will keep my GPS track and head back to the same location next winter for some safe fresh powder turns!  Click the title of this post for a full slideshow.

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