Saturday, June 14, 2008

Cone Peak Backcountry Skiing

Hartz, Jon Stevens, Chris Holm and I climbed up Cone Peak in Santiam Pass on Saturday. We had no idea of how much snow was left on the mountains in the pass but we hoped there was enough to get some turns on. Chris Holm had already packed up his gear thinking the season was over.. and it sure looked like it on our way up the Southwest Ridge of Cone Peak. We hiked through the open woods from the road below up to the open alpine meadows of Cone to find no snow! Chris and Jon were hiking in their downhill ski boots up the mountain in the dirt! Uh-oh. It was a quick climb and we had great views of Iron Mountain to the West and all the surrounding Cascades (Jefferson, Black Butte, The Sisters, Three Fingered Jack, and even Hood and Adams to the North). We got some great photos on a volcanic dike outcrop near the summit messing around. When we got to the top we found there was deep snow on the backside of the mountain for us to ski down, right from the summit. There was a big gap between the summit rocks and the start of the snow that was about 12-15 feet deep and about 15 feet across.... so I decided to jump it, and Hartz of course quickly followed my lead with Chris taking photos below. It was a lot of fun, and not to dangerous because the snow was soft and forgiving for our landing below in our ski boots.

We had a great descent of the backside of Cone Peak on some fun soft snow. When we got down we decided to hike back up to the ridge and consider skiing over to Iron Mountain to get some runs on it but it would have been a close call to get me to work on time that night so we decided to just head down, expecting to have to walk half the distance to the road due to the lack of snow. We climbed around to a southern facing snow field and climbed up it to the top to ski the whole thing. I was able to get a few big sweeping turns on it backwards and Jon Stevens set off a 40 foot wet slide about an inch thick that was entertaining to watch but not dangerous at all. When we got to the treeline we kept finding snow through the trees and pushed our luck on the decent. We had to cross a stream a few times to get to the remaining patches and then skied over a lot of pine needles and branches on the snow through the woods. All of a sudden I heard a truck in front of me, looked up and saw the road 40 feet ahead of us! I couldn't believe that we had actually managed to ski down the entire mountain to the road in mid June! Amazing.

Before leaving the pass I took the extra time we gained by skiing down to the road to show the guys the Sawyer Ice Cave in the pass. This time when we went in I wanted to check and see if it went deeper and it certainly did. I'm not sure how Emily and I missed it the first time we were in there. It was still very icey and there were plenty of icicles left hanging from the ceiling and coming up from the floor. All the guys were really impressed. The back cavern of the cave that we found was really cool. The floor was solidified molten lava. It looked like it must have flashed cooled. It wasn't the chunky lava rock of the dike we had climbed earlier on Cone Peak. The floor actually looked like solid liquid. Check the photos to see what I mean.

It was a beautiful day and it was nice to finally get some runs in with Jon Stevens. Definitely click the title of this entry for some amazing photos from the trip!

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