Sunday, June 22, 2008

Diamond Peak & Epic BC Skiing

This weekend Hartz and decided to tackle Diamond Peak after hearing great things from Quin about his trip a few weeks before. I forwarded a link to Hartz of Quin's photos but refused to look at them myself as I wanted to be surprised on the mountain. I switched shifts with a friend at Ruby's so I could get out early on Saturday night allowing us to start driving to Diamond around 9pm so we could camp out at the trailhead overnight.

It was a beautiful drive through the Oregon woods to the trailhead road which we found covered with snow. My GPS said that we were only about 3 miles from the summit as the crow flies so we pulled over on the side of the road, pulled out some beers and chatted for a while before hittin' our sleeping bags around 2am. It was a beautiful night with a very bright moon that actually cast my shadow on the ground next to me. We saw a bunch of shooting stars and satellites and after contemplating life on other planets for an hour or so it felt good to finally curl up in my warm 0 degree Big Agnes bag. Unfortunately I didn't sleep very well because Hartz has a snoring issue and I had slept in late on Saturday morning to catch up on some much needed rest. 5am and the sun rising above us came all too quickly but Hartz was nice enough to wait until 6am to kick me in the head to wake me :)

After packing up in the morning and eating a Thai Satay backcountry pantry dinner for breakfast we headed up the road towards the trail to Corrigan lake. The road had patchy snow on it so we ended up walking and skinning off and on until we got to the trail which was suprisingly closer to where we had to leave the truck than I had expected it to be. What followed from there was a slog for several hours on skins and bootpacking through the woods towards Corrigan lake and then the treeline. There were a few mosquitos out which were annoying but not too bad. The snow in the woods had a lot of crap all over it fallen from the trees in the winter so our skins got really dirty and lost a bit of traction but we finally made it to treeline and they cleaned up fast on the clean snow above the trees.

Looking up at the lower peak we had to make a decision on which way to go. All our options looked incredibly steep except for a ridge of jagged rocks that looked safe but challenging to the southwest. We couldn't even see the Northwest ridge that we were trying to get to. If we had only hiked about 50 vertical feet higher we would have clearly seen the correct route off to the left but instead we decided to traverse to the south and climb up the ridge we saw. The sun was very hot as we boot-packed up the very steep bowl to the ridge and then made our way through the rocks. I took the lead stomping deep tracks for Hartz and I across the steep snow slopes where we used our ice axes for safety. Hartz correctly made the decision to climb to the top of the ridge instead of traversing to the true summit which we could see in the distance as soon as we topped the ridge. This was a great decision as it dumped us out onto a broad snowfield leading up to the summit. We saw two guys who had driven past us last night at 2am up on the summit. They looked like ants as the peak was still a good distance away.

As we began to climb the final summit ridge the two raced past us on tele skis past the saddle and then started hiking up the lower summit. We watched as they dropped into an incredibly steep bowl kicking up small wet slides as they went. When we got higher on the ridge we also noticed that one of them had skied down the 80 degree headwall at the top as well. Of course Hartz and I would have to up the ante on this one...

We reached the top around 1:30pm I think and took our time absorbing the sweeping views of all the surrounding cascades. To the south was Bailey, McLoughlin, and Crater Lake while to the North were Hood, Jefferson, The Sisters, Broken Top, Three-Fingered Jack and Bachelor Butte. All were clearly visible under bluebird skies. We signed some scraps of paper left in a tin can on the summit and chatted with a guy who we met who had come up a different route about his ski setup which was almost exactly the same as mine. I decided to walk down a little ways from the summit to film Hartz skiing the steep headwall. He made some sweet jump turns down it in perfect form as usual. I followed him and decided I wanted a little more airtime if possible. I moved over to skiers left 20 feet to a slightly steeper area, pointed em' and just at the top of the steepest part jumped to get about 15 feet or so of distance in the air over the snow.

We were so pumped when we got back down to the saddle to hike up the lower peak. As we were going up I took a few photos of Hartz looking over the edge of what we were about to ski and it looked impossibly steep. (See the picture of Hartz peering over the edge). I asked Hartz to film me this time from the top, clicked into my bindings, through on some music and jumped into it carving some big arcing turns around a crevasse and down the steep slope to the bottom of the Northeast Bowl on Diamond. It was one of the best backcountry runs I've ever experienced. The snow was perfect and FAST. On the way down I could see my wet slough following me as I jumped over and through the small slides set off by the tele skiers before us. At the bottom I had a great view of Hartz slayin' it down the slope and jumping off a cornice as well with his slough chasing him as well.

From the bottom of the bowl we put our skis back on our packs and trekked up to a saddle on the ridge following the steps of the skiers before us who were headed back to the same camp as us and from the style of their skiing and the routes they picked we could tell they had been there before and knew the best way. From the ridge we had a few more big open snow slopes to ski down and then ended up in the trees back to the trailhead road. It was rough heading down through the trees again as before the snow was littered with debris from the trees above... just gonna need to wax my skis again!

We passed the tele skiers through the woods on the way out as we followed a drainage down to the road. Once on the road it was a quick walk back to the truck where we picked up a couple beers we had buried in the snow when we woke up. It's always nice to have a cold beer waiting for ya after a tough climb and ski. The drive through the woods down the forest roads was beautiful and was great to finally see in the day time. We made it back to Corvegas in about 2 and half hours and actually used less gas then it takes me to get to Mt. Hood although our trip was a solid 2 hours longer round trip. Must be because of the lower driving speeds on the back roads. With gas prices as bad as they are this of course means that Diamond Peak is going to be a top choice for me for some great backcountry skiing all year round. I can't wait to go back!

As usual click the title for a great slideshow of all the great pictures from the day.

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