Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mt. Bailey Ski Descent

This weekend Emily and I headed to Mt. Bailey with my friend Ben Nielsen,
Lauren Parker Ben’s friend Brian. Emily and I drove down to Diamond Lake on Friday night after I got out of work hoping that we would have reception to get in touch with the guys. We got to the lake at midnight but everything looked quiet so I decided I’d get up early and call in the morning. Hartz and Meehan were in the area and planned to climb Bailey as well but I figured we’d just see them on the mountain because they would be faster than us. Also, I’ve never been formally invited to join them on a climb despite me emailing them about all of mine well beforehand, so I wasn’t to psyched to climb with them anyway at this point.
Emily and I slept in the back of the truck in our warm sleeping bags under a very starry night sky. We woke up around 7am and after putting contacts in I couldn’t tell if the people in the parking lot with us were Ben or not but as we started to drive away we noticed it was them and to our surprise Lauren Parker was with him as well and a guy named Brian that I hadn’t met yet. We grabbed some breakfast at the lakeshore and snapped a few pics of the mountain we were about to climb over the glassy calm lake.
Our hike started at about 7:45am. We had decided to start from the snowmobile access road instead of where Emily and I had planned closer to the actual trail. This meant that our hike would be longer but it would be well trampled down by the sleds making for easy skiing on the road with our skins. We were able to start skiing right away and we made good time heading towards the East Ridge. Lauren Parker fell behind once we started climbing the ridge and Ben took the lead far ahead of us. I stuck around with Emily and we took our time, saving energy for Mt. Thielsen which we planned to climb on
Sunday as well. Once we hit the crest of the East ridge we were afforded beautiful views down into the East Avalanche Bowl where the remnants of a massive avalanche had mowed down the trees for nearly half a mile at the base of the mountain, almost reaching all the way to Diamond Lake. We would definitely need to check snow conditions once we made it to the top. I had a feeling that Hartz and Meehan had already reached the summit and skied down and later I found out I was correct as they had started around 5am and were much faster than us.
We reached the crater on the summit ridge around 11:45 in the morning to find snowmobilers illegally at the elevation jumping their sleds from the rim into the crater. It was a family with kids so I wasn’t too upset about them being there with plenty of snow still around. We soon came to a spot on the ridge that was simply a huge fin of rock that we didn’t know how to get past. Ben was ahead of us and did a little exploring to find that there was a massive window in the middle of it that we
could pass through to the other side which was easier to climb up. Brian (who was already very tired from walking the entire way so far in snowboard boots) followed suit with Emily and I shortly behind. We were far ahead of Lauren who we assumed had probably turned around by that point. Climbing up through the window was amazing and looking back we could see that it perfectly framed Mt. Thielsen in the background over Diamond Lake.
From that point it was simply an easy traverse with a little bit of elevation gain across the summit ridge to the true summit in the distance. We all ate some lunch at the summit and then started our ski descent around 1:45pm. We headed down the East Avalanche Bowl after briefly checking the snow stability which seemed fine to us. I had borrowed my advisor Anne Nolin’s avy beacons for the weekend so with those on we felt even more safe. I took the lead and guinea pigged a steep slope carving a sweet arc up along a huge rock outcropping almost catching an edge sending me off the top of it! Ben followed in tele gear, Brian on his snowboard and Emily with her new gear followed them. After some sweet turns down the slope we traversed far across the bowl
back to the East Ridge where we followed closely our ascent path back to the snowmobile trails. It would have been nice if the trails were a little more downhill as we had to push ourselves along quite a bit to get back to the vehicles. For a while Brian was with Emily and I as Ben had rocketed off down the bowl and was far ahead of us on the way out. Eventually, Brian couldn’t keep up with Emily and I on our skis so we told him we’d meet him back at the car. He arrived just 15 minutes after us anyway at the trailhead because, well, he’s a physically fit animal!

After relaxing in the sun with a few beers we stuck in the snow to cool off we headed off down the road towards the Umpqua hot springs for a relaxing dip. Emily had a few blisters (big ones) and we were both a bit tired so we passed on Mt. Thielsen. The springs were really relaxing and it was Emily’s first time around naked hippies. One naked guy just walked right up to us “hangin’ out” literally! It was a great end to a long day in the sun. Emily and I both got pretty burned from the trip but it was well worth it!

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