Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tom Dick Peak Backcountry Skiing

Emily and I woke up early for a huge breakfast with everyone at the Doug Fir Lounge across from the Jupiter in Portland.  Apparently Shilo had contacted Miwa the night before and was in the area so randomly met up with the guys.  I’m sure with Shilo showing up the Union Jack strip club was the obvious choice for the guys... not to the pleasure of Danielle.  

Emily and I drove up to Government Camp hoping for some sweet powder and boy were we treated by mother nature!  We first stopped at SkiBowl but $50 just seemed steep for arriving there at 11am and probably only having enough energy for a few hours.  Instead we decided to ski down the side of the highway to the Mirror Pond Trail for some backcountry.  I was hoping that we would find a way to make it back over to Tom Dick peak where we could descend back down to the truck without having to skin back up the road from the trailhead.

The Mirror Pond trail was super beautiful with all the fresh snow falling all around us.   I had recently bought new skins for my super fat powder boards and I was thoroughly enjoying how well they were sticking to the trail on the ascent.  There were other snowshoe’ers on the trail as well with us but with our skins we were able to travel a bit faster than them.   When we got to a trail intersection to either a Mirror Pond loop or continuing uphill towards Tom Dick Peak we decided to keep ascending.  

We soon found ourselves in sparse trees following a switchbacking skin track up a steep slope.  We both had beacons on but Em had no experience with using them besides playing with it briefly on Mt. Hood weeks ago.  I dug a quick pit and checked out how well the snow was adhering to the icy layer underneath and it seemed pretty secure taking a lot of effort to get it to break at the ice layer.  So, we continued on with Emily getting a lot of practice learning how to take tight switchbacks on a steep hill with her skins. 

When we reached the ridge we carefully checked out what looked to be the safest route down the possible avalanche terrain where a few other skiers had taken some turns.  I stayed on top and had Em head down the hill first to the tree line below.  I then followed through the glorious powder and we both headed down through some tight trees that led to a narrow chute into an open slope below.  It was steep and the powder was thick so we both ended up setting off some good slough slides that we rode through on the way down.  From there we put our skins back on and slogged our way back up to the ridge via the switchbacks again.
I know that we could have spent $50 and ridden lifts all afternoon at SkiBowl and that the backcountry there was probably open as well, but honestly, being on our own in the backcountry with untracked powder covering everything all around us it was way better in my mind.   

When we reached the ridge top again we simply followed it around some massive cliffs back to the top of Tom Dick Peak.  We were able to follow tracks for the majority of the way back to SkiBowl but occasionally I had to break trail which was easy with my fat skis.  Back at the resort we dropped into the backcountry which had definitely been open and was super tracked out.  We also agreed that the snow was worse and more windblown on the resort side which made us feel even better about our choice for the day.  

When we got back to the truck with our ridiculous painted shopping cart in the back we were greeted with a beautiful sunset on the descent down Hood.  It was really a great day of backcountry skiing and a terrific weekend.  I’m so glad that we went to bed when we did the night before and were able to make it to the mountain for the amazing powder!

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