Saturday, April 20, 2013

Ball Butte Backcountry

This weekend Emily and I headed to Bend to finally visit our buddy Aaron Hartz and his lady Jennie.  It had been since Thanksgiving since we had seen them so it was far overdue.  I had it in my head that we were going to skin up the Paulina Lake Road and ski the chutes on Paulina Peak which would have meant a very long day of backcountry skiing.  To my delight Hartz called me on our way out of town and said that his guiding buddy Henry had borrowed their boss’s sled and was going to tow us all up the road to save us about 10 miles of round trip skinning!  Hooray!

We got to their place in Bend around 10:30pm which gave us enough time to grab a few beers together and catch up.  They were staying at Heather and Grady’s 2nd house in Bend for the time being and it was pretty luxurious with an amazing view of the Sisters and the top of Broken Top from the deck.  Hard to believe anyone our age could own a 2nd house like that but that’s what you get for being an engineer at HP I guess.  

In the morning we set off from the house after some hot panini-pressed egg sandwiches towards Paulina Peak.  Halfway Aaron got a call from Henry that the road gate was closed and the road had been plowed to the pavement.... no go.  We discussed it briefly and then all suggested we head into the Broken Top wilderness across the road from Mt. Bachelor.  Within 30 minutes we were all in the Tumalo Snow Park lot gearing up and unloading the powerful sled from the trailer.  

Henry had showed up with his friends Adam and McKenzie.  There was a trailer on skis for the snowmobile to pull and racks for all the skis.  On the way across the flats we were all able to ride in the back with McKenzie towing from a rope behind until we got to the steeper hills leading up to the base of Broken Top and the wilderness boundary.

Hartz, Jennie and I waited while the others went first up to the staging area at the wilderness boundary.  We passed the 40 minutes of waiting peeing, building a crazy snowman and hurling snowballs at each other.  Soon, Henry was back and we all made it up to the others.  After a quick debate and looking at the weather we decided to just skin into Ball Butte and do some laps on it.  I hadn’t climbed it before and I was excited for the views of Broken Top so agreed and off we went.  

We had forgotten our sunscreen in the car when we all hopped into Jennie’s and they only had a small bottle for themselves that they shared with Emily.  I didn’t want to use up all the rest of it so I passed hoping that the clouds would remain overhead enough to prevent a bad burn... nope, I was wrong.  

Soon, the clouds ahead had cleared and we had amazing views of Broken Top and back towards the top of Bachelor above the clouds.  The bowl we skied was untouched after about half a foot of fresh snow the week before and we got to ski soft spring snow all afternoon in stable avy conditions.  It is always nice backcountry skiing with two professional guides :).  

We ended up skiing 3 different runs before we were all tired and headed back towards the parking lot being towed by the snowmobile.  I jumped on the back of the sled because I’m used to riding on them and know how to properly lean around corners.  When we got back we all headed to The Good Life Brewing Company in Bend for some great beer and grub.  I got the Deschutes Black Butte XXIII and the lettuce chicken wrap to try something new and also shared a bit of the giant nachos plate Hartz and Jennie got.  When Henry showed up looking like someone had painted his face red I got worried about my own face.... 

By the time we got back to Aaron and Jennie’s place I knew my face was pretty severely burnt.  The shower certainly didn’t feel as good as holding a cold beer to my face after while watching the sunset behind the mountains on their porch.  I put a bunch of lotion on my face I found in their bathroom and we had a couple more beers before Emily and I headed out.  We had a great time skiing with them and made a few new friends with Henry, Mackenzie and Adam.  Perhaps I’ll be back next weekend to bag Paulina on a bike.

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