Saturday, April 27, 2013

Paulina Peak Chutes

This weekend I returned to Bend to visit Aaron and Jennie again as well as finally officially climb Paulina Peak.  The weather looked fantastic for the weekend and Aaron thankfully had the day off to go with me.  I had planned on driving over the night before but due to lack of sleep I decided to spend the night at home and then drive over with Leo at 5am on Saturday.  

Thankfully, Jennie was more than happy to watch Leo during the day as we climbed Paulina and she studied for her classes.  She even took him for a long run which was fantastic.  Aaron and I were able to pack up our gear and bikes into the Prius and head over to Paulina Peak to start our ascent around 10:45 in the morning.  

Driving up the Paulina Peak road we briefly thought that it would be open all the way to the lakes but then suddenly we found ourselves at the closed upper gate, a good, 4-5 miles below Paulina Peak.  The road had been plowed but the gate was not open for the season yet.  Thankfully, Hartz and I had our mountain bikes with us.  We packed up all our gear including ice axes, harnesses, ropes, biners, etc just in case we might need them in the chutes.  When I swung my legs over the bike frame and sat down my suspension bottomed out my pack was so heavy!

After a gentle ascent up the access road we came to the bottom of the Paulina Peak road.  We had to make the choice of whether to skin up the long road or go straight at the chutes themselves for a bootpack up them.  We chose the latter and chucked our bikes over a snowbank to hide them before heading into the woods on our skins.  

In very little time we found ourselves at the base of the chutes.  We skinned up them in broad switchbacks until we decided it would be more efficient to just boot pack straight up the main chute.  Hartz took the lead for the first half and then I finished up to the top.  As we gained elevation with the hot sun we found ourselves sinking deeper and deeper into the slushy snow until I was sinking well over the tops of knees.  This was exhausting but the growing views of the Cascade peaks to the west as well as the amazing feeling of being in a steep, narrow chute more than made up for the trudging.

Once on top of the ridge we grabbed some quick food in windy conditions then skinned over to the true summit of Paulina so I could say I officially climbed it.  We walked around checking out the views to the west as well as the huge obsidian flow below us and the two lakes below separated by a massive landslide and lava flow in the middle of the Newberry Caldera.  I was very happy we had come up the cool chutes instead of the boring road to the summit.
From there we took off our skins, locked our heels and headed back towards the top of the ridge.  Upon arriving back where we had climbed up we found ourselves completely confused about which line to take down through the chutes.  On the way up we could see that about half of all the chutes cliffed out and were unskiable, but looking down at them from the top it was so steep we couldn’t tell which ones to safely ski!  We both assessed the area and looked back at my photos on the DSLR until we came to a decision and started heading down.  

Aaron took the lead as he is a more proficient skier and I followed.  It soon became apparent that the chute we chose ended in a cliff of unknown height.  We paused for a second while I used my higher position to scope out the area.  Luckily there was a narrow window of a large rock wall separating the chutes that we could pass through.  We carefully made our way through it to find ourselves in a different chute that ran safely out to the base of the cliffs.  

After a dozen or so more steep jump turns kicking up a decent amount of wet slough with us, we made it to the base of the chutes, totally stoked on what we had just skied.  I paused for a moment to give my legs a rest and then followed Aaron on some broad turns down to the tree line.  From there it was just a slow ski through the woods back to the road with some occasional pushing and duck climbing up some small hills along the way.  

Back at the road we put our skis back on our bags, mounted our bikes and had a really fun cruise down the road back to the car.  The wind had picked up and our skis on our packs acted like sails catching it and blowing us all over the road but managed to get down in one piece, laughing the whole way.  Back at the car we cracked a couple cold beers, at a can of King tiny tots sardines as is tradition with Hartz and I and headed back into town to meet up with Jennie at The Good Life for some beers and then a great BBQ with more beers back at their place with Leo.  What an amazing day!

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