Saturday, February 4, 2017

Maiden Peak

With Eric back from New Zealand after his grand adventure we decided to join up with Ian, Chris, Kalin and Rob for another Maiden Peak Hut adventure.  We also invited along Eric’s friend Lauren whom he had done the John Muir Trail with back in 2012.  She was awesome and we all had a wonderful time with perfect snow conditions.  Read on.

We headed out of Portland early on Saturday morning, stopping at the great Ritz Diner in Salem, OR for a hearty breakfast.  We were on the trail from the lower lot by noon and we made fantastic time making it the hut under a fresh snowfall by 3pm.  There was a ton of snow this year and Lauren, who works for USDA servicing and maintaining SNOTEL sites said that we were over 130% of our typical snowfall!  It was partly sunny to start the hike in but by the time we reached the hut it was a steady snowfall.  

Ian, Rob and Kalin had beat us to the hut by getting an early start and paying to take the lift up from the resort, saving a few miles heading in and laying down faint tracks for us to follow on our way out which was nice.  They had started a fire for us and the hut was gradually heating but later took some repair work by Lauren and Chris to patch up near the ceiling to prevent heat escaping.  

The four of us had brought minimal alcohol but the others made up for it brining in stashes of whiskey and boxes of wine they happily shared.  We had a great late afternoon and evening playing one of the longest games of UNO in history and then a dice game that Rob taught us which I can’t remember the name of.  It was a little complicated after the booze but eventually we all got the hang of it.  Oddly, it was Rob, teacher of the game, who failed completely at the game.  Dumb luck I guess.  

We boiled vast amounts of water in large pots on top of the stove so we had plenty to drink the next day and to make dinner with.  Some packed in snacks and cheese and Rob cooked up pasta while the majority of us took the easy route with freeze dried meals which are always the easiest to prepare with the least amount of cleanup in the outdoors. Emily I did bring some chocolate bars to share with the group late night before we all hit the sacks around 9pm for a very good night of sleep in the loft above.  

On Sunday after a chill breakfast and coffee we all headed out into a fresh 6” snowfall overnight towards Maiden Peak several miles away.  We first began with Ian leading the way but after I noticed we were veering in one direction too much urged the group to steer left towards the actual trail which would prevent us getting possibly cliffed out or encountering rough terrain traps. We each took turns in the lead breaking trail and we made great time getting to the summit of the peak around 11am.  

It was windy as hell and cold on top so we didn’t stay very long.  We snapped some photos at the top for good measure, clicked in and started our extremely fun and fast descent back down to the hut.  The snow was amazing and Eric was so happy to be back on skis with us.  We even found a fun little cornice to drop at a small rock outcrop.  Straight to flat landing but the snow was so perfect it didn’t matter at all.  I took the lead on the way down and charged all the way back to the hut where everyone caught up to me shortly after.  The snowboarders and split boarders naturally took a bit longer.  

We all had a relaxing lunch in the hut, which we still had all to ourselves, before packing up all our overnight gear and heading out.  The original plan was to skirt around the lakes as we had done a few years earlier but the snow was getting heavier and wetter by the minute so I persuaded the group to keep to the ridge line and instead ascend up to the top of the resort for a leisurely ski down the trails.  This was the right choice as it saved us a bunch of time despite the short added ascent.  It even gave us a nice view of Maiden Peak in the distance on our route out.  My legs felt super strong so I led a good majority of the way following the terrain from my GPS app on my phone.  

When we got dow to the Willamette Pass Resort lodge we all grabbed a beer and fries just as the bar was shutting down and I rushed around getting warm clothes for Emily and sweeping the heavy snow off the truck which Chris had driven me to pick up at the lower lot.  Emily was beat and her feet were pretty badly blistered so I did my best to get her warm and dry.  On the way home we stopped in Oakridge at the Brewers Union for some delicious burgers and beers while the others continued back to Corvallis.  

It was a great weekend with perfect snow and great friends that we hope to do again soon.

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