Peak winter on the mountain

While Minnesota has 80 degree days, Oregon has been having January weather – storm after cold rainstorm with occasional snowflakes down to the valley floor.  At the moment we have a winter weather advisory, with 1-2 inches of wet snow possible overnight.

A month ago we drove up Marys Peak, but three cold storms dropped close to three feet of snow on the summit since then.  Last Sunday Ali and I decided to ski to the summit in a mix of showers and sun.  It may have been one of the coldest days of the year on the summit, starting out at 21 degrees with a high of 28.

Road report:  Passable to Connor’s Camp (2600 feet) in an AWD Subaru Forester, though I don’t think we would have made it in anything less.  (Snow is probably much deeper after tonight’s storm.)  One lifted truck made it almost to the upper gate.  Beyond that the snow is around 2-3 feet deep with deeper drifts – I would estimate that no wheeled vehicle will reach the top until mid-April at least.  On the plus side the road makes an excellent ski trail!

We made it - despite bottoming out and spinning in a couple of spots.

It’s 1500 feet up in about 4.5 miles to the summit, and the first three miles is a steady 6% grade.  We broke trail most of the way – a good cardio workout.

Breaking trail on the three-mile uphill.

The valley showers are mountain snow squalls, and up at the summit they are more like blizzards with 30 mph winds, freezing fog (since we are actually in the cloud), and whiteout blowing snow.  Farther down the snow falls peacefully.  We had 45 minutes of clear skies before it started dropping pea-sized snowballs a half hour from the summit.

Clear skies on the west shoulder of the mountain.

Final push to the summit in near-whiteout conditions

The only shelter from the wind.

We started to eat our lunch on top, but fog and blowing snow quickly froze our wet hands in the 9-degree wind chill (24 degrees, 21 mph wind gusting to 30), and we decided to scurry down and eat in a quieter spot.  But just as we snapped into our skis the storm broke, revealing an amazing palette of blue, a thousand shades of gray and white, and forest green.

Clear skies! All the way to the ocean.

It’s hard to believe that the only thing separating deep winter from lush green forest is a half mile of distance and 2000 feet of elevation.  Coming from a land where winter extends for hundreds of miles, I’m still not used to it.

Ali and the blowing snow.

Southward through the edge of the storm.

The road to the summit had completely drifted in on the southeast side, driven by the northwesterly storm winds

Skiing on the edge of the world. Hard to believe there's a road under there...

Frosted trees, looking south.

Down from the summit.

Ali descending.

We stopped to eat at the campground, where there was amazingly not a breath of wind despite being only 400 feet lower and a half mile away from the summit where the gale was still blowing.  28 degrees can feel warm in calm sunshine.

Stopped for lunch at the campground.

Immaculate snowscape.

Looks more like claymation than reality...

From the campground we had a three mile glide back to the car, just steep enough to require no effort but not enough to need to slow down.  There are few things more fun than a half-hour ski glide!

Thanks to Ali for a few of the pictures and for sharing the adventure with me.  Thanks to my Subaru for living up to its reputation and getting us there.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.