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Another COVID-19 blow to Mt. Hood: Timberline lays off 471

Born as a project to create jobs and stimulate the economy during the Great Depression, Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood has found itself again in the throes of a worldwide crisis.

This time, however, the crisis has brought Timberline to a halt.

The Oregonian reported this week that Timberline has laid off 471 employees as a result of the statewide stay-at-home order prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

RLK and Company, which operates the lodge and ski area, filed a notice with the state about the layoffs. The cuts encompass all areas of the operation, from servers and dishwashers to lift operators, groomers and even the hosts at Silcox Hut.

Images from the lodge’s webcams on Saturday depict a ghost town of a resort. (Someone asked on Twitter if the lodge might need a caretaker for the season, a lighthearted reference to “The Shining,” part of which was filmed at the lodge.)

Here are a couple pictures of the lodge from sunnier times — and here’s to those sunnier times returning to everyone at Timberline and elsewhere as soon as possible.

From the 2019 Timberline Mountain Music Festival

Mount Hood is closed

Thinking of getting up to Mount Hood for a hike? A night under the stars? A paddle across an alpine lake?

The coronavirus has two words for you: Think again.

Timberline

Today, the Mt. Hood National Forest announced that it has temporarily closed all campgrounds, day-use sites, trailheads, Sno-Parks, fire lookouts, OHV areas and other developed recreation sites on the Mt. Hood National Forest.”

The reason, of course, is COVID-19 and the effort to contain it. In the Forest Service’s words, the closures aim to “support state and local measures directing people to stay home to save lives.”

The closures will be in effect until at least May 8, 2020.

Until we can get back out there, a few photos from some favorite Mount Hood sites.

Lost Lake
Mt. Hood Meadows
Mazama Trail
Lost Lake Butte

Spring skiing on Mt. Hood gets sick

Not sick as in sweet jumps or killer powder, but sick as in shut down due to the coronavirus.

Today, even as we were in the car on the way up to the mountain, both Mt. Hood Meadows and Timberline announced they were suspending operations for a least a week.

Mt. Hood, pre-COVID-19.

The ski areas are just the latest in a growing string of business closures as the COVID-19 pandemic grows. (Soon after hearing about Meadows and Timberline, I saw that the famous Powell’s Books has decided to close all five of its Portland locations until March 31.)

Summit Ski Area on Mt. Hood is also closed, as is the ski area at Cooper Spur Mountain Resort on the mountain’s north side. That latter closure isn’t related to COVID-19; it’s a lack of adequate snow.

As of Sunday March 15, at 12:45 p.m., Mt. Hood Skibowl remained open and is the only ski area on the mountain to do so.

With the way things are going, that probably won’t be the case much longer.


Mount Hood Gifts for 2019

It’s been a Christmas or two since I’ve updated this list of great Mount Hood gifts for mountain enthusiasts out there, but here’s the 2019 iteration, complete with some old favorites and some new additions:

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Shred-Hood-shirt-previewA former Portland Tribune colleague of mine, Ben Jacklet, co-founded Shred Hood in 2013 as a community news and information site to cover the skiing, snowboarding and backcountry on Mount Hood.

Subscriptions come in a couple different options, including one-time and ongoing. Each has its privileges, including a sweet T-shirt and bottle opener depending on your subscription.

Find out more at Shred Hood.  

bark_logoFeeling a little more philanthropic this holiday season? Consider making a donation to some of the environmental groups that have worked — and are always working — to protect the region’s wild places, including, of course, Mount Hood. (Bark’s mission is more Mount Hood-centric, while Oregon Wild covers the entire state; both have played major roles in protecting Mount Hood and the Mount Hood National Forest.)

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For more information about either of these groups, visit www.bark-out.org or www.oregonwild.org.

  •  Timberline Lodge Ram’s Head Fire Poker — Fashioned after the larger fireplace tools used at the storied Timberline Lodge, this hand-forged wrought iron poker is classic Timberline through and through. I met Darryl Nelson, the blacksmith behind much of the ironwork that’s been installed at Timberline over the past 30 years or so, and he told me guests regularly try to heist these out of the rooms. Not good. Instead, find them at the Timberline gift shop for $80. The shop also has a nice array of vintage-looking posters and artwork, books, souvenirs and more. Check it out.


Code 1244: The 1986 Mount Hood Tragedy — An Interview with author Ric Conrad

It’s one of the worst and most heartbreaking climbing accidents ever to happen on Mount Hood.

May 1986. Nine people dead, two adults and seven students from Oregon Episcopal School, a private Portland prep school. All of them had been a part of a climb of Mount Hood through the school’s Basecamp Wilderness Education Program.

A storm descended on the mountain. Some members of the climbing party turned back. Others didn’t and were pinned by the weather, forced to cram into a snow cave for shelter. When rescuers finally found the buried cave three days later, only two students were left alive.

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One of four Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopters involved in the OES search and rescue mission on May 15, 1986 — the day searchers finally found a buried snow cave and two survivors. Courtesy Ric Conrad/Wright Collection.

It’s a painful story that’s been told in a few different formats over the years, largely in newspaper and magazine stories. A synopsis of it is in On Mount Hood, but no one’s ever attempted to retell the entire story as a standalone book.

Until now.

Portland-area author Ric Conrad, who also wrote Mount Hood: Adventures of the Wy’east Climbers 1930-1942, spent the past four-plus years researching the OES tragedy with his wife, Sheri, poring over records and conducting close to 40 interviews to retrace the dramatic events that unfolded on the flanks of Mount Hood over four days in May 1986.

His new book about the disaster, Code 1244: The 1986 Mount Hood Tragedy, is an exhaustive and gripping dive into the OES disaster: what happened, who was involved, the mistakes that were made and how searchers managed to find a miracle of sorts just as their mission was on the verge of being called off for good. It’s also got new information and never-before-published photographs of the fateful climb and the rescue effort that ensued.

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Some of the photos inside Conrad’s new book. Courtesy Ric Conrad.

Conrad was kind enough to keep interested parties apprised of the progress of his work, from its initial days through its publication earlier this month. He was also up for what I’m going to call an exclusive interview about the book. (We did a similar one back in 2015 for the Wy’east Climbers book.)

Enjoy that here, and then pick up a copy of Code 1244 if you’re someone who wants to know just how the OES tragedy on Mount Hood unfolded.

What motivated you to write about what’s considered one of the saddest and most memorable tragedies on Mount Hood? If anyone has a touch of gray in their hair, we remember the tragedy, yet scores of questions continued to linger in the halls of our regional climbing clubs. The family members of the missing climbers also had their questions and concerns. There were mysteries here that I wanted solved, answers that could benefit others. The fact that the search and rescue (SAR) volunteers were aging also had to be taken into consideration. If I waited too long to begin this project, the leaders of this large operation might not be around to share their stories. The timing just seemed to be right. 

This story has been told and retold over the years, but never like this. What are some of the biggest revelations or new pieces of information that came from your research and that appeared in the book? For family and friends of the missing climbers, the two biggest questions were: Why did it take so long to locate the snow cave and why was there so much confusion on Wednesday morning? I believe I was able to provide answers to both of those important queries. 

I was able to outline the perfect storm of miscommunication that occurred on Wednesday morning, May 14, 1986. Equipment malfunctions, two different handwritten logs being kept at the same time, and Air Force military protocols — which prevented certain messages from being transmitted over an open radio channel — all contributed to the agonizing confusion among family members.  

The book clearly explains why it took so long to locate the snow cave. Throughout Tuesday morning, SAR workers were exploring the route the missing climbers had taken during their ascent. A consultant then hiked out of the blizzard and advised authorities that the missing party was holed up in a snow cave — on a completely different glacier. Even though multiple search teams tried in vain to reach the glacier through the storm, they were unable to even see the terrain clearly until the following morning. As the missing climbers didn’t have an altimeter with them, it was anyone’s guess as to what elevation the snow cave had been constructed. Members of the public had no idea how much terrain the searchers had to cover. Differences in snow probing techniques — coarse versus fine—additionally factored into minor delays, which all added up to additional hours spent on the mountain. 

Was it hard, 33 years after the tragedy, to find and interview the people who were involved in it? Surprisingly, no. I began by interviewing the three members of Portland Mountain Rescue (PMR) who are still serving their organization. They were able to provide me with the contact information of other key rescue personnel, and it sort of snowballed from there. From the families of the missing climbers’ perspective, it began with Frank McGinness, whose son was on the climbing team. Frank put us in touch with a former student at OES, who put us in touch with another member of the climbing team. That man put us in touch with yet another climber and, again, our network of contacts expanded, until my wife and I had interviewed thirty-seven people. 

Who were some of the personalities that stuck out most as you were compiling interviews?  Barry Wright certainly stands out. He was co-chief for PMR at the time. After our first recorded interview, he handed me a duffle bag, filled with primary source material. “I’ve been waiting for you for thirty years,” he remarked. It was an incredible compliment, but also a charge — provide an accurate version of events. I took that responsibility seriously. 

Interviewing Barry Wright

Author Ric Conrad (right) with Barry Wright, a search and rescue volunteer with Portland Mountain Rescue who was involved in the search for the OES climbers in 1986. Courtesy Ric Conrad.

Were some folks reluctant to talk? Naturally. For some family members, the tragedy might as well have taken place yesterday, and we certainly understood that. We respected their privacy. Having said that, one father was overjoyed to assist, stating that “No one is talking about my boy anymore. I want him to be remembered.”

Did you try to talk to Brinton Clark, Giles Thompson or Ralph Summers (three of the survivors of the tragedy)? Yes, all three. Dr. Clark gave a brief interview in 1996, but to my knowledge, she has declined to be interviewed ever since. We learned from Thompson’s mother that he declined to be interviewed. We tracked down Summers and mailed him a packet of information and a request for an interview. We never heard back from him but respect his privacy — his right to keep his memories to himself. 

Similarly, did you reach out to OES? If so, what was their response to you writing this book? The current headmaster of OES took my wife and I out to lunch, where we had a very frank and open conversation about the topic. I wanted to assure her that I had no agenda here. This was a search and rescue book and, now that it’s published, I am confident I have allayed any fears or reservations the school might have had. I think Tom Stringfield, of Portland Mountain Rescue, says it best. “The death of children is a difficult subject, and the author strikes a good, delicate balance between sensitivity and objectivity.”

Do you feel like you included everything in this book that you could, or did you have to leave a lot out? Oh, this book could have easily ballooned to 800 pages or more. The interviews were so interesting, we could have kept on going, but where do you draw the line? We felt we did a great job of what I call targeted interviewing. We tried to interview at least one member of each of the SAR teams, to obtain a feeling of what it was like to be in their boots, on their specific mission.

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Ed Hall and Mark Kelsey on the summit of Mount Hood. The longtime climbing partners were later involved in the OES search and rescue mission.   Courtesy Ric Conrad/Kelsey Collection.

Can you talk a little about your approach to writing and your style? This book reads very much like a detailed police or incident report; curious if you thought about taking any other approaches and why you ended up going with this one?  I started writing this book as if it was current day, and the witnesses were recalling their experiences. I was jumping back and forth, so many times between these two timelines —2014 and 1986 — that the writing became jumbled and difficult to understand. My wife suggested I try narrative nonfiction, and it was clearly great advice. With narrative non-fiction, as you read the book, it “is” 1986. Everything is in the present tense. I think that style makes it easier for the reader to follow the rescue and recovery operation. 

How did you land on the title? (I know what the code is, but curious about how you ended up with that as the title)?  I kept coming back to the fact that there were two logs being kept in real time. Deputies from the sheriff’s department were maintaining one, while PMR handled the other. Without giving away too much of the story, I always found it amazing that at least one deputy recorded in his log the awful truth of what had been discovered. Somehow, that information was not relayed to PMR leaders who were only a few feet away. That Wednesday morning was the epitome of madness and confusion, and Code 1244 just seemed to encapsulate the entire tragic affair. 

I know you know the mountain really well. Have you climbed it yourself? Oh, sure, but after reaching the summit three or four times, you recognize it’s just an incredibly small slice of real estate.  The mountain has so much more to offer. You begin to branch out and explore all manner of pockets of terrain: Langille Crags, Illumination Rock, Paradise Park, Cooper Spur, Mississippi Head, the Timberline Trail, etc.  

What do you think is the legacy or lesson of the ’86 tragedy, if there is one? I think the lesson learned was that even teenagers are simply too young to speak up for themselves and turn around when they feel they should. In 1986, the kids followed their designated leader who — probably suffering from the onset of hypothermia — kept moving the team higher and ever higher. 

What else do you want people to take away from this book? Although people will learn a lot about the search and rescue efforts by reading my book, we can’t overlook the incredible efforts demonstrated by the children themselves. Susan McClave, for example, shared her body heat with a fellow teen suffering from hypothermia. She also held the compass and led the team down from the upper reaches of Triangle Moraine. She barked orders inside the snow cave, ensuring people continued to shift their body positions in order to maintain circulation in their limbs. That’s a seventeen-year-old girl we’re talking about. Incredible presence of mind and strength of will. These kids deserve to be remembered. 

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Courtesy Ric Conrad

 


Timberline’s sweet Cyber Monday deal for 2019

Buy one, get one? Nope.

Try buy one, get two.

That’s the smokin’ deal that Timberline Lodge has offered on Cyber Monday for the past few years, and it’s hard to beat. For the price of just one single mid-week lift pass, you get the pass you paid for, plus two free mid-week passes that are good almost anytime Monday through Friday  between December 2 and May 25, 2020, though not during winter break between Dec. 20 and Jan 1.

Even with those restrictions, there’s little complaining here. We’ve taken advantage of the deal in the past, and plan to again this year.

The sale runs through midnight Monday, Dec. 2.

You can also get the same deal in person on Black Friday, when Timberline will be at evo Portland from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

What’s more, Timberline announced that, thanks to some recent new snow, it will open for business on Thursday, Nov. 28. None of the other resorts on Hood have announced plans to open this week, but Meadows is harvesting snow and may have a few preview days this weekend. 

Update 11/27/19: Meadows has made it official: It will open a few runs over the Thanksgiving weekend starting on Friday. In addition, Skibowl plans to open its tubing hill on Friday, Nov. 29, as does the Summit Ski Area in Government Camp. 

 

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Like a rock — on Mt. Hood

I have a small collection of rocks from Mt. Hood at home that remind me of the mountain whenever I pick them up or spy them: a small piece of  lava from the banks of the Sandy River high up on the mountain’s flanks, a striated clump from an epic trip around the mountain in 2013, a stony block from a favorite Sandy River spot shaped somewhat like a mountain that marks the final resting place of my favorite four-legged friend. 

During our Labor Day outing on the mountain this year, Madeline found me another one to add to the collection. It’s an absolutely uncanny replication of Mt. Hood itself, which she found at one of our all-time favorite Sandy River spots.

This one, I know, will stay with me for a long, long time.  The appearance, the profile of the rock compared to the mountain itself,  is simply too dead on.

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Labor Day Weekend 2019 on Mount Hood

Summer’s going to fade fast. We know it is.

So around here, we do our best to make the most of all that we can, even if it sometimes makes us a little rough around the edges. Case in point: A three-day weekend on Mount Hood at the close of the first week of school.

We headed to a favorite area near the Sandy River and Zigzag, which was super crowded but not entirely crammed. It served as our home base for the weekend, which found us doing everything from picking early huckleberries, shooting BB guns and exploring a now-off-limits Sandy River beach to taking in “The Princess Bride” at Mt. Hood Meadows, hiking Tamanawas Falls and enjoying a tribute to the Grateful Dead at Timberline Lodge during their annual Mountain Music Fest.

The weather was amazing, the mountain bare but scenic and all of us having an escape that we’ll be thinking about once all this sunshine fades and we’re bundled up inside on a sofa in late January.

A few photos to illustrate the weekend:

Our secret Sandy River spot remains.

Picking huckleberries near the Sandy River.

Watching “The Princess Bride” like we’re at the drive-in at Mt. Hood Meadows.

 

This is when we first hiked Tamanawas Falls all together in 2012.

And here they are today.

 

Madeline’s Tamanawas selfie.

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Timberline’s Mountain Music Fest.

 

 

 


The 2019 ski season starts on Mount Hood

For the most part, we’re fair-weather skiers. Springtime. Blue sky. Sunshine.

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But every year, we do get a couple winter runs in, usually thanks to Timberline’s Cyber Monday deal, which is a buy-one-get-two free pass deal they run every year the Monday after Thanksgiving. You have to use them midweek and not during the winter break, but otherwise they’re fair game.

We cashed in a few of those freebies on a cold Presidents’ Day this year — a day that shifted from bluebird skies to eerie whiteout conditions depending on where you were on the mountain and when.

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It was a great way to start our 2019 ski season on Hood.


The Best Mount Hood Sledding for 2019

Membership has its sledding perks.

In this case, that’s having a son who is a member of Cub Scout Pack 413. As a result, we were able to head out on a Mount Hood sledding adventure two weeks ago with his fellow scouts to the Aubrey Watzek Lodge near White River.

The lodge was, unfortunately, locked up. But the sledding hill was wide open and made for a great Sunday afternoon.

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A snow cave break from sledding.

But don’t worry. If you don’t have a Cub Scout connection, there’s still some great sledding to be had on Mount Hood. Here are some some of the best sledding spots on Mount Hood for 2019.

White River Sno-Park — About 4 miles north of US 26 on Oregon 35 just south of Mt. Hood Meadows, the White River Sno-Park is great for easy, fun and free sledding on Mount Hood with little ones. The closest hill is just a five-minute walk up the snowy road from the parking lot; bigger and better hills are just a little farther along. Because it’s also a popular skiing and snowshoeing spot, White River can be a touch crowded, but it’s expansive enough that there’s room enough for everyone. And with an incredible view of the mountain as backdrop, there’s little to complain about. (It doesn’t cost anything to sled here other than a Sno-Park permit. If you buy a permit from a DMV, they’re $4; most vendors that sell them jack them up a buck or two.)

Little John Sno-Park — At 3,700 feet just 30 miles south of Hood River on Oregon 35, this free Sno-Park (free sledding on Mount Hood except for the Sno-Park permit) is fairly low in elevation, so if it’s a low snow year the pickings can be slim. (As of Dec. 28, 2018, there is not enough snow at the park for sledding.) But when there is snow, the sledding looks like good fun. There’s also an old log warming hut. The Forest Service only allows plastic sleds and tubes.

Summit Ski Area — Mount Hood’s oldest ski area (now owned by the folks who operate Timberline) is also home to a tubing area. You can’t bring your own sled, but for $26, you get a tube from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Summit is just east of Government Camp.

Snow Bunny — It used to be that you had to use tubes provided by Summit at this sledding hill east of Government Camp, but this year, it’s different. The Forest Service notes on its site that there are no fees here from November 2018 to May 2019 and personal sledding devices are permitted.

Cooper Spur Mountain Resort — A sleepy but quaint little resort on the beautiful north side of Mount Hood, Cooper Spur is home to a tubing park with a rope tow. (As of Dec. 28, the tubing park was still listed as “coming soon.”) Ten bucks for the morning or afternoon, which includes some great views of the north side of Mount Hood on the drive up from Hood River.

Mt. Hood Skibowl — The closest ski area to Portland is also home to a snow tubing area. Cost is $27 for adults for three hours and $22 for juniors. The area includes a tube conveyor for heading back up the hill. In addition to regular tubing, Skibowl also offers Cosmic Tubing on weekend nights with laser lights, black lights, music and more.

Other Sno Parks and Areas — The Forest Service also lists Sledding and Tubing as activities at these other Mount Hood Sno Parks: Government Camp Summit Sno Park and Multorpor Sno Park. I’ve also seen reports of sledding opportunities at Trillium Lake, near the Hemlock Trail in Government Camp and elsewhere.


On Mount Hood — without Oliver

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Oliver in Paradise Park.

Yesterday marked a year since Oliver left us after almost 13-and-a-half years. We raised our glasses to him at dinner and talked about him throughout the day.

I’d also written a little recollection about him over the summer after a hike up the Mazama Trail on Mount Hood with my friend Mark Pomeroy in July. That hike sparked a lot of memories of Oliver, as he and I had done it together five years earlier. 

This is what I wrote. 

I still see him every day.

Not literally, of course. He’s been gone now for just over seven months, so there’s no real chance of that.

But I still see Oliver in so many passages throughout my daily life, even though he’s not physically there anymore.

When I wake up in the morning, I see him following me downstairs, heading outside, coming back in for his breakfast. Now, though, where once there was a loping black lab, there is a sly black kitty, Morrie, whose food is in the same can in the pantry that Oliver’s was.

I run down the road and along the Willamette River, which I’ve done for more than 10 years now, and I know he’s not there next to me anymore. But there were so many times he was. Ten years’ worth, and so I see his black shape there always, running alongside me, tongue lolling, nails scraping the pavement; when I’m running through the natural trail section that heads under Highway 43, I see him bounding through the greenery, running up over the boulders, slopping up water from the creek.

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At home, I swear I hear his feet and toenails clicking across the kitchen floor. Occasionally I’ll see him moving across the backyard or waiting behind the slats of the side gate when I pull in after a long day of work.

But nowhere do I see Oliver more than when I’m on the trail, out in the world. Spencer remembered so clearly as we hiked Blacklock Point in June how the last time we’d done it, it was him, Oliver and me, and Oliver had gotten perilously close to the edge of the cliffs.

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On that most recent trip, even though he wasn’t with us anymore,  I saw Oliver running zigzags across the beach, his ears flopping in the wind atop the cliffs, the grass flattened where he would have laid after a long day of exploration.

The reason I still see him, aside from the fact that I loved him so much and he was such a good friend to me, is that he was just always there with me. At home. On the trail. In the campsite. On his bed at my side. Always.

I saw him so much today on the Mazama Trail up Cathedral Ridge to McNeil Point with Pomerory. It’s been five years, almost exactly, since Oliver and I hiked up that trail for the first time ever. I remember that hike so vividly, how we’d never gone to McNeil that way, how Oliver’s tongue lolled way out during our lunch break, how natural he was off-leash when he was on the trail.

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I couldn’t stop thinking about that hike with him today. So much sadness. But there he was again, darting after a chipmunk, lapping up a drink from a crystal-clear stream, seemingly smiling for the camera from our lunch break spot.

Oliver was always with me. I know he always will be.

But my heart breaks every time I think I see him and then remember that he’s not really there anymore.

 


Fall on Mount Hood

We started off the camping season back in May, popping up a new tent in one of our go-to spots near the Sandy River, Riley Horse Camp. It was a beautiful weekend that included a little skiing and some horseback riding, courtesy of some friendly folks we met in the campground.

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Fast-forward through a summer full of the great outdoors — a backpack on the Southern Oregon Coast, summiting South Sister, a far and wide road trip through the Midwest, four days on Lost Lake, Hood to Coast with my Run of the Press crew from the Portland Business Journal, camping in the Ochocos and at Peach Beach in the Gorge, and plenty more — and we found ourselves back at Riley Horse Camp this past weekend for a great bookend to the summer camping season.

It was cold, sure, but it was sunny and gorgeous and a perfect way to wring the most out of Mount Hood this summer.

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The 2018 Ski Season on Mount Hood (so far . . .)

It’s been an up and down year for snow on Mount Hood thus far.

Back in February, some parts of the mountain had just 50 to 60 percent of their normal snow. We were skiing then, and you could tell. Even high up on the Magic Mile, rocks were exposed in a way that usually doesn’t come until late April or so.

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February

Since then, however, the snow has piled up. The snowpack is still below annual averages, but there’s plenty more of it now than there was earlier this year.

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March

And this past weekend, on Sunday, it was coming down like January. All day long it fell, creating amazing conditions for skiing all afternoon long.

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April

We’ll see what the rest of spring brings to Mount Hood.

 


Hood to Coast 2017 with the PBJ

I’ve heard about the pain, the traffic snarls, the dust and darkness and exhaustion. But I’ve also heard about the fun and the camaraderie and the experience that comes from running in Hood to Coast, the roughly 200-mile relay that starts high up on Mount Hood and finishes on the sandy beaches of Seaside on the Pacific Ocean.

It’s always been an intrigue to me, and while I’ve wanted to join a team for years, I never have. This year, however, the opportunity finally arose.

Actually, it came up last year, during a happy hour at Kelly’s Olympian with my colleagues from the Portland Business Journal. I believe it was Elizabeth Hayes who offhandedly suggested that we all do it. I was instantly in, as was just about everyone else, though I’m not sure we expected to win the lottery that you have to enter to grab one of the 1,050 available team slots.

But we did, and months later, Hood to Coast 2017 is upon the 12 of us, along with several generous volunteers who have signed on to help out all the runners. Our first runner heads down from Timberline Lodge at about 11:30 Friday morning and, if all goes as planned, we’ll run across the finish line as a team at the beach in Seaside late on Saturday afternoon.

Our team name? Run of the Press, which has some old-school journalism connotations.

Hood to Coast 2017. Friday. Here we go.

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Spring Skiing on Mount Hood 2017

I suppose this is the season we should have bought spring passes for Timberline Lodge & Ski Area, seeing as how it’s still flush with snow in June while all the other resorts have long since closed.

But there’s no complaining. We spent a snowy, snowy weekend at Timberline back in March for Spencer’s birthday, stayed for a week in Government Camp for spring break and skied at Mt. Hood Meadows five of seven days, and made the most of an epic spring ski season that went strong until Meadows closed for the year on May 6.

It was a great season. On Mount Hood, they all are.

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The snow piled up at Timberline Lodge in early March for Spencer’s birthday weekend.

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Tons of snow made for deep powder skiing at Timberline in early March.

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Spring break at Mt. Hood Meadows was largely socked in, but the sun broke through every now and then.

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Madeline cruising down Vista at Mt. Hood Meadows, a favorite run on the mountain.

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Another great ski season on Mount Hood.

 


Meeting some mountaineering royalty

There was a chance that Stacy Allison, the first American woman to climb Mt. Everest, wasn’t going to make it to the kickoff event for this year’s Climb for Clean Air program last night. She was on her way back from Denver, and the timing of it all made it a little uncertain.

But she made it — in time to catch some pics from a Hood slideshow even — and added another notch to the list of pretty incredible people that we’ve met over the years.


Climbing for clean air on Mount Hood

Last year, a colleague of mine at the Business Journal, Cathy Cheney, climbed Mount Hood for the first time. She even carried a copy of On Mount Hood all the way to the summit.

Cheney on Hood

Cheney did the climb through a program of the American Lung Association called the Climb for Clean Air. Through that, climbers raise funds for the ALA while training and, ultimately, climbing Northwest peaks.

It’s a cool program and one that I recently wrote about for the Business Journal in a Q&A with Stacy Allison, the first American woman to summit Everest. She’s a Portlander and has been involved in the climbing program for years.

There’s a kickoff party for the hike leaders, assistants and past and present participants this Tuesday at the Lucky Labrador in Northwest Portland. I’ll be there with some climbing pics and tales (and, of course, a few books) to get people in the mountain mood.

While the Mt. Hood climb is all filled up for this year — you can still sign up for the wait list — there are spots still available for the Rainier and Baker climbs. Find out more at www.climbforcleanair.com.

 


The Best Mount Hood Sledding for 2017

We haven’t been up to Mount Hood for any sledding yet this winter, but a few inches a couple weeks ago made for some decent runs right here in the neighborhood.

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All that’s gone now. But Hood is seeing some mammoth snowfall this year, and the sledding’s bound to be good. Here are some some of the best sledding spots on Mount Hood for 2017.

White River Sno-Park — About 4 miles north of US 26 on Oregon 35 just south of Mt. Hood Meadows, the White River Sno-Park is great for easy, fun and free sledding on Mount Hood with little ones. The closest hill is just a five-minute walk up the snowy road from the parking lot; bigger and better hills are just a little farther along. Because it’s also a popular skiing and snowshoeing spot, White River can be a touch crowded, but it’s expansive enough that there’s room enough for everyone. And with an incredible view of the mountain as backdrop, there’s little to complain about. (It doesn’t cost anything to sled here other than a Sno-Park permit. If you buy a permit from a DMV, they’re $4; most vendors that sell them jack them up a buck or two.)

Little John Sno-Park — At 3,700 feet just 30 miles south of Hood River on Oregon 35, this free Sno-Park (free sledding on Mount Hood except for the Sno-Park permit) is fairly low in elevation, so if it’s a low snow year the pickings can be slim. But when there is snow, the sledding looks like good fun. There’s also an old log warming hut. The Forest Service only allows plastic sleds and tubes.

Summit Ski Area — Mount Hood’s oldest ski area is also home to a tubing area. You can’t bring your own sled, but for $20, you get a tube from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. For weekdays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., it’s $15. frM-F; kids 48″ and under are $10. Summit is just east of Government Camp. Summit also operates Snow Bunny, a little Sno-Park next door, where you can tube (not sled) for $15 all day.

Cooper Spur Mountain Resort — A sleepy but quaint little resort on the beautiful north side of Mount Hood, Cooper Spur is home to a tubing park with a rope tow. Ten bucks for the morning or afternoon, which includes some great views of the north side of Mount Hood on the drive up from Hood River.

Mt. Hood Skibowl — The closest ski area to Portland is also home to a snow tubing area. Cost is $25 for adults for three hours, $19 for juniors; an all-day tube ticket is $50. The area includes a tube conveyor for heading back up the hill. In addition to regular tubing, Skibowl also offers Cosmic Tubing on weekend nights with laser lights, black lights, music and more.

Other Sno Parks and Areas — The Forest Service also lists Sledding and Tubing as activities at these other Mount Hood Sno Parks: Government Camp Summit Sno Park and Multorpor Sno Park. I’ve also seen reports of sledding opportunities at Trillium Lake, near the Hemlock Trail in Government Camp and elsewhere.


Timberline’s sweet Cyber Monday deal

Buy one, get one? Nope.

Try buy one, get two.

That’s the smokin’ deal that Timberline Lodge has offered on Cyber Monday for the past few years, and it’s hard to beat. For the price of just one single mid-week lift pass, you get the pass you paid for, plus two free mid-week passes that are good almost anytime Monday through Friday  between December 1 and May 29, 2017, though not during winter break between Dec. 19 and Jan 2.

Even with those restrictions, there’s little complaining here. We’ve taken advantage of the deal in the past, and plan to again this year.

The sale runs through midnight tonight.

Mskiing mile 4.8.14

 


Kids on Cooper Spur — again

Four years ago, we saddled up and took the kids, then six and two, up to one of our favorite spots on Mount Hood — Cooper Spur.

Back then, Madeline was a little less jaded about uphill hikes, and Spencer? Well, he had it pretty easy at the time, hitching a ride on my back and cruising in relative comfort.

This summer, we decided to head back to our spot on Cooper Spur. It might have been a little harder on Madeline, and Spencer may have had to motor up on his own two legs, but they did it just fine. Like I noted when we did it the first time around, it wasn’t always easy. But the weather, the views, the company, and the fact that Spencer hiked with me all the way to the end of the Cooper Spur day hike made anything that seemed at all hard all the more worth it.

We’ll be back to Cooper Spur, I’m sure.

A rare sunset shadow cast on the cloud layer above, which almost makes it seem like the mountain might be erupting. 

img_6282Spence making his way up Cooper Spur with a smile. 

img_6291Topping out at about 8,500 feet on Cooper Spur. 

img_6295Down we go. 


On Mount Hood — literally

Whenever I‘ve climbed Mount Hood, one of my goals with my pack has always been to go fairly light. Maybe a bigger camera, an extra layer or two for the weather, a little more food. But for the most part, the bare essentials usually has done me just fine.

Hauling a book to the summit? I don’t think it’s ever crossed my mind.

But that’s just what my colleague at the Portland Business Journal, photographer Cathy Cheney, did last month when she climbed to the top of Hood for the American Lung Association’s annual Climb for Clean Air.

In a post for the Business Journal, Cheney wrote about how the opportunity to climb Hood had come to her out of the blue, at a time when she was up for a challenge and ready to step out of her comfort zone. So she signed up, trained for almost six months, and found herself standing atop the 11,245-foot summit of Mount Hood — and raising $3,400 for the ALA along the way — in early June.

While she was getting herself in shape for the climb, Cheney also picked up a copy of On Mount Hood, which I signed for her and used to wish her well.

The morning after her successful climb, Cheney sent me a photo I never would have expected:

Cheney on Hood

Apparently she had room in her pack for the copy of the book. It made it to the summit with her, but 40-mile-an-hour winds prevented prolonged photo ops at the top, so this one’s from a little ways down from the summit.

Even so, I can almost guarantee On Mount Hood has never been that high on Mount Hood before.

Now it has. Congrats, Cathy!

 


Scenes from a Ski Season on Mount Hood

Sure, it’s been over for us for just about a month now, but it was a good one this year, the ski season on Mount Hood.

For us, not hardcore skiers by any means, it didn’t even start until early March, when Amy and I took a day on the slopes to ourselves to mark our 20 years together while the kids learned away. We sampled Timberline’s new Phlox Cabin and just got our ski legs on for the season.

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While we’ve done Timberline’s spring pass in the past, we decided to branch out this year and check out just what Mt. Hood Meadows had to offer. Lame, I know, that in our nearly two decades here in Oregon, we’ve never skied at Meadows, even though we’ve hiked through it and sledded just down the road at White River.

From the first go at it, though, we were hooked.

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Wow. We’d heard some rumors about Meadows compared to Timberline: that it was overcrowded, full of attitude, expensive. None of that came to light for us.

Instead, what we found  all spring season long was a flood of new terrain and vistas that we’d never taken in before, friendly folks all around and just a fun, mountain atmosphere. Some scenes from this season as we look forward to next (but head into a sunny summer first) . . .

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Timberline’s new Phlox Point Cabin

It’s not like Timberline needed anything to make it even more enjoyable, even more charming, even more appealing than it already is.

But this year, the lodge upped its attraction for the winter crowd with the addition of the Phlox Point Cabin.

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A former Boy Scout cabin that Timberline renovated last year, Phlox Point Cabin is the perfect place for a midday lunch, a warming spell on a chilly ski day or a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

Amy and I made ourselves comfortable inside Phlox Point a few weeks ago when we marked the day we’d met 20 years ago in Clearwater Beach, Fla., with a ski day on a mountain thousands of miles away from those sandy shores.We’d skied for most of the morning, sans kiddos, and decided to break at the cabin for lunch. It was the right call, and the cabin and its offerings — tacos, IPAs, wine by the glass, a roasting fire inside and seating areas inside and out — are just about all you could ask for a mid-mountain hideaway.

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The best Mount Hood sledding for 2016

Last year, it was all we could do to find a little snow for sledding. This year, thankfully, that’s not the case.

According to state hydrologists, we’ve already exceeded last year’s snowpack, and it’s only January.

That’s good news for skiers, snowboarders and sledders, who’ve been flocking to Mount Hood to partake. We did as much last weekend on an annual sledding foray to White River.

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While there was plenty of traffic, there was also plenty of snow, and that’s really all that mattered.

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Here’s a list of some of the best sledding spots on Mount Hood for 2016.

  • White River Sno-Park — About 4 miles north of US 26 on Oregon 35 just south of Mt. Hood Meadows, the White River Sno-Park is great for easy, fun and free sledding on Mount Hood with little ones. The closest hill is just a five-minute walk up the snowy road from the parking lot; bigger and better hills are just a little farther along. Because it’s also a popular skiing and snowshoeing spot, White River can be a touch crowded, but it’s expansive enough that there’s room enough for everyone. And with an incredible view of the mountain as backdrop, there’s little to complain about. (It doesn’t cost anything to sled here other than a Sno-Park permit. If you buy a permit from a DMV, they’re $3; most vendors that sell them jack them up to $5.)
  • Little John Sno-Park — At 3,700 feet just 30 miles south of Hood River on Oregon 35, this free Sno-Park (free sledding on Mount Hood except for the Sno-Park permit) is fairly low in elevation, so if it’s a low snow year the pickings can be slim. But when there is snow, the sledding looks like good fun. There’s also an old log warming hut. The Forest Service only allows plastic sleds and tubes.
  • Summit Ski Area — Mount Hood’s oldest ski area is also home to a tubing area. You can’t bring your own sled, but for $20, you get a tube from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. For weekdays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., it’s $15. frM-F; kids 48″ and under are $10. Summit is just east of Government Camp. Summit also operates Snow Bunny, a little Sno-Park next door, where you can tube (not sled) for $15 all day.
  • Cooper Spur Mountain Resort — A sleepy but quaint little resort on the beautiful north side of Mount Hood, Cooper Spur is home to a tubing park with a rope tow. Ten bucks for the morning or afternoon, which includes some great views of the north side of Mount Hood on the drive up from Hood River.
  • Mt. Hood Skibowl — The closest ski area to Portland is also home to a snow tubing area. Cost is $25 for adults for three hours, $19 for juniors; an all-day tube ticket is $50. The area includes a tube conveyor for heading back up the hill. In addition to regular tubing, Skibowl also offers Cosmic Tubing on weekend nights with laser lights, black lights, music and more.
  • Other Sno Parks and Areas — The Forest Service also lists Sledding and Tubing as activities at these other Mount Hood Sno Parks: Government Camp Summit Sno Park and Multorpor Sno Park. I’ve also seen reports of sledding opportunities at Trillium Lake, near the Hemlock Trail in Government Camp and elsewhere.