September Mt. Hood Cupfest

Eliot Glacier, Mt. Hood's northeast aspect.

Eliot Glacier, Mt. Hood’s northeast aspect.

You guessed it, month 9 of my second attempt at Turns All Year (skiing each month of the year), was a total suncup-fest! My first time skiing in September! I’ve now officially skied every month of the year! I was hoping to do something a little more exciting, but hey, the fact that I could ski in September, and the fact that I’m writing this after skiing amazing October powder and can say retrospectively that September was the worst month this year to ski, well…

From the road to Cloud Cap Inn, Mt. Hood, Oregon

From the road to Cloud Cap Inn, Mt. Hood, Oregon

This marks my first time on Cooper Spur, the northeast side of Mt. Hood (11,250, Oregon’s highest), and first time seeing the historic Cloud Cap Inn. Mount Hood is amazing. Driving up this close on the steeper north side is an exceptional experience, especially since a recent fire has opened up the view on the approach dramatically. Hood’s north face is rather imposing from this perspective.

What's left of the Eliot Glacier, Mt. Hood, Oregon, September 2014

What’s left of the Eliot Glacier, Mt. Hood, Oregon, September 2014

Cooper Spur trails waste no time gaining altitude and getting you to the base of the peak. Hopefully your heart is up for the task! I decided to stay on a knife-edge ridge/moraine at the edge of Eliot glacier run out. At the end I had to scramble up faint climber trails to re-gain the Spur proper, but the views were worth it. I was hoping for a sweet patch on the Eliot, but alas, the conditions looked horrible, with rocks and pumice covering most of the lower glacier.

Instead I aimed for a couple of small snowfields on the Spur, and after seeing Don’s August turns on the diminutive Gem Lake Couloir in Montana’s Bitterroots, I was satisfied I’d make the bar on my monthly quest. I’m always amazed how close objects look on big mountains versus how long it takes you to approach them. After what seemed like an eternity, and with the sun fading fast, I made it to the top of three discontinuous patches.

Shadow of Mt. Hood creeps east at sunset, September, 2014

Shadow of Mt. Hood creeps east at sunset, September, 2014

After switching over to ski mode and watching the triangular shadow of the mountain creep out toward the east with the setting sun, I drank a Fort George Vortex IPA and was thankful that I get to do things like this, sun-cupped-bitch-of-a-line or not! I made 10 turns down the steepest part of the first patch and then booted to the top for another go. The suncups were deep, many like bath tubs. My skis slayed them. Consider I’m in the most awful conditions and I was thinking, I’d ski miles of this crap right now. Miles. And so it was.
2014-Sept-TAY-Hood-Vortex

September stands for suncups!

September stands for suncups!

Shorts, check!

Shorts, check!

The second trip down I connected to the lower patch through a vertical line of snow, barely narrow enough to turn in. Lucky for me I had just seen the video below, “Schwackcountry” and was somehow empowered to ski some crappy lines! This guys skis over open crevasses on suncups! Watch it for 17 seconds and you’ll see what I mean! Crazy!

Glacier Season 4: Shwackcountry from Adrian Dingle on Vimeo.

Plenty of suncupped turns to go around

Plenty of suncupped turns to go around

I portaged across to a couple more patches, each becoming dirtier and sticker. At the bottom of the last, I paused, switched back to hiking mode, and was once again grateful for this bounty. I’ve got four extremities that do the job, and lungs and a heart that will let me climb these majestic peaks, at least for now. Month 9. Turns All Year.

You don't ski back to your car in September. In Oregon.

You don’t ski back to your car in September. In Oregon.

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