2012 Ring of Fire Tour
Mount McLoughlin, OR – 9,495 ft
Mount McLoughlin is a must ski. Put it on the list! It’s my favorite volcano we have skied so far on the Volcano Tour. I began with low expectations for multiple reasons: the lack of beta about the peak, the road closure, and the exhaustion I felt from skiing Mount Shasta the day before were definitely on the list. But I had – we had – an amazing day. The adventure, the perfect snow, the competition-worty terrain … it all came together for us on Day 3 of the Volcano Tour.
“Mount McLoughlin is the highest peak in southern Oregon, a beautiful near-symmetrical volcanic cone. Despite being the highest point in a 200-mile stretch of the Cascade Range between the Three Sisters and Mount Shasta, McLoughlin is relatively unknown and often overlooked. The Northeast Bowls of Mount McLoughlin are easily the finest ski descent in Southern Oregon, with a sustained 45-degree pitch in the upper sections and nice open cruising below.” www.skimountaineer.com
Mount McLoughlin was the first volcano to test the team logistically. Doubt was creeping in through the windows of the Land Yacht. Dav, feeling deflated due to the lack of beta said, “We need to be prepared for the possibility that we don’t ski all of the volcanos. I thought weather would be are biggest hurdle, but logistically McLoughlin might not work out. Maybe we should just head to Theilson?” Luckily, Daron had spent the previous three hours on his GPS and felt confident that he could navigate the forest. The only other deterrent was that the road to the trailhead might still be covered in snow. There was only one way to find out!
I went to bed feeling exhausted from Shasta and a little wary about the next day’s adventure. The road to the trailhead was covered in snow, which meant we would have o hike in an additional three miles before we even began the ascent. And we weren’t totally sure we had the correct road to the trailhead. Daron had plotted a route on his GPS, but the road we planned to follow didn’t match the road on the GPS. It was going to be an adventure.
Dav’s alarm went off at 5:30 am which is a later start than we had wanted – we decided that trying to navigate the thick forest in the dark would be futile, but we hoped the sunlight would give us a little advantage. A quick breakfast was in order due to our late start. We whipped up some Hulk Smoothies which are quickly becomning a favorite breakfast item for the team.
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 cup kale
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1 tbsp flax seed
- 1 banana
- 1 tbsp Maca Powder (the secret weapon)
At 7:00 am, we headed up the forest service road, not sure if we would find the trailhead. The morning was gorgeous; even if we were on the wrong road and didn’t find the peak, it was worth the walk.
Three miles up the forest service road we came to a small, non-discript sign. We were all hoping the sign would say “Mount McLoughlin this way,” but we weren’t so lucky. Daron to the rescue!
Luckily, we found the trailhead. But we still needed to find the peak. We quickly changed out of our shoes into our boots. Next step, navigate the forest. The trees were huge and the only thing we could see was blue sky. Suffice to say, without Daron and his GPS, we may not have skied McLoughlin today.
After an hour of skinning through the trees, we caught our first glimpse of Mount McLoughlin. We were stoked to say the least. Afterall, it looked like we were going to ski McLoughlin today. I knew Dav was excited because he doubled his skinning speed, and we were off. Around 8,000 ft., we skinned above treeline and saw our first view of the area.
The view was spectacular. We could see Shasta to the south and Theilson to the north. It is very unique to be able to see where you’ve been and where you are going from where you are presently – that’s something we’ve all enjoyed on this trip. From the summit of of McLoughlin, I could see Shasta to the south and Theilson to the north. How great would it be to have that clear perspective on life?
Not only was the view fantastic, but the terrain of the East Face looked sick!
Once we cleared treeline, the rest of the approach was a breeze. There was a perfect ridge to skin all the way to the summit. There is something rewarding about skinning to the summit. The skiing was as good as it looked!
McLoughlin should be at the top of your list of ski mountaineering destinations. I would go right now. The snow is awesome. It is warming up, so plan to ski early. It took us five hours to reach the summit. I wouldn’t call it a slog, but I would bring a friend who knows the way of a GPS to help navigate the forest. And I would highly recommend a “quick” dip in the Lake of Woods to cool off after your ski. The water is a refreshing 32 degrees!
2012 Ring Of Fire Tour
Blog Post May 5, 2012 Written By Chris Daventport
Lassen Peak, CA 10,457’
Our first ski experience of this project couldn’t have gone much better. Daron, Jess and I have been so excited to get this trip underway, and now that we have our first peak under our belts, we are thrilled.
After a three hour drive from Reno with “Captain” Grant Burrow behind the wheel, we pulled into Lassen National Park and the “Devastated Area” parking lot at 5 pm. We spent the good part of two hours pulling all our gear and food out of the RV to sort and organize everything. With two weeks of food from Whole Foods, Bare Naked, and Clif Bar on-board for 5-6 people a day we had a lot to go through.
Although it probably wasn’t necessary to wake up so early for what would be a relatively short climb and ski, we were so anxious that we had the coffee on and were gearing up at 6:15 am. The sunrise illuminated the grand NE Face of Lassen, the unstable weather having pushed out the day before.
We were skinning through the forest at 7 am and by 8 were above the treeline and climbing steadily. If any of you have been following Jess’ blog or her tweets (@jessmcmillan) you will know that she has been training like crazy at her home in Jackson, WY, and has climbed almost 75,000 vertical feet in the last three weeks. I was feeling good as well, having just come back from a wonderful trip to the Alaska Range, and Daron, well, he’s just about as strong as they come.
We hit the summit of Lassen in just under three hours after a straight-forward skin directly up the NE Face. We ended up boot-packing the final 1000 feet as it was just a bit too steep and slippery to skin, even with ski crampons. There was a breezy north wind blowing up there, which cools you down quick, especially if your at all sweaty from the effort getting up there. But our spirits were high and the views spectacular.
Our next objective, Mt. Shasta, shown brightly in the distance as we pulled skins and stepped into our bindings. *** (Insert Mt. Shasta shot) The NE Face is big and has many options. Jess dropped in first and went skiers left into a steep and clean gully filled with fresh, wind-deposited snow. I headed over to the north-facing bowl skiers right and had some awesome high-speed turns on soft snow, and Daron traversed across the upper face and dropped into an east-facing couloir that some friends of our had skied the day before. The fact that we all skied the face top-to-bottom without stopping was a testament to how great it was!
We regrouped in the basin below the face with big smiles and high-fives going around. The snow had been safe, soft, and really fun, and the group was truly strong. We enjoyed a pine-tree giant-slalom for more than a mile back to the parking lot and our waiting Spyder Land Yacht.
Right now we are en-route to Shasta, downloading photos and video, eating mango slices with almond butter, and mentally preparing for our first of two 14ers on the trip, Mt. Shasta, tomorrow.
I never thought I would find myself skiing with Chris Davenport, Julian Carr, and Daron Rahlves. I arrived in Portillo after the Chilean Freesking Championships at 2:30a.m. and by 10:00a.m. the next morning I was ripping around with some of my heros in the sport. Intimidated, inspired, and stoked would be a few ways to describe how I felt. Basically, it was really cool.
I have been joking that I would be honing in Spydie Powers while in Portillo. After watching the boys ski, I think my statement may be truer than I thought. It is absolutely incredible to watch Darron and Chris make flawless turns in any type of snow. A wise man once said, “There is no bad snow, just a bad turn.” I always thought he was being a little optimistic. I have definitely skied some bad snow. I think the statement may be true for the Chris, Darron, and Julien. I have eight more days to learn from three of the best skiers in the world. What an amazing opportunity. I think I might actually develop a few Spyder Powers while I’m here.