Professional Skier Asit Rathod skis Mt. Hood’s northeast face in the buff on May 13, 2012 after having a ‘McConkey moment of clarity.’
By: Asit Rathod (@presidentofpow)
Written on May 13, 2012
Hey hey All!!
Guest blogger Asit Rathod checking in from the ‘Ring of Fire’ Volcano Tour and Mount Hood; and what a day it was my friends!
Quote of the day award goes to Jess McMillan during brunch in Hood River…”I’m really happy about being drunk right now” (ed. note: let’s face it everyone, she’s earned it). It’s funny but as we grow older and the years keep adding we start realizing how much life changes but good friends still stay the same.
So I got an email a few weeks back from my old friend Chris Davenport that his merry band of crazies were going to ski the Pacific Northwest ‘Ring of Fire.’ I read the itinerary and thought they’d have a better chance of winning the lottery than staying true to the dates. Well son of a gun, I should have bought that lottery ticket.
We all rendezvoused around 10pm in the parking lot of Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood last night and it was as if time had never passed since our days together almost two decades ago. Yes we are that old. Then out of nowhere, I see a smile that made me smile from within as if I had just seen the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause kung fu fighting each other. Mr. Jim Morrison gave me a hug and that signature smile that was exactly as I remembered it 15+ years ago. I knew a whole lot of awesomeness was about to happen but we had to get some zzzzzz’s. So a big hug, HI-5’s, and ‘sleep well’s’ was all that two old friends could give each other.
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The alarm at 3:37am hit me like an angry ex-girlfriend asking me why I was such a big !$?. We had a crew of thirteen skiers, snowboarders, and photographers ready to start the day at 4am with two objectives: ski from the 11,239’ summit of Mount Hood and have fun – having fun being the number one objective. True to tradition, my cardio (or lack thereof) allowed me to bring up the rear. Too many Perdomo cigars and Jameson are to thank for that, and I joined the group on the summit around 8am. Lots of HI-5’s, hugs, photos, and a name ceremony for my Brother and super badass Dave Watson’s new daughter, Amaya Kula Watson, ensued. Within an hour all thirteen of us were ready to drop in and have an amazing ski down Cooper Spur on the northeast face of Mount Hood. Cooper Spur has about 1500 ft. of relief with a fair bit of consequence. Basically it means ‘don’t fall or mom on Mother’s Day will not be happy.’
Getting ready to drop in fully clothed, my brain kept repeating in Shane McConkey’s stupid pitched voice, ‘Do it! Do it Indian guy, just ski it naked.” … “Carlos could you put my pants in your bag?” … and the next thing I knew I was naked and ready to ride. Skiing naked has always been about one simple fact: we enjoy a sport with serious consequences, but we need not take ourselves too seriously. My close friend, hell every skier’s close friend, Shane McConkey is the guy that reminded all of us that no matter how cool or badass you think you are, it doesn’t matter if you’re not having fun. Take your dreams and passions seriously but never take yourself too seriously.
The beauty of the great state of Oregon lies in the fact we were back in the parking lot by 10am drinking Jameson and in Hood River having brunch with the line we just skied as our backdrop at Divots Golf Course by noon.
I have always wondered why I have had such luck in my life with all the great friends I seem to have and continue to gain. Today I realized it’s not luck, but rather the mountains. Friendships are built on years of experiences together which are hard to find as we grow older. The mountains possess a magic that accelerates friendships and bonds that last a lifetime. While I haven’t been privy to the ‘Ring of Fire’ Volcano Tour before today, nor will I be joining moving forward, I can tell you it was pretty awesome reconnecting with old friends and making new friends. Thank you Chris, Jess, and crew!
Aerial photo of Mt. Jefferson showing our ski line, the beautiful Southwest Face. Photo by Jim Morrison
By: Chris Davenport
Written on May 12, 2012
As I sit here in the Spyder Land Yacht driving north towards tomorrow’s objective, Mt. Hood, I can’t help but reflect on the last eight days and the ten peaks we’ve skied. Both Jess and I have mentioned in our blog posts how cool it is each day to look south and see the mountains we have skied, and then to turn north and see our future. We’re tired – really tired – with tens of thousands of vertical feet in our legs and only one rest day … yet somehow the stoke meter stays pinned.
This trip has been a dream on many levels, but perhaps the greatest gifts have been from Mother Nature herself. The weather has been perfect the entire time, and the corn-snow cycle as good as it gets on these big Cascade volcanoes. What we did in our lives to arrive at this place and be blessed with such gifts is beyond me. I’m just grateful to share these experiences with such amazing people.
I think I have heard Jess say “today was my favorite volcano” at least five or six times so far, and it was loud and clear today on Mt. Jefferson. This massive mountain has no easy access this time of year and was the lowest starting point we have had so far (around 3,100’) so we were looking at a huge day.
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We have been loving all the recipes the Whole Foods Market healthy eating specialist Sarah has put together for us, but we decided to create our own delicacy today, (or maybe we should call it a culinary experiment). Jess cut a ton of veggies and dropped a dozen eggs and some cheese and cream into the crock pot last night, and we turned it on at 1:30am.
When we woke up at 4:20am the aroma in the Land Yacht was heavenly. She had created the world first Volcano Frittata. We welcomed newly arrived friends Jim (who skied Shasta with us) Glen, and Sarah into the RV for a hearty breakfast.
The team hit the trail at 5:20am and made quick work up through the massive timbers of the forest to the snowline. We had a hard freeze last night and were able to crampon all the way from around 5,000’ to the summit at 10,300’
Jefferson’s steep summit was guarded on all sides by cliffs covered with rime ice, but we found a way through and stepped on top at 11am after climbing over 7,000’ vertical on great snow. Now it was time to wait for the snow on the south-west face to soften up.
By the time we made two raps back down the steep rime we knew it was going to be good. I’ve skied some perfect corn in my time but today was as good as I’ve ever had it. Over 4,000’ of the perfect velvet-soft corn snow we all dream about. You could ski fast, I mean really fast, and with total control, as gravity swept your body down the fall line.
The amount of G-force you can generate going fast in perfect corn is insane, and it can push your skis and boots to the limit. Luckily I’ve got the finest setup from Kästle (the TX97) and Garmont (The new Cosmos) so I can let these products do the work for me.
The vert blew past us and the smiles were huge by the time we reached the dirt and our running shoes. The descent back through the forest elicited feelings of psychedelia – the trees are so huge and green and the smell of the forest is palpable. We were all waiting for an Ewok or a Sasquatch to pop out!
What can I say… the Volcano Tour rolls on in fine form. We are psyched to welcome close friends Ted and Christy Mahon from Aspen to the team for the next week and to meet our friends Mike Arzt and Ian Fohrman who drove all night from Colorado tonight at Timberline. Tomorrow is Mt. Hood, a volcano I first skied on in 1986 as a scrawny teen.
(The east side of North Sister under a half-moon.)
By Chris Davenport
Written on May 11, 2012
Yesterday was our biggest day of the trip so far in terms of distance covered, vertical climbed & skied, and pure effort exerted. Luckily for us we had some great local knowledge. We hooked up with local skier and owner of Three Sisters Backcountry huts Jonas Tarlen through our friend David Marchi; Jonas took us on a grand adventure. Jess and I were ready for a big day, but when it was all over we were definitely whooped!
Aside from losing an hour trying to summit North Sister in icy conditions, we moved quickly all day and finished the almost 18 mi. traverse of over 10,000’ vertical in just under 12 hours. One of the coolest and perhaps most surprising aspects of this day was that during a perfect weather window, and in ideal snow conditions, we didn’t see another soul out there in Central Oregon’s biggest mountains.
Three Sisters Vital stats: The Three Sisters Traverse is comprised of three separate summits: North Sister (10,085’), Middle Sister (10,047’), and South Sister (10,358’).
We skied Mt. Washington this morning (our 9th volcano in 6 days) and are headed to the trailhead for tomorrow’s big day on Mt. Jefferson. Our internet connection has been quite slow during this part of the trip, so I’m going to let the photos (below) tell the story on this one. I think you’ll enjoy…
But not without a final shout-out to Shane, Jonas’ partner at ThreeSistersBackcountry who picked us up on the road in his snow-machine, complete with chocolate milk and beer! Thanks Shane!
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more from Washington and Jefferson.
«You’ll find a bunch of awesome photos of our Three Sisters Odyssey after the jump»
Jonas Tarlen, owner of the Three Sister Backcountry huts, on the early morning approach to North Sister.
Chris Davenport and Jess McMillan approaching the east side of North Sister from Pole Creek.
Jess McMillan making the traverse over the Camel’s Hump towards the summit block of North Sister. South Sister’s North Face can be seen on the right and Mt. Bachelor can be seen to the left. The climbing on this ridge was spectacular.
Jonas and Jess attempting the very steep and icy traverse to gain the summit couloir on North Sister. The team turned around from the summit do to falling ice and challenging conditions. With two axes and technical crampons and maybe even a rope we could have made the summit, but still would have had to down-climb back to where we skied from.
Jess get’s ready to drop in off of North Sister for the ski over to Middle Sister.
Jess McMillan enjoying perfect spring corn-snow conditions on the South Face of North Sister
Jonas, Jess, and Chris on the summit of Middle Sister – with North on the right.
Jess skiing of the summit of Middle Sister
Looking south at the grand North Face of South Sister. Our ascent route follows the shallow ridge inside of the right skyline. This face reminded me slightly of the Gibraltar Ledges zone on Rainier.
Jonas and Jess work their way up the north side of South Sister. We skied the South Face of North Sister on the far right and then the South Face of Middle Sister – just right off the summit. This last climb up was a real grind. Everyone was out of water (3 liters each) by the time we reached the summit. I ate two Clif Bars, two Shot Bloks, and two Shots as well as my super-secret Volcano sandwich during the day. Jess had a sandwich as well but it was liberated from her backpack by an airborne marauder – a raven – during our climb towards the summit of North Sister. This little criminal even unzipped her backpack with it’s beak to access the goods.
A tighter shot of where we had skied up to this point. Middle Sister on the left and North sister on the right. Doing the traverse from North to South made perfect sense as we hit great corn on the south face ski descents and had firmer snow to climb on the north sides. Mt. Jefferson makes an appearance in the distance. (We will ski that on Saturday, May 12th.)
A grand view of the Oregon Cascades! Jonas and Jess approach the summit of South sister after a 10 hour traverse up to this point.
The team may be tired but we’re never too tired to be stoked on this trip! Jonas, Chris, and Jess enjoy the summit of South Sister.
Jess still in good form skiing the classic South Ridge of South Sister.
A GPS / Google Earth depiction of our Three Sisters route. Burly!
By: “Captain” Grant Burrow
Ping…Ping…Clank…Ping…Clank. This is what I hear every morning around 4:30am on the ‘Ring of Fire’ Volcano Tour. My eyes slowly open; I can smell the coffee brewing and sense the stoked atmosphere inside the Spyder Land Yacht from Team Volcano Tour as they prepare to climb and ski yet another volcano.
This is a volcano tour – an attempt to ski seventeen volcanoes throughout the Pacific Northwest during the month of May. But this is much more then a ski trip – it truly is a journey (and a mostly unscripted journey at that). Beyond the team’s stated priorities of meeting local skiers and mountaineers, partaking in local activities, and, well, climbing and skiing a ton of vertical feet, it’s an open book.
For those of you who have been following our blog, you know about the team’s experiences on the mountain. As the ‘Captain’ of the Land Yacht, I have a unique perspective of this journey. As ‘Captain’ – and we’re going to use a more expansive definition than a mere driver here – I spend my days holding down the fort as the cleaning crew, the cook, the jester, the DJ, the maintenance tech, and as the navigator. I’m a one-man army up in here.
My day starts when the team rises (no soundproof walls in the Land Yacht). After a quick bite to eat, I watch them exit the rig and then disappear into the woods or up a trail. Then what? I turn into the cleaning machine. For me, a clean home is a happy home! I tie up my apron, put on my rubber gloves, and get to work. I vacuum, do the dishes, set out our “outdoor patio” (artificial grass and lawn chairs – yep, as hilarious as it sounds), and then prep food items for brunch for when the team returns.
We’ve interacted with a ton of locals on this tour. Sure – the team has encountered many like-minded locals on their ascents, but I on the other hand, have had the opportunity to meet the very unique. I walked an Indian family through the RV whom have their eyes on something similar United States. I also gave a tour to a woman wearing a full leopard print leotard with a matching eye patch on a motorcycle at a gas station in Mt. Shasta.
As you all can imagine, hiking 4,000+ feet per day to reach a summit makes a human’s body get hot and sweaty. Do you know what a hockey bag smells like? Or soccer shoes after the season ends? I do, and that is exactly what the team smells like! For the Mt. McLoughlin climb, we were stationed at a very nice campground called Lake of the Woods. The campsite was on the side of a beautiful lake with a great view of the volcano. When the team returned, it was time for a quick bath! Although the water was only 50 degrees Fahrenheit, I refused to depart for our next destination until all three took a dive. Thank you Lake of the Woods!
We are trying to take in the local flavor as well. While we were in Bend, OR, we went to a new microbrewery called GoodLife. As you all know, this is a small world. When we walked in, one of the brewery partners named Pratt came up and started talking with Dav. Turns out he recognized Dav from Aspen where he used to live. I can’t go anywhere with Team Volcano Tour without someone recognizing them – wish I were that popular!
We then headed over to Great Outdoors by Altrec.com for a little employee appreciation BBQ. We cooked up hotdogs and served GoodLife’s Mountain Rescue Pale Ale. A father and his two young kids were infatuated with the Land Yacht. Davenport told them that we had an elevator and the kids’ eyes lit up. He took them for a ride on the back gate (hydraulic lift into the back garage). After a hotdog, Spyder stickers, and signatures from the team, the family left happier then when we arrived.
This trip has been quite an experience … one I’ll never forget. I’ve had the opportunity to see a beautiful and expansive swath of the Pacific Northwest – maybe through a different lens than the team, but this isn’t a popularity contest.
-Grant Burrow a.k.a. THE CAPTAIN
By: Chris Davenport
Written on May 8, 2012.
I’m going to keep this post a bit short, mainly because Mt. Bachelor is perhaps the least interesting of all the volcanoes we hope to ski on this journey. So how did we come to ski two volcanoes in one day? Well, the story goes like this… After an awesome morning on Mt. Thielson we drove two hours north to Bend and pulled into the totally sweet Crown Villa RV Resort. This place is so plush and relaxing!
We busted out the grill and fixed up some delicious fish tacos that had been marinating in the fridge for 24 hours in a tequila lime seasoning from Whole Foods Market. During lunch, as our bellies filled up, Daron, Jess and I were all feeling pretty recovered. It was only 2 pm and I said, “Why don’t we get ahead of the curve here and go skin up Bachelor this evening for a sunset ski?” Without hesitation, Daron and Jess were in! We had a plan. That’s the thing I love about this group… everyone is motivated and full of positive energy. So we digested for an hour and then drove up to the West base area at Bachelor for an easy 3400’ skin.
The ski area is closed Monday through Wednesday right now so we had the entire area to ourselves and skinned up a beautiful groomed track.
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Above tree line, clouds began whipping over the summit and we were shrouded in a cool mist for a while, which always makes for a slightly eery feeling.
We crested the summit dome after an hour and a half skin only to find we weren’t alone – one lone hiker was bivied in at the summit! We had a brief chat with him about his gear and the weather after he mentioned he had never done anything like this before. I told him to put a couple more big rocks on the corners of his little tent and to bring his boots inside. He graciously snapped a few photos of us and off we went.
Back in Bend we quickly had our first showers in five days and headed off to meet our friend Dave Marchi at the awesome new Good Life Brewery. Turns out the brewery is part-owned by an old friend of mine from Aspen, Pratt Rather. Pratt sat down to a great dinner with us and made sure we left with some of Good Life’s finest beer! Thanks Pratt!
Today is a rest day and we are using it to relax and run some errands in Bend, including a stop at the Whole Foods Market here, and a shop visit/ BBQ with Altrec and their employees. Should be a fun day.
Tonight and tomorrow we will attempt a traverse of the three Sisters Volcanos.
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!