Cascadia: Part one

By June 14, 2016 No Comments


A ski-touring road-trip of the Cascade volcanoes with a bunch of reprobates and a camera. #ThisIsCascadia

Skiers and snowboarders spend so much time these days chasing crazy ascents, gnarly descents and massive hits. It all gets a little tiring and sometimes we forget to just go adventuring with a bunch of buddies and have a damn good time.

So three weeks ago, once the lifts stopped spinning and the spring melt was in full force, I moved out of my apartment, stored my stuff and bundled the rest of my life, plus an inflatable crocodile, into my trusty Subaru named Quest.

For five days I cruised down the sufficiently stunning coastline of BC, Washington, Oregon and California as far as Santa Cruz, where I met up with a motley crew of shred friends to begin the trip back north through the volcanoes of the Pacific Northwest.

Convening from various corners of the globe, we took a day in Santa Cruz to pack, plan, eat homemade tamales and cut loose in the pool with Jerry the Trailer Park Croc. The very next day, however, we loaded our crew of skiers and splitboarders, and our talented camera-wielding buddy Riley into various cars and hit the road for Lassen National Park, where we would take on our first objective, Lassen Peak.

After an unintentional detour through the town of Yolo, California and a quick stop off to sample the delights of US gas station sustenance, my new co-pilot and fellow Brit, Lewis and I arrived at our Lassen campsite just a touch later than the rest of the crew. We were subsequently dubbed “Team Lost”, a name that we consistently lived up to during the trip.

Lassen provided us with a solid warm-up. We hiked, skinned, cramponed, ice-axed, rockclambered and skied around, never quite reaching the summit but figuring out some group dynamics, practicing good communication and skiing some delicious corn snow in the process. We also made friends with some local volcano-chasers that we would repeatedly bump into throughout our trip.

Initially our next objective was to be the majestic Mount Shasta, however we decided the group wasn’t strong enough yet for such a big mission and instead leapfrogged up into Oregon. The plan was to head into Crater Lake for some exceedingly scenic snow camping. In a strike of genius, our trip visionary and mastermind, Mike, had acquired a giant tipi from Scandinavian brand Tentipi, and we proceeded to lug said tipi three miles along a closed road and set it up with minimal instructions on the crater rim.

A stunning sunset ensued, followed by some rather enthusiastic whiskey drinking and a minor incident involving vomit inside the tipi. Needless to say, one member of the group will not be living that story down for a long time.

Waking after a very windy night, Kenzie and I took advantage of clearing skies to skin and ski Watchman Peak next to our campsite, which the boys had skied the night before at sunset. Sadly though conditions were not prime for further skiing in Crater Lake so we dismantled the tipi and hiked back out to the cars, ready to set our sights on the many volcanoes and breweries surrounding Bend, Oregon.

Unfortunately the weather was not looking prime for the coming week and much of the Bend backcountry is best accessed by sled. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to find a willing sled driver through my swipings on the local Tinder scene. So at 11pm, with the team crammed into a motel room, we scrambled to find a suitable one day touring objective for our last sunny day in a while. After much deliberation we settled on a small peak north of Mt Bachelor called Ball Butte.

It was a 5 mile skin through a sledding zone to the base but once on top we had incredible views of the Three Sisters and Broken Top mountain. We skied and filmed a couple of laps on Ball Butte and then began the long slog back out. After a round trip of 13 miles we got back to the cars and made an instant beeline to the nearest brewery for restorative beers and oyster shooters.

All things considered, we had maximized our weather window pretty well and now it was time to settle in for a few weather days in Bend. We rented a perfect AirBnB apartment aptly named the Adventure Chalet, which became our home base for the week. Once settled, we proceeded to sample the ongoing delights of the Bend Ale Trail, close down classic local dive bar The Westside Tavern, purchase a spectacular Ten Gallon hat from the local cowboy store, and take an adventure hike through a burnt forest to the truly beautiful Whychus Creek Falls.

We rounded out our week with a surprisingly tame (read: hungover) Cinco de Mayo, tucking into homemade tacos and margaritas in the Adventure Chalet. However, the weather was soon to break and plans were taking shape for three days snow-camping in the Three Sisters Wilderness.

Little did we realize we were heading into our most successful stretch of climbing and would soon be stacking the peaks faster than our legs could recover…

Part two now available.

Jess Oundijan