Last week was another awesome day up on Mt. Hood, Oregon. I visited the same place that I was last week and what a difference a week makes. The previous week was a complete whiteout with nothing but snow blind conditions but last week it was nothing but blue skies and spring like conditions. We were also blessed with a good two feet of powder, which made the snow shoeing more than memorable. However, the temperatures got pretty high and I ended up finding myself in some pretty soupy conditions later in the afternoon. At first I was a little hesitant about heading towards the lower end of the White River Glacier but as I continued along I realized that it look pretty safe. The temperatures were a little cooler and the wind was pretty gusty. You can see some of the wind swept snow in this photo. Too bad a lot of the snow was blown off parts of the higher elevations but at least it provided some character. The snow did eventually start to get pretty soft but by this time I was almost at the stopping point. If you haven’t been to the White River snow park or made the trek to the top of the trail, I highly recommend that you visit. You will want to expect the unexpected since there is no place to escape the changing conditions and if you do find yourself in a whiteout or snow blind conditions, you can expect a very dangerous and stressful trip down since each side is a steep 500 foot drop off and you would surely be trapped or stuck in the creeks below. There are a couple trees about 300 yards from the top but they wouldn’t provide a lot of protection. However, they could provide a good point of reference while making your way down. You would probable just want to hunker down and wait for the weather to change if you did find yourself in dangerous conditions since I couldn’t imagine anyone surviving a fall from either side and I surely wouldn’t want to be the first. The good thing about the trek is that you can see quite a bit and you would probably be able to see any change of conditions but unfortunately you are pretty close to the mountain and aren’t able to see much on the west or north and this is where most of the nasty weather comes from. I have actually run down with my snow shoes and I think that you could get down safely if you were trying to beat out a fast moving storm. I would also recommend that you bring your best camera and lens while visiting this spot. I took this photo with my Canon Rebel T1I and my Canon 23-135mm lens. I’ve packed my tripod with me before but it can get really cumbersome and heavy so I started leaving it behind. It’s also not worth setting it up most times since I usually end up taking between 500-1000 shots at a time and I no longer have the patience with a tripod when snow shoeing.
I was surprised to find myself in Whiteout conditions while snow shoeing along the White River, in the Mt. Hood National forest. I had been monitoring the forecast for the past few days and thought that I would take a chance, even though the forecast was calling for a mixture of rain and snow. I was fortunate to find that it started snowing just before the Tom, Dick and Harry parking area, along the 26. It continued to snow but got much heavier as I continued past Government Camp. Good thing that I kept driving since the snow really started to get heavy as I took the Hwy 35 exit. The snow at the White River snow park was more like graupel but at least it wasn’t raining. My first mistake was that I never brought my ski goggles with me. That ended up being a huge mistake because it snowed the entire day and it only got windier and heavier as I increased in elevation. I found myself in mostly whiteout conditions as I crossed over the white river and headed towards the summit. I never got anywhere near the summit but I was intrigued by the complete whiteout conditions and I was also experiencing snow blindness. This is where my ski goggles would have come in handy since the wind was blowing the snow in my eyes and I ended up squinting for part of my journey. I could see for a few hundred feet but I couldn’t make out any of the snow directly in front of me. I literally didn’t know if I was about to step off a 100 foot cliff or a 1 foot step. I ended up looking for small trees that provided me with more depth of my surroundings and ended up having a pretty fun time exploring this phenomenon. I was concerned that our winter was over early again but this current winter weather if providing a pretty good second chance to get back some of our snow pack that we lost during our previous warm up.
Mt. Hood, Oregon! One of the most seductive and tantalizing mountain in the state of Oregon. I have snowshoed or hiked most of the trails along the Mt. Hood wilderness but sometimes I find a spot that I had been overlooking for several years. The White River snow park is one of the most popular snow shoe trails along the southeastern flanks of the mountain. However, if you wanted to cross over the White River, you would be sorely mistaken if you think that you could just hop across the river from the White River snow park. However, if you were to continue on highway 35 just over the bridge, you would see the Green Apple snow park. The snow shoe trails from this park takes x country skiers and snowshoers away from Mt. Hood and towards the south east. However, if you want to head up to the higher elevations of Mt. Hood you will want to quickly cross the highway and gear up for a challenging and vigorous trek. You will end up paralleling the White River and if you expect to just hike along the river you will be sadly disappointed. Unfortunately, the river has several forks and it’s pretty dangerous to cross at the beginning of your trek. You will need to hike along the hills above the river and then cautiously pick a safe line down from the hill and head towards the creeks edge. You really want to be careful since you could create a small avalanche. This is especially true if the temperature are warm and the snow is too soft. I found this out on my way back just before finishing my day. Once you get near the creek, you will want to look for a safe crossing area. There are several smaller creeks that create a boundary between you and the White River. I ended up having to cross three different smaller creeks. I also ended up having to again climb higher along the ridge since I was a little nervous about getting too close to the river at one point. I ended up traversing parts of a very steep hill and I noticed that there had been a lot of snow that fell from higher up. I just kept going and was lucky not to have any issues with the snow giving way. I never really felt like there would be any type of avalanche but I also didn’t want to have the snow slip from underneath me. Once I got at the bottom of the hill, I realized that I could have avoided the hill and just kept along the edge of the creek. I ended up picking a new line on my return trip. The most difficult part of the trip was just a few hundred yards away. There is a part of the trail that takes you to a fairly wide part of a creek that is also moving pretty quickly and it pretty much butts up against a very unstable part of the massive hill near it. There were a lot of boulders and rocks that had been falling from the 20 foot edge just above me and I could only hold my breath and quickly keep moving. I actually ended up getting too close to the creek and found myself falling through the snow and getting stuck for about 15 seconds. Luckily it didn’t take me too long to run the gauntlet. However, on my return trip, I noticed that there were several new rocks that had fallen after I had crossed earlier. You can even hear the debris crackling above you so you want to move fast. Once I got past the gauntlet, the trail opened up and I was able to hike directly to the White River. The smaller creeks were deep below the snow and I no longer had to worry about crossing any more water. This part of the trail was well worth the trek. Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters were already within view and the views of the mountain were well within sight. The trek to the higher elevations of the mountain are a few miles but the views are endless and you have ample opportunities to hike along the river. Unlike the White River trail, you have more opportunities to get close to the river and even more opportunities to bask in the solitude. Eventually, you will end up somewhere near the Timberline Trail. However, wintertime allows you to pretty much go anywhere you want to go and there are several snow covered parts that allow you to be a storm trooper and challenge yourself as much as you want. The massive lava butte that separates between the White River Glacier and the Newton Clark Glacier looks pretty tantalizing but I didn’t have the guts to summit it. I ended up just continuing towards the mountain and stayed in the middle of the massive snow covered walls. Each side of the mountain was at least 1,000-2,000 feet high and I noticed that there were a lot of crackling sounds. There is actually a waterfall that is about 20 feet high and helps create the White River. It’s easy to get to and once you get near it, you can get some pretty awesome photos. You pretty much have to stop at that point since the massive rock walls limit your mobility and you would have to traverse down a sketchy area and then head up a very steep wall of rock and snow. If you were really adventurous you could continue up towards the summit and probably even go another 3,000 feet in elevation before needing to either turn back or dawn your crampons and ice ax. Once you get to that spot, you would probably be able to see the skiers and snowboarders at the Mt. Hood Meadows ski area as well as Timberline. If you plan on doing this trip I would plan on bringing a lot of snacks and don’t forget your camera. I did bring my snow shoe poles but I never used them. I brought my dog and I just made sure to bring extra food for him since he burned a lot of energy chasing the snow as it tumbled down most of the steep hills that we climbed. I also only brought one lens since I didn’t want to add too much weight to my trip. I brought my Canon 23/135mm lens and attached my CIR-PL, warming filter and UV filter. Since I didn’t bring my tripod I made sure to turn on my stabilizer and I always checked each of my photos after each shot to ensure that they were either blurry or crooked. Unless your really critical of your shots and expect to spend over 8 hours on the mountain, I wouldn’t recommend bringing your tripod. You will just get too frustrated with lugging it with you and if the sun is bright enough, you won’t have to worry about camera blur or camera shake.
[/caption] Beautiful photo of the Mt. Hood Wilderness near the White River Snow-Park trail system. This photo was taken about 3/4 from the top of the White River Snow-Park trail. Mt. Hood was just behind me, when I took this photo but you can see just how beautiful and serene the area is. You can just barley see the small rabbit tracks in the lower left hand corner. There are dozens of small animal tracks all along this steep part of the park trail. There are hundreds of Christmas card photo opportunities throughout the entire area and you will especially want to bring a camera and lots of snacks and water due to the difficulty of the terrain and steepness. However, you won’t be disappointed with the amazing views and solitude. I always carry my tripod whenever I snow-shoe up here but I usually end up only using the tripod in designated spots since I end up taking hundreds of photos as I trudge up the steep terrain and only pick a few area to set up my tripod.
[/caption] The White River snow park trail system offers an opportunity to walk through an ancient forest as well as experience some pretty awesome views of Mt. Hood as well as Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters in the distance. However, you will need to prepare yourself for a very strenuous climb since it’s very steep and long. If you go to the top you will end up with about 2,000 feet of elevation gain. they only thing that stops you is a huge cornice with a 500 feet drop off on both sides. You end up on the edge of a cliff with nothing but an eroded moraine below. Since you will have to navigate through the forest as well as climb some pretty steep areas, you will want to bring plenty of snacks and water. The trail is pretty much right in the middle between Timberline ski lodge and Mt. Hood Meadows. There are several different routes that you can take but snow shoeing through the forest is the most peaceful and rewarding way to go. During the summer months you can hike on some of the more popular trails but during winter you have the opportunity to make your own trails.
[/caption] The White River snow park offers one of the best areas to snow-shoe around the Mt. Hood wilderness. It’s located on the east side of Mt. Hood and the parking area is just off of Hwy 35. There are enough parking spaces to fit 10 football fields and there are enough snow-shoe and x-country areas to keep you busy for the entire winter season. the White river cuts between the West and East areas of the park and it offers some great views of a frigid river cutting through the snow packed river banks. You can make it as easy or as difficult as you want to. It offers some terrain for the most hardy winter explore or the most novice. There are over 10 different trails and they are completely different from one another. Some of my best winter photographs have been taken from this area and I will continue to visit since it offers some of the best photographic opportunities. However, the best time to visit is during winter since most of the trails are only available when the terrain is covered in 20 feet of snow. I took this photo on October 27th at about 12:50pm and the sun was at about a 90 degree angle. Unfortunately, the sun can pose some real challenges since the park is on the east side of the mountain and the sun is always on your left with the mountain just to the north of the sun and your photos. This is especially true since the sun only gets so high and sometimes there are little to no shadows near the mountain. I was using my Canon T1i and my Canon 18-55mm kit lens when I took this photo and I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch. I had attached my CIR-PL and warming filter to saturate the blue sky and warm the scene. The aperture was at F-11 and the shutter speed at 1/197 seconds since I had the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -0.7.