Skiing around Crater Lake

Last weekend I did one of the bigger planned trips for this spring, a ski tour around Crater Lake. Crater Lake is in the eastern Cascades, about 3 hours south of Bend, and is a popular park during the summer, quiet during the winter. There is a 30 mile long road hugging the rim of the crater, which is unplowed during the winter and a popular ski/snowshoe tour (relatively speaking — maybe 50-100 people a year). I started on Friday, mostly stuck to the road with some detours up high points along the rim, and finished Sunday morning.

After picking up a permit and climbing 700 feet to the rim from the visitor’s center, I got my first views of the lake (you can also drive straight to the rim, great for day trips, but if you start there and circle the lake you get to do the climb at the very end). I’d never been here before, summer or winter, and looking out over the lake was breathtaking.

The road along the rim is often right next to it, and yet for most of the trip I never got tired of looking out over the lake. Between Wizard Island filling in the western part of the lake (with its own little crater on top), the steep slopes and sheer cliffs on all sides, and all the high points on the rim I learned to recognize by sight, the lake just drew my eyes like a magnet.

Traveling clockwise along the road, the first few miles had been broken in, but by the time I reached the Watchman, the first major high point on the rim, the tracks had stopped. I didn’t see any more tracks until about 4 km from the end, except from rabbits and such. Quiet.

Friday had the best skiing conditions. There hadn’t been serious snow in about a week, so the snowpack had some time to consolidate and reduce avalanche danger, but light snow showers, cold temperatures and cloudy skies had kept conditions nice. I started the trip as the weather broke, and had sunny skies and steadily deteriorating snow (alas) as the trip proceeded.

I climbed up the shoulder of the Watchman, into the rime and rocks, and stopped a couple hundred feet below the summit. Things were looking cliffy, which I realized afterwards was a false alarm. Ah well, next time. Rime on the shoulder, and looking back at my tracks afterwards.

Immediately after the Watchman is Hillman Peak, the highest point on the rim. I also went up the shoulder here, and also stopped below the summit (mostly I was tired, after some time screwing around with my climbing skins). The descent from here was great. After some nice turns in 4″ of powder, I coasted right along the crater rim for a good 1.5 miles. Looking down from Hillman, and back up from below.

The last climb of the day was to the top of Llao Rock, an easy ascent with more great, low angle turns at the end.

The remaining 1.3 days went pretty quickly. The road runs next to the rim for much of the north and east sides and offered up the best views of the lake, before detouring around some large ridges along the south side. More great touring, a few mild gear SNAFUs, and some good treed skiing.

Saturday was hot (high 40s!) and by the afternoon the snow was pretty wet and hard to ski, and was breakable crust (yuck) the next morning. Still alright for touring though, and had an easy, pleasant time wrapping the trip up.

This entry was posted in Skiing. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.