This was not our weekend plan. We were prepped to climb Chair Peak via Northeast Buttress and The North Face over the weekend. However, when we checked the forecast Saturday morning to make sure everything was still good for the climbs we discovering the freezing level had gone drastically up making conditions much too dangerous for our risk tolerance. We saw that Mt hood conditions, however, had improved and decided to quickly alter our gear section and drive down to Oregon.

When we arrived at Timberline at 9:45am the parking lot was a madhouse, but there were still spaces. However, we were informed that overnight parking spaces had already all been filled. They are located in the Main Lot close to the ski area so Timberline fills them first with ski patrons even though they will not be parking there overnight. If we parked anyplace else we would be towed. There were no alternatives no matter how many people we asked… except for going back down and taking the bus back up. However, the next bus did not depart until 2:45pm, much to late. The policy of filling overnight parking with “day” guests first does not make much sense to me. These should be the last to fill and they should not be in the main lot closest to the ski resort which is why they fill them first… apparently people don’t like walking. Overnight should be in overflow parking. Furthermore, the concession of Timberline has completely taken over what is a Sno-Park (fee required) at the Mt Hood National Forest. There should be parking for folks who are using the land for other recreation other than the resort. This is an access issue for climbers, backcountry skiers, snowshoers and other recreaters. Mt Hood has become Everest. It can only be used by resort, inbound skiers willing to spend money on a lift ticket and not easily accessible to folks who want to get up the mountain my means other than a chair lift.

Rant over…The bottom line is that we had no choice but to give up on climbing Mt Hood and head back to WA. We decided to salvage the weekend the best we could and keep up our acclimatization. After ten hours driving around we found ourselves in the Paradise parking lot at Mt Rainier. Their overnight parking is in the lower overflow lot I might add. We would have much preferred AT skis on the gorgeous fresh powder, but we had brought snowshoes for Mt Hood and it was all we had and there was no time to drive home and switch gear. By the time we started up to Camp Muir it was  3:34pm.

There is a good skin/snowshoe track all the way up to Muir. The steep sections up to Panorama Point and the following bumps are in pretty good shape and were were able to use our snowshoes. Darkness seemed to fall slowly until we reached the top of Panorama… then it suddenly got dark in the hurry! We followed the route in the silence of the clear night. The only ones climbing by the light of the brilliantly sparkling stars. We were alone in the bubble of lights out headlamps created. All we saw was the snow, and a few rocky ridges covered in shimmering rime ice.

We were tired by the time we arrived at Camp Muir at 10:30pm. Damien was kind enough to humor me and put up the tent instead of staying the hut. I have an issue with staying in the hut unless it too two windy to put up the tent safely. To me to kind of defeated the whole purpose of an overnight. Climb into the wilderness and stay in a building? Not much of a backcountry experience. There was a cold breeze, but calm compared to other wind events we’d experienced on other trips. We cooked dinner and made a few liters of water under the stars before turning in at 1am.

We were greeted by a beautiful sunrise the following morning… or more like later that morning. It was going to me a sunny and warm day on the mountain. We began our way down at about 9:45ish. I really really wanted skis. I’m not a big fan of snowshoeing down steep terrain. We made it work though I really wished I didn’t have to look at Mt Hood and the ski tracks all the way down to Paradise. It was a good thing we didn’t do Chair Peak though. The sun was blazing and everything was melting.

So we made the best of the weekend. I don’t think I will ever ski at Timberline Lodge again in the future. When I have some time I intend to write three letters to: Timberline Lodge, Mt Hood National Forest and The Access Fund.

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