The Oregon Trip: Big Mountain Lines

Continued From The Oregon Trip: Road Trip.

We settled on making a push for The Horn.  We’d head due west for a few miles, make our way into the alpine and try our luck at the couloirs descending from Horn.  We made breakfast, melted some snow to top off our Nalgenes, plotted a few waypoints on our GPS devices and hit the skin track.

Our route brought us down into Bob’s Hole, up and over Norway Ridge and due west along the southern face of Norway Ridge and straight into the alpine.  Eventually we’d hit a steep face just beneath the floor of the bowl underneath the horn.  We’d kick turn our way up the face, and transition for a boot-pack up one of the couloirs to the top of The Horn and commence the slaying of big lines!  Check out the objective area below.

View Norway Basin in a larger map

View Norway Basin in a larger map

When we hit the trail, the whole place was totally socked in.  It wasn’t really fog, just low cloud cover.  Armed with map, compass, and GPS we hit the trail with confidence and determination.  We kept spaced out for most of the skin track, but regrouped for route-finding discussions at islands of safety.  For most of the skin we could really only see the person immediately in front of or behind us.

Instruments only. Rob skillfully breaks trail and navigates.

Karl and I get ready to space out before making a traverse.


The clouds start to break up, and we realize we’re right on target!

Rob gets to work on a snow-pit. He gets a Q2 CT 20 and an ECT with no propagation at all!

We emerged from the fog and cloud cover to discover that we were more or less where we wanted to be if not guilty of setting a ridiculous skin-track.

Until the fog lifted, there was some debate as to which route was best…

From here we had only a short climb into the floor of the bowl, where we could start our final ascent and get ready for the skiing!  As we made our toward the last big push, the clouds totally clear out, and we start to get a good look at what we’ve gotten ourselves into.  We can’t help but split ear to ear grins…

Karl, on the floor, just beneath run number one. In the background, a large cornice can be seen with avalanche debris below it.

Brad, with our second run of the day in the background.
Photo credit: Ryan.

Me, in the floor of the cirque facing out toward Red Mountain.
Photo credit: Ryan

Ryan, ready for action.

Here’s where it starts to get good…

After having a good look around, eating some snacks, drinking some water and joking around, we put on our game faces.  It was time to throw the skis on our backs, set a boot pack, and then ski!  Until now, we hadn’t really done anything remarkable.  Sure, we’d had a few good turns the previous afternoon, and we’d done some nice skinning in a relatively pristine wilderness, but this is what we were really here for.  We were in the alpine, the sun was out, stability was excellent, and there were only a few precarious steps between us shredding couloirs and bowls!  The planning, the, flying, the driving, the credit card bills, the labored breathing, and the sweat were all about to pay off…

At the top of the climb we arrive at a convenient landing area. We stop to admire our boot-pack and scope out run number two.

A short stroll from our landing area, Brad makes a discovery…

…and we all go to have a look.

We sit in awe for a good 20 minutes, speculating endlessly about the bewildering array of skiing and climbing spread out before us.

Rob surveys the land.

Mountains, desert… …and mountains.

The entrance to run one, and run two in the background.

A view of the ridge, as it wraps back from our position toward the south facing flank.

After we’d had our fill of breathtaking scenery, we returned to the task at hand: slaying big mountain lines.  After some debate, we decided to split up: Rob and Brad would ski the steep, narrow chute running northeast off of The Horn, and Ryan, Karl and I would take the wider, mellower chute off of the northwest flank of The Horn.  We’d regroup in the floor of the bowl, then cross the floor, and ascend the south facing slope, traverse northeast along the ridge and drop in from somewhere near the top.  Most of the best GoPro footage is from these two runs.

Gettin’ ready for action!
Photo credit: Brad

Rob does the honors…

Brad follows suit.

Rob and Brad’s line can be seen winding it’s way down from the buttress at the top left of the frame.

A closer view of the same.

Me, taking that tentative first turn.

Karl, dropping in. Ryan spectates from the top.

Karl opens up the throttle.

Ryan gets after it.

Some high speed shredding.

All smiles, for some reason…

The line skied by me, Karl and Ryan.

Mission Accomplished!  Our first objective of the day was a resounding success, and armed with a powerful adrenaline rush, we concocted a route up the opposite face in search of our next conquest.  The next climb was relatively short and totally non-technical – we took our time and enjoyed the climb.  We were greeted by stunning views in practically every direction we turned.

Brad on the traverse.

Ryan and Karl breaking trail toward line two.

Scale… Right around here Karl remarked that he was ‘baking’ and felt like he was ‘crossing the desert’. We were, after all, in the middle of a Superdome sized parabolic mirror.
Photo credit: Brad

Rob on his way.

Kick turns…
Photo credit: Brad

Just one last traverse before run two!

Not a bad place to hang out.

On the home stretch…

Ryan looks back over our skin track.

Ryan and Brad dropped in just below us.

Karl, wrapping up a transition.

Rob, ready for round two.

Again, we were compelled to loiter around the top of the ridge admiring the scenery and contemplating the awesomeness of alpine touring.  We lazily traversed across the ridge from the saddle toward the high end where we planned to drop in.  It was mostly non-technical, with one brief steep section that simply required some deliberate movement.  We stopped short of the absolute top of the ridge because the snow quality seemed to deteriorate close to the craggy top.  There were certainly a few cool chutes dropping down from the top and emptying out into the wide-open run-out.  However, in the afternoon sun the snow was warming up quickly.  Lots of wet slough was running down from the craggy peak and ruining the snow surface.  We kept our eyes open for rollerballs and planned to make this our last run for the day before heading back for Bob’s Hole and the yurt.  We stuck to the middle of the slope for the best skiing and laid down some nice super-g turns.

I start getting the camera ready for action while Ryan and Brad, to the left, and Karl and Rob to the right study their line.

Ryan, all smiles as usual.

Brad slays.

Rob charges the fall line.

Last but not least, Karl gets after it.

Making our way back to the yurt.

After an epic day in the alpine, the yurt might as well have been the penthouse suite: we split some wood, stoked the fire, and made ourselves at home.  The view from outside the yurt was nearly as good as the view from the alpine, and the yurt itself was like a haven of warmth and comfort in the midst of a vast wilderness.  Truly, life was good!

Home sweet, yurt: bastion of back-country comfort and luxury!

Me, splitting wood for the stove.
Photo credit: Brad.


Ryan strums up some victorious tunes after our successful alpine mission.
Photo credit: Ryan

The evening view out the front door of the bunk rooms.

The yurt, with Spines and Lines just visible beyond.

Continue Reading at The Oregon Trip: Spines, Lines and Woods.

Gear List (click links for more product info):

Black Diamond Factor 130 Alpine Touring Boot - Men's Black/Envy Green, 27.0 Dynafit Titan TF-X Ski Boot - Men's White/Red, 27.5 Dynafit TLT Vertical FT Z12 Binding Black Diamond Fritschi Diamir Freeride Pro Binding -120MM Black Diamond Contour Elliptic Trekking Poles - 1 Pair One Color, One Size Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe Black Diamond Sabretooth Clip Crampons The North Face Patrol 34 Winter Backpack - 2135cu in TNF Black, M/L Black Diamond Deploy 3 Shovel Black Diamond QuickDraw Tour Probe 190 Backcountry Access Tracker DTS Beacon Backcountry Access Tracker 2 Avalanche Beacon Black Diamond Guide Glove - Men's Natural, M Petzl Cordex Belay/Rappel Glove Tan, M POC Synapsis 2.0 Helmet White, M POC Lobes Goggle Black/White, One Size Patagonia Capilene 1 Graphic Crew - Men's Mango, L Black Diamond Ascension Nylon STS Skins One Color, 95mm Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack XL/20 Liter, One Size Mountain Hardwear Compressor Insulated Hooded Jacket - Men's Blue Chip Sapphire, M Mountain Hardwear Compressor Pant - Men's Mountain Hardwear Mountain Tech Vest - Men's Sapphire Black, M REI Shuksan Pants with eVent Fabric - Men's 32 REI Gear ShopBuy GoPro HERO Camera at Free Shipping on Orders over $50

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