Winter in Oregon's Backcountry
I received a text one day from a friend saying he and a buddy of his were heading into the backcountry on his snowmobile to do some split boarding and they were wondering if I wanted to come along. I don't have any backcountry gear, skis, snowboards, etc...so obviously my answer was yes.
I knew that this was an opportunity that didn't come often and I had long wanted to get into the backcountry outside of Bend. So, I showed up equipped with camera in hand and an old pair of snowshoes.
When we arrived at the parking lot, we packed everything onto the snowmobile and rigged a line to the back of it that one brave soul, Brent, would hold onto while being pulled. After a few rough starts, Brent got the hang of being towed and we were on our way.
The forecast for the day had said that the skies were going to clear up midday and we'd get some beautiful weather to play around in. We should have known that Central Oregon forecasts are never right. We were greeted with strong winds, looming clouds and sometimes white-out visibility.
When we arrived at the destination we decided to wait and see if the weather would clear. Standing around and waiting is never easy, so Charlie and Brent decided to pass the time by having fun riding down the roof of the nearby snow shelter.
We soon realized there was no chance of the weather clearing, so we began the trek up a nearby butte. Charlie and Brent skinned up on their splitboards while I followed behind in my snowshoes.
It was a little slow going to the top as we had to pick the safest line the whole way up, but it was definitely reassuring having two experienced backcountry guys testing the avalanche conditions the whole way.
As we neared the summit, the wind picked up and the path grew steeper and steeper. Because of this, the guys were forced to bootpack the rest of the way.
When we reached the summit we were greeted by a complete whiteout. There were no signs of the terrain 10 feet in front of us and the wind was gusting strong enough to nearly blow you over. We stood at the top for a few minutes, letting our imaginations wander as to what type of landscape was waiting just in front of us.
The wind kept picking up, so we decided it was time for the fun part - heading back down the hillside to the snowmobile. I made my way down to get into a good position to photograph the guys riding down while they took their skins off and got their boards ready to ride down.
It was such a blast getting to watch these guys navigate the snowy terrain, weaving between trees and gliding across the snow.
We made it down the hill pretty quickly, so the guys decided they wanted to have a little more fun before heading back. They found a good spot in between some trees and began building a little ramp to jump off of.
The first few jump attempts weren't pretty, but the guys seemed to get the hang of it relatively quickly.
After some fun was had and our energy reserves were running low, we decided it was time to head back to the car. Brent saved the day again by being the one pulled by the snowmobile on the way out. I'm still impressed he managed to make it the whole way due to the amount of effort it takes to ride the whole way out.
This trip got me pretty excited about winter next year and the possibilities available right here in my backyard. Who knows, maybe next time I'll even have something to ride down instead of trudging around in snowshoes!