Friday, April 29, 2016

Crater Lake Tour - Garfield Peak (West Bowl/Chute)

A few weeks ago I once again found myself without a tour partner so I decided to head to familiar territory, Crater Lake (OR), where the weather conditions looked like they'd be perfect and the avalanche danger would be low. My plan was to hit the Garfield/Applegate zone with the final line down Garfield's west bowl/main chute - a ~1,200' treeless descent all the way down to the road!

Since it was supposed to be a sunny day with mild temps I wanted to get a fairly early start so that I hit the corn window. I was able to get out of town around 5:30am on Saturday morning, which put me at the Crater Lake HQ at 8:30 and geared up & skiing by 9am. Following a similar approach I had used last time I had toured this zone (trip report here), I climbed for ~2 miles and 300 vertical feet up the snow covered road to where the trees opened up to the north side of the road. From here I climbed for an additional 1.5 miles and 800' until I reached the base of Applegate's southwest bowl. The route from the road to the Applegate bowl is actually very easy going and quite beautiful, as you travel through multiple connecting meadows with not much in the way of forest navigation.


Looking back to the southwest on the way up to Applegate

Another view to the south

Applegate

From the bottom of Applegate I made my way up the western half of the bowl and reached the 8,126' summit with minimal effort. After spending a few minutes to take in the amazing view of Crater Lake I transitioned over to snowboard mode and prepared to drop into the main bowl, which would give me about a 450 foot vertical descent -- not much but still a great way to warm up. The morning sun had softened the snow perfectly and I was treated to near perfect corn conditions, however it was over way too quickly!


Starting the climb up Applegate

First view of the lake

And another view

My tracks, about halfway down Applegate -- low angle soul turns!

It was now time to throw the skins on and head over to Garfield Peak, which was only about a mile to the west. As with the initial approach, the traverse west was pretty easy going due to the open fields with wide sightlines and modest gradient. My plan was to evaluate the snow conditions of Garfield to determine if it was worth getting in a quick lap on the southeast face, before heading toward the main line on the western aspect. Since the sun had been shining for awhile on the southeast face, the snow was getting pretty soft - not quite loose-wet avy conditions but still a bit slushy. Once I reached the top of Garfield I could see that the west face had just started getting sun and was probably still a little crusty; therefore, I decided I may as well get in the quick 200' descent down the southeast face to give the west side time to soften up.


First view of Garfield's southeast face

Another view of Crater Lake, this time from the summit of Garfield.

A pano shot

Since it would be a short run and I really wouldn't need all my supplies, I stashed my pack against a small tree near the summit, threw my skins in my pockets and prepared my snowboard for the descent. Sure enough, the ride down was both a bit short and slushy, and I found myself reapplying my skins about five minutes after I had taken them off for the descent.


My line down the SE face of Garfield

The climb back up to the summit of Garfield was pretty painless and I was soon reunited with my backpack. Since there were some cliffs to contend with if you were to drop straight down to the west, I boot packed a short distance down and to the north to where I would start the final descent.


Back to the summit of Garfield 

Cumulus clouds moving in

Heading north down from the summit of Garfield (Wizard Island in the background)

After getting changed over I dropped into the first pitch, essentially a traverse back to the south, which deposited me at the top of the west bowl. The bowl itself was nice and wide and dropped about 400 vertical feet, at a slope angle in the low 30s. The snow had just started to corn up and I hit a couple small crust patches on the way down. The bowl terminated all too soon at a band of small rock cliffs, which had a couple narrow lines running down either side. Since I was by myself and didn't want to push it too much, I decided to traverse over to the adjacent chute to the south and drop a few hundred feet down it instead. The gradient within the chute steepened into the 40 degree range and I had to mix in a few jump turns as I made my way down the mountain.


reaching the west bowl of Garfield Peak

Looking back up at my lines in the west bowl

Looking back up at my line down the chute to the south of the main bowl/chute

I soon found an opening in the trees that put me back into the main chute that the upper bowl had funneled into. It was much wider, and resembled a ski run that you would find at any ski resort. I could now see the road, and with the slope angle mellowing out I was able to link some nice turns, making it down to the bottom in a short amount of time. Just before the road, the slope flattened out completely, but luckily I was able to carry enough speed to make it through without having to unstrap and posthole to the finish.


Back in the main chute, with the road in striking distance.

Looking back up at my line down the main chute

A view from the road, looking back up at the west bowl & main chute. 

With the high snow bank it was actually a bit tricky to get down to the road, but I eventually found a low spot to down climb. Now at the road, I had about a 1/4 mile walk back to Crater Lake HQ, where I had parked my Suby. Once back at my car I changed into some cotton and drove up to the Rim Village for some much deserved lunch. I gotta say, it was a bit of a culture shock being around so many people, after being treated to complete solitude along my tour, which had really made me feel like I had the whole park to myself.

Conclusion:
This was my third trip to Crater Lake and I would say that Garfield's west bowl and chutes are the best terrain I've ridden there so far. Also, being able to finish with a 1,200' descent and not having to skin back out was a real treat! Of course, Crater Lake has a ton of skiable terrain and I've just scratched the surface. It's certainly become one of my favorite places to splitboard in Oregon, and I don't see this changing anytime soon!

My tracks

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