Barrett Spur, 11/21/21

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wnshall
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Joined: July 17th, 2009, 10:31 am

Barrett Spur, 11/21/21

Post by wnshall » November 22nd, 2021, 10:56 pm

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I took advantage of the blue sky forecast Sunday for one more (last?) trip up above timberline on Mt. Hood, via the Vista Ridge trail. Almost exactly a year ago I made a similar trip -- forecasts for blue skies had me expecting one last high elevation trip enjoying the low angle sun. Instead, grey clouds enveloped Hood, with 4" of new snow at the trailhead which became knee-deep powder at timberline. Although it wasn't what I expected, I enjoyed a fun day tromping through the snow, with my only regret that the wind deterred me from exploring too far above tree line.

During the winter I mostly spend my time cross-country skiing, but I recently got a pair of snowshoes and I've been looking for an opportunity to put them to use. With my experience a year ago, seeing Hood once again draped in snow, and seeing the blue sky forecast for Sunday, I thought I might have an opportunity to use my snowshoes. I had visions of tromping across Vista Ridge through piles of fluffy snow.

But reality intruded. The last bit of snow on the mountain was on Wed or Thu, and Fri and Sat brought warm temperatures. Whatever snow was up there surely wasn't going to be fluffy, and it wasn't clear how much snow there even was. So I set out, with shoes strapped on my back, prepared to hoof it the whole way. Indeed, the trailhead had just a dusting of snow, although by timberline that had become 3-4 inches. The Vista Ridge trail was easily navigated in boots only, with ample tracks from the day before.
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Lower slopes of Vista Ridge
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Vista Ridge Trail
The open slopes up towards Barrett Spur looked windswept and I probably could have walked all the way up. But I wanted to give the snowshoes a try, so I strapped them on an hiked up one of the ravines that lead up from the timberline trail towards the large permanent snow field just below and north of the shoulder at the foot of BS. The snow was hard and crusty enough that I probably could have walked it in boots, but the snowshoes were fun, and made scaling some of the steeper parts easier. When I reached the wind swept rocky area near the top, I switched to microspikes.
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More snow above timberline
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View from the top of the snowfield - you can see my trail near the bottom
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Close to the top. The tracks are from the day before.
The views were fantastic, as always. There was very little wind and it was in fact quite warm -- probably in the 40s. You could see the valleys below socked in clouds -- especially the gorge. I had toyed with the idea of hiking Lyle Orchard, and I'm glad I didn't because it looked socked in all day.
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I met two of the three people I saw all day at the top -- I was shocked to see anyone up there.
To return, I dropped off the west side and followed the snow fields down towards the Timberline trail midway between Cairn basin and the Vista Ridge junction.
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abstract snow
I followed these big cat tracks most of the way down. Cougar? Bobcat?
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Untracked Timberline trail back towards Vista Ridge.
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Got a bit of a late start, so it was getting dark as I made it back to the TH. Perfect timing to catch the sunset.
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As always, a beautiful day on Wyeast mountain. I'm already scheming how to get back there this winter. I believe Lolo Pass Rd is gated at the junction with 1825 on Dec. 1. Is it possible to drive (conditions permitting) up to Vista Ridge TH from Hood River, or is FR18 gated somewhere in that direction too?

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drm
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Re: Barrett Spur, 11/21/21

Post by drm » November 23rd, 2021, 8:37 am

I am surprised that you could drive to the trailhead, that's usually the thing that ends these kinds of trips. I thought we had too much lower altitude snow to drive that high. Now I'm looking at a decent forecast for next weekend and wondering where I might try to get up high.

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retired jerry
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Re: Barrett Spur, 11/21/21

Post by retired jerry » November 23rd, 2021, 8:43 am

it got melted out by warm rain

nice to get up that high at the end of November

wnshall
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Joined: July 17th, 2009, 10:31 am

Re: Barrett Spur, 11/21/21

Post by wnshall » November 23rd, 2021, 9:26 am

drm wrote:
November 23rd, 2021, 8:37 am
I am surprised that you could drive to the trailhead, that's usually the thing that ends these kinds of trips. I thought we had too much lower altitude snow to drive that high. Now I'm looking at a decent forecast for next weekend and wondering where I might try to get up high.
Yeah, driving in was completely uneventful, there was hardly any snow even at the trailhead. In fact, the gravel portion of FR18 from Lolo pass towards the Cathedral Ridge TH turnoff has been recently graded so no more pot holes -- it was a pleasure to drive!

It looks like early this week brings snow down to 4000', but then later in the week it turns to rain with snow levels rising above 6000'. I would guess roads will still be passable this weekend.

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rubiks
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Re: Barrett Spur, 11/21/21

Post by rubiks » November 23rd, 2021, 6:19 pm

Great trip report. I had the same thought on Saturday, and tagged McNeil Point from Top Spur. The road was totally snow-free until maybe the last mile, and not more than an inch or two at the trailhead. I started late, about 9am, and I was not the first car there. When I left about 3pm, there were half a dozen other cars.

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Top Spur TH
You know exactly what to do.
There's no need to be afraid.
Keep walking.

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