McNeil Point 2021/11/20

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rubiks
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McNeil Point 2021/11/20

Post by rubiks » November 23rd, 2021, 7:01 pm

Photo of the Day:
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Breaking trail to McNeil point

A second weekend in a row with clear weather forecast on the mountain, without too much snow falling in the interim, meant another late-season alpine hike. After Cooper Spur, I figured the other shelter with a view would be the place to be, so I headed up to McNeil Point.

I usually avoid Top Spur trailhead on a sunny weekend, due to the crowds and limited parking. But apparently mid-November is past the busy season. I got a late start, to sleep in and let things warm up, and was the second car at the trailhead when I drove up at 9am. The road was completely snow-free, save the last mile or so. There was an inch or so of snow on the ground, and it was just below freezing with low clouds/fog.

The first stretch of trail had that misty wintry look, most things white and fog that limited visibility. I took the Bald Mountain detour hoping for some views, and wasn't quite treated to them. The clouds were too low to get an open view yet.
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Mt. Hood from Bald Mountain traverse

I re-entered the woods and was surprised when the tracks I had been following didn't make the cut over to the other fork of the Timberline Trail. I would be breaking trail from here. I kept climbing out of the clouds, and was treated to one of those really spectacular reveals at that open viewpoint on the Timberline Trail. This isn't usually the first mountain vista on this hike, but with the low clouds on Bald Mountain, it was on this occasion.
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First view of Hood, above the clouds

I decided against the express route, too steep and potentially icy, and continued up the long way. The McNeil ponds were frozen and snow covered, with maybe 4-6 inches. I had spikes but never put them on. The views really opened up on the ridge next to Ladd creek, and I picked my way over towards McNeil Point. With maybe a quarter mile to go I saw my first other hiker of the day, heading towards me from the shelter. I have to assume they came up the express route.

Conditions were great up top, mostly clear blue skies with some high clouds. Winds were calm, and in the sun it was very comfortable. This was my first time seeing the shelter with a nice coating of snow, and it looked great.
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Facing another winter on the mountain

I was a little surprised at the low cloud layer. The ridge up to McNeil Point was dividing it very neatly. On the south side, the Muddy Fork was totally socked in. Bald Mountain was hidden, which meant no views on the way back. But the north side, which I guess is the McGee Creek drainage, remained completely clear.
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Views and low clouds to the west
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Persistent fog layer in the Muddy Fork

The trip back down was slow going, due to frequent stops to turn around and take pictures in the changing light. I descended back into the fog as I headed down the ridge, and elected to skip Bald Mountain to save a few minutes. These last sections were impacted by last year's Labor Day windstorm, but all the blowdown from that was completely clear. All the fallen trees, plus the fog and a dusting of snow, gave that stretch of trail an eerie atmosphere. Night and day difference compared with the warm and clear conditions at the top.
You know exactly what to do.
There's no need to be afraid.
Keep walking.

leiavoia
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Joined: April 24th, 2015, 9:53 pm

Re: McNeil Point 2021/11/20

Post by leiavoia » November 24th, 2021, 7:51 am

Beautiful. What was the snow depth at the shelter? And could you have gone up further?

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Chip Down
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Re: McNeil Point 2021/11/20

Post by Chip Down » November 24th, 2021, 5:37 pm

Perfect day. So much better than a hot buggy crowded sunny summer day.
My first time there was in November, weather similar to yours, saw nobody all day, froze my @$$ off but was totally worth it.

Regarding the safety of the shortcut, I've seen timid hikers terrified of the standard route. Less steep, but open expanses of snow, nothing to hold onto, nothing to stop a slide.

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rubiks
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Re: McNeil Point 2021/11/20

Post by rubiks » November 24th, 2021, 6:30 pm

leiavoia wrote:
November 24th, 2021, 7:51 am
Beautiful. What was the snow depth at the shelter? And could you have gone up further?
Not sure on depth... somewhere between 6 and 10 inches, maybe?

I could have gone up further, and the snow there was windswept/compacted enough that I wasn't sinking in more than a few inches. But I had somewhere to be in the evening and just didn't have the time. I was kicking myself for not starting earlier.
You know exactly what to do.
There's no need to be afraid.
Keep walking.

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BigBear
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Re: McNeil Point 2021/11/20

Post by BigBear » November 25th, 2021, 3:31 pm

Ooooh, that takes me back to a hike there some years ago with a fresh fall snow.

proxie
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Re: McNeil Point 2021/11/20

Post by proxie » November 25th, 2021, 4:45 pm

Nice pics. Never thought to do McNeil Point in winter. How easy is the route to follow with the snow? You said you were breaking trail so I assume any tracks from previous hikers weren't present.

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rubiks
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Re: McNeil Point 2021/11/20

Post by rubiks » November 25th, 2021, 8:21 pm

proxie wrote:
November 25th, 2021, 4:45 pm
Nice pics. Never thought to do McNeil Point in winter. How easy is the route to follow with the snow? You said you were breaking trail so I assume any tracks from previous hikers weren't present.
I "lost" the trail in a couple spots, both in open areas on the last stretch above the Timberline Trail. But I'm familiar enough with the route that I knew whereabouts the trail went, and it didn't really matter if I was on the trail or 50 feet away from it.

There weren't any new tracks, but there also wasn't enough fresh snowfall to completely obscure the older tracks. The photo of the day gives you a good sense of what the route looked like.
You know exactly what to do.
There's no need to be afraid.
Keep walking.

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