Thursday, February 28, 2013

Broken Top: attempt 2/Crook Glacier

Sunday I got a late start and drove up towards Mt. Bachelor to give Broken Top another try. For my first try see my Ball Butte entry. I left my car in the Mt. Bachelor parking lot around 10:30 and made good time. I linked the XC ski trails to Flagline and followed the snow mobile access road from there. I hitched a ride with a friendly snow mobiler named Jerry, who dropped me at the base of Ball Butte and saved me well over a mile of flat skinning. From here I dropped down into the valley beneath Broken Top and headed up to the Crook Glacier cirque.
Approaching the Crook Glacier cirque on a really warm Sunday.
The forecast had called for a high of 28F but obviously the weather men at NOAA were wrong. Temps were very high, especially in the direct sun on the south side of the mountain. I made slow progress climbing up to the glacier in the heat, and lost a lot of water to sweat.
Obviously I'm picking the wrong days to play in the snow this winter.
I stopped under the last tree to take a drink and study the south face. As I watched, an avalanche rolled over a 300ft cliff and set off a very large slab avalanche on the slopes below. I didn't comprehend what I was seeing at first because there was no noise. A couple seconds later I heard the roar as the sound waves reverberated down the valley. Obviously 60+F temps on south facing slopes, with 18 inches of fresh snow on top of an old ice layer, make for unstable conditions. Needless to say I had no intention of climbing or skiing the south face of Broken Top after this.
First avalanche rolled off the cliff at the top and set off the slab below.
Not wanting to waste the 10+ miles of skinning I proceeded onto the glacier to scope out future climbing and skiing lines. The Crook Glacier is surrounded by three peaks that form a south facing U. There are many couloirs, cliff bands, and spires. Most of the rock looks very loose but some appears to be relatively solid for Oregon Cascades. I think in the right conditions this bowl could provide amazing skiing and ice climbing.
Amazing skiing and climbing? If only this were granite/frozen solid/stable pow.
As I headed up the glacier I saw a NE facing ramp on the west peak. It was covered in snow and ended in a steep couloir that appeared to top out. It was shaded and showed no signs of avalanche activity. After considering the risks I approached carefully and skinned up to the beginning of the ramp. Here it got too steep and narrow to skin effectively. I tucked in under a rock buttress and took off my skis with the intention of climbing up higher. The shaded ramp turned out to have loose, unconsolidated snow that was very deep. After floundering around in snow up to my chest I gave up, put my skis back on and enjoyed a short but steep run back to the glacier. Although I was loath to leave so soon there was little else I could do. I headed back and got to my car just after sunset.
The ramp I approached. Again, amazing potential here but lousy conditions.
Amazing rock strata near the base of the ramp.
Looking out of the bowl from my high point before dropping in. You can see my skin track leaving the shade below.
I now feel comfortable with the long route between the road and Broken Top. Next time I will try in colder weather even if that means low visibility. Hopefully that will provide better snow and ice conditions and I can actually do something interesting.
My tracks entering and leaving the bowl.


  1. Love that mountain...
    I was up there a few weeks ago and climbed the South Face Gully. The ramp you went up..I dont't recognize it...Is it the 9:00 or 11:00 coulior?
    Here's a few from my trip...

    1. If you're on the west peak summit its the 1:00. If you're as far up the glacier as possible without getting on the south face it would be 7-8:00. Your photo of the guy in red looking over his shoulder has the ramp on the peak behind him on the far right.

      Nice pics by the way!

    2. Oh, yeah...I see it. That's right below point-9094. I use the south ridge to approach that point. I'm still looking for a winter route to the actual summit. Can get to the rim in a few spots, just haven't found a safe way over to the true summit.

      Thanks, you got some good shots too...