Mazama Ridge 2
This was my second trip to Mazama
Ridge this winter. The first trip in February was very warm and sunny. In
fact, there was a temperature inversion and it reached 48 degrees at Paradise
that day. Lyn and I snowshoed up the ridge, around it, and back. This day
was a bit different. Gary and Mark invited me along on a ski trip. Since
they are far more skilled than me I brought snowshoes to help in the toughest
places. We stopped in Eatonville at the bakery where some other skiers told
us that they had already been to the park and the road to Paradise was not
going to open until 11:00. This was disappointing news so we had a long breakfast.
It was also strange news as Paradise had only 2 inches of snow in the preceding
24 hours. Hoping that the it would open a little earlier, we were back on
the road by 9:30. When we reached the park entrance we found that the gate
was opening at 10:00 not 11:00. A little snow began at the entrance and deepened
as we ascended. By the time we reached Paradise it was snowing. The forecast
was for snow showers in the morning and more snow in the afternoon. That shower
never stopped all day. By the time we had our gear together and were on the
route it was nearly 11:00.
The good news is that the snow conditions are excellent.
A foot of fresh snow fell a few days earlier and fairly low temperatures left
it in nice shape. We headed down the Paradise Valley Road along with a moderate
number of others. We were very surprised to see a sno-cat clearing out a
flat spot on and along the road. Part way down we detoured off the road into
the valley bottom. This avoided several avalanche slopes and made for a more
interesting route. Farther down we skied back onto the road again. Where
the road makes a hairpin turn we headed up the slope. This route is not too
steep and after a number of switchbacks we gain about 200' and reached a
saddle. Left goes up Mazama Ridge. We headed straight ahead and down. It was
steep enough that I put on snowshoes for the descent. My partners had no
trouble skiing down through the trees. At the bottom we reached Reflection
Lakes. My skies went back on here. We skied across the lake and angled left
and up the base of the ridge. Gary and I skied up here last year and I had
no problems. The route we took this time worked but was quite a bit more difficult
for me. Still, I kept skies on for the ascent. After one particularly
steep section, where I took a short fall, things improved. One spot was flat
and sheltered by trees so we took our lunch break. Here I discovered that
I had lost my snowshoes. I checked periodically so I knew it wasn't too far
back. I tromped through the deep snow down the ridge until I found them.
By the time I climbed back up I was more than ready for lunch.
After eating, we continued the climb. Sections were
steep but not nearly as much as down below. As the terrain opened up we could
see well ahead and behind us. Two snowshoers came into view behind us, walking
in our compressed ski tracks. When we first ascended the ridge before dropping
to the lakes we saw tracks heading up the ridge. By angling left we reintersected
those tracks. The going was a little easier with tracks to follow. This has
been a very good winter for me taking snowshoe trips. It has been a poor one
for cross country skiing trips. I felt it on the ascent as I had very little
practice this year. Also, a few little used muscles let me know they were
there. The ridge was covered with lots of fresh snow. The trees were thoroughly
flocked. On my February
Paradise had 85 inches. This day the total was 160 inches. The difference
was marked at Paradise and also on Mazama Ridge. February felt and looked
like spring. In April it felt and looked like winter.
By the time we reached the descent point, high on the
ridge, I was more than ready to head down. I put my snowshoes back on and
Gary and Mark prepared for some telemark skiing. The descent is about 500'
back to the road below. I had fun running down it in the deep soft snow.
My friends seemed to have even more fun skiing down. In short order we were
all back on the road. My skies went back on for the last up hill slog to
the car. The whole time we were out the snow never stopped. When we arrived
back the car had a good 3-4 inches on it.
For those who have not put their skies or snowshoes away
for the season, the conditions at Paradise were very good. I wouldn't hesitate
to recommend it as a great destination for a spring trip.