L2H: Day Zero

Whitney Portal To kick off the trip we needed a full day of gear caching and driving, just to set everything up for later on. The first step was to put a car at the Whitney Portal, which is the trailhead leading to the Mt Whitney mountaineer’s route which we planned to ascend five days later. In Winter the portal road is gated about 2 miles below the trailhead. So we drove up in the morning and parked Jacob (the twilight blue Outback) at the gate and threw in our winter camping and mountaineering gear.

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Low to High - Badwater Basin to Mt Whitney

This isn’t a volcano trip, but I snuck it in as a little side trip along the way to skiing all the Cascades! It’s a bit of a geographical quirk that Mt Whitney, the high point in the continental United States, and Badwater Basin, the low point in the continental US, are only separated by about 100 miles. Death Valley and Badwater Basin in particular are formed by mountain ranges that are being pulled apart by tectonic forces, causing the valley floor to slip lower and lower below sea level.

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Kohm Yah-mah-nee (Lassen Peak)

Kohm Yah-mah-nee is the high point of the remarkably active Lassen dome volcano, which has peaks that are over a half million years old as well as peaks, like Lassen itself that are barely 30,000 years old. Getting to the summit of Kohm Yah-mah-nee is about +4600’ of gain up to the peak at 10,450’, over a brief 4.5 miles. Step one to getting to Lassen was the six hour drive from Oregon down, and along the way I was treated to a big surprise… gas is unbelievably expensive right now!

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Three Fingered Jack

Three Fingered Jack is part of a very old volcanic complex that has been eroded over hundreds of thousands of year. This process left behind a dramatic summit of spires made out of totally crumbly volcanoic rock. Because it’s in Oregon it’s also very very cold. Getting to the summit col involves about +2200’ of elevation gain over 4 miles, if you don’t get too lost. So this is the start of the real trip, step one is to drive down to California so that I can then drive back to Seattle!

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Wy'east (Mt Hood)

The South Side route on Wy’east is at the same time a big step up and a big step down from the mellow skiing on the Worm Flows route of the previous week. You start at a ski lodge, and the first half of the south side route is just skiing up past the lifts. It’s a bit disheartening to ski for two hours and realize you could have taken a lift the whole way!

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Loowit (Mt St Helens)

Loowit is the smallest of the Washington volcanoes but it also has one of the easiest approaches, because the road to the trailhead is plowed, even in winter. To get to the summit is about 5000’ of elevation gain and around 5.5 miles each way. We had a blast of warm weather at the beginning of February which Greg, Allison, and I took advantage of to take a quick trip up Mt St Helens.

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Probable Peak Plan

From 2015 to 2018 I flew back and forth about two dozen times from the San Francisco airport to the Seattle airport to visit Allison. On each of those flights I tried to get a right-hand seat on the flight north and a left-hand seat on the flight south, so that I would get to watch the Cascade volcanoes as they passed by my window. It seemed like it would make for such a beautiful trip to drive north and ski as many of the volcanoes as possible, but at the time I didn’t know how to ski (backcountry) and on top of that I had just sold my snowboard.

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