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  • Kelley Bayern

Bluebird Goals


Bluebird ski days are pretty rare for me. The last time I can remember skiing the slopes under blue skies was back in high school. However, this past weekend, my friends and I were gifted one of the most glorious days on the mountain with bright sunshine, calm winds, and semi-soft snow.


I am now a huge fan of Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood, not only for their resident bear dog mascots, Bruno & Heidi, but their lift lines are short, the blue diamonds are plentiful, the main lodge is eerily majestic, and the Magic Mile lift hauls you up to 7,000 feet.

Imagine the crispy summit view of Mt. Hood sparkling in the sun as we rode the Magic Mile chair. The Palmer Express wasn't running at the moment due to ice, but there were some folks skinning up the snowfield and beyond. As I peered up to the summit, I could see a few diagonal switchbacks and then a handful more of tiny dots right below the summit. What a weekend to top out on Mt. Hood! This weekend provided some prime climbing conditions so kudos to the climbers for having the idea to take advantage of the weather. Mountaineering has been on my back burner for a while now. I am also reserving my attempt to summit Hood for August. In the past, all but one of my Washington volcano summits have been in the summer months. But I forget how ideal the terrain can be in the winter, especially when paired with a sunny and dry spell. Back in January of 2016, I topped out on Mount St. Helens during a bluebird weekend with whipping winds and negative wind chill values. Yikes! Still worth the view. (Photo below.)


I am now reassessing my late summer summit goal to possibly one this winter. Now that I am familiar with Timberline Lodge, my plan would be to skin up from the parking lot and leave my skis at the top of Palmer, possible the Magic Mile if it's too icy up there. After the summit, I'd take a nice ski down and call it a day. I'm just looking for the perfect weather window again. Luckily... forecast models are trending towards another strong ridge of high pressure developing through the last weekend of January.

The first clue: Looking at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, the 8-14 day outlook is trending mild and dry probabilities across the west coast. Even California trends drier this round, a good indication that the storm track is well to the north. Mild weather is on the way for the end of January.


The second clue: Both the long range GFS and ECMWF forecast models have a ridge developing by early next week. The ridge continues to strengthening by Wednesday (Jan. 23) and holds through at least Friday. This is a textbook set up for dry, sunny, chilly, foggy and hazy PNW weather. It's also prime grade winter climbing weather.


With this pattern setting up through the end of January, it's likely the month will finish off with above normal highs and below normal rain totals. I'm still not seeing any signs of valley snow either. 100% of the state remains in a drought with minor improvements in the NW portion over the past three months. Central Oregon is seeing the worst levels of drought. Cascade snow pack (snow water equivalent) is sitting around 65% of normal. More info can be found by clicking HERE.

Of course, this forecast is 10 days out and can always change. But if this ridge holds through the last weekend in January, I'll be making a trip to the summit! More updates coming soon.

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