Ben Horan is a freelance writer and sometimes-guide based in Missoula, Montana, and blogs at www.thegentlemanatlarge.com. Tom Robertson is a photographer out of Missoula, whose work has appeared in a variety of national and international publications, and is currently surfing from bike tour to bike tour around the Americas. Ben, Tom, and two buddies are riding bikes from Portland to Bend, OR, with trailers full of ski gear, in an attempt to ski as many volcanoes as possible in two weeks entirely under human power. You can keep tabs on those guys on Instagram following #bike2skiOregon.
“It doesn’t rain in Oregon. Not in the spring, anyway.” I kept hoping that maybe if I repeated that to myself enough times the pattering on the tent fly would stop. That I would crawl out at dawn to hot coffee and dry shoes and one of those star-pierced blue-gray skies that heralded another high pressure corn cycle kind of day. It doesn’t rain in Oregon.
Sure, that’s an objectively untrue statement, but in light of this past winter’s dry spell and warm, sunny spring, the idea that we’d get a two-week weather window in Oregon’s high country didn’t seem so far-fetched. Now, after a week cowering in a two person tent I would settle for “partly cloudy.” Only a week ago hot sun and tailwinds spirited four of us quickly out of Portland and spared our legs the worst of the stinging as we pedaled 150 pound bicycles up the 5,000 foot climb toward the base of Mount Hood.
Our bikes were loaded with camping gear in panniers, and we each towed a trailer laden with our ski mountaineering outfits. After warming up on Hood the plan was to head south to Jefferson for more big mountain exposure and then into the Sisters Wilderness to explore their couloirs and steep ski lines. Hood went more or less as planned.
We left Government Camp on bikes at 5am, were skinning by 6:30, and after swerving around a number of rope teams and much earlier risers found ourselves alone on the summit just as the snow began to soften at 11. 5,000 feet of velvety turns put us at the Timberline bar for a quick lunch beer and soundly asleep by 7pm.
If I’d known that that was the last we’d see of the sun I’d have tried to stay up until it set.We spent a day of riding pristine paved forest roads under foreboding skies before the first raindrops started falling somewhere just outside of Detroit. The rain and low cloud ceiling scuttled our first start on Jefferson, and on our second attempt low visibility turned us around a few hundred feet from the summit. The second chapter of this tour has been a lesson in managing expectations and finding silver linings. With down time in camp I’ve heard new stories from old friends, gotten to test some gear in environments that I’m not used to, and seen what it’s like to eat 6,000 calories a day (this trip is hard).
And shoot, it’s only half over. We just crossed over to the east side of the Cascade Divide, and it’s looking like we might get that partly cloudy forecast after all.