Nature Is Never Closed: Alex Byers
Nature Is Never Closed.
Mountains have no governments, no restrictions, no shutdowns.
They have seasons, mysteries, and legacies.
Mount Hood, Oregon (originally named Wy’East) features the longest ski season in North America. Olympians, X Games stars, up-and-coming rippers all congregate at Timberline to come shred at the only place with rideable snow in the Western Hemisphere mid-summer.
On August 2nd, many of us were twiddling our thumbs in quarantine, biting at any opportunity to get out and about at a safe distance. A friend and I rented touring gear to ski up and down the Palmer glacier, a remnant of the massive glaciers that formed during the last Ice Age. Our destination? Illumination Rock.
I’ve toured up to Illumination for the Solstice party that takes place every June, when 100+ skiers and splitboarders make their way up to 9,500 feet above sea level to watch X Games gold medalists huck backflips off of home made kickers, rejoice in the sunset, and ski down over purple and red snow as the sunlight dwindles.
This time, though...was different. Getting into nature this year was absolutely imperative, and pushing through challenges outside the 2020 norm was a breath of fresh air.
In the parking lot, we heard rumors that Mikaela Shiffrin was making laps on Palmer, one of the many notable names who make their way to Wy’East. We began our ascent from the lodge parking lot at 6,000 feet elevation. Taking the chair lift is cheating.
Absolute blue bird of a day or our slog up the thinning, melting, but still solid snowpack trail, sun beating down as we donned t-shirts and shorts. The stuff of dreams. After about 2 hours of touring and hiking over exposed rocks we had Illumination Rock directly in our sights. Altitude started affecting our breathing and cognitive ability, but that certainly didn’t slow the stoke. For the last hour we skinned a switchback route up to the back of the rock where our uphill journey finally ended.
Hooting, hollering, and catching our breath above the clouds we took in the majesty of the stratovolcano. Small Cascade towns way down below. A quietness that eerily highlights the small boulders that move down the slope in the melting snow on their own. A moment of respite and reflection followed by strapping on the planks and re-assembling the splitboard to rip down the surfy, slushy, sun-baked snow on a Saturday in August.