Powder Binge in Cortina

Cortina, Dolomites, Italy, night, lights

Cortina Night : Prints Available

Nighttime lights of Cortina d' Ampezzo illuminate the mountains above town on a snowy November night. 

Today I scored one of my all-time best powder days! More on that below.

Anyhow, six and a half years after climbing via ferrate routes around Cortina d’ Ampezzo and the Dolomites in the summertime, I have returned… this time for winter! Yesterday I took a tram up to the Refugio d’ Faloria, a plush hut situated on the edge of a huge cliff about 900m (3000 ft.) above the town of Cortina. I spent the night up there, enjoying not only a primo view of Cortina, but also a slopeside location to kick off the ski area’s opening day on Saturday.

Sunrise on Cristallo, Dolomites

Sunrise on Monte Cristallo. Though it was dumping snow all day on Friday, Saturday brought bluebird skies.

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Endless Ride Down Mt. Adams

After our great descent down Mt. St. Helens on Saturday, we drove over to neighboring volcano Mt. Adams, found a great spot to car camp, and slept in for 12 hours. The next day was mostly spent relaxing and fueling up on food next to the campfire, then at 4pm we set off with minimal camping gear in order to position ourselves better for the big 8,000 vertical foot ascent of Adams the next day.

Moonlight camping on Mt. Adams

By setting up a basecamp near treeline, we were able to knock off about 5 miles and 2,000 vertical feet from the approach (which was longer than usual due to the unplowed snowpacked road). Here’s a shot of Mt. Adams in the moonlight, 6,000 feet higher than the tent.

hiking Mt. Adams

Though the mountain looks very steep from afar, we were actually able to skin up most of the way up the Suksdorf Ridge on our skis. We started the hike at 5am under perfect bluebird skies, but by the time we got up towards the top, some high clouds started moving in, adding a bit of anxiety and urgency to our hike.

hiking to Mt. Adams summit

The grueling 6,000 foot hike really started wearing us down towards the top. Due to icier snow up top, we switched to crampons for the final 1,000 feet and slogged up past a couple false summits until we were finally at the summit! The summit towered above all the clouds and we sat up there and enjoyed the panoramic vista, with Mt. Rainier and Mt. Hood off in the distances, both looming above the clouds.

Skiing Mt. Adams

Scott McCurdy skis down Mt. Adams. The hard and bumpy ice-snow below the summit soon gave way to softer, smoother snow, and we were able to carve progressively bigger and smoother turns.

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St. Helens in a Cloud Sandwich

Mt. St. Helens was our first goal on our northwestern volcano tour. After a night of camping in the rain, we started the hike at 5am in the gloomy mist, with little expectations other than perhaps a sopping wet “exercise” day in the fog and rain. After an hour or so of hiking, however, our hopes rose dramatically as the clouds above us started to show signs of clearing.

Hiking Mt. St. Helens above the clouds

Sure enough, we popped out above the lower cloud deck and enjoyed a spectacular skin up within a cloud sandwich.

HIking Mt. St. Helens

Scott McCurdy skins up a steeper portion toward the top. The 5600 vertical foot ascent was surprisingly easy going, and the summit ridge seemed to arrive quicker than I expected.

Mt. St. Helens summit crater panorama

[+] Panorama from the summit ridge, looking into the steaming crater, which blew its top almost exactly 30 years prior.

Skiing Mt. St. Helens

Now the fun part! After relaxing on the summit in the calm weather for a while, we strapped on our skis/snowboard and dropped in, enjoying perfect snow conditions – about 2 inches or so fresh firm powder atop silky smooth spring corn snow. Skier: Scott McCurdy.

Skiing Mt. St. Helens

The skiable terrain on Helens is vast to say the least. We had untracked lines down a huge face that probably 100 skiers couldn’t even track up. The face emptied into a huge gentle gully which snaked down the mountain in one or two big sweeping curves. ~5000 vertical feet of cruisy wide-open terrain, in perfectly smooth and soft spring snow conditions… my dreams of snowboarding aren’t even this good!

Completely stoked on our surprise score on St. Helens, we headed to our next (and bigger) volcano: Mt. Adams.