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Volcano Mountaineering 101: Mt. Bachelor, glissades, and BUTTERFLIES!
posted by John : August 8, 2017

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Yeah, it's gonna be epic

YOU WOULDN'T BELIEVE IT! Not surprisingly, I was not stingy with my praise for my trip up Mount McLoughlin just two days before. The butterflies alone made the trip worth it, but it was also a volcano and that's always worth a climb. Somehow, this only made an impression on Clara. Or at least Clara was the only one that thought it would be a good idea to get up early to climb Mount Bachelor. Her enthusiasm caught on at an extended family event so we picked up Aunt Louise, too.

Mount Bachelor isn't a big challenge mountain. After all, it has a ski lift to just about the summit. It's a perfect cone volcano just south of the wilder Three Sisters and the shattered remnants of Broken Top. It was a great challenge for sea-level folks that haven't climbed above 9,000 feet before so pretty ideal for this day.

Even though it's a ski area, the summer trail was plenty wild with only a few views of the lift system. Those wilderness-spoilers were few enough you hardly see them in my carefully curated pictures. (Never believe what you see online!) The first section is through the trees and we made good time.

Once we left the trees the trail wound through fields of rock and across short snow patches. The women (yes, I'm including Clara in that classification) carefully picked their way across the snow, cautiously testing every foot placement and fearing a slide. We'd have to fix that. One should never be afraid of snow in late summer.

Louise kept a fast pace and left us in the dust. We stopped to breathe frequently thanks to the elevation. I'd like to think I've acclimated a bit with the time I spend in the mountains around home (topping around 6,000 feet) and the periodic climbs toward 10,000 like Mt. McLoughlin a few days before, but I was feeling the altitude, too. Clara's only been to 10,000 feet once, but with a few breaks she did fine.

Nearing the summit we started seeing a few butterflies and I was hopeful we had hit the jackpot again.

Indeed we had. Twice in as many trips they were everywhere! Butterflies are magical. So were the views, even obscured by wildfire smoke as they were. Clara busted out her camera and wandered all over the summit area while I sat and marveled at the wonder of climbing a volcano with my daughter.

An hour later, full of buttery goodness, we headed down. Rather than follow the rocky trail all the way down, I hoped to get some glissades in by traversing to skier's right to a long snow field I'd spotted on the way up. Along the traverse we found pods of butterflies resting before taking off to fly wherever they were heading.

I love snow and I've spent a ton of time on snow. I've worked with the kids to become comfortable on snow and with the tools they need to stay safe. As a result, Clara was ready and excited for glissading. She had even carried her ice axe to the summit just in case. (I had left mine at the house.) Louise was not quite so sure.

So... I sit in the snow and slide? Won't my bum get wet? How do I stop? Isn't it cold?

Don't worry. Just watch me and follow along. <hehe>

The first slope was a short one with a safe runout. The worst possible outcome would be a short roll into the basin. I slid quickly and laid a track. Louise sat and started down. I watched her face go from hmmm to oooh to aaaigh to hahahahahaha! It was exactly what I expected to see on a first glissade. (Those translate roughly to, "Interesting, I'm sitting in the snow in shorts," "I'm sliding", "OMG there's snow going up my shorts!" and "THAT WAS AWESOME!")

Clara followed using her axe for control and stopping perfectly. I gave her one suggestion to hold her axe further to the outside, but otherwise she was good for the bigger slopes. Louise had to make due with her trekking poles as a stand in for an axe.

The next 30 minutes was spent barreling down the slopes we had spent laboring up. Up was plod plod breathe plod plod. Down was WAHOOO! breathe traverse to line up the next slide and WAHOOO! Going down is usually easier, but going down in a glissade is always more fun. By the time we exhausted the snow were soaked and had dropped at least a thousand feet. We blew past a couple that was descending at the same time. They initially demurred when I suggested they take the snow down, but relented when they saw how much fun we were having.

After a glissade the remainder of the descent was more a chore than a fun adventure. So many descents are. But given the points we'd already tallied it was clear this was going to be a day for the record books. We'd climbed to a volcanic summit above 9,000 feet. We'd seen a butterfly swarm that occurs only once a decade. And we'd enjoyed some serious glissading. Definitely a winning day.

The only downside was we were due to head home in a few more days and there wouldn't be time for another volcano climb. Some of the few climbers we met on the way down said they'd started early and had already found butterflies on South Sister. That would have been a great second volcano for Clara, but it would have to wait until our next trip to Central Oregon. Something tells me there will be one.

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