Garfield Peak (Oregon Cascades; 8,054')

Of all the summits around Crater Lake, Garfield Peak is closest to the lodge and thus provides an obvious winter objective. The west side is steeper than it looks, whereas the south slopes are very gentle. The views are superb.

Topo Map

Routes: W Face (steep snow climb)
S Side (easy ski descent)

Garfield Peak from Crater Lake Sno Park in February

Date: February 18, 2006

Party: DB solo

Route: W Face up, S Side down

Equipment: AT Skis

Time: Lodge - Summit 3 hrs 15 mins
Summit - Park Headquarters 1 hr
Roundtrip from Lodge 5 hrs

Comments: Very hard and icy snow

Trip report:

It had been dry for a few weeks, and a weird jet stream pattern brought dry and very cold air down from Canada. Smith Rock was prohibitively cold, and so Monique and I decided to finally realize a long-planned winter trip to Crater Lake. The plan was that I would climb and ski Garfield Peak, while Monique would snowshoe around and then pick me up wherever I would hit the road.

The drive in winter takes forever, even with ideal road conditions, but we took it easy in the morning in order to give temperatures a chance to warm up a bit. Still, the low on the trip was 2 degrees somewhere between Willamette Pass and Highway 97. When we arrived at Crater Lake shortly before 11:30 the temperature was 18 degrees. By 11:45 I finally got going from the lodge, while Monique started on snow shoes in the opposite direction.

After crossing some rolling terrain, I made my first mistake: I went left, towards the lake, in the hope of somehow being able to follow the summer trail. No way, cliffs all over. So I decided to traverse until I would be able to go up the open slopes one can see from the lodge. To do so I had to go down, so I took off my skins and skied down on very icy snow. Almost an hour after leaving the lodge I reached my low point, which was substantially below the lodge. I put skins back on and started an ascending traverse, having a hard time making my edges bite in the ice. After struggling for 15 minutes I was missing my camera. I cursory look in my pack did not produce anything, so I was convinced I had left it when I put on skins. So I went back to that spot. No camera, no slide tracks, no nothing. A more thorough search of my pack produced the camera, and I started back up. So that had killed another half an hour.

After struggling over ice for another half an hour the terrain got too steep for skinning, and I switched to boot packing. On average it took two to three hard kicks to kick a step. The higher I climbed, the steeper it got, until it became quite marginal without crampons and ice axe, which I had stupidly left at home. I escaped onto rock for a while, but then the rock became too hard to climb in ski boots and I went back onto the icy snow. I knew I would not be able to arrest if I fell, so I took care to kick good steps. I made very slow progress.

Finally I reached gentler slopes, put my skis back on and skinned to the summit. Incredibly, it had taken me more than three hours to go up 1,000 vertical feet! On the summit I found a party of three who had skinned up from the south, which they said was much gentler. The views were unbelievable. Crater Lake on one side, and the snow-covered Klamath Basin on the other. After spending a long time on the summit and taking many photos I decided that this was not the day to ski the West Face and started down towards the south, then cut right when I figured I was past the cliffs and made my way down through steep forest towards the Park Headquarters. Eventually I intersected a X-country trail, and soon I was at the road. I slid down the snow bank and sat down to wait for Monique. After a short time the sun disappeared, though, and it instantly got extremely cold. I stomped around for half an hour, then Monique did show up and we drove back up to the crater rim, where we had a very late lunch. Shortly after sunset we started back home.

Great scenery, but the snow conditions really sucked. I need to return in better conditions and ski the West Face, which must be really cool if the snow is good.

Photo Gallery:

Click the thumbnails to see a higher resolution image

Crater Lake from near the lodge.

The West Face is steeper than it looks from below.

High on the West Face.

Crater Lake from the summit.

Klamath Basin and Klamath Lake from the Summit.

Self portrait on the summit.

Going down the south slopes.

A late lunch on the crater rim.

Crater Lake and Mt. Scott at sunset.