I love the Second Edition of “Cross-Country Ski Routes: Oregon”.
Its encyclopedic 370 single-spaced pages contain every skiable option in Oregon and southern Washington. It’s not user-friendly, concise, or up-to-date. But it is a phenomenal first-blush resource for where to find great views and how to leave the crowds behind. You just need to do a lot of filtering.
I’ve had Palmateer Point on my list since I bought my copy of “Cross-Country Ski Routes” in 2000. It (reportedly) has a “spectacular” view of Mt. Hood, has some adventurous routefinding, and is just far enough from the nearest trailhead to keep most people away. I’ve tried to get to it on two separate occasions but the weather and snow conditions were never favorable. A light snowfall and a high pressure system served up near-perfect conditions to give it a try recently.
We were Car #8 in the Barlow Pass Sno-Park at 9:30 AM. It was 16 degrees and partly cloudy, trending towards sunshine. In the trees, the thin mastic of snow didn’t cushion our skis from the ice layer below, but there was 2-6 inches of fresh, dry, light powder beyond the trees. Perfect.
We skied south on the PCT, heading up to the shoulder of Ghost Ridge (Tri-County Ridge), before dropping down to the junction with the Upper Twin Lakes trail. Apart from the man with a shivering chihuahua in his backpack at the trailhead, we didn’t encounter anyone else on the trail.
We cruised down a crusty snowshoe track on the Twin Lakes trail for a few hundred meters and then stopped in a stand of old growth hemlock and fir to look for a way to drop down to the Palmateer Creek drainage. With another foot of powder, this descent wouldn’t have been as challenging as it became. The snow base was crusty and icy, with many tree wells. I traversed and sidestepped a lot of the way down; Bill went a little more balls out.
We picked our way through a dense stand of second growth forest before popping out into Palmateer Camp Meadows, a gloriously open and untracked swamp. The sun was shining and the swamp plants glistened with hoar frost in the cold. It was a lovely place and a worthwhile consolation prize if we weren’t able to make it to Palmateer Point.
We skied through the meadow to the edge of the swamp and the base of a minor ridge. After crossing Palmateer Creek at its outlet, Bill traversed and kick turned up the steep slope; I took off my skies and booted up the 35-degree slope, kicking steps through the ice crust.
Once on top of the ridge, the going was easier as we steadily and then steeply climbed to the Point, where we stopped for half an hour to eat lunch and sunbathe with magnificent 360-degree views of Mt. Hood, Barlow Butte, Ghost Ridge, and the Barlow drainage.
We skied down the top of the ridge a few times because the snow was so perfect, but had to wrap it up and head back to town for evening engagements.
Back from whence we came, faster and more trod upon; an icy luge for the last thrilling 1/2 mile.
Palmateer Point. 5.4 miles, +900′ elevation. A perfect ski tour.