Progressive Patterns

Ski trip around Crater Lake ̶̶ December 5, 2018


I have circled Crater Lake for the last three winters and it seems to have become a tradition. Whether you circumnavigate on skis or snowshoes, it is like a thru hike without the transportation hassles.

To be honest, my expectations were low for this trip. This was my first ski trip of the season and my number one goal was to keep my energy and electrolyte levels in check. Also, it had been weeks since a decent hike and months since a long trip. However, just before driving into the park boundary I spied my first wildlife. This was a good sign!

Coyote on the hunt at the base of Crater Lake National Park

After registering at park headquarters (Steel Visitor Center), I was on the road heading counterclockwise by 11am. Every winter, in November or by the first major snowfall, the entire rim road and north entrance road is closed. The north entrance is open to snowmachiners, and the entire rim is dedicated to snowshoers and skiers. It is fairly popular to make the circuit in a few days and spring break brings dozens of college students to make the trek.

Looking back (west) about a mile from headquarters

Applegate Peak after hairpinning onto Dutton Ridge

A new bird! Gray-crowned Rosy Finch on Dutton Cliff in the sunset shadows

Continuing up towards Mt. Scott. No tracks! I was the second of the season to make the circuit.

Looking back at Wizard Island through Kerr Notch.

Dark comes very early in December! I setup my tent on a flat spot next to the inclined road by 5p, ate, and was in bed by 6:30p. I had skied 9 miles and climbed 1600 feet. I was tired but not out of balance. Good enough for day one even though I would have preferred to finish the climb to Mt. Scott which was still a couple miles away.


Another purpose of my trip was to test equipment. I slept in my old leaky down sleeping bag covered by a synthetic quilt my wife sewed. It got down to 15F but I was warm! The old, heavy, freestanding, two-person tent was covered with frozen condensation. I think I will stick with my one-man Tarptent Notch, even though it is a pain to stake into the snow.

I climbed another 1000 feet over the next couple of miles to the outhouse at the base of Mt. Scott. It was a beautiful day with no clouds! However, I didn’t take many pictures because I spent most of my time in trees.

Strange how I look taller at dawn!

A note about the outhouses. They are concrete vault types, good safe place if you get in trouble. The one at Mt. Scott and west of Cleetwood Cove are left unlocked and may be unblocked by snow. The restrooms at Rim Village are heated and have running water. All other outhouses and restrooms will probably be locked and/or blocked by snow. Keep this in mind when you plan and as you Leave No Trace.

I stayed at the outhouse west of Cleetwood Cove, which gave me almost 10 miles for the day. I stopped early so I could get an early start the next morning because I wanted to make sure I returned to the car before dark.


It was a really warm night sleeping at 25F. I left at 5:30a and within a mile picked up a track from a day skier. My speed increased to almost 3mph and my estimated arrival was bumped up. A thin high cloud cover made for a picturesque dawn!

Looking north to Mount Bailey at Diamond Lake

Circling around the back side of Llao Rock from west to south


This flat photo fails to capture the brilliance of Thielsen at sunrise

Glorious Hillman Peak with The Watchman behind it

The six inch powder became more packed and the ski track more well defined as I approached The Watchman. I cruised along at 2.5mph and kept advancing my ETA. As I approached Rim Village snowshoers had destroyed the ski track, but it was still fairly fast.

I passed the village and the lodge and headed towards where I remembered Raven Trail should be. I could not find any signs and ended up going down the west side of the steep little valley. Mistake! Dangerous rock chute near the bottom! I took off my skies to scramble down to the road and ski on the berm back to headquarters and my car.

Don't make my mistake on the final descent! Go way past the lodge along the rim as if you will climb Garfield Peak. Stay on the east side of the valley as you work your way south and down to where the avalanche zone meets the road, then ski the berm.

I reached my car at about 11a after 11 miles for a total of 30, well before dark! It was a good first trip of the season!