The volcanoes of the Pacific Northwest are the biggest, cleanest lines in the U.S. that are the easiest to get in good, safe conditions. They stand alone, 10,000 feet above the valley floor, with no other mountains around, and are surrounded by flat forest as far as the eye can see—giving you the feeling of standing on top of the world. “And then you get to drop into the longest run of your life,” says legendary snowboarder Jeremy Jones, who is also the founder of Protect our Winters.”This is why I put my snowboard boots on in the summer.” Here Jeremy tells us about “volcano season.”
How long did it take to hike up?
Jeremy: I calculate that every 1,000 feet of vertical gain takes an hour of hiking. If needed you can double this pace. This particular climb was 7,000 feet and took us 7 hours. But we slowed ourselves down because the snow was firm and we knew we wanted to drop in as late as possible to get soft snow. This is always the #1 mistake I see people make. They race to the summit, try and wait for the snow to soften but get bored or cold, then ride the mountain in firm snow. Summits are often not the best place to kill time. I prefer to kill time along the way. I try to avoid being in the situation where I feel like we are too late and we need to rush. You end up using too much energy which makes you tired for the ride down and harder to recover for the next day’s mission.
How long did it take to ride down?
Jeremy: Two hours. We did a small hike halfway down to optimize our descent. The evening is a great time to be on the mountain, too. So with no pending clouds we took two long breaks to enjoy the day. I am never in a rush to get to the parking lot.
Can you tell us any snow condition details?
Jeremy: With summer snowboarding you need to pick what part of the mountain you want in optimal snow conditions. The top 20 percent was smooth but firm. The middle 80 percent was smooth, fast edgable corn snow, and the bottom 10 percent was sticky and sun cupped. This is about the best you can ask for. If it was warm enough for the top to be soft then the bottom half would have been sticky.
What hazards were there?
Jeremy: Primarily the biggest hazard is late afternoon could build up that turns into a lightning storm. The odd rock crevice on a big winter can be dangerous, too. Rockfall on the way us is a hazard depending on the route up. But in general the summer is the simplest, safest time to climb and ride these huge mountains.
Why even bother doing this? Why is it worth it?
Jeremy: There is something unique about the volcanos. They hold the best corn snow in the world. Nailing a good corn run is every bit as rewarding as powder. We call corn snow powder’s ugly twin. It rides just like powder, it is just not as pretty looking. These volcanoes are the biggest, cleanest lines in the country that are the easiest to get in good/safe conditions. They stand alone, 10,000 feet above the valley floor, with no other mountains around, and are surrounded by flat forest as far as the eye can see giving you the feeling of standing on top of the world. And then you get to drop into the longest run of your life. This is why I put my snowboard boots on in the summer.
Any other interesting facts about what you were doing?
Jeremy: Volcanos are hard. The landscape is bare so a rock looks like it 10 minutes away, but it will take an hour to get there. You really see the people who have the ability to suffer and those who lack it. I always see tougher, but less fit people gut it out to the top and more fit but mentally weaker people turn around.
Often when climbing a volcano you can ride to the car. Meaning you do not need to save energy to hike to the car. Also in the summer the days are really long. It is not dark until 10 p.m. Time and again I see people turn around because they are tired. When we meet back up with them at the car and they are full of energy and we are all crushed. I always tell people that unless you are bleeding out of your ears or throwing up, then keep going.