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Cascadia: Behind The Scenes Backcountry Mountaineering Adventure

by Gina Duffy on September 07, 2016

By Ambassador: Kenzie Morris

This is Cascadia- Last Spring a group resort skiers and riders from all over the world got together to try their hands in mountaineering. What came about was an adventure fueled with new experiences and a collection of memories never to be forgotten.


Kenzie on the coast in Santa Cruz, CA Credit: Riley Bathurst 

In early May of this year Riley and I drove from the snowy mountains of Tahoe to Santa Cruz to gather with a group of friends in a beautiful and sunny estate also known as the Asmus family home. The group included Mike, a pro snowboarder from New Zealand and England, Lewis, skier and comic from England, Riley, filmer and photographer, Roni, skier and Pit Viper girl from Alta, Jess, pro skier from Canada/ Europe, Blake, pro skier from New Zealand and myself, Kenzie, a skier based out of  Lake Tahoe.  We sunbathed, ate, and enjoyed the fullest extent of the Santa Cruz hills before leading us back to the mountains where the snowy adventure began. Making our way to Mt. Lassen settled amongst the volcanic region closer to Mt. Shasta we drove the windy backroads until arriving at our semi-illegal campsite for the night in an undisclosed location. As the English and Kiwi are not as experienced with bears I took it upon myself to educate the group on bear safety. None the less early that next morning about 5 minuets into the hike I came across some large bear prints.


Roni, Jess, Riley, Credit: Kenzie Morris

Often the objectives for trips are to get some photo or video shots, bag some summits, and get extreme. When these goals are set most don't realize how much work and expressed failure comes with this goal. Weather being the obvious factor but also other human factors can surface as well including fear, exhaustion,  or even injury or death.  So when we set out to plan a trip for a film project that included mountaineering, travel, and many things we as a group were not professionals in, we chose to have the one goal be... to have fun. This is often not something media and sponsors want, they want extreme and challenging, and new. But through this push to supply fast and exciting sometimes thrilling content we as a group have experienced loss of our peers, injury, and fear all too much. People are pushing their sports often to a limit that is causing Mother Nature and our own human ability to push back. We could accomplish fun even if we failed to summit or were too tired or scarred to get any good shots.  To us fun means  keeping a smile on your face and never let ourselves get into a situation that could result in any negative outcomes.

 Road to Mt. Shasta, Credit: Riley Bathurst 

Waking up in the fridged cold before the sun came up we began our hike up Mt. Lassen  which was to be our first summit of the trip. Just past 7AM as the sun was just beginning to show its light against the wall of snow that lay ahead we could see our path.  We skinned miles through tight trees and reached a large plateau where the summit became more obtainable then ever and a steep bootpack was all that remained between us and the top. Keeping that fun concept in mind we began to realize that climbing was not our only challenge but sunbake and timing were keeping a heavy hand on our goals. With some real dangers of wetslabs and what seemed to be unsteady snow surfaces Roni and I made the judgement that our speeds were not fast enough to make it in the time needed to keep our descent safe, so we made the call to allow the faster half of the group to continue to the ridge top while we, just below the ridge, made the decision to turn around together. No one summited that day as the rest of the group turned around just after we did but we came out learning the strengths and weaknesses in our group and happy to have had the experience. By not pushing to the summit we accomplished what we had set out to do, and that was to enjoy the journey.  As we were just below the ridge the views looking out on the surrounding volcanic landscape showed the latest volcanic eruption and all its destruction in its wake. Massive avalanches that moved masses of rock hundreds of feet and decimated forests that stood no chance during the eruption. The ski down was a combination of slushy sunbake and wet and sticky snow but the openess of the backcountry and a completely untracked mountain side makes any condition a little more enjoyable.

Mt. Lassen, Credit: Kenzie Morris

Mt Lassen, Credit: Kenzie Morris

Back in town we relaxed after our long day as the sun began to fall  We enjoyed the libations of Dunmier which is a sleepy town along the I-5 in Northern California.  None of us knew that night in the dark that our campsite happened to be below a massive craig which loombed 2,000 feet above the walls of the valley but we woke up to some spectacular views. 


The Crew at Mt Lassen, Credit: Kenzie Morris

Following Dunmuir we continued up into Oregon to visit the popular tourist destination of Crater Lake.  It is a magical place and very special in the early spring time. We fashioned a permit to camp on the rim and embarked on our long walk along the wintertime closer access road. With our  40 lbs packs and ski gear attached adding some additional weight we walked miles along the twists and turns of the access road gathering glimpses of the lake between trees and over snowy mounds. We arrived on a knoll where we decided to set camp. This spot overlooked the hills and volcanic remnants of Oregon, which is desolate and expansive stretch of magnificent mountains and lakes. Feeling as if we were positioned on a cloud above the forest we watched the sunset as the boys went to ski the peak adjacent to our camp. We had acquired a Tipi and used that as our tent for the evening, managing to sleep all six comfortably inside sheltering us from the howling winds outside and subzero temperatures.


Hiking along Crater Lake, Credit: Riley Bathurst

The sunshine the next morning was outstanding and Jess and I chose that the peak facing us looked too beautiful to not ski. So we quickly hiked to the top and gracing the summit we had an unadulterated view of the lake. Im not sure if where we skied is exactly legal but we kept it safe and smart as we descended down towards the rocky cliffs surrounding the lake with the sun on our faces. Skiing Crater Lake was always a goal of mine and to accomplish a goal no matter how small always gives me enough reason to smile, and this day was a great reason to continue smiling for long afterward.  

Crater Lake Campsite, Credit: Kenzie Morris

Unfortunately like all glamorous lives of ski bums I needed to return to work after Crater Lake, but the group did continue on to complete a few more mountains along the volcanic trail we like to call Cascadia. For all photos of our adventure check out our instragram #wearecascadia and look for our feature project This is Cascadia on youtube. 

Kenzie Morris at Crater Lake, Credit: Kenzie Morris












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