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| | |-+  April 15, 2005, Elkhorn Mts. (Anthony Lks.)
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jt
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April 15, 2005, Elkhorn Mts. (Anthony Lks.)
« on: 04/18/05, 04:50 AM »

Anthony Lakes is a small ski area (900' vertical/base elevation 7100') located in NE Oregon in the Elkhorn Mts. who's claim to fame is some of the best snow in the "northwest".

Finding myself travelling through the area to pick up my son from his spring break vacation with the grandparents, I pulled into the parking lot at about 9:30pm Thursday evening, did a couple doughnuts in the 8+" of powdery snow covering the lot, and climbed into my sleeping bag in the back of the car to sleep. Temps plummetted into the low teens during the night and after shivering for an hour or so, I got motivated to grab more covers when I noticed it was still 4am and a couple hours until daylight.

The day dawned brilliant blue and crisp with the sunshine making my breakfast of oatmeal and a quart of coffee downright pleasant. As I ate I scoped out the surrounding peaks for possible lines, opting for a backcountry tour of the ski area as opposed to skiing the runs served by the lifts which had been shutdown for the year.

With caffeinne coursing through my veins (everyone hear the latest that it's not a diuretic?), I began skinning up a catrack skirting the edge of the ski area. After passing Anthony Lake I climbed through the woods toward a chute I saw splitting the north face of Gunsight Peak (summit 8900'). As I approached an entrance to the middle of the chute, the slope became steeper, the trees more thin, and the rocks more cliffy. The snow also became noticeably less good--crusty underneath with about 12" of surface crud, not the good powder I had been on lower and in the sun. Faced with either a steep sidehill traverse or with losing elevation to gain the chute (not to mention being solo), I chose to turn around and head to the basin in the sun, powder, and more exploring rather than take my chances with a more aggressive line.

Once I had retraced my steps to the head of a beautiful basin, I climbed up a mellow slope to a saddle between Red and Angel Peaks, getting a wonderful glimpse into the heart of the Elkhorns and future days worth of backcountry exploring to be had. I continued along the crest to the summit of Angel (+/-8700'), enjoyed the views and a Pabst and got ready for the ride down. Some skier's tracks (presumably from the day before) took some great looking lines down some snow covered ramps into the next basin over and while they led the direction I was heading, I once again chose the safer, saner route down not feeling emboldened enough by the beer to try anything more aggressive.

Fun turns in powder softening to slush through open slopes then trees and small granite cliffs took me about a 1000' to a spot where I traversed into the next basin over then skinned to the top of the ski lift, admiring the lines to be ripped if I had a partner.

Sitting on the lift at 8000' gave great views of the surrounding mountains, time for one more Pabst, and a chance to work on my tan. By now the snow had become pretty sticky (expect when going downhill) and knowing I wouldn't have the motivation to slog back up for another run, I just relaxed and took my time. The run down beneath the chair lift was fun with big, high speed turns through the soft slush to the car where a bagel/salami/cheese sandwich and a cold stout awaited.

All in all it was great to have an excuse to finally explore the Anthony Lakes area. I will return in years to come during the winter with a partner to explore the more fun-looking of the backcountry lines and maybe even take a ride on the lift for a run or two. The snow quality seems to be what they promise (though I didn't hit the best of it) and the drive really isn't that bad (+/- 5.5 hours from Seattle under good conditions), making a 3-day weekend very doable.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the area can check out the ski area website:
http://www.anthonylakes.com
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jt
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Re: April 15, 2005, Elkhorn Mts. (Anthony Lks.)
« Reply #1 on: 04/18/05, 07:55 AM »

Glad you enjoyed the terrain around Anthony Lakes.  As you realized the single lift can provide access to some great terrain when operating.  They also provide single ride snowcat access to some of their backcountry.

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jt
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Re: April 15, 2005, Elkhorn Mts. (Anthony Lks.)
« Reply #2 on: 04/18/05, 08:06 AM »

The backcountry is definitely where the goods are. I didn't know that about the snowcat. I know about their guided half and full-day trips, but that is good info to know. The legs and lungs take a bit of pounding trekking about between 8-9000' so any help getting to the top is a good thing! Gives me something to look forward to next year and typically it seems they open sooner than most areas around here.
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jt
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