• Duration

    5 days, 6 nights
    February 10-15, 2021

  • Location

    McCully Camp
    Eagle Cap Wilderness, Wallowa Mountains
    Trailhead in Joseph, Oregon

  • Maximum participants

    8

  • Price

    $ 500 (reservation deposit)
    $ 1450 (second payment)

 

Join Saveur the Journey for an ADVANCED/EXPERT level ski/splitboard backcountry touring hut trip to the Wallowa Mountains of Eastern Oregon. The Wallowas are a hidden gem featuring impressive and rugged terrain, excellent snow, and pristine remoteness. The McCully hut is located at 7500 feet in the Eagle Cap Wilderness and features amazing terrain with above and below treeline options depending on snow stability and quality. Aneroid Mountain and Hidden Peak top out around 9,500 feet and there are a plethora of 9,000 foot peaks as well that offer nearly unlimited lines a bit farther from the yurt. From low-angle gladed powderfields to steep skiing in high alpine terrain the McCully hut has it all!

Two yurts sleep 5 people each and have woodstoves to stay toasty. Hearty and delicious chef prepared meals, pony kegs of local craft beer, and superb AMGA/IFMGA certified ski guide round out the McCully hut experience.

Photo credit:Victor McNeil

The rugged and remote Wallowa Mountains rising from the plains of Eastern Oregon are an exceptional place for ski/split touring. Known as “Little Switzerland” these dramatic mountains hold great snow, steep lines, and impressive views. Following certified AMGA/IFMGA lead guide and executive director/avalanche forecaster for the Wallowa Avalanche Center, Victor McNeil, we will explore the impressive alpine terrain using the McCully hut as our base. The McCully hut was started in 1980 and is unique because it has a special use permit to operate in the Eagle Cap Wilderness area. Each fall the camp is packed in on mules and assembled, and then disassembled and packed out in the late spring. The McCully hut are the only buildings in the basin which means the solitude and remoteness are complete. This trip is for strong and fit ski/split tourers who have extensive experience in the backcountry and in powder. The snow in Wallowas in February tends to be light, dry, and copious. Typical days start at 7am with hot coffee, breakfast, packing a lunch and beacon check to start skinning at 9am. Depending on snow stability and visibility we will choose our objectives and will generally ski various lines until around 4pm when we return back to the yurt for a craft beer and appetizers, followed by a delicious dinner. We typically ski 3500-4500 feet of vertical in a day but can be more or less depending on the strength of the group. There is also a wood-fired sauna at the yurt for a special treat to relax sore muscles and relive the day’s exploits.

The McCully hut is an excellent base for many ski/split objectives in the nearby terrain. The snow is often so deep that the yurt is almost completely covered and a snow tunnel must be dug out for entry! There are two yurts that sleep five people each and are heated by woodstoves and include cots, foam pads, and sleeping bags. There is creek nearby so we do not have to melt snow for drinking water. There is a wood fired sauna, outhouse and two sleeping yurts complete with woodstoves. Guides will prepare breakfast and dinner on a 5 burner gas stove and a lunch buffet will be set out at breakfast so that we have ample fuel while out for the day.

Photo credit:Victor McNeil

The trip is decidedly focused on ski/split touring in fantastic terrain but as with all Saveur the Journey trips, good food is a given. While the McCully hut has a simple kitchen we will still be making delicious and hearty food from locally sourced/sustainable ingredients that will power us for distant peaks and untouched lines. From thick steaks, rich pasta dishes, warming stews, and flavorful sausages to gourmet cheeses, charcuterie, vegetables, chocolate, coffee and craft beer the food will be satisfying and copious.

For effective ski/split touring you must have alpine touring bindings (“pin-tech” recommended but frame bindings are okay) or telemark bindings or splitboard setup with skins. You must know how to use your gear, maintain your skins, and be an efficient tourer with good kick turns, form, and stamina. Avalanche safety gear (beacon, shovel, and probe) are mandatory for everyone and you must know how to use your equipment and preferably have completed an avalanche safety course. For the descents you must be an Advanced/Expert level rider, comfortable making dynamic turns in steep and varied terrain and in low visibility/difficult weather if necessary. You must understand how to keep yourself warm (proper layering), fed, hydrated, and healthy while being out all day.

Photo credit:Victor McNeil
Photo credit: Victor McNeil

This trips starts at the trailhead in Joseph, Oregon and the nearest major airports are Boise, Idaho and Portland, Oregon. We will spend the night at a guest-house in Joseph, Oregon the night before the trip (included). Day 1 begins with breakfast in Joseph and a briefing of the day and trip. After breakfast there is a short snowmobile tow-in and then a gentle four mile skin through thick forest gaining 1800 feet to arrive at the McCully hut. Normally it takes about two-and-half to three hours of skinning to get to the hut. Once at the hut we will settle in to the two sleeping yurts and then do a camp orientation, safety talk, etc followed by a companion rescue drill with everyone to make sure everyone knows how their beacons work. After that we go ski a lap or two close to the hut. Days 2-4 we will venture out and depending on visibility and stability we can access some spectacular alpine terrain with fantastic views towards Aneroid Peak or Diamond Peak where long, steep, runs abound. Or we can stay lower if conditions are difficult and enjoy some great gladed powder runs. We will normally ski 9am-4pm. On day 5 we ski a half day and then ski out to the trail-head.

This trip is for you if you like earning your turns in remote places with excellent terrain and un-tracked snow. You like delicious, hearty food, a woodstove, and clear stars reflecting off deep snow in the mountains. You are an experienced ski/split tourer who knows the value of an excellent, local ski guide to find the best snow in the best terrain while keeping you safe. You enjoy a rustic hut, the wilderness, and the solitude of the mountains.

Photo credit: Victor McNeil

Sample Itinerary- subject to change

Day 1 – Wednesday, February 10, 2021
Arrive at Boise, ID or Portland, OR Airport.
Travel to Joseph Oregon (not included) from Boise, ID airport (about 4.5 hour drive)
Settle into guest-house (included) in Joseph, OR, rest and relax
Dinner on your own in Joseph

Day 2 -Thursday Feb 11

Meet at 7:30am at guest house in Joseph, OR for breakfast
Orientation for trip and plan for day
Pack up, pack lunch, and leave guest house
Snowmobile tow-in 2 miles to winter trail
Skin 4 miles to McCully Hut
Settle into Yurts
Yurt Tour/Orientation/Companion rescue
Afternoon Ski tour
Appetizers/Drinks
Dinner
Bed

Day 3 - Friday, Feb 12

Breakfast at Yurt
Pack Lunches
Leave by 9am for ski/split touring
Lunch
More ski touring
Return to camp, 4pm
Sauna, appetizers, beverages
Dinner
Bed

Day 4 - Saturday, Feb 13

Breakfast at Yurt
Pack Lunches
Leave by 9am for ski/split touring
Lunch
More ski touring
Return to camp, 4pm
Appetizers, beverages
Dinner
Bed

Day 5 - Sunday, Feb 14

Breakfast at Yurt
Pack Lunches
Leave by 9am for ski/split touring
Lunch
More ski touring
Return to camp, 4pm
Sauna, appetizers, beverages
Dinner
Bed

Day 6 - Monday, Feb 15

Breakfast
Clean Camp
Pack up
Ski
Leave McCully Camp
Ski out to trail-head (takes about 1-2 hours)
Farewell dinner out in Joseph
Spend night in Joseph at guesthouse (included)

TRIP PACKAGE INCLUDES

  • Accommodations in a guest house in Joseph, OR (first and last night) and 4 nights in McCully hut
  • 5 Days of Guided Ski/Split touring in amazing terrain
  • All Meals including "rustic gourmet" dinners, packed lunches, and hearty breakfasts
  • Sauna after Skiing/Boarding (2 nights)
  • Fully Certified AMGA/IFMGA guide, tail guide, and chef

NOT INCLUDED

  • Airfare (Boise Idaho is the closest major airport)
  • Transportation to Joseph, Oregon. Contact us for options.
  • Alcohol
  • Gratuities for guides
  • Alpline touring/telemark/splitboard with skins and avalanche safety gear (required)

FAQ Wallowa Backcountry Hut Ski/Split Trip

Do you have to be an experienced skier/snowboarder to go on this trip?

You must be an ADVANCED/EXPERT skier/snowboarder with significant backcountry touring experience and riding powder. You must be in good physical shape, be able to and have skied in all conditions (including whiteout, wind, very cold). You must be able to ski/ride in control on all types of terrain and should be very comfortable on equivalent black and double black slopes. Ideally you should have some avalanche safety training. Avalanche beacon, shovel and probe are mandatory equipment and you should be familiar with how to use them. For skiers an all mountain ski  in the 95mm-110mm range that is not too heavy will provide ample float and still tour well.

Do I need avalanche safety equipment?

Yes! Avalanche beacon, shovel and probe are required to participate in this trip and you should be familiar with how they function. We will do some avalanche safety training and companion rescue. Avalanche airbags may also be a good idea but are not required.

What size pack do I need to bring?

A pack that is about 35-45 liters is perfect. Basically it should be a “day and a half” size to carry all your essentials for a day of skiing plus some extras. A stuff sack can be used to bring in extra gear and can be strapped to your pack.

What will the weather be like?

The Wallowas have more of a continental than maritime snowpack and the weather can be quite cold. You can expect average temps in the 10-25 degrees Fahrenheit range.

What is yurt like, what are the sleeping arrangements?

The McCully hut is located in a designated wilderness area and consists of two 16ft sleeping yurts, an 18ft kitchen yurt, a sauna and two outhouses. The sleeping yurts have cots, sleeping pads, sleeping bags (provided). The sleeping yurts are rustic but comfortable and are heated by woodstove.

I have dietary restrictions, can you accommodate me?

Please contact us to let us know about your dietary restrictions to see if you can be accommodated.

What if I need to cancel my trip?

If you need to cancel a trip that you have already booked and it is at least 90 days before the start of the trip your deposit is half refundable.  Final payment for the trip is due 60 days before the start of the trip.  Cancellations between 30 and 59 days before the of start of trip that cannot be filled are 50% refundable, if your spot is filled then it is 75% refundable.  Cancellations less than 30 days are non-refundable (100% of booking cost).  For this reason, we recommend you consider purchasing travelers insurance, (try World Nomads) which will cover the cost of your trip in extenuating circumstances.

Do I need to tip our Guides?

Gratuities for guides are not included in the price of you trip and are much appreciated. Tipping is at your discretion. Normally average tips for excellent service are around 10%-20% of the trip cost. Tips are pooled together and shared equally among the guides.

How does the snowmobile tow-in work?

The snowmobile will pull in 4 skiers at a time using a rope. You will have to hold on the rope with your skis on and enjoy the water-ski like experience of being towed in! It is a short tow-in, only about two miles.

What sort of shape do I need to be in for this trip?

You should be in good ski touring shape. We recommend at least an hour of aerobic activity 3 times a week during the 3 months leading up to the trip. Leg exercises such as squats and lunges are great and doing stadium or stair stepper exercises can really help on the skin track or bootpack.

Our team

Aaron Schorsch

Owner- Saveur the Journey

Aaron Schorsch is the owner of Saveur the Journey where he combines his passions of food, travel, outdoor adventures, and culture. He grew up in rural New Hampshire and has lived and traveled extensively in the US and abroad. Aaron learned to snowboard while teaching English in the French Alps but later took up Telemark Skiing. While he still likes to drop a knee on occasion you are more likely to find him with fixed heels shredding the backcountry or resort in a style he likes to call “joyful abandon.” Aaron is a student of food who has worked throughout the food system from growing seed and farming of vegetables, fruits, and livestock to cooking in high end restaurants and managing farmer’s markets. He loves to talk about, think about, dream about and especially, cook and eat food. He is a member of Slow Food international and has been a US delegate at Terra Madre in Turin, Italy.

Victor McNeil

AMGA Certified Ski Guide

Victor McNeil is a native of the Pacific Northwest and currently lives in Northeast Oregon with his wife and two golden retrievers. You will find Victor working and recreating in the mountains year around, from guiding three week expeditions on Denali to ski guiding in his home mountain range the Wallowas. Victor has a passion for travel and exploration and has skied around the world. In 2016 he became the third certified Splitboard Mountaineering Guide through the American Mountain Guides Association in the country. Victor now “splits” his time between split boarding and skiing. When not ski guiding, he also runs a non-profit avalanche forecasting center in the Wallowas. Victor loves sliding on snow and can’t wait to share some turns with you.