After never even stepping foot on the mountain for my first two attempts (damn you, “extreme avalanche danger” and bad weather forecasts!) I finally climbed Mt. Hood, y’all!
David, Matt, and I finally got a lucky weather window for our attempt of Mt. Hood this weekend, and thank GAWSH, because I’ve already spent about $1000 in plane tickets to Oregon over the last few years, only to have Mother Nature decide she hated me when it came time for my trip.
All three of us arrived late Wednesday night and were met by our fearless leader, David’s father, Kim. Kim and David have climbed the mountain several times before, which afforded Matt and I the unique opportunity to climb with a free guide service 🙂 🙂 🙂
Our plan was to mosey on over to the Mt. Hood area on Thursday, and start our attempt in the wee hours of the morning on Friday. Kim drove us up to Timberline lodge on Thursday afternoon to show us what we’d be climbing, but instead we got some thick fog and cold, windy, mist pelting our faces. How very Oregon. I was starting to doubt the truthiness of the weather forecast for Friday, which called for mostly clear skies. In retrospect, I am SUPER happy that I didn’t see Mt. Hood from the Timberline lodge parking lot, cos it looks REAL TALL from there.
We woke up shortly after midnight on Friday morning and I was wondering if I was going to have a repeat of Cayambe; namely, wanting to barf a lot (spoiler: maybeeeeee). I managed to shovel down some cheerios and tried not to think about thinking about barfing.
We hit the trail around 2am and it was a slow and steady slog up the ski trails, trying to avoid the busy snow grooming vehicles, ready to run us over at a moment’s notice. I briefly contemplated if being run over by a snowcat would be less painful than climbing a mountain at 2 am. Verdict: UNDECIDED. At this point I was feeling decently unwell but not as bad as Cayambe, on account of being about 8,000 feet lower and also not roped to a 6 foot tall madman jumping over crevasses.
As we continued our slog my internal barf-o-meter started to hit maximum nausea and I started to fear that I just could not succeed on mountains with alpine starts. David resorted to playing some music on his phone (climbing purists, avert your eyes) and good ol’ Paul Simon helped me up those endless snow slopes until the sun came up, at which point my body decided to stop revolting against being awake (oh, and I think it goes without saying that everyone else was fine… WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE???).
We reached illumination rock and could start seeing the steep snow wall we’d have to climb to get to the summit. We also got to smell the stinky, stinky, sulfur rising out of the fumaroles. Between Illumination rock and Crater rock I actually passed some people (GASP) and then it was time to decide if we’d be taking the Hogsback/Pearly Gates route or the old chute route to the summit. Our fearless leader Kim decided it felt like an old chute sort of day, and up we went. As was the case with the entire climb, Kim blasted ahead and Matt and David stayed a bit closer to me, mostly because I was blocking their path 😀 😀 😀
The last ~1000 feet or so was REAL STEEP, Y’ALL. My pace slowed significantly and my complaining increased significantly. The last ~200 feet up the chute was so steep we had to secure ourselves with our ice axes, adjust our feet, and repeat, or risk sliding quite a ways down the steep wall and perhaps into a stinky sulfur fumarole (OF DEATH). This was a new game for me, as hiking in the White Mountains, even in the winter, rarely requires such sure footing with srrs consequences if you screw up.
Expecting a false summit at the top of the chute, Matt and I were pleasantly surprised to see that the summit was about a 2 minute walk across the ridge! I had actually done it! I had somehow dragged my @$$ up 5000+ vertical feet in the middle of the night and not barfed on anyone!
We strolled those last few feet to the summit, and to our amazement, had it all to ourselves. From the summit you can see Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Adams to the north and Mt. Jefferson to the south (I hope I didn’t mess any of those names up). We celebrated, took some pictures, and then Kim quickly shepherded his flock back to the chute because he wanted to get back down to Crater rock before conditions became warmer and therefore more dangerous.
Kim and David set up a belay at the top of the chute so we could down climb with some additional margin of safety. After Matt and I were belayed down the first 30 meters (because that was the length of the rope :P), we continued down climbing the rest on our own, slowwwly slowly, while David and Kim belayed each other up above. Super secret pro tip: Down climbing is just as friggin’ exhausting as climbing up!!!!
By the time we got back to Crater rock where the hogsback and old chute routes meet, we were all tired but below the danger zone (okay, I don’t think Kim was actually tired). Snacky snacks were eaten, pictures were taken, pants were prepared for some epic butt sliding. We heard lots of rock fall around us and were reminded why we had to get ourselves up the mountain at the @$$crack of dawn.
The rest of the climb down was a straightforward snow plod, mixed with some pretty epically long butt sliding tracks. Some pants might’ve been sacrificed. By the time we got back to the parking lot my poor crippled knees were pretty #overit but I somehow survived (everyone else was fine), and that’s how I had my first successful glaciated peak climb, y’all!