Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mt. Hood

Today I summited Mt. Hood, the highest point in Oregon at 11,240 feet.  My climbing partners were Matt, Jason, and Drew from CMRU and Justin Broderson from OSU.  It was a first summit for Drew, Justin, and I while Matt has been up several times before. 

We drove up late Saturday night to camp overnight in our vehicles in the Timberline Ski Area Parking lot.  We arrived to find ourselves nestled among news vans and search and rescue buses.  Apparently a team of 5 guys got themselves lost in a whiteout up on the mountain and called for help.  This news of course went across the country and caused all of our poor mothers to go into panic mode on Mothers Day of all times because we were also a party of 5 climbers!  At about midnight all of our pagers started to go off letting us know about a possible rescue mission on Mt. Hood which we conveniently were sitting directly under.  Luckily the Portland Search and Rescue Unit found the lost climbers and were able to pull them off the mountain in the middle of the night. 

We woke up at 2am to check the weather and see if we could start climbing.  It was 499256349_a0a89d7168_b
still a complete white out and we could barely see 20 feet outside499207500_bbdce9fdb5_b
the truck due to the strong winds and blowing snow so we decided to stay in the vehicles another 2 hours and get up at 4am and at least hike to the top of the Palmer Chair lift to check the weather.  When we got up the weather had not changed but as we got dressed and signed the climbing book a miracle happened.... the clouds disappeared in a 15 minute flash to open up blue skies and the morning sun rising behind the mountain in the East.  We quickly got started up the mountain leaving the parking lot around 5am. 

The parking lost was at about 5,500 feet in elevation and by the time we reached the 499256625_046c902cd2_b
top of the Palmer Chair lift we had gained 3,000 feet (about the499207776_342626ab75_b
elevation gain of a peak in the Northeast).  Jason wasn't feeling top of his game so he decided to hike around that level and then return down the mountain while Drew, Matt, Justin and I charged on upward.  We followed a clear "highway" of tracks up the Palmer Glacier towards Crater Rock where we stopped for a break and some food right next to Devils Kitchen and Steel Cliff where 499209648_932c0d10fb_b
large "puffs" of sulphurous gas were spewing out of the rocks.  499259249_25d2755c6c_bThe air stunk of sulphur so bad that I think it was actually starting to hurt my throat!  Matt, who had been carrying skis, decided to ditch the skis at this point so he wouldn't have to carry them up the Hogsback, a steep and narrow ridge at 10,600 feet leading up the "Pearly Gates" entrance to the summit ridge. 

When we got to the Hogsback we could all tell that Justin was having an extremely
painful time with his knees but he kept pushing himself onward and upward499260133_f0246aa16f_b

overcoming 499260313_e83b659f7b_bthe pain that told him to go down with every
step.  The Hogsback has moved north this year and without sufficient snow fall the entrance to the Pearly Gates was deemed unsafe so the route shifted north to a narrow, steep ice chute leading to the gradual summit ridge.  We climbed up chute without ropes utilizing our ice axes and happy to be wearing our helmets with the icefall danger. 

Once through the chute we reached the summit and celebrated499211156_3bf22345f2_b
there for about 20 minutes before we all got cold and decided to head back down.  The views from the summit were amazing.  We were easily 5,000 feet above 500529704_d8dc99d602_bthe clouds and the only land we could see north and south were the massive Cascade Volcanoes.  Visible to the South were Jefferson and the Sisters while to the North we could clearly make out Adams, Rainier and St. Helens.  I got some great hi-def footage with my camera from the summit and the zoom was able to capture some great photos of all the volcanoes.  Check the photos and use some google skills to try to figure out which ones are which.. :) 

We headed down from the summit at around 2pm.  I descended down through the icy chute unroped because I felt confident with my ice axe skills and balance.  The altitude gave me a slight headache but nothing too serious. Justin, Drew and Matt roped up and met me at the top of the Hogsback where I was "boiling" in the sun.  After descending the Hogsback and down the Palmer Glacier and ski trails we made it back to the parking lot at around 5:30, a good 12 hours from when we had started.  After just 3 hours of off-and-on again sleep, little breakfast, little water, and a day of hot sun that led some of us to viscious sun burns and partial snow-blindness we were happy to be down after a very successful summit. 

Mad crazy props go out to Justin who finally accomplished a life-long goal of summiting a big climb and for doing it under extreme pain.  I haven't seen that kind of determination and will power in a very long time.  No words can describe how impressive it was.  Because Drew, Matt, and Jason were on the climb it also counted as the Unit climb for me that I needed.  It also meant I had knocked off another state summit - the first "class 4" summit that I have done yet.  The ice chute that we500577507_2da15e5eac_b climbed at the top was pretty technical and it reminded me of the 500530122_55f2070a52_b
Hillary Step I've read about on Everest where climbers have to wait in line to pass through it.  We passed over large glaciers with open cravasses, steaming fumeroles on the active volcano dealt with the sun that made us dehydrated, burned, delirious and exhausted.  It was an epic day with a great group of climbers in beautiful weather on a fantastic peak. I can't wait to go back and climb it again on a different route for something new! 


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