Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mt. Hood Ski Descent with Holm

The original plan had been for Chris and I to get up to Timberline super early
and take the Magic Mile lift to the base of the Palmer and head up from there for a hopeful ski descent from the summit. Things actually started to go wrong (at least for me) when I decided to go out for drinks for Layne and Miwa’s birthday last night at the Crow Bar and then continue with a couple more drinks at Emily’s 10:15pm soccer game at the sports park resulting in me barely getting to sleep by midnight after packing frantically.

picked me up at 6am and after stopping at Safeway and McDonalds for breakfast we didn’t get up to Timberline lodge until about 9:20 where we
were unpleasantly found the Magic Mile lift to be on wind hold.. but for good reason. When first opened the car doors they swung out with the wind and it seemed like they would break off. I had to hold down the rocket box on the roof of the car while Chris got the skis out of it because we thought the top was going to blow away. After dressing up and packing up our gear we left the parking lot in a 20-25mph headwind coming down the mountain at us with the plan to see just how far we could get before we had to turn around before dark.

began skinning up the cat track towards the top of the Palmer lift making it there by noon. This was actually really good
time as the cat track was a sheet of ice and Chris and I were having trouble getting our skins to actually get traction on the ice cordouroy. Chris was having extra trouble because his Marker Barons were heavier, didn’t have the rise mine did thus causing him to slide back and use his arms a lot to keep him moving forward. By the time we got to the top of the Palmer lift Chris was pretty tired from struggling up the ice so I decided I’d kick steps into the crusty snow on the way up. It wasn’t hard as my feet only kicked in about 4-5” and despite drinking the night before I actually found myself with a ton of energy. Perhaps it was just the fact that I hadn’t been on a mountain in so long.. mountaineering fever! We took our time battling the wind the entire way.

Finally, an older
man skied up to me on the way down and told me that Steel Cliff to our right and above us about 300m was blocking the
clouds and wind perfectly and that in about 15 minutes we would have to strip down because we would be to hot in the windless sun above. He was right. I didn’t strip down but Chris took off a layer and we both enjoyed the windless sunshine going up into Devil’s Kitchen, the summit crater of Mt. Hood. Chris had never been up this high on Hood before and I could tell that he was pretty impressed by the steaming sulfur vents of the crater. You could literally hear them hissing out steam. There was so much sulfur in the air that it actually gave me a sore throat.

climbed up to the base of the Hogsback so Chris could see the cool vents on the backside of Crater Rock. We decided not to push it for the summit because it was almost 5pm and the icy slopes weren’t worth the trouble of climbing the remaining 500 feet to just ski from the summit. So, after eating some sardines with Chris and popping into our skis we started our descent. I took a route following some ski tracks that dropped into a chute down Crater Rock. This was a mistake as
the tracks had been put down in softer snow and I was following them over sheer ice now, but I had dropped to far into the chute to turn around so I had to go for it. It wasn’t the steepest chute I’d ever skied, but it was one of the most dangerous because it was solid ice and definitely a “no-fall-zone” where if I fell I would probably tomahawk down about 300 feet hurting myself for sure. But, after a couple jump turns with some sharp edges on my skis I pointed it and made it down just fine.
We skirted across the face of the mountain towards
the north and Illumination rock to see what we may have skied down on the other side of the Hogsback. What we saw was a football field size area of bare steaming rocks called “Hot Rocks” that we were instantly happy we didn’t go towards. I tried to find softer snow and even banked up towards Illumination rock to look but everything was ice.

It was an icy, silent descent. I say silent because on the way down the howling wind was at our backs and thus we didn’t hear it until we stopped to rest, which was often because our legs were tired from the ice and the climb. All we heard was the terrible sound of metal on ice from our ski edges all the way down. Back at the car I saw Emily had called 6 times because she was nervous so I gave her a quick call. Chris had given it his all during the climb so I decided I was going to
treat him to a burger at Calamity Jane’s which he hadn’t been to since he was 15. I had a great burger with two eggs and ham on it along with a 34oz “mug” of beer.

Before we got our meal we were surprised to see Nate and Aaron walk in. To be honest this confused me a bit because I had sent them both
emails on Friday that Chris and I were headed up Saturday and asked them to get a hold of us about plans. Nate even said that he would get back to me but I hadn’t heard anything from them. When they showed up Nate thought that Aaron had gotten ahold of me. Nope. It doesn’t matter at all to me that they wanted to go together on Sunday instead of with us but I just find it a little shady that neither called to let us know anything like they said they would. I think both are great guys and friends but I’ll eat my shorts when I’m actually invited on a climb with them. Perhaps if I had gone to the summit of Washington with them they’d respect me more but my friend was more important to me than reaching a summit and I don’t regret that decision. Perhaps it’s because I’m no longer CMRU. I don’t know. Thankfully, I have Emily who is just as adventurous as I am so we’ll just have to learn on our own. I know I’m going to be very sad if Chris and Tiffany leave town!

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