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I had my first Mt. Hood summit with two other graduates of the 2007 Mazamas BCEP (Basic Climbing Education Program) class, Rich and Dave, on May 25th.
Earlier in the month we had attempted a Mt. Hood climb with a Mazamas leader but we were turned around due to high sustained winds around 9600′. So it’s safe to say we were jonesing for the summit, but we kept our inexperience with technical mountaineering in mind and decided only to climb as high as we were comfortable.We left Timberline Lodge at 12:30 AM Saturday morning and I only had a few concerns in mind. First, the climb was spur of the moment for me, and so I didn’t rest or eat very well prior to climbing. Secondly there was a massive amount of climbers in the parking lot preparing for their ascent. I understand the south side of Mt. Hood gets busy but there must have been 20 other climbing parties getting ready. Enough people that there were no climbing registration cards left; we wrote our emergency contact numbers and party information down on the back of a blue-bag instruction sheet. Funny that that it wasn’t there when we returned to check out. Maybe someone carried it up the mountain with him or her.
The first two and a half hours of this climb is considered a slog. The climber’s trail from Timberline Lodge is a groomed snow pack from snow cats that roughly follows the Palmer ski lift up to 8,500′. You can also hire the snow cat to take you and 9 buddies up the trail for $100/cat. I think we were passed 3 separate times by the snow cat, and the 3 of us agreed it would be worth the money on future climbs.
The next 1000′ in elevation around crater rock and to the base of the hogsback were the most strenuous. It was steep and the snow was soft. Everyone I saw was wearing crampons at this point but I felt more secure with them off with the snow being soft. A fall would be safer without them anyway. During this stretch I began to doubt if I had the energy to summit and continue descend back to the car (usually important). I had some Gu and lagged behind my partners. Met some other Mazamas on the way and they had never seen the mountain this busy.
At the base of the hogsback stopped for a short break. Rehydrated, Re-ate, and then scoped the route. There were some clouds/fog blowing through that covered summit but it was clear enough to see some climbers heading left off the hogsback going up the old chute. There was some faint movement that looked like climbers heading up to the pearly gates as well. We donned crampons, and helmets and decided not to rope up at this point because we were all feeling pretty comfortable with the slope and the ridge of the hogsback. We stopped partway to talk to a descending climber; he recommended the left gate due to the right gate being steeper and icier. The old chute had a lot of guides on it and he recommended staying out of their way.
We reached the bergshrund and it was exposed on both sides of the hogsback. The snow bridge was wide and well traveled but I didn’t feel comfortable stopping for a picture without being roped to someone. We traversed over to the left pearly gate to find a line of 6 climbers waiting at the base. They were waiting for another climbing party that appeared to be placing protection on the route (ice screws?). The area felt exposed due to the rime ice covering the cliffs above us. Wouldn’t want to be there in warmer weather.
The 6 climbers in front of us went up concurrently, seemed a little irresponsible of the guide to do it this way. A fall near the top there would rocket the entire party down 1000 feet or so. And this is an area where falls are more common.
Our turn came after 15 minutes of waiting. I regret not getting some pictures of the right pearly gate but I didn’t feel like traversing for it. Ascending up through the gates was certainly the ‘crux’ of the climb, having not done any ice climbing I moved slowly, deliberately, and methodically to assure each smack of the axe and crampons was a good stick. I waited for Dave and Rich to reach the top before starting.
Topped out of the gates and it was a good 10 minute walk to the summit on shallow sloped snow. The weather was clear above and below some nice looking clouds formed over the route. The summit itself was cluttered with maybe 20 other folks, 5 or 6 on skis, and a lot of climbers roped.
Good views of Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Adams.
My favorite part of the climb was traversing along the airy ridge separating the north and south side of the mountain. The north side has a near vertical drop of at least a mile. The south side has the entire view of the route, all the way to the Timberline Lodge parking lot. We reached the top of the old chute (Mazama chute) and found skiers preparing for their descent. We waited a good while, not wanting to be in front of them while they were descending the steep slopes. One skier was having problems with her setup and ultimately we descended in front of her. When she passed us by it was uneventful.
The old chute had a great boot pack that hugged the rock & ice wall all the way around to the hogsback. Ice and rock were beginning to fall as the day warmed up and even though it was small chunks I felt safer descending all the way down to crater rock and traversing up to the hogsback. Dave and Rich followed the boot pack along the cliff and had no issues. We met at the base of the hogsback and stopped for food, water, and sunscreen before heading down.
Great glissading from 10,000′ feet to middle of palmer ski lift. Better than the glissading on Mt. Adams I think.
This last picture shows the routes we had taken.
Green – Hogsback
Teal – Bergshund
Yellow – Left pearly gate
Blue – Right pearly gate
Red – Old chute / Mazama chute
Purple – My descent route
Date: Jan 26, 2007
Height: 5,629 feet
Location: I-90 Exit 47
Route: Straight up
Length: ~6 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 3,800 FT
Fantastic weather, soft snow, and 3800 feet elevation gain with maybe 2000 feet of glissading!
Tim filmed two movies also:
Lastly, Creighton is getting old enough that he and Sophia are starting to play together. I snapped some shots while they danced to some club music here.