| Mount Hood - An Icy Chute
After a long and tiring four days on Rainier, we shipped Ihinger back to the world of 9 to 5 and headed south for Oregon. The nasty weather we encountered on Rainier followed us south in the form of rain. Upon arriving at the small town of Government Camp, Oregon we encountered multiple rude people and quickly hightailed it for the Timberline Lodge.
Thankfully the rain wasn't coming down as hard at the lodge and we located a dryish spot to set up our tent. Soon after, we hussled into the lodge as the rain increased. While sitting around the fire we noticed a mountaineer from my flight enter with a pair of friends. Jim Rickard? Nope, but one of his buddies was. We chatted with them for a few minutes before they left for their room. Hoping to avoid the rain outside, Jamie and I stuck upstairs for a couple hours and hung out by a fireplace. Around 11pm, we retired to the tent.
Thursday May 29th
I awoke around 7am and was relieved not to hear rain pelting the tent. To my shock, the sun was shining and sky was clear! And there she was, Mount Hood. While lacking Rainier's massive size, we were still impressed with Hood's stature…..and we wanted to get up it as soon as possible!
Mount Hood from dirt parking lot campsite on a clear late-May morning
After taking the tent down, we went over to the Wy'East Day Lodge to fill out our climbing permit. A young lady behind the desk informed us that we needed a Mountain Locator Unit while climbing or we would be fined in the event of a rescue, and we had to return to Government Camp to pick one up. Happy joy!
Back to the rainy town we went. Fortunately, the lady running the Mount Hood Inn was very nice, a complete 180 from others in town. She wished us luck and back to the lodge we went. On the return trip, we broke free from the dreary weather around 5,000'.
Back at the Lodge, we were in the process of packing when Jim came into the cave for his permit. We chatted about routes and informed him that we were planning on attempting the Leuthold Couloir. Our plan was to scout the route that afternoon and flag the approach to make life easier in the morning. We wished each other well and went our separate ways.
Hoisting our heavy packs, Jamie and I made our way up to high camp, at 9,010'. Unlike the interesting mountain, the approach was mundane; fortunately it went by quick enough. Among the protruding patches of volcanic rock we found a decent spot, after a little digging to make things level.
Mount Hood from ~8500' during the approach
A little food, some melted snow and we were ready to start figuring out the approach for the Leuthold Couloir. After studying my Cascade Volcanoes book for a moment, we began making our way towards the Illumination Saddle. Footprints from the previous group aided our progress.
Right before the saddle we noted the group, members of a Portland Rescue Team along with some newbies, had dug shelves into the slope for their tents. We exchanged pleasantries and thoughts on the mountain's condition before heading to the saddle proper.
Oh my how things changed quickly! At the saddle Saint Helens jumped into view and our nice, gentle slope dropped steeply downwards towards the Ruth Glacier.
Mount Saint Helens from the Illumination Saddle on Mount Hood
The entrance to Leuthold was visible between some ice and snow covered rock formations. Also, multiple crevasses were beginning to open along our path. Some recent avalanche scars helped define the edges of the crevasses while others lay nondescript. Armed with this new beta and seeing that our rope team had shrunk from three to two since Rainier, we elected to climb the Pearly Gates the following morning.
During our return to camp we pulled our flags in case Jim's group took us up on our offer of following our flagged trail up Leuthold. Just before arriving at camp, I split off with some flags to mark a route towards the well-beaten trail which would take us towards the Hogsback. Jamie flagged the route from the turnoff to camp and fired up the stove for dinner.
The remainder of the evening was spent prepping our packs for summit day, eating and enjoying this fabulous position we had chosen. Around 7pm we were snuggled deep in our warm bags.
High Camp(9,010') on Mount Hood
Friday May 30th
2am, what a lovely time of day, summit day that is! Without the wind, the night is calm but bitterly cold. In our "two man" tent, movement is constricted but we eventually get it right and are on the trail at 3:15am. The horrible smell from the Devil's Kitchen was nauseating 20 minutes into the hike. Good thing we didn't camp higher!
Progress is very slow, but neither one of us minds as long as we keep moving. The slope gets steeper and steeper until we reach the Hogsback at dawn. With a crevasse visible on the far side of the Hogsback, we elect to rope up here and switch to our ice axes. With fumaroles in almost every direction we waste no time getting past this area. Thankfully the smell wouldn't linger past the Hogsback.
The Hogsback is surprisingly short, compared to what I imagined and in no time we've reached the crevasse. Oh, it's wider than it appears, let's backtrack a moment. There are some tracks heading off to the left. We follow those until we're past the crevasse and head steeply uphill. Upon regaining the crest of the Hogsback the snow has hardened considerably and we break out the second tool. "The Chute" looms over us.
Above the crevasse nearing the entrance to "The Chute" on Hood
Things are steepening once again near the base of "The Chute" and we begin using both axes for more than walking sticks. Upon entering "The Chute" we are immediately faced with the crux. Hard snow mixed with ice makes for fairly slow progress as each step takes five to seven solid kicks to create a quality foothold. Lower down the center of this chute is the optimal route to take yet near the top of this section, I'm forced to go left or right. The left side isn't as steep so I test that section. Unfortunately there's more ice and kicksteps aren't cooperating whatsoever. Backing down a couple feet, I aim for the steeper section on our right. The ice here is somewhat scattered and steps are much easier to kick. After climbing over a small bulge to finish this section, I clip into a picket and bring Jamie up behind me. Crux finished, problem ahead?
Detailed view of "The Chute" crux as I top out
Looking down "The Chute" crux
Above us looms an icy headwall. There is no viable route to its right. To our left, a short slope gains the ridge above us. After that? I don't know. Are we trapped?
The icy headwall towering above the second pitch of "The Chute"
Jamie asks which way the route goes and I tell her we are heading up to the ridgecrest. Hopefully something will present itself once we get there. Up the short pitch I go.
Working on the second section of "The Chute", the shortest pitch
At the top I breathe a sigh of relief; there is an exit! Above me, a small chute 2-3 times one's width presents itself. Great! Climbing an unknown route is thrilling but the unknown can eat at you along the way. Relieved with our luck I belay Jamie up once again. Things are going well, but we're not out of the woods yet. We still have to figure out a way to reach the summit ridge from our current position.
The narrow couloir providing access past the icy headwall
Sunlight is beginning to creep its way across the top of the mountain and even though our view of what's past this slope is blocked, it's an encouraging sign!
Heading up the third pitch, the air below us begins to creep up our backsides as the constantly increasing exposure of our thrilling position intensifies. While the pitch isn't overly challenging physically, the numb, tingling feeling throughout my body indicates we're somewhere special.
Mount Hood's shadow from ~10 minutes below the summit
As the icy formations begin to block our passage straight up, I scoot rightish and crest the slope. Ah, the summit….and other rope teams! We're just a 5-10 minute stroll away, come on up baby! When she reaches our final belay station we share our most welcome pleasure of the day, standing in the sun. To the summit!
Topping out of "The Chute" with the sun just moments away
Our stroll down the final section of well-trodden snow to the summit brings great views to the north in the form of Saint Helens, Rainier and Adams. The south has our constant companion in Jefferson, yet now also reveals The Three Sisters along with Bachelor and Broken Top in the distance.
Mount Saint Helens and Washington's Big Boys(Rainier and Adams) from Hood
Jefferson floating above early morning clouds with the Three Sisters beyond
At 7am we're standing on the summit of Mount Hood on the bluebird day we've been hoping all trip to have!
Saint Helens, two Jamies on Hood's summit, Rainier and Adams
Lounging on the summit we trade picture taking duties and share beta about our "unknown" Hood route and last weekend's Rainier climb with other groups. Fifteen minutes later, the lead guide from the Portland Rescue Team and his crew arrives. He informs us that they were watching our progress during their approach to the Hogsback and asks how the route went. He also informs us that we weren't on the Pearly Gates Route, a fact we acknowledge we realized early in "The Chute". We gave him our opinion that while it was harder than what we figured the Pearly Gates would be, we never felt over our heads and enjoyed the climb.
After wishing them a safe journey down Jamie and I joined the parade of rope teams down the trampled path through the Old Chute variation. As we got lower and the Hogsback came into view, we were shocked to see a dozen or so rope teams making their way up and past the Hogsback. Hopefully Jim and Kurt weren't stuck in that line.
Just before the Hogsback, the funky volcano smell returned so we hurried along when we could only getting stopped by some picture takers once. Upon our return to the Hogsback the smell was still quite powerful so Jamie unclipped from the rope quickly while I shoved it into my pack. We'll deal with any repercussions later, let's boogie!
Down the steep slope we went to a flat area ~10,200'. An ever-so-slight breeze was our friend here blowing the smell away. Looking down the slope below us we figured it was steep enough to glissade, man were we in for a surprise. Sliding down we discovered the slope was still pretty solid and one could get moving faster than preferred quite quickly in normal glissading position. After a self-arrest to reset momentum, we restarted down the slope with our heels in the snow to work as brakes while using the ice axe to steer around rocks and postholes. Several minutes later, we slid into camp.
After packing up camp we hoisted our packs for the final time this trip, found an open slope and resumed our glissading ways. This snow was much softer and felt very comfortable, even with the pack. Somewhere between 7300-7500', we ran out of glissading options and that was a good thing because Jamie started losing small objects off her pack near the end of the run. By the time we regrouped I looked like a walking yard sale. Guess it's time to hoof it out. Oh well, 2500'+ isn't a bad ride, or slide. Even under the now pumping sun, getting out wasn't bad. Sometime before noon we were unloading our weight at the rental car more than ready to head for McMenamins in Troutdale. A good trip? Nah, a great one!