Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mount Hood

Having climbed Mount Adams in the spring, we had set our sights on Mount Hood as our next Cascade volcano to ski. Our friends Ben and Emily had moved to Portland recently and are always up for an adventure so after a bit of coordination they were on board, as was our friend Andrew who lives in Tacoma. Roanne and I picked up Andrew on Saturday afternoon on the way to Portland, and by Saturday afternoon the five of us were driving east from Portland toward Government Camp which is close to the Timberline Ski Resort where we would be starting our ascent of the south side route the next morning.

We checked into our hotel room which had room for six people in the form of 3 bunk beds rammed into a tiny room with barely enough room to squeeze between them, and after sorting our gear out for the next day we headed to bed around 11am. The alarm went off at 3am the next morning, and we headed to Timberline Lodge and after signing the climbers register we donned our skis and started skinning up the cat track by headlamp next to the groomed ski runs.

It was a perfect clear ski as the sun began to rise, and pretty easy going aside from a bit of slippage on the frozen crust. Here is Emily leading the charge up the mountain as the sun begins to rise with Mount Jefferson visible to the south on the horizon.

We made steady progress as the sun began to creep above the horizon, and it was cool to see the shadow case by the triangular profile of the mountain that we were climbing. Here is Andrew chugging up in his new AT boots (Andrew is a former split boarder who recently saw the light and converted to AT gear).

As we neared the top of the ski resort at 8,600 feet the sun began to illuminate the rocky features above, here is Roanne headed for the light.

As we progressed higher the slope steepened and Emily, Ben, and Andrew decided to change over to crampons while Roanne and persisted on our skis, feeling that the reward of extra skiing would justify the effort of trying to maintain traction with our skins on the frozen snow. Here is Roanne starting to move past the ridgeline.

Before long we arrived at Crater Rock where Roanne and I decided to ditch our skis, and we all headed up towards the Hogsback (the sharp ridge visible below) on our crampons.

Here is a shot of the Hogsback head on, with the bergshrund visible near the top. It seemed like most parties were heading up another slope to the left which didn't have a bergshrund and might not have been quite as steep. I thought the Hogsback looked pretty awesome and was psyched to climb it, but other members of the party were significantly less psyched on it so we collectively decided to stick with the more well traveled route to the left.
Did I mentioned that a lot of people climb Mount Hood? In case there was any doubt, and to erase the feeling of solitude that my selectively cropped images might be leaving with my gentle reader, here is the view that presented itself when I swiveled 180 degrees after taking the photo above:

Having decided on our route, we set about the final push up to the summit. Our route started with snow slopes that gradually steepened and funneled into some icy chutes. Luckily were able to kick good steps and in many cases use pre-set ice axe holes, so it never felt too insecure and we didn't bother roping up. Here I am loving life and getting ready to head up the final chutes.

And here is Andrew equally psyched as he emerges from the chute with Roanne visible in the background about to pop up out of the chute. Climbing is so awesome!

After a few more steps up some gentle snow slopes we were on the summit, soaking in the sunshine and the incredible views. Here is a shot of Roanne and myself with Mount Jefferson in the background.

And here is the group shot of the complete summit party, with Andew and myself in the back row, and Ben, Roanne, and Emily in the front. This was Ben's first day out on his skins, not a bad showing!

With our summit celebrations complete it was time to head down. We decided to head down a different chute than we had come up, which required an exciting stroll across some really narrow and exposed ridge lines. Here is Roanne making it look like its no big deal, just another day in the office.

The initial part of the descent was quite steep so we down climbed facing in to the slope, but lower down the angle lessened and we again made rapid progress down toward our ski stash.

Roanne and I reached our skis at Crater Rock and happily clipped in while the others continued a little further down to where they had left theirs. The skiing was awesome, with the sunshine and southern aspect having warmed and softened the top few inches of crust to a perfect corn consistency. Yee-ha! Here is Roanne putting on a clinic in alpine descent.

And here I am looking a little less adept but having just as much fun.

And here is Andrew knocking it out of the park on borrowed skis on his first time out after eschewing the ridiculous idea of having both feet strapped to one board.

What an awesome day! Before long we were all back down at Timberline Lodge wondering why anyone would bother riding lifts to ski tracked out slush with the amazing snow on offer higher up the mountain. Here is the GPS track from our pretty straighforward route:

And here is the equally boring elevation profile, from our starting point at just under 6000 feet to the summit at 11,240 feet:

And finally the Google Earth shot showing our ascent:

So awesome! Despite having a lot of people on it this was definitely a worthy outing. Next year we'll be back to ski off the summit.

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