20090515-16 Mount Hood with Alan Smith

Alan is the root of my Oregon adventure.  The foundation.  The cause.  Or - for the glass-half-empty crowd - its all his fault.  He's the one who signed up for a Mt. Hood climb and then asked, "Can Chris come too?"  It was a bit flattering, actually.  And we had a blast.

The weather couldn't be more different that last week.  Crystal clear and warm.  We spent Friday in the gulches, reviewing snow travel skills.  And watching the helicopter taking arial footage of some crew of baggies-pants-twin-tip riders thowing gnar-gnar tricks off a kicker.

We met at 1:30am, the "plumber's crack of dawn," to catch a ride on a Timberline Snowcat to the top of the ski area, gaining an immediate 2 miles and 2500 feet of elevation.  While the Timberline Mountain Guide teams started pulling themselves together for standard ascents up the Hogsback, Alan and I took off to the west, angling for the West Rim.

Just as we reached Crater Rock, we caught up to a team of 10 or 12 climbers, obviously all together and following the instructions of a small cadre of leaders.  Members of the Mountaineers or Mazamas?  They soon turned around when their large and slow-moving party was struck multiple times by falling ice.  We passed through unscathed and continued up the western edge of Mt Hood's crater.

Teams from Timberline Mountain Guides traverse over from the bottom of the Hogsback (in the left of photo) to pick a more direct line up the Old Chute.  Alan and my climb was to the view's right of Crater Rock (center).

We had hoped that with fresh snow and warm temps the 45-50 degree snow slopes gaining the western crater rim would be good for kick steps, but a thick rain crust made the surface bullet-proof, forcing us to pick plan B and head for the Old Chute, which climbers had used to originally ascend the mountain.  The reached the northern end of the crater after sunrise, running into our TMG friends again.  Apparently the Pearly Gates were still a pitch of technical ice, so everyone looking for an easier ascent were heading for Old Chute.  The circus of climbers, from soloists to guided team and parties insisting on using glacier travel techniques up 35 degree slopes convinced us to head out and left, gaining the summit ridge farthere to the west of Old Chute and then traversing back to the east, to reach the broad summit.  We could see Rainier, Adams and St. Helen to the north, the Sisters and Jefferson to the south.  Ahhhhhh....

 Alan topping out on the West Crater Rim.  Climbers on the 
Hogsback are visible to the view's right of Alan.

Eventually we had to turn around and descend.  While the TMG teams chose to downclimb steeper chutes in between the Pearly Gates and Old Chute, Alan and I hugged the skier's right of Old Chute to try to minimize the amount of ice we kicked off onto teams still climbing up and protect ourselves from falling ice above.  The sun reached the crater bowl as we descended, and we got to watch hundreds of pounds of rime ice loose their precarious perches on the crater's rock walls and go crashing down into the Devel's Playground and Rock Garden.

 Climbers looking back up the standard route.  The summit hides behind the highest rimed point on the right; the Hogsback is the obvious snow ridge leading to the Pearly Gates; climbers can be seen traversing to the left to reach the Old Chute.  Our line of ascent gained the crater rim in the far left of this photo.

And we continued down.  Down down down.  Alan was growing tired, and for the last 2000 feet through the ski area I would stop every 200 feet of elevation, wait for him to catch up, and then announce the elevation lost and left before charging down again.  This is a lot of work - I'm tired - was Alan's comment.  Yep, welcome to climbing!  Its tiring work that can't be ducked, so all we can do is keep charging down.  So we did.  And made it to the Ram's Head Bar in the Timberline Lodge for a beers and a late lunch.  Nicely done, Alan.  Cheers.