July 2nd, 2002
It was a long journey from Colorado up to Mt. Hood, about 2700 miles roundtrip. Departing from my parents house in Rock Springs, Louis and I drove to Boise Idaho that day to stay the night with my cousin Aaron. It was nice to see Aaron, Mattie, and their new son Brayden, thanks Aaron for always letting me shack up with you when I pass through. It was up early the next day and on the road to Portland where we would spend a couple days with Louis's family there. Mt. Hood can be seen more than 100 miles away and gets bigger and bigger. Interstate 84 follows the Columbia River through the very scenic Columbia River Gorge. The photo below is taken from The Dalles on route to Portland. From this spot Mt. Hood is still probably 50 miles away towering 11,000 feet above you.
We arrived in Portland at Jackie and Bob's house and their hospitality was incredible. The next 2 days they fed us like there was no tomorrow knowing that we would soon be burning all those calories back off. We even took a trip to the Portland Zoo where a very entertaining polar bear swam around with a bucket on his head.
July 4th, 2002
After a nice bbq the night before, it was time to head to the mountain. We headed out of Portland on Interstate 84 and taking the Mt. Hood exit on Highway 26. As the road climbs towards the mountain the first elevation marks reads "1500 feet", leaving the summit almost 10,000 feet higher. The peaks in the Pacific Northwest are absolutely incredible since they rise so high above their surroundings. Sure we have tons of 14,000 foot peaks here in Colorado, but looking at them from 10,000 feet isn't near as impressive. We arrived at Timberline Lodge around 11:30 am, a little early so we cruised the lodge and gift shops until the rest of the group showed up. The summit was hidden in the clouds and as Louis and I were walking through the parking lot, the clouds cleared and allowed us our first close-up of the mountain. Only 2 words popped into my head, Oh Sh*t. The mountain was alot steeper than I thought and we could see how much bigger the bergshrund was where the accident happened. The photo below was taken from Timberline Lodge and the red shows our route of the south side of the mountain.
The rest of the gang showed up consisting of Paul, Debbie, Marco, Laurna, Jay, and Jake and it was off to the slopes to practice our self arresting. Starting easy with feet first, we eventually moved on to head-first lying on your stomach, then head-first backwards and after a couple hours we felt pretty confident with our abilities. The rest of the gang headed off to their campsite while Louis and I were sleeping in his suburban right there in the parking lot. We filled our waters bottles, had some dinner, and I crawled into the front seat to get some sleep around 5 p.m. Neither of us got any sleep, partly due to the excitement and partly due to all the fireworks popping all around us.
July 5th, 2002
The alarm finally sounded at midnight and we quickly got ready and met the rest of the group up at the lodge where the snowcat was waiting for us. When your a climbing with a guy who is 80 years old like Louis, you have to take every advantage you can. We were packed in like sardines but for $12 a person and saving us 2500 feet of elevtain gain it was very much worth it. The snowcat was really old and really struggled to make it up some parts of the hill but we eventually reached the top of the Palmer Chairlift. We all unloaded, strapped on our crampons and headlamps, and headed out into the darkness. It was a beautiful star filled sky and the air was cold and crisp with only the sound of our crampons crunching on the snow.
The first 3/4 of the climb is rather uneventful as you climb your way up the hill and to the east side of Crater Rock. We passed a couple people camping on the slopes and the route steepened a little as we neared the Steel Cliff and Devils Kitchen. Near Devils Kitchen and Crater Rock the strong sulfur smelling air remindered me that in fact Mt. Hood is a volcano that is still very much alive. Paul and I took up the rear of the pack staying right behind Louis since he had stumbled a couple times on the route up. We had to cross a patch of ash and rock and gained snow again right below the Hogsback. In the photo below Paul and Louis are taking a breather right below the Hogsback. The Devils Kitchen and Steel Cliff are right behind them in the photo. At this point it was about 5 a.m. and the sky was beginning to lighten.
As you skirt the Devils Kitchen you can see steam rising up from the mountain. We all gained the Hogsback which is a high snow ridge that extends from Crater Rock to the wall below the Pearly Gates. As the sky lightened, Mt. Jefferson comes into view to the south and is the mountain behind me in the photo below.
Mike, a guy we met on the route up was already up near the bergshrund scoping out the conditions. First he went around east(right) and didn't like what he seen, then he went west and made it up above the crevasse a little before turning around and coming back down to the hogsback. He was climbing solo and didn't want to proceed any further. There was a team of 5 coming up behind us so we decided to let them go first and see if they had any difficulty. In the photo below the team is making it around the west end of the bergshrund and the route in red shows the way up through the Pearly Gates.
The team of 5 didn't seem to have any troubles so we decided we would go for it. We let them get all the way through the Pearly Gates before we proceeded, didn't want them taking us into the crevasse too if they slipped. Louis was a little too tired to proceed so Debbie volunteered to go back down with him and Jay and Jake decided they were a little too inexperienced to go on any further. Good decisions all around so I hurried up the Hogsback to catch up to Paul, Marco and Laurna who were already at the bergshrund. I tied into their rope between Marco and Laurna and Paul was in front leading the way. We decided we wouldn't protect the route but we proceed with the utmost caution. In the photo below we are waiting below the bergshrund as the team in front of us makes their way through the Pearly Gates.
The photo below shows the bergshrund which was the site of the climbing accident about a month earlier. The bergshrund was about 10 feet wide and probably over 200 feet long.
Making our way around the bergshrund we carefully travelled up the slopes, making sure we planted our ax firmly and our footing was secure. Below Paul is leading us up the slope right under the Pearly Gates.
The slope is pretty steep but not as bad as it looked from the lodge. We gained elevation very quickly and the steepest section of the route was right between the Pearly Gates where Laurna is in the photo below. The Hogsback and Crater Rock can be seen behind Laurna.
Once through the Pearly Gates the summit is less than 5 minutes away. We arrived at the summit around 7 am and there was hardly a cloud in the sky. The views were amazing in all directions. In the photo below I'm at the summit with Mt. Rainier off in the distance to the north.
Below is the summit crew, from left to right, Laurna, Marco, Paul and myself. Mount St. Helens can be seen above and left of Laurna's head.
The photo below is the view from the summit looking north at Mount St. Helens(left), Mt. Rainier(center) and Mt. Adams(right).
The photo below is a closer shot of Mount Rainier(left) and Mt. Adams.
The photo below is the view to the south of Mt. Jefferson.
We took turns snapping group photos with the other team on the summit, ate a Snickers bar and began our descent after about 10 minutes. We agreed to descend first and the other team wouldn't start their descent until we were below the bergshrund. They didn't want to take us out with them if they happened to fall. Sometimes it takes a terrible accident to remind us of proper mountain etiquette. We descended very slowly and cautiously, once again planting our axes firmly and stepping very carefully. We made it down without incident and noticed a couple other people on the Hogsback waiting to make their ascent. The photo below is of the Hogsback and Crater Rock on the descent.
After returning to the Hogsback safely we unroped and took a break for some food. The other team made it down without incident as well. After descending past the Steel Cliff there was a good glissading path worn into the snow that we decided to take advantage of. In the photo below Paul(circled in yellow) is glissading down the slope which we covered about 600 vertical feet in about 5 minutes.
The slope eventually wasn't steep enough and the snow became too soft to glissade, so it was a long trudge back down to the parking lot. We asked a couple of skiers and snowboarders if we could borrow their sticks but we didn't have any takers. We arrived back at the parking lot around 10:30 a.m. about 5 minutes after Debbie and Louis. It felt like such a long day but it wasn't even noon yet so me and Louis packed up, said goodbye to the gang and drove back to Boise that day. Paul and Debbie were heading back to Portland and Marco and Laurna were heading off to tackle Mt. Rainier. What a beautiful and enjoyable climb, many thanks to Paul, Debbie, Marco, Laurna, Aaron, Mattie, Bob, Jackie, and Ed for making the trip memorable. A special thanks to Louis who at 80 years old, falling only 1000 feet short of the summit is an inspiration to us all. Reminds me of a quote by Finis Mitchell, "We don't stop hiking because we grow old, we grow old because we stop hiking."