May 3, 2003
This climb was one of two “graduation” climbs scheduled for those who had participated in the Basic Mountaineering class. The other climb, Mt. Hood, was scheduled for the same weekend. As the weather predictions started to take shape through the week, it looked as though the weather for May 3 would be less than ideal. The Mt. Hood climb was canceled due to weather. Despite this, we decided to make a stab at Diamond. We left Eugene at 6 AM under mostly cloudy skies, but the roads were dry. By the time we reached the Pioneer Gulch trailhead, there was a light drizzle, but winds were calm and the overcast didn’t look too dense. We headed up the trail in good spirits.
We ran into snow about a mile up the trail. Snow conditions were pretty soft at first, and crusty at times farther up the mountain, but snowshoes worked well for all the snow conditions we encountered. The drizzle turned to snow pretty promptly, and the winds remained very light. Conditions were fairly benign until we got above treeline, where it turned pretty nasty and windblown. It was absolutely classic whiteout conditions. Visibility was reduced to maybe 30 to 50 feet, sometimes less. The person in the lead had to use a ski pole like a blind person’s cane to get a feel for the terrain before taking each step.
We made it to somewhere close to the false summit; the GPS said we were above 8300 feet. All participants were willing to keep going when I called it quits, largely due to the lack of wands (we had only a handful and we had run out by then) and concern that it might get even worse. It was first-class nasty, with biting wind whipping up ice crystals, yet no one was having a problem at all. We even took time for a group photo in the sideways-blowing-stinging-snow. I was impressed.
And, yes indeed! It did get nastier on the way down! The wind was blowing hard directly into our faces now, with close to no visibility. We couldn’t even follow wands very well — only found about 1/3 of what we had placed. But GPS and compasses worked fine, and with George’s navigation skills leading the way we made our way down to timberline and found our tracks back to civilization.
This was an outstanding, congenial group to climb with. I had a great time, and hopefully everyone else did too — participating were Basic Mountaineering students Rich Peevers, Gary Degulis, Sam Tracer, Dave Chapman, Kim Chapman, Arlene Deyo, and Chris Mullaney; also participating were Bill Streck, Marsha Barr, Jason Mueller, assistant leader George Baitinger, and Susan Sullivan, leader.