May 6, 2006
Planning for this hike began about a year in advance. Once word got out that I was leading Hood requests to be included started coming in. By the time the Climbs schedule came out in March the trip was full. In the next few months up to the climb a few more requests for participation came in—they were told they could be on the wait-list.
About a month before the climb the participants were contacted via email as to equipment needed—Ice ax, crampons, climbing harness, ’biner, prusik loops and hard-hat. A couple cancellations in the next few weeks allowed two nonmembers to join in.
In the final week before the weather-watch began. Ropes and snow-pickets were picked up from the lodge and checked for climb-worthiness. By Tuesday the forecast for Sunday was not looking good. Plans were started to climb Saturday morning instead. All climbers agreed to the change.
I picked up Doug at his home Friday evening and we drove to Timberline. We arrived at about 9 p.m., met a few of the other climbers and settled in for a few hours of sleep. We got up at 11:30.
So why do otherwise sane people start hiking at midnight? Well, there are a number of reasons. By that time it’s been cool enough long enough so that the snow is firm and you can walk on it without sinking in too far. By the time you get to the summit it’s light but still cool enough that there’s a minimum of rock and ice fall. When descending the steep part high on the mountain the snow is still hard enough to use crampons. And should something unexpected happen there’s plenty of daylight left to work things out.
All nine were hiking up the mountain before 12:30 a.m., after filling out the Obsidian signup sheet, wilderness permit, and the climbers’ registration sheet. It was cold and it stayed cold for the entire climb. Everyone had problems with their drinking water freezing, both those with “bladders” and those who were using bottles. Wind sharpened the bite of the cold, though the gusts were not as strong as they were earlier when we were trying to sleep. We kept our breaks short as we needed to stay moving to keep from getting too cold. A little light from the first-quarter moon allowed us to see our goal.
We reached the top of the Palmer lift (two miles, 2500 ft.) after about two hours. There we joined a couple dozen other climbers who where somewhat sheltered by a building. Doug decided to crampon up. After a short break we continued on and the rest of us soon found out that Doug was right: crampons were in order. We also rediscovered the importance of checking out crampon-boot fit before leaving home when several people had problems getting their crampons on. We were able to proceed only after a bit of ingenious improvisation.
You know you’re getting near Crater Rock when you can smell it. Whew. There’s nothing quite like that rotten egg stench from the fumaroles to wake you up! The brightening sky of dawn allowed us to switch off our headlamps. As we reached the ridge of the Hogsback we could see a bit of the rim above us lit up by the early morning rays.
We took an extended break waiting for the group ahead of us to ascend up the Hogsback, over the ’schrund, and on to the summit. We put on harnesses, stretched out our three ropes, and tied in. As the ’schrund was fairly open on both sides but less than a foot wide in the center we went straight on up, stepping right over it. Most of the traffic was going up the left Pearly Gate—we followed. Our second and third teams waited for a descending group before following on up the chute.
On top—highest point in Oregon—we could see glistening in the sun Jeff, the Sisters and Broken Top to the south, and Rainier, Adams and a bit of St. Helens in Washington to the north. Everything under about 5000' was hidden under a blanket of clouds. After a short stay on the summit, Juli, Roy and I (first team) dropped down a bit to get out of the wind and waited for our other two teams to get to the top and have their short stays.
We descended through the climber’s right Pearly Gate to avoid the traffic in the left chute, and clipped through some protection left by an ascending party. Once to the low point of the Hogsback ridge we unropped and removed our harnesses. Doug, leading our last team off the summit, reported seeing an ascending rope team, upon reaching the ’schrund, carefully reel each member in so they could all view the “big crack in the snow” together. One has to wonder why they took the bother of hauling that rope all the way up the mountain!
As is often the case, the group fell apart a bit on the descent. First one, then another tried their hands (or seats rather) at glissading (crampons off first!) When we “assembled” back at the top of the ski area, three were already gone, not to be seen again until we got back to the parking lot. Reassembled at the cars we sorted out gear, passed out summit certificates and signed the club’s Mt. Hood summit book. And then, the most dangerous part of the climb: the drive home...
Next morning at 7:30 a.m. a check of the Government camp webcam revealed rain: glad we weren’t on the mountain then! With the gear rechecked and dried and the report written, all that remains to be done is to return the gear to the lodge and mail in the signup sheet and trip fees.
Climbers were Mark Slipp (assistant leader), Doug Nelson (2nd and 3rd assistants), Larry Huff, Juli McGlinsky, Craig Renkert, Kim Sawyer (10th peak—congratulations!), and nonmembers Roy McCormick and Chance Fitzpatrick. —Wayne Deeter, 1st time Mt. Hood leader.
photos by (wrd)-Wayne Deeter