June 18-19, 2004

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      highpointersclub
      Participant
      [Ed: Imported from Americas Roof ‘Summit Trip Reports’ forum]
      [By: Richard on June 25 2004 at 11:13 AM]


      Report by: Papa Bear
      Climbers: Papa Bear and PP&R group

      Date: June 18 & 19, 2004

      Mount Hood (Oregon) Climb, June 19 & 20

      I had been planning an attempt on Mount Hood for more than a year. My daughter, who
      lives in Portland, Oregon, had climbed Mount Hood two years ago (just one week
      before the disaster that saw 12 climbers killed and a rescue helicopter crashed),
      and she had loved the experience. She was happy to do it again with me, but felt
      she was not up to “leading” the climb in a technical sense, so we decided to use the
      same guide service she had used in 2002.

      Guide Service: we used the Portland Parks and Recreation guide service (
      http://www.parks.ci.portland.or.us/outdoorrec.htm telephone: 503-823-5132) which
      is one of several that operates on the mountain. The cost was not cheap ($279 plus
      a non-resident surcharge) but it included a lot of amenities that I considered
      important: a full days training in basic mountaineering skills, a nearby lodge where
      we had a big dinner and a place for 4 or 5 hours of sleep,and perhaps most important
      – a reservation on the snow cat which took us from Timberline Lodge up to 8500′,
      just above the ski area. This eliminated the long slog up along the ski area with
      it’s soft snow surface and 2500′ of elevation gain. We found this service to be
      highly qualified and we had a fun group of people to climb with. We were all pretty
      inexperienced in technical climbing but generally a fit group of people. Other
      services such as Timberline Mountain Guides were also highly recommended. All the
      guides seem to know each other and were generally young climbing enthusiasts looking
      for a seasonal work. Rodney, our guide, was a graduate student at PSU.

      If you are technically competent to do the climb without a guide service that is
      fine. But if you skip the option (and expense) of using the snow cat, I suggest you
      climb the lower section the day before and camp (which is legal above 8500′) around
      9000′ and sleep the early part of the evening before starting the upper climb
      (probably at 1:00 or 2:00 AM if you are reasonably fast). There are several areas
      that are reasonably flat around the level of Illumination Rock that you might
      choose. To slog up all the way from the bottom in one continuous climb would be
      quite an exhausting undertaking. Believe me, our experience on Mount Adams earlier
      in the week attests to this. And one other thing: bring snow shoes for the lower
      section and cache them around 8500′ – 9000′. You’ll be happy you did and even
      happier to use them again on the way down.

      Day 1: Snow School: we arrived at Timberline Lodge at 8:00 AM on Friday and were
      introduced to our guide Rodney and to the other group members. We were responsible
      for bringing proper clothing and boots, crampons and ice axe. The guide service
      supplied climbing harnesses and helmets. The Snow School lasted till about 2:30 PM
      with a break for lunch (on the slopes). It took place in a little gully near the
      Lodge with a good steep snow slope and plenty of room to learn and practice our
      skills. In the morning we practiced snow climbing, up slope, traversing and down
      slope, use of crampons and use of ice axe. In the afternoon we learned and
      practiced self arrest and then roped up and practiced climbing up down and
      traversing as a team, and lastly we practiced team arrest. I found it informative
      and relevant and very helpful when we actually got on the mountain late that night.
      It was minimal basic mountaineering but it got us through the climb and was a good
      foundation to work from for future climbs.

      The Lodge: we arrived at a beautiful A-frame lodge which was actually a condo in
      the Trillium Lake area, about 2 miles off route 26 just north of the road up to
      Timberline Lodge. We spent the afternoon organizing and shmoozing and had an early
      pasta dinner around 5:30 PM. One guy brought some beer and a surprising number of
      people decided to imbibe, but I decided to put that pleasure off until after the
      climb. We got to sleep around 6:30 PM and around 10:30 PM people started moving
      around and I dragged myself out of bed. My daughter unfortunately had come down
      with some sort of intestinal problem and decided to take a pass on the climb. I was
      saddened by that turn of affairs, but knew that with this type of high exertion /
      high risk endeavor it was the right decision for her.

      Timberline and the snow cat: At 11:30 PM we piled into the cars and returned to the
      mountain and got to Timberline Lodge just before midnight. A few other climbers
      were milling around. Rodney put in the climbing permits for the group at the
      appropriate place and after a group photo, we piled into the snow cat. There were
      10 of us in the back (9 climbers and our second guide, Rance) plus Rodney in the
      front with the driver. It would be hard to imagine fitting anyone else in, but I
      guess full groups of 12 have been known to fit. The snow cat runs every hour from
      11:00 PM to 5:00 AM and was booked solid for this weekend. The prospect of good
      weather brought everyone to the mountain. PP&R had cancelled most of their May
      scheduled climbs due to bad weather (as had other groups such as Mazama) so this was
      the first good climbing weekend of the spring season. After a half hour’s smelly
      and noisy climb where we passed 8 or 10 other climbers slowly making their way up on
      foot, the cat left us off at the top of the ski area at 8500′. At last we were set
      to begin. It was 12:37 AM by my watch.

      The Climb: Our route was the standard south face route, up across the Palmer Snow
      field (in our case by snow cat) then up for a rest stop at the Triangle Moraine.
      Then up onto the Hogback, across the bergschrund, up thought the Pearly Gates and on
      the summit. Our strategy was to get an early start so as to minimize the congestion
      with other climbing groups and to get through most of the snow surface when it was
      still frozen solid. For a map of the upper part of the summit click here;
      http://www.topozone.com/map.asp?z=10&n=5024426&e=601752&s=50&size=l&datum=nad83&layer=DRG25
      . Unfortunately this does not show the mountain as we climbed it. The prominent
      feature know as the Hogback is not labeled and much of the rocky areas shown were
      actually snow covered at this point in the season.

      Up to the Triangle Moraine: the first part of the climb was done unroped and
      without crampons. Most of the group had trekking poles but I had decided not to
      bring mine. This was a mistake since both for balance and support they would have
      been helpful in this first part of the climb. We switch-backed up across the slope
      over a moderate grade. I felt pretty strong although one of our group was starting
      to fall behind. We passed over a small rocky outcrop at about 9600 which was the
      top of the Triangle Moraine, shown on the map by the small red cross marker. Here
      we took an extended rest of about 15 minutes, put on our crampons and harnesses and
      roped up. Most groups wait till the bottom of the Hogback, about 800 feet higher,
      to rope up, but our guides wanted us to get some experience with team climbing
      before the hard stuff started. They used a short rope technique, with about 12′ –
      15′ of rope between climbers. The guides said long roping would result in much
      stronger forces in the event we need to team arrest a falling climber due to the
      speed at which a fall can accelerate to in a few seconds.

      Up to the Hogback: the climb up from the Triangle Moraine was steeper and passed up
      through a funnel between two large rock outcroppings. At this point the climber who
      was lagging began to get exhausted and he decided he could not go on. Rodney, our
      guide, secured the team, unroped and went down to the climber and took him back to
      the Triangle Moraine area where he set up a bivy for the climber and then returned
      to our team. Meanwhile we were down to 3 climbers and we followed the other team,
      led by Rance, up to the Hogback where Rodney would catch up with us. Once through
      the funnel we climbed diagonally up to the left to arrive a the top of the lower
      part of the Hogback. There we took another extended rest before the final climb to
      the summit. So what is the “Hogback”? It is basically a ridge of snow across the
      old crater and forms a line up to the last steep part of the climb. It is steep but
      it offers the best climbing route across this area. As an added “bonus”, it is
      bisected by a crevasse known as the bergshrund about midway up the slope. This is
      where the glacier underlying the slope pulls away from the steeper part of the
      mountain above. Later in the season this get wider as the glacier pulls away and
      climbing this section becomes more difficult. Some years this bergschrund is
      bridged by a snow bridge where the Hogback crosses it, but this year there was no
      such bridge, so we had to traverse to the left and cross the bergschrund where it
      was narrower.

      Up along the Hogback and through the Pearly Gates: this part of the climb was the
      steepest and we were told it was a bit more difficult than usual due to the lack of
      a good track in several areas. The use of tracks, consisting of other climbers
      frozen foot prints is a great time and energy saver and where there was a good track
      we made good progress. Our rope team now was led by Rodney again and consisted of
      the 3 remaining climbers of our group. Movement along the Hogback was slow but
      steady. A short distance before the bergschrund we traversed to the left and this
      was rather easy in comparison. At the point where we crossed the bergschrung it was
      just a big step but a rather scary one nevertheless. You didn’t want to fall in
      there. The blue glacier ice seemed to glow beneath the white snow covering. I wish
      I had some pictures of this part of the route, but it was too dark and I was too
      preoccupied with climbing to fiddle with my camera. At this point the sky was
      lightening since it was close to 5:00 AM. We could see the top of the mountain was
      covered by a cloud so we would not see the actual sunrise.

      After crossing the bergschrund we climbed up towards a rock outcropping and moved
      around it to the right and regained the upper part of the Hogback. This section was
      very difficult since several areas were very icy and were difficult to climb with no
      appreciable track. The last steep part of the climb goes through another funnel
      between some icy massifs which is known as the Pearly Gates. It is a treacherous
      but beautiful section. The beauty was enhanced by the cloud, lit from the top by
      the newly risen sun, that hung just above the level of the Gates. The last person
      on our rope, just below me, was starting to tire at this point and she kept asking
      to stop for a rest. I felt I was pulling her up though this area, although I was no
      powerhouse myself. But we finally got through the Gates and onto the short easier
      slope to the top.

      The summit: we were in a cloud but visibility was still 20′ or 30′ so we could see
      where we were going. Finally at 6:05 AM, we reached the summit. There was a
      heavenly beauty there although unfortunately the cloud precluded any view. About 10
      or so others were there ahead of us. Our strategy of starting early had paid off
      since we didn’t need to contend with any down climbing teams on our way up and only
      a few groups and individuals had passed us going up. We took the obligatory summit
      pictures and there were the usual phone calls and after 10 or 15 minutes we were off
      again. The strategy now was to get down before the crowd got too thick and before
      the snow could soften up.

      Going down to the bottom of the Hogback: We reorganized the rope teams when we
      started down to even them out and I was switched to Rance’s team. Going down was
      easier on my heart, but not easier on my legs or mind. The top section through the
      Pearly Gates and down to the bergschrund was very tiring side stepping and belaying
      with the ice axe. There were traffic jams with up-climbing teams, but lucky for us
      we seemed to get the right of way by convention. I found the down-climbing much
      harder than expected, and with my concentration waning, probably more dangerous.
      When we crossed the bergschrund I stumbled a bit and the rope team leader warned me
      to watch it. The traverse back to the Hogback was easier but I managed to stumble
      again. The leader warned me if I lose my feet I need to be sure of my ice axe –
      which I wasn’t. We finally reached the rest spot near the bottom of the Hogback and
      I tried to recover from my very tiring experience of the last hour and a half.

      Down to the Triangle Moraine: I opted to stay roped down this section since I was
      not 100% confident of myself, especially my mental alertness. most of the others got
      unroped at this point. My legs were getting wobbly and I stumbled again yelling
      “falling”. I was not happy at this point but we were soon down to the Triangle
      Moraine, where the terrain got easier and we finally unroped and took off the
      crampons. We took another well deserved rest and a few more pictures of what had
      been too dark to see on the way up.

      The last bit: from the Moraine to the bottom was easier but it eventual became a
      long slog through soft snow. As we got close to the top of the ski slopes (around
      8500′) the snow got softer and softer and we began to post hole. I missed my
      trekking poles, as on the way up, but I also wished I had brought snow shoes and
      stashed them somewhere for going down this section. The worst part was the last
      couple of miles along the side of the ski slope, where the cat had taken us last
      night. This seemed interminable with tired muscles and soft snow making it a real
      chore. But all things come to an end and at around 10:15 AM, my feet finally hit
      the pavement at Timberline Lodge. I turned in my harness and helmet, said goodbye
      to everyone and was done with the Glorious but exhausting Mount Hood.

      Pictures: for a set of pictures see:
      http://gallery.backcountry.net/papabear_2004_northwest?&page=9
      Note that the Mount
      Hood pictures start at page 9 of the album.

      One more comment: this was not a tourist climb! It was as hard as any marathon I’ve
      run (and I’ve run 15 marathons). If you climb this mountain, prepare well and take
      it seriously!

      Regards

      Pb

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