Mount Hood 3/29/15
Mt Hood, or Wy’East as it should be called, can be seen as the quintessential “test piece” for PNW mountaineers. Its prominence on the Portland skyline draws climbers from all around and the popularity of the climb has grown to the point where you can literally pay someone to take you to the summit… and back. Frequent news of climbers falling to their death, or substantial injury, is constantly making headlines, so going into this climb was a bit ‘heady’ for me. Despite having scaled terrain much steeper and technical than what we were planning on scaling during our climb, I still felt incredibly nervous as we started up the Palmer glacier. I didn’t want to be “that climber,” “that person that got life-flighted out of a vent on hood…” but I swallowed my fears, wrenched myself out of my own crazy brain, and fell into the rhythm of the climb as the sun came up and the 10+ climbers in front of us came into view. What a change from the other mountains we’ve been up in the last 8 months… this mountain has a very “urban” feel until you reach the top of the lift line. As long as you keep looking UP you can forget the city sites, the street signs, the cling and clack of machinery making its way up and down the mountainside.
All that noise really throws off the experience of being in the mountains. But, I guess that in today’s society, it shouldn’t be too surprising that we are wanting to so deface the beauty of nature by putting buildings and lifts across one of it’s more beautiful faces. This saddens me…
After the long slog to the top of the lift, we stopped for water/snacks and threw on crampons so we wouldn’t have to stop again for a while. The terrain gradually increased in steepness until we hit Crater Rock, which, was stinkier than I could ever have imagined. Oy. I became frustrated at this point due to the complete lack of respect by fellow climbers/skiers/day hikers. I counted three obvious piles of human feces on the mountain, only partially buried in the snow and “camouflaged” by heaps of toilet paper. LEAVE NO TRACE. How is it that it is so difficult to understand that concept? You have to pick up after your dog in the city park; pick up after yourself in the mountains.
(Note: there are clearly marked piles of blue bags at the climbers registration station- you have no excuse to leave behind your waste)
Anyway, up to the Hogsback we went, seeing two TERRIFYING rope teams heading up in front of us which caused quite the clog of people trying to get their climb on. These teams of three not only had several feet of slack rope dragging in the snow between climbers but they continually stopped in the middle of the slope, backing up the building traffic of climbers and creating a highly dangerous situation for everyone below.
I’ll say it yet again, you do not need a rope to climb one of the basic routes up Mount Hood. In fact, you’re more likely to be injured if you’re climbing in a rope team- especially one as clueless as these two parties seemed to be.
Moving on… we soon discovered that everyone was heading up to the Pearly Gates so we said “sure, why not?” There was no boot pack up the old chute and with a recent accumulation of ~ 10“ we were apprehensive about being the forerunners on this morning’s climb. So, we went with the masses. More traffic= safer climbing…. at least that was the thought.
Well… oops. After several extensive stops waiting for the aforementioned rope teams to get out of the way and through the gates, we eventually had our chance to finish the climb. Climbers coming down said “yeah it’s in good condition today” and “no, you don’t need two tools- they would be helpful but you don’t need them” …
Now, Andy and I are NOT ice climbers. But, today, on this day, on my first time on Wy’East, we became ice climbers. And I was terrified beyond the point of tears the minute we got into the ice chute. 50 feet of slabby water-ice climbing sat in front of us and hundreds of feet of 70* snow slope lay below. What did we get ourselves in to?
Andy, thankfully, was a rock star, miracle worker, SANITY PRESERVER, MOTIVATOR, and I didn’t pee my pants or cry, or fall to my death. Somehow, my rock climbing skills combined with his calming presence and we made it through the gates. And stood on the summit. Exhausted. Happy. And not happy about the looming descent.
We ended up coming down the old chute, slowly on my end because my adrenaline had tapped all of my energy reserves and I was exceptionally nervous about the fumarole staring me down at the bottom of the hogsback. Once safely back to Crater Rock, we laughed, ate more food, took some selfies, and started down. I’ve never felt so accomplished in my mountaineering career. We survived. CELEBRATIONS.