First Time UP The Old Chute
Compared with our climb at the end of March, this trip up Mount Hood was a different beast altogether. The old chute has formed completely differently this year and we were both left wishing we had two tools with us during the descent. It was shockingly warm and we moved as quickly as possible from the hogsback over to the base of the final stretch of climbing. I was pouring sweat despite completely undoing my side zips and climbing in an unzipped baselayer on top. I smeared sticky zinc sunscreen on every bit of exposed skin and hoped I wouldn’t sweat it off this time.
Although the snow was in excellent shape when we reached it, the terrain was, in places, 50 degrees with short, lower angled stretches that allowed us to rest briefly while climbers ahead of us climbed through the rimey chutes that guarded the summit.
We actually got some GoPro footage (on accident) of the climb up the old chute as well as some of the traversing section coming back down toward the hogsback. I couldn’t quite figure out if the thing was on video or photo mode so I actually ended up with nearly an hour’s worth of footage of JUST the ascent up the old chute. It was really crazy to look at… and slightly nerve-racking to watch…
We chose a different path for the descent and decided to come down the furthest west chute (climber’s left, skier’s right) of the old chute (so many chutes!) in order to help avoid dropping unnecessary amounts of ice and rime on top of climbers who were just beginning their ascent. This chute, however, was steeper than the one we’d chosen for the ascent and we did end up facing into the slope to downclimb through sections.
The biggest challenge for me during this climb was the fact that I was in my new AT boots. The feel of stiff plastic articulating with the snow was unnerving to me- especially in the steep sections. In my Scarpa mountaineering boots, I can feel the tips of my crampons bite into snow and ice and I know when my foothold is good. My lack of experience with the AT boots left me wasting stupid amounts of energy kicking extra steps- rather than trusting my skills and experience in knowing where a good point of balance will be.
I do have to admit that despite the fact that I, once again, found myself feeling pretty worked coming down the hogsback, skiing down from the top of the Palmer was amazeballs. Like… how have I waited so long to learn how to ski?