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May: Long Weekend #1

The title 'long weekend' has nothing to do with the number of days I spent enjoying my time off from working. It's simply a descriptor of the length of time I spent on my feet over the weekend.

Saturday morning we woke early (like 230am early) and drove to Timberline. We quickly signed the climber's register, grabbed our wilderness permit (when did they start requiring these?!), and skinned up to Illumination Saddle. The wind was fierce and miserable and made traversing the ZigZag Glacier into far more work than it normally is. Once we reached the saddle (at 9300'), we roped up and attempted to downhill skin-traverse over to the base of the Leuthold Couloir. No such luck. In the middle of an icy slope, we each chopped out a ledge, popped out of bindings and into crampons, and threw our skis onto our backs... where they would remain until we hit the summit and began our descent.

The Reid Glacier was in surprisingly good shape and the bergschrund was covered in frozen solid avalanche debris- we stayed roped up until we were sure we were out of crevasse danger and then solo'ed our way up to the hourglass of the couloir. I kept wondering when we would finally hit the alpine ice I was craving and we got maybe 100' of 50* AI right as we were entering the narrowest portion. NICE.

The remainder of the route was straightforward climbing. The terrain was maybe 35-40* for the most part and all of it was on nice, firm névé. I ate snacks as I saw fit, alternated leading with Andy and overall, enjoyed the views and the fact that we were the ONLY people on the route that day. WHAT A CHANGE.

As we crested the summit ridge, we saw that, aside from a few climbers pulling through the left side of the Pearly Gates, we had the summit to ourselves. Again, HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?!

We downclimbed the 'funner' right variation of the gates and were shocked that although climbers were lining up on the left side, everyone was avoiding the slightly steeper right side like sheep...

I downclimbed back to the hogsback, checking out the bergschrund (it was open maybe an inch or two at its widest point) on the way down. We enjoyed a tired ski back to the car, loaded up our stuff, and drove to Hood River to stuff our faces with beer and burgers at Pfriem: carb-loading for the following day.

Our friends Aaron and Alli were driving up from Bend to do a ski-circumnavigation of Mount Hood with us. Aaron had guided it in the past but the rest of us were virginites on the route and we were excited to have bit of an adventure.

We woke up that morning and our sights were immediately filled with a giant mountain-shaped christmas tree in the sky. At 430am, there were 100+ lights leading from the parking lot to the summit. All permits were gone, the climbing register was a disaster of paper, and I've never seen so many people on Hood in my entire life. We set off laughing and thankful that we would be avoiding 99.9% of people and I hummed "the ants go marching" to myself as I clicked into my bindings.

I chased the three of them up the Palmer, across the ZigZag and down onto the Reid, freaking myself out during the icy, toes-locked descent above a small crack. We made a few icy turns down the glacier, traversing over to a middle crossing on Yocum Ridge, booting up quickly to the ridge and dropping on the Sandy after admiring the jaw-droppingly gorgeous sight of a part of Hood I've never seen and that few will ever see. We scouted both the Reid and the Sandy Headwalls during these traversing sections, plotting our approaches for an upcoming weekend. What. A. Day.

I didn't even come close to keeping up with these ski machines during the descents and traverses but I tried my hardest on the climbs by booting my way up the harder-to-skin sections (there were only a few). We had some incredible turns, some terrible turns, and I shamelessly sideslipped my way down several sections of steep and icy terrain.

As we made our way up to the Cooper Spur, my exhaustion from the weekend (and my inexperience skiing) finally caught up with me and I lagged FAR behind. I was so tired and getting discouraged at my 'lack of fitness.' The negative cycle of self-talking kicked in and I raged my way up each switchback.

Alli and Aaron were amazing, however- they, without hesitation, agreed to slow down to prevent me feeling like I wasn't part of the group and I immediately felt better (Andy was kind enough to mention something to them about how I was feeling I think but that really doesn't matter- they were shining star friends in that moment).

We laughed our way across a few more glaciers, roping up briefly but mostly carefully traversing and eyeing ice falls, crevasses, and sweet sections of WI. By the time we hit the White River Glacier, however, I was fried emotionally and physically. Nearing tears on a "sketchy to me" traverse, I bootpacked my skis up a gully and met everyone up top. We skied down to the cars (Andy and I much slower than Alli and Aaron!!!!), drank beers, and grabbed some food, forgetting our tired legs and already plotting our next adventure :)

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