Friday, June 10, 2011


I climbed Mt. Hood with Sam Wednesday night.

We'd wanted to climb last year, but the weather never cooperated. This year things looked better, and the weather opened up nicely this week. We'd planned on climbing Thursday night, but things looked good a day early, so we pulled the trigger and went up early.

You can read Sam's riveting account, and check out the pictures he took.

We took a nap at his place, but both woke up after less than an hour, which was a little disappointing. I packed up a bunch of things I borrowed from Sam, the gear hound, and we headed up the mountain shortly after two guys Sam knows showed up.

It was raining a tiny bit as we drove up the mountain, and rain just turned to fog as we turned off to Timberline and continued driving up.

I put my old school leather boots on while Sam put on his fancy boots with integrated gaitors, and we began the trek.

We started in the clouds, quickly stripping off layers because it was pretty warm. After about an hour of hiking up we started to come out of the clouds. The moon was half full and kicked off enough light that I didn't use my headlamp until it set, an hour later. The clouds were a dark gray, and looked like the fake clouds you saw in the movie Airplane - but they were very real. There were even a few shooting stars.

We got to the top of the Palmer lift after about two hours where we took our first big break to eat and drink. The pace was good, the snow was even better.

Sam had been feeling a little ill before we left his house, some stomach cramps, but he was climbing stronger than the rest of us. I was feeling a little winded but fairly good - all my hill climbs were paying off.

Sam pointed out Illumination rock to the west, which you could barely see silhouetted against the horizon. I then looked to the east and saw a an even larger face of rock and snow (don't know its name) looming over us.

The snow got steeper and the going got a little tougher. We found some steps people had already kicked in, but they disappeared as we passed some tents where folks were camped out. At that point we had to make our own steps, and it was steep enough that it was difficult walk with your heel on the ground. Sam kept the pace up, but I caught up when he slowed down on the ascent of the Hogs Back. The snow got a bit soft and it took us a little longer than we expected, and we were happy to reach the saddle for our second rest, some food, water, extra clothes, and crampons.

Sam roped us up and headed up the saddle, and I waited for the slack to get out and then followed him up. Other people were starting to climbing up the Hogs Back.

This last push was definitely the most strenuous. I took several rests on the way up - the calves were pretty tired from standing on my toes for an hour. Sam kept making sure I was doing OK, but kept lying about how close we were to the top.

One couple caught up to me but decided to go up a different chute than what Sam had chosen. We saw them about 40 minutes later to find out the chute was a dead end and they had to back track. This was important because...

Sam and I reached the summit first. boo-yah!

We were up there before everyone else and in time to watch the sun rise.

Sam broke out the cocoa (made from half and half, wow that was good) and we relaxed for a short bit. I don't know that I appreciated it enough, but it was pretty amazing to have reached the tallest point in Oregon. And to think, 25 years earlier, dad and I did the same thing.

We started climbing down as bunches of people started up. Sam and I talked and I decided to go down un-roped. I felt pretty solid going down the steepest part - the foot holes had been enlarged by all the other people coming up and I just took my time. The worst part was that my toes started getting cold and my hand got cold holding onto the ice ax head I put into the snow.

We made it to the hogs back, snacked, and headed further down. After we got to a not-so-scary-steep part of the mountain, we slid the next 3 miles down the mountain, only having to walk the last 1/2 mile or so, making a quick exit.

I put up some of my photos here.

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