Fadgen's Adventures

Fadgen's Adventures
Green Creek Lake

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mount Hood - 11,240 Feet

This week found us driving (again!) to Tillamook, Oregon to drop Dylan off for his summer job as a life guard at Camp Meriwether.  We figured since we were in the area that we would attempt to climb Mount Hood - Oregon's highest peak. 

We arrived at Mount Hood's historic Timberline Lodge Thursday afternoon to gorgeous weather.  There were also Clackamas county sheriffs personnel and television news crews roaming the area.  Thinking nothing off it, we toured the lodge a bit, found the climbers check in station, and grabbed a wilderness permit.  On the way out, we spoke to the Forest Service volunteer who told us that a climber had fallen that morning and sustained some unspecified injuries.

Back at the motel, we turned on the television to the local news that evening to find out that the climber had died due to injuries from his fall. http://www.koinlocal6.com/news/local/story/Climber-dies-after-Mt-Hood-fall/pyPmZcdMjkG3_lf32_wpJA.cspx  The information given by the news anchor was a bit vague on what had actually happened, but he mentioned that the fall occurred on the South Side Old Chute route - our planned route!  The news also mentioned that the mountain conditions were pretty bad for this time of year due to multiple freeze thaw-cycles and a 10"snowfall that had fallen a couple of weeks prior.  With lumps in our throats, we assured Tamara that we would assess the conditions before attempting the final climb and of course we'd be as safe as possible.

We were again at Timberline Lodge at 1AM Friday morning with loaded packs and headlights blazing.  We put on our skis at the edge of the parking lot, waved goodbye to Tam and started skinning up in the dark.  It was a beautiful night, no moon, a million stars, very little wind, and the temperature a little above freezing.  We maintained a 1000 foot elevation gain per hour pace as we passed a few other climbers in the night, stopping to converse with all of them.  In a little over 2 1/2 hours we were at the top of the Palmer chairlift at 8500 feet.  We proceeded up the Palmer Glacier snowfield, but Dylan's skins were not holding well, and it became too difficult to continue on skis.  So, we loaded the skis on our packs, donned our hiking boots and crampons, and proceeded to walk on up.

At about 9300 feet we stopped and ditched our skis and boots and felt a great relief as our packs were now 15 lbs lighter.  As the night gradually gave way to day, we could make out Crater Rock, the Steel Cliffs, and the summit all above us.

The mountain's shadow
 After passing Crater Rock, the Hogsback came into view as well as two groups of five climbers stretched out across it.

Dylan approaching the Hogsback
We stopped at the Hogsback to have a bite to eat, drink some tea, and stomp around to get some blood flowing into our frozen feet.  We had plenty of time, as the 10 climbers were moving at a snail's pace across the Hogsback and to the Pearly Gates.  While we were waiting, a group of four climbers had started up the Old Chute route to our left.  They seemed to be moving at a pretty good clip so we decided to bypass the Pearly Gates and go up the Old Chute.
We traversed down the left side of the Hogsback and started up the Old Chute route, following the footsteps in the snow.  The going wasn't too bad, the snow was very firm and the steps were defined but not too deep.  As we went higher the angle became steeper and the snow remained very firm.  Dylan took the lead and cleaned the steps as best he could.  After a short time, Dylan popped up in the sunshine on the summit ridge and I heard a big, "Wow!" come from his lips.  As I came up to the same area I saw what he was exclaiming about.  The backside of the knife ridge dropped down a couple of thousand feet!

We came up the middle of the saddle
Once on the ridge we then had an airy move that required us to traverse to our right for 30 or so yards before the ridge widened, and then quickly followed the ridge to the summit.  At the summit, we joined up with the two groups of five climbers that came up the Pearly Gates, as well as the four climbers that we followed up the Old Chute. It was 7AM, six hours after we had taken off 5240 feet below.
I'm glad the airy move was over!
Summit shot!
Looking down at Timberline Lodge
Climbers heading down from the summit to the Pearly Gates

The other side of the mountain
The wind was blowing on top some, so although the sun felt great, the wind sucked the heat right out of us.  After a bit of conversing and picture taking, it was time to head down.  Dylan and I debated what route we should go down, but as the two groups of five climbers slowly started down the Pearly Gates our mind was made up - back down the way we had come up.  Another factor in our decision was a gal who summited after us commenting on how thick the rime ice was coming up the Pearly Gates.  And since our route was relatively clear of ice...

Going down was much tougher than climbing up.  The traversing of the knife ridge to the Old Chute was a little nerve racking and then down climbing backwards while facing the mountain was tough.  This was definitely the time to be using the ice axe!  Plant the axe, take two steps backwards, remove and then re-plant the axe, and take the next two steps.  I had put on my puffy jacket underneath my shell on the summit and was really hating it now.  With all the concentration required to down climb, I was overheating.  Unfortunately, the angle was just too steep to try changing clothes.

It's funny how the pucker factor increases when the run out of the slope is sketchy.  Coming down the Old Chute was steep, but it was the fact that if you fell, it was a long, long way that caused the heart to beat fast.  After about 30 minutes of down climbing, while passing a roped up group of four going up, we reached a point where we could traverse back to the Hogsback easily.  Here the danger was over and we joined a large group in the sunshine and again had a bite to eat.

A look back up the Old Chute

Dylan at the Hogsback
A look back up the Hogsback
The last portion of the hike down to the skis passed quickly as the snow had softened considerably, allowing us to cruise.  The skis were a great idea since from where we had them stashed it was a 3600 foot elevation loss and probably a couple of miles to the lodge.  Other than the burning legs, the 15 minutes it took to ski down to the parking lot was the way to go!  We were back at the lodge at 10:15AM.

Trip Stats:
Distance - something like 5.5 miles round trip
Elevation gain - 5240 feet
Time (lodge to lodge) - 9 1/4 hours


bgrimes647 said...

Pretty scary! Reading this at Kathy's after a gorgeous week here...temps in the 70's and no humidity. Flying home this afternoon, where it's 106.....can hardly wait! Will talk to you soon.
Love, Mom

larry szurgot said...

We're gonna have to rewrite the song "ain't no mountain high enough"

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A team of adventurers consisting of John, Tamara, Taylor, Dylan, and Shadow Fadgen