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|
|Dylan approaching the Hogsback|
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|
|I'm glad the airy move was over!|
|Looking down at Timberline Lodge|
|Climbers heading down from the summit to the Pearly Gates|
|The other side of the mountain|
|A look back up the Old Chute|
|Dylan at the Hogsback|
|A look back up the Hogsback|