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

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Pair of Aces - June 3-5

Last Sunday was Wayne's 80th birthday party in Las Vegas. (Happy Birthday Wayne!!) With this in mind, I developed a plan to get a bit of peak bagging in while in Nevada.  The goal was to climb Mount Charleston outside of Las Vegas before the party on Sunday and then head north to Ely and climb Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park a couple of days later.

We (Tamara, Dylan and I) arrived in Las Vegas Saturday afternoon and met up with Taylor, Mom, Wayne, Janet and Bruce (friends of Mom's from Clinton, MA) at the cabin at Mount Charleston.  Since the party was starting at 2PM (Sunday) Dylan and I figured we would have to get an alpine start to be back in time.

We were at the Trail Canyon trail head at 4:30AM on Sunday morning.  Dylan set a blistering pace in the early morning light and we quickly gained 2000 feet in the first hour and a half. As we joined up with the North Loop trail we had our first view of the peak in the sunrise.

Once we reached the North Loop trail, we began a long slog that followed the contours of the mountain at roughly 10,200 feet.  This slog lasted for roughly 4 miles and took us to the Devil's Thumb.

Our plan was to take the Devil's Thumb shortcut to add a little spice to the long hike.  The Devil's Thumb is the band of cliffs on the right side of the photo below.

A Summitpost trip report on the Devil's Thumb showed photos of the supposed "route".  Even though I had printed the pictures and had them with me, we still couldn't find the route detailed.  But we took a look around, and after one false start, found a section that allowed a little class 3+ scramble up the cliff bands and we quickly gained the ridge to the summit. 

Dylan on the Devil's Thumb
We made the final push to the summit and reached the high point in Southern Nevada in 4 1/4 hours.  Not too bad for a 7.5 mile trip.
Rocking the 1980 Vuarnets at the summit
Once on top we enjoyed the sunshine and had lunch at 8:30.  I was feeling a little woozy and after eating, I still wasn't feeling too good.  Don't know if it was the lack of breakfast, the altitude, or the previous night's dinner, but my stomach was twisting.  Rather than down climb the Thumb we took the normal trail down, switch-backing down the face and following cliff bands back to the ridge below the Thumb.  Here I took a break to fix my stomach issue and after a bit started feeling better.

Dylan was feeling great.  In fact he ran down a portion of the trail! 

We made it back to the trail head at 1:00PM just in time to take a shower and start partying.

Mount Charleston Stats:
4100 feet elevation gain
15 miles
8.5 hours car to car

Our next step was to a take a detour on the way home to Idaho.  So, on Monday afternoon, we left Tamara and Taylor with Mom and Wayne, and headed north for Baker, Nevada.  After a 4 hour drive, we had our objective in sight - Wheeler Peak, Nevada's second highest peak at 13,063 feet.

Wheeler Peak on the right
We pulled into our accommodations for the night, the Silver Jack Inn, (http://www.silverjackinn.com/) in Baker, at roughly 5:30PM.  This is a great little place with 10 rooms and a cafe situated at the entrance to Great Basin National Park.  I highly recommend it if you're planning on climbing this peak.  The rooms are clean and the proprietor, Terry, does the cooking and he fixed us a mean pizza that night!

As we were detailing our plans to Terry, another gentleman sitting there (we later learned his name was Dave) chimed in that he was planning on climbing Wheeler the next day as well.  We quickly agreed that the three of us would head up the mountain together climbing Wheeler first and then following the ridge over to Jeff Davis Peak (Nevada's 3rd highest).

The next morning we followed each other up the short road to the trail head at 10,000 feet and hit the trail at approximately 6:30AM.  There was a large cloud hanging over Wheeler and the wind was blowing pretty good, but we were not deterred. 

After a short distance we took a detour to Stella Lake and here we saw a nice line that could be used to gain the summit ridge of Wheeler.

Dylan and Dave looking over the couloir to the ridge
After talking Dave into it, we headed up over the talus.  For the most part, the rock was solid and didn't move too much. Once we hit the snow, we found it was solid, allowing us to quickly gain the summit ridge.

Once on the ridge, we found the original summit trail which made the going pretty easy.  By this time, the wind really started howling and the summit was shrouded in clouds.  We put on our rain gear and continued up into the fog.

After another 30 minutes of fighting the gusty, cold winds we reached the summit!  Total time was 2:45 to travel the 3000 feet elevation gain. 

Summit Splattski with Dylan, Dave, and myself
Unfortunately, the views were nonexistent and with visibility less than 50 yards we decided to forgo traversing over to Jeff Davis.  We spent a short time on the summit out of the wind, but the cold drove us down the mountain.  We followed the trail, zig-zagging down the mountain, feeling good that we had taken the shortcut to the top. 

Once back to the ridge, the clouds lifted and we decided to explore the area some.  With Dylan again feeling it, he led us around the rock moraine, through the Bristlecone tree grove and to the last glacier in Nevada at a fast pace.

Posing in front of a 1000 year old Bristlecone pine
Dylan at the glacier

As always happens, once off the mountain the clouds lifted and eventually disappeared.

Looking back at the end of the day

Trip Stats:
Elevation gain: 3000 feet
Distance: 3.2 miles to summit, 10 miles total
Car to car time: 6.5 hours

In talking with Dave that day, we found out that he was from New Jersey and had spent the last 5-6 years taking vacations out west to hike and climb mountains.  This year happened to be at Great Basin National Park.  We had a great time getting to know Dave and came away feeling great that we live in Idaho and can climb most anytime.

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