Going to high school in Portland, I had always wanted to climb Mt Hood, but never really had the chance. Upon my return to the northwest after college in Texas, I was determined to bag all the volcanos.
An easy hike up Mt Adams did not prepare me for the more serious challenge of Mt Hood. My athleticism and ignorance were a dangerous combination, since they helped me climb to the bergschrund below the Pearly Gates with neither crampons nor ice ax on an icy, dry late-August glacier. Somewhere below the Hogsback, I slid down the glacier when I finally lost my footing in my basketball shoes. I hopped a crevasse as I slid over it on my back.
Nevertheless, I was still determined and we returned in less than a fortnight. Ryder's insistence on bringing his snowboard up the Palmer Snowfield on our first attempt inspired me to bring some old skis from my dad's place - I had skied one day through four years of college - which marked the first time I ever "earned my turns."
Another trip to Mt Hood was clearly the next step after the previous outing. Stiff leather boots, crampons, and an ice ax seemed like a good investment at this point, so Ryder and I headed to Next Adventure in Portland. I got used Technica boots, some Scottish system crampons, and a nice Grivel glacier ax. Ryder found some used crampons and an ice ax. I was very glad to have new crampons on the mountain, more on that later. At the store we added another adventurer, a friend of Ryder's going by Mesa. He had a party to DJ that night before we left, so he would simply go to the party and remain awake until we left for the mountain.
Ryder and Sky - Photo by Mesa
A vertiginous view - Photo by Mesa
We left Portland in my Lincoln Mark VI around two in the morning. It was early September and we were benefitting from one of those bulletproof late-summer high pressure systems. Ryder had two hockey helmets to ease our rockfall worries after the trip two weeks earlier. The hard-frozen surface of the Palmer snowfield made for good crampon practice in the pre-dawn chill. What came most naturally to me was a barely zig-zagging, flat-footed step.
Climbing the glacier in the crater, it was uncanny how comfortable I felt on the blue ice. The crampons really worked! The bergschrund below the Pearly Gates looked really imposing to me, so I headed left of the Hogsback below the upward-slanting row of gullies. The far edge of the slope is very steep; on this steep slope Ryder had the pleasure of a crampon detaching on an exposed pitch around 10,500 feet. After that it was all exhilirating views for the traverse of the summit ridge to the high point.
We were each elated to summit Mt Hood for the first time. We split a beer I had in my backpack three ways. There was another group of climbers who had skirted the bergschrund and climbed the Pearly Gates. We decided to descend the same way we had climbed.
There were a few interesting moments on the way down. I got a bit tense for a short, easy rock maneuver because of the glorious exposure to the north behind me. More exhilirating still was Mesa demonstrating the self-arrest under pressure back on the steep top of the glacier in the crater. After that I don't remember much more than having a few beers and crashing on Ryder's couch in Portland.