Skiing Mt Hood's Wy'east Face

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1 June 2003

Mt Hood The Wy'east route follows the snow on the right horizon.

pink Sunrise from the parking lot

This route would be more aesthetic and provide a longer descent from Mt Hood Meadows.

I pulled into the Timberline parking lot in Tatiana's trusty Subaru Justy at 4:45 am (the dark side). It took me a few circles to locate Corey, but sure enough, he was there. Waking Corey seems familiar after taking a crack at it each of the last three weekends. He had some other friends there, who would not wake so easily. We decided to smoke cigars for breakfast. They taste even better at altitude. It's always good to get the lungs accustomed to oxygen deprivation prior to alpine activity.

Sunrise was beautiful; I spent lots of time playing with my camera. Corey used his stove to make a breakfast of yakisoba and tofu that further stifled my early start aspirations. I began to get antsy when I saw that skiers were getting ready to hit the lifts. Corey gave his companions the shout, and it didn't take them too long to get ready. We were finally ready to start hiking around seven.

I thought it would be good to start crossing White River Canyon right away. There was a bit of a boot pack. It was fairly easy to make a rising traverse the whole way. We skied to get onto the glacier proper. From there, the other three skinned. I didn't take skins, so I stuck with boots the whole way. The slopes on the far side of the glacier were beautifully open and steep. It seemed like a nice thousand vertical feet of forty degree cruising terrain. Above that, it was just a little more rising traverse around the Steel Cliff to reach the Wy'east face. The views from this area are spectacular. The Steel Cliff and Wy'east face tower above, while the monumental moraines of White River Canyon unfold below. Corey and I stopped to wait for the others.

The other two were happy with what they had done. Corey and I were feeling high, but looking to get higher, so we said our goodbyes and continued. We had seen a couple of people above us on the route. When we got there, we discovered a boot pack that provided us with a veritable stairway to heaven. It was a good thing for us, too, since we were late enough that post-holing would have been torture in the amply softened snow.

Perched atop the Steel Cliff, I enjoyed a new perspective on a familiar mountain. Illumination Rock and Crater Rock took on new character. Crater Rock looked really flat from this angle. We could see a huge crowd sitting on the Hogback. The summit was just up the ridge. We left our skis and continued.

The traverse was quite exposed in a few spots. One spot provided thin ice over rocks, above a steep slope leading to cliffs. Somebody had left a sling, so I tested it, and then grabbed it while shuffling around the difficulty. Besides that, there were only two short, steep slopes to the true summit. Above the second steep slope I found the party that left the sling descending.

"Was that your sling?"

"Yes, is it still there?" Why wouldn't it still be there? How could anyone ever consider me to be suspicious!? Flashbacks to younger days, security guards, ne'erdowelling....

We talked, and they waited for Corey to climb the slope before beginning their descent. He arrived shortly. It felt good to have finally climbed Mt Hood without crampons, having read about it being climbed in high heels. Maybe high heels would be like a monopoint crampon? Anyway, we continued to the summit. We found it to be cold, windy, and lacking views due to clouds. We quickly returned whence we came.

The rope team was still descending the first steep slope. We stopped to don our crampons for the downclimb to our skis, since they would definitely come in handy on the icy, rocky area. I waited for the rope team to clear my fall zone before beginning my descent. I quickly caught them on the traverse. One of them kindly offered to leave the sling in place for us, with the rope through it, so we could be secure over the crux. I wasn't concerned about it with my crampons, so I told him to do whatever was most convenient. They took the sling and continued.

The descent on the next steep slope was taking some time for the rope team. I climbed down the first two steps just to get out of the winds on the ridge. To my surprise, there was difficulty removing one of their pickets. Well, maybe the rope was justified; initially my thoughts were that the rotten snow would never hold a fall without some massive bollard or deeply entrenched deadman. Actually, I still think that was probably true. Regardless, I'm glad that there were no harsh words between us. They used a rope, and we didn't. To each his own.


Skiing Wyeast Corey was loving Wy'east.

Back at the skis, we were excited for a promising descent. We sat next to a fumarole and did an imitation. The snow was a little sloppy, but still excellent. The upper part of the face was mostly about forty degrees, with a narrow spot between rocks a little steeper. Turning south toward Timberline on the lower part of the face, the snow became really enjoyable. It was all past corn, but the mashed potatoes were butta'.

The forty degree slope down the side of the canyon to the glacier was awesome. It tricked us both. I was putting away my camera after taking some photos, and when I looked Corey was decked. Then it was my turn. I started cranking hard, making really tight turns without checking my speed at all. There was a lump in the mashed potatoes somewhere, and I did a header. It's all part of a good day's fun.

The traverse back to the parking lot was uneventful. Alaskan Amber Ales awaited. After our first three weekends skiing together, I'm beginning to think that Corey is a good luck charm. Back in Portland, I hit the jacuzzi at my cousin Kevin's house. He was celebrating a great day at the plate for his baseball team, four for seven with a home run. I don't have any stats, but I like going out of the park on Mt Hood. Twin tips are optional. Maybe next time we'll do the south side and build a kicker over the 'schrund.

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Because it's something to do when one has no friends.