Friday, June 1, 2012

Island Peak - 144 Days to Departure - Mt. Hood

The highest peak in Oregon, Mt. Hood was on our list for about a year. We missed the opportunity to climb it last season, and were keeping a close eye on how this year is unraveling, so when the reports suggested good climbing conditions and weather looked awesome for the whole weekend and beyond, it was a GO.

The long drive to Timberline Lodge was highlighted by a brief lunch stop in Portland during which we also visited the famous Powell’s bookstore, and strolled through a small food market in a hope to catch the Czech stand but they were not there.

The forecast did not lie; the sky was clear blue and temperature in high 70’s. With the Jeeps’ top off we cruised through small communities of Rhododendron and Government Camp, from where we turned to the winding road up to the trailhead.

After registering for the climb and a brief visit of the lodge, we still had time on our hands, so off we were back to Government Camp for an early dinner and several hours of rest at local Best Western.

 The stars were out and moon shined bright when we once again stood at the trailhead at a wee morning hour – just little bit past midnight. The first part of the route was a non technical slog taking us to the top of the ski lift. The terrain was uneven, crossed by multiple sets of frozen footsteps and CAT tracks here, making progress slower than anticipated.

From the top of the Palmer's lift, the route got steeper but still led on a non technical terrain. Here, little above 9000 feet, my body started reacting to the altitude. I felt sluggish, not short of breath, just little nauseated and not quite motivated to make another step.

The avalanche forecast was not good for today. We knew our chances of summiting more or less laid in Mother Nature's hands, and not feeling my best, I set a goal for myself to make it to the Hogsbacks, from avalanche perspective the safe part of the route, and I was quite happy to call it a day there. Yet then the sun started to rise... and we found ourselves surrounded by tall walls covered in white frosty coating reflecting the colors of the rising day, several camp sites tucked in the few wind sheltered areas along the route, and finally the famous Hogsback itself. The scenery was truly spectacular, feeding my eyes and mind with much needed fuel, and after a brief stop to snack and assess the conditions (the route turned out to be in a great shape), I found myself having plenty of energy to continue further so we geared up and off we were for the push to the summit via the Old Chute Route.

The sound of ice crystals constantly shifting down the slope accompanied our steps, at one point their flow was strong enough to cover the route, swallowing our feet in the appr. 5 inches of ice shatters. Then the last uphill came, luckily the group ahead of us kicked decent steps in the steep slope, and we took this staircase directly to the heavenly views of the summit ridge. From there it was just a matter of few minutes to cross to the very top of the mountain where, just as expected, gust slapped our faces, chasing us down after only few minutes and several quick photos.

Date: 5/13/2012
RT: 7 miles
El: Gain: 5200 ft

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