"Late fall ascent of Mt Hood, climbing and conditions report"
|Crater Rock, Mt Hood|
Well, I bagged Mt Hood again! I'm sure there's some other late season climbers looking to snag Hood before the Winter snows begin. The Cascades have actually had an incredible snow season which has been delightful for climbers and skiers alike. I climbed this route last year on almost the same exact date and the conditions were not even close to how good they were yesterday.
General Impressions: The southern routes are in good shape with a good amount of snow at the higher elevations. In the morning, the route was very icy and hard pack while the afternoon sun melted it into a slushy snow mix. The afternoon sun brought a large amount of snow melt and rock fall- saw a couple of refrigerator sized snow-boulders careening down the slope. Of course, every day is different, but the rock falls started happening around 11 AM. I left at around 4:45 which was unforgivably late in the mountaineering world- better leave before 3AM to really avoid the rockfall danger.
|The Pearly Gates, Mt Hood|
Without coffee, even the mountaineering world would fall apart. Coffee, powerbars and poptarts is what fuels the climber. After that hearty breakfast I hit the route in the dim moonlight of a crescent moon. The stars were still amazing as I skirted around the ski resort that is the bottom portion of the Hogsback route. Once I made it to some snow, I strapped in and began ascending the rock hard ice that would become slushy later in the day. The first part of the hogsback route is always uninteresting.
I was able to pass up the "miracle mile" before sunrise an started ascending the small glaciers just South of Crater Rock and east of Illumination Rock. The oncoming sunrise made the ascent a little warmer, but the route was icy all the way to the Pearly Gates just below the summit. Make sure you've had your crampons sharpened before going, even this late in the season!
|Cut Trail below the Crater Rock|
As I was climbing I got some deja vu. Last time I was on this mountain, I had just finished my undergraduate degree and a summer job out in Maine. After spending some time with the family, I took about two weeks to tour around the Cascades and climb some mountains while I was inbetween jobs. So basically, I had no job, no home and only a vague concept of what I would be doing a year down the line. And now, almost exactly one year later, I'm two semesters into Nursing School on my way to becoming a Nurse Practitioner. I live 3,000 miles away from home and there's a whole new set of adventures and life challenges. My how the times change when you're in your early 20's! I was remembering famous mountaineering quote:
"The mountains will always be there, the trick is to make sure you are too." ~Hervey Voge
|Mt Hood Summit|
The familiar and awful smell of sulfur was actually quite welcoming- I was coming towards the glacier. I remember the first time I climbed Mt Hood and I wasn't expecting to see sulfur vents; in my own ignorance, I was slightly worried that the mountain might erupt! Of course, these sulfur vents at the crater are of no immediate concern. However they do allude to Mt Hood's potentiality for a massive erruption within the next 100 years. (Climb it now!)
The icy section below the summit proper was tricky although not technically difficult. There were a couple of sections that were enough to make me sweat a little bit and if you are a cautious climber, you might want to consider bringing a snow wand or two and some rope. Nothing too crazy, just steep and icy towards the top. I was wishing I had a second ice axe for that last part.
|Mt Hood from Timberline|
Finally upon the summit, I set to work in taking my standard 11,000 summit photos. There were views from Mt Rainier all the way to the Sisters! An impending thunderstorm made me descend as quickly as possible. Although only a 30% chance on Mt Hood, the thunderstorm hit the east side hard and I got out just in time.
Overall, great climb, good conditions considering the time of year with only a few tough sections. Next up, trip report of Mt Shasta!
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