Friday, September 25, 2015

Mount Hood

Mount Hood is an interesting place. You Drive up the first mile, then there is a ski lift the next 3,000 feet, and finally a nice little technical hike to the top. Also, unlike most other mountains, it's an extremely small alpine area. What I mean is, most animals that live in the mountains have the easy ability to go down a valley and then back up the next mountain. Mount Hood is isolated, an animal would have difficulty traversing to the next mountain.

We woke up in East Portland at 4 AM. This was our third day with not much sleep. We packed, had bad coffee, and quickly left the hotel. Continuing the process of introducing Steve to unique experiences like espresso shots this summer, or Olive Garden the night before, we had breakfast at Starbucks, another first. The roads were empty and we cruised to the nearly empty parking lot at 5,800 feet. 
Parking Lot in the Morning
The vast majority of the route is a simple hike. I wore running shorts and running shoes until 10,300 feet. Not that it was easy. There was almost no vegetation. The mountain is dry, like a desert, complete with volcanic sand. I wore my buff to keep the dust out more than the sun off of me. If you look closely you can see the ski runs below the treeline in the photo below.
The Haze from about 10,000 Feet
It really was quite uneventful most of the way up. It did get quite steep after 10,000 feet, and the unconsolidated sand, dirt and scree made for very slow progress. Not to mention we did climb Mt. Rainier the day before and had maybe six hours of sleep leading up to this.
About 10,300 Feet
We made it to the snow, finally, in the photo above and put our boots and crampons on. However, we encountered some objective danger at the top of the hogsback snow ridge. I don't have video because my camera filled up. There were multiple rock falls in the 15 minutes we spent there, and also a perilous crevasse/snow bridge crossing that we did not feel comfortable crossing. It is worth mentioning on this day with beautiful weather that we appeared to be the only people with equipment to climb the mountain. I found that surprising, but then again I assume most locals can be picky about weather and snow conditions for their climbs.
Sulfur Steam and Green Colored Rocks
Many times on the hike we would smell sulfur and near the top there were steam vents and green colored rocks. Certainly not the sweet smelling alpine meadows people envision on mountains.

The video below shows the highest point that we reached and what I would call very typical mountaineering.
The hike down was uneventful, which was always good. Certainly tedious, dry and dusty, but not dramatic.
Back at the Parking Lot Safe and Sound!
We then drove back to Portland, had supper and fell asleep before waking at 3:30 to catch our very early morning flight back to Iowa.

Having climbed to within 500 vertical feet of the summit, I would like to go back and actually summit. In fact, Mt. Hood is so accessible that I would like to try and do laps on it. I think you could do it twice in one day, on skis in April when it is snow covered and there is good weather, between breakfast and supper. The key is snow conditions. From the top of the hogsback snow ridge through the gully leading to the summit you need solid snow conditions, and I would need a set of alpine touring boots and bindings. Next time...

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