Thu, Jun 8, 2006
I had first climbed Mt. Hood in May of 1992 with my friend Eric while we were on a 5-month sabatical heading to Alaska. It was the first serious climb I had undertaken with the first use of axe and crampons. I suppose it was somewhat lucky that we had good weather and conditions that trip because we had no rope and I was only sporting wimpy 4-point crampons on my boots. It was a wonderful experience and was one of the adventures that had gotten me started in climbing and scrambling.
I didn't have that much interest in returning on this trip, but both Rick and Matthew hadn't been up it, and I agreed to pay a return visit. I must say I was a bit curious how I would see the climb 14 years later with much experience intervening between the two climbs.
We were up at 12:30a and out the door by 1a for the two hour drive from Bend to Mt. Hood. The climb is not long, a little over three miles, but the elevation gain exceeds 5,000ft, making it a pretty steep grade. By headlamp we headed out of the Timberline parking lot over hard snow groomed by snowcats. We didn't go more than a few hundred yards when Matthew called a halt to announce he was heading back to the van. He had known his knee was questionable when we started the drive, but held out in hope that it might be ok for the climb. Disappointed, he returned to get some sleep instead.
Rick and I continued, keeping to the right side of the ski area as the snow cats made there runs up and down the main slopes to groom them. We took a short break when we reached the top of the catwalk marking the upper boundary of the ski area (where we put on our crampons), but took no other break until we reached the Hogsback around 5:30a. The sun was just rising and gave the low cloud layer a pink glow before it brightened to a full white. We were happy to have good weather for the climb, and said our prayers to the cloud gods that they would stay low on the mountain. They did.
We had passed a few headlamps on their way down from nighttime climbs of Hood, but once we were at the Hogsback there were but two parties ahead of us, a five-member team just arriving at the Pearly Gates high above, and a two-person team just starting the steep climb to the gates. Unroped, Rick and I made good time traversing across the Hogsback and over to the start of the steep section just right of a crevasse that was partially opened. Well-defined steps led up the steep section, with reusable holes conveniently available for the axe picks. It would have been impossible to stab new holes in the hard snow surface. I caught up to the two person team and passed them on the right, leaving the safety of the steps to do some front pointing in the passing manuever. I was feeling quite strong and made good time on the relentless slope, passing through the narrow section of the Pearly Gates and then moving up the funnel shaped upper section to the summit. I reached the top at 6a, only a few seconds behind the five-person team. It was a gorgeous, albeit somewhat windy morning atop the summit. I put on all my clothes from my pack while I waited for Rick to join me. He was only ten minutes behind, and only that much because he had not passed the two person team until after passing through the Pearly Gates. We stayed atop only long enough to snap some pictures - it was no place to relax for a break.
Our descent was uneventful for the most part. Rick and I chose to downclimb the upper section above the Hogsback facing into the mountain, while we noticed the roped teams descended facing out from the mountain. That seemed somewhat less stable to us, but perhaps with a rope attached that is the preferred method? There would be no glissading as the snow remained hard the entire climb. We passed 5-6 other climbers in the lower section east of the ski area, all heading up. We made excellent time, returning in just under two hours at 8a, for a 5hr round trip time. The exercise had felt more like a hard workout than an adventure, by far the easiest of the peaks we had climbed yet. There had been little excitement in the way of difficult climbing or fearful exposure. We found Matthew napping in the back of the van, looking quite cozy. While we were changing out of our wet socks (due to perspiration, not wet snow) and other gear, we were already wondering what we would do next.
On the drive back it was suggested we might have time for an afternoon climb of Mt. Bachelor. Rick had been keen to climb this easy peak, so far unable to convince Matthew or I of its worthiness. He was a little surprised that I was now interested, but as I explained, since it was a freebie and wouldn't cost us a day we could use for harder peaks, I was all for it now. We were further surprised to find that Matthew was game as well. Either his knee was feeling better or his boredom from waiting in the van for the last five hours had overcome his concern for his knee. So without stopping at the motel in Bend, we drove out to the gate at the entrance to the closed Mt. Bachelor ski area.
There really isn't much to recommend the climb of Mt. Bachelor, unless you haven't anything else better to do. It was 11a when we left the van, and unlike Mt. Hood, the snow here was soft and getting softer. It was terribly sunny and we hiked as much as possible in the shade of the trees as we made an ascending traverse to the right towards the north ridge on the skyline. The whole climb to the summit was managed in an hour and a half without needing snowshoes or crampons. The summit was a broad flat area, with three boulder areas at the perimeter vying for the highest point. I visited all three in a lazy manner as I waited for Rick to join me some 10 minutes later. We had moved ahead of Matthew about halfway up the peak, and though he had slowed a good deal, he persevered, reaching the summit 30 minutes after Rick. Several snowmobiles showed up just below the summit while we took the obligatory photos of the views and each other.
Descending, we headed east along the ridge before starting down for no other reason than to take a different way down. Rick, always the keenest for a glissade, would go out of his way to find the steepest, longest runout before taking the plunge. At the runout he would then traverse across where advantageous for another long glissade down. Matthew followed in Rick's glissade path while I would boot ski wherever possible, glissading only because I had fallen on my butt. By 2p we were back at the van - a short but enjoyable three hour venture. The two peaks combined were enough for one day and we were happy to call it quits, still earlier than usual. Rick took advantage of the additional time to get some extra sleep. It would be helpful for another outing we were planning for the following day.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Mt. Hood - Mt. Bachelor
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