13-Jun-93 (Private Trip)
By: Wayne Norman
Sunrise on a mountain always seems to answer the question, which is inevitably posed when I get up at some obscene hour to go climbing, "Why am I doing this?" One would think with all the beautiful sunrises I've seen over the years the question would no longer be asked. Chalk it up to Alzheimer's.
Mt. Hood is Oregon's highest peak, and according to one estimate it is, with the exception of Mt. Fuji, the most frequently climbed glaciated peak in the world. This popularity has, over the years, led to many accidents and tragedies.
My busy work schedule showed an open weekend in June so I decided to make a go of Mt. Hood. Not knowing any climbers in the Portland area, and not being a stud climber like Bob Sumner, I arranged to climb with Timberline Guides, which does mountaineering training and guided climbs on Mt. Hood. A short phone conversation convinced the head guide that I knew which was the business end of an ice axe and had had sufficient experience on snow and ice for them to waive their mountaineering training course. To make the trip even more fun I decided to make a partial ski descent.
When I arrived at my cousin's in Portland, they began to question my plans to climb Mt. Hood. The weather on Mt. Hood had been bad for the past two weeks. Adding to her worry was a front page story in the Friday newspaper about a Southern California skier, who after climbing Mt. Hood got disoriented in the white out and descended the infamous Mr. Hood Triangle. He was rescued, cold and tired, the following day.
Saturday morning found me speeding along the road to Mt. Hood, humming "I Can't Drive 55", and wishing I had the foresight to include a radar detector along with the rest of my essential climbing gear. The weather was clearing as I arrived at the historic Timberline Lodge - a great place to stay before the climb. A quick check in at the guide's office went well, except for the part about being back at 2:30 a.m. ready to climb.
The climb actually began at 3:30 at the top of the ski lifts, where I dropped my ski's. We roped up in perfect conditions, firm snow, clear skies, a slight breeze and comfortable temperatures.
Our party consisted of a group of six guys from the Portland area doing a male bonding trip and myself. All of us were in our mid thirties and in good condition.
Everyone quickly found their grove and we climbed upwards to a prominent rock formation, Crater Rock. As we moved ever upward the guides would occasionally ask about taking a break, but the group was feeling so good we just kept climbing. At Crater Rock we did take a short break to put on our crampons and then we were off again.
Climbing up the mountain, we enjoyed outstanding views of the lights from the city of Portland in the distance and the head-lamps of other climbers below us. There was only one group of climbers ahead of us.
We took a break at the start of the Hogsback and some of the group dropped their packs for the final summit push. Here the angle increased. After the Hogsback, there was a steeper section through the wondrous volcanic formation called the Pearly Gates. Then we had no where else to climb. As soon as we topped out the group that was ahead of us started down leaving us alone on the summit.
A grand panorama was set before us: Rainier, St. Helens, Jefferson, Adams, and all the other peaks were part of the skyline. I quickly donned my SPS T-shirt for the required summit photo's.
After twenty minutes on the summit, reveling in the majestic views, we headed down. Along the Hogsback there were queues of other climbers working there way up.
Reversing our route and using some time saving and fun glissades we quickly descended the mountain. I split off from the rest of the group to pick up my ski's for a fun run down the slope, or so I thought.
Unfortunately for me, skiing down an advance run with tired legs, a pack, and not having skied in five months was not the smartest thing I have ever done. Somehow I survived the descent, thankful no one from the Ski Mountaineers Section was there to see my performance. (Hope they don't read this either)
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