Much to my dismay, I was up after just 6hrs of shut-eye and couldn't get back
to sleep. I enjoyed a much needed shower and walked next door to the grocery
store for a giant cup of coffee, an apple, and a breakfast sandwich. After some
packing and chatting, John and I were ready to go. I banged on the door of Zach
and Sheryl at 8:30am to find that they were still asleep! A bit later, we all
headed to breakfast where we witnessed Zach putting away 3 giant plates of food
like it was his job.
On the road west then south towards Portland, Mt Hood crept into site and it
looked like great weather! The high 80 degree temps and a good forecast was
going to give us the chance we hoped for on Mt Hood. Lots of laughs and stories
got us to the ski resort at the base of Mt Hood at 2:20pm. Unfortunately the ski
lift stopped running at 2:30pm, so our hopes of catching a ride for the first
2000ft and setting up camp for a shorter summit day, were dashed. CRAP! Plan B
was to hire a snowcat, though the lady that does reservations only works
weekdays. Double CRAP! Plan C was hatched.... get a couple hours of sleep in the
parking lot and leave at 11pm to cover the 5400ft to the summit of Mt Hood! This
plan allowed us enough time for our sore legs to go slowly and take frequent
breaks if needed. Sleep was not happening though. John and I crashed in my tent
next to the parking lot, while Zach tried to sleep in the open, and Sheryl tried
to sleep in the mini-van. The parking lot party, bright sun, constantly
backing-up heavy equipment all equaled nothing more then a few quick naps before
the 10pm alarm. Ugh. Some last minute gear changes and cooking in the parking
lot had us hiking up the ski slope shortly after 11pm.....
The moon was just over half full and so bright that we did not need to use our
headlamps! The temps were in the mid-40's and the mashed potato snow kept us
sliding backwards occasionally. We reached the top of the first ski lift in
under an hour. We reached the top of the second ski lift in just over two hours.
Though extremely tired and questioning our sanity, we passed the time with
conversations of everything from Hawaii to chinese buffets. Here something
really strange happened..... Zach suddenly stopped and yelled "JESUS
CHRIST!" I looked up quick enough to see a squirrel running away from him.
I didn't believe what I just saw, until Zach verified that a squirrel came
running across the snow slope, jumped on his leg, then took off in the opposite
direction!! It all happened within 3 seconds and we walked away just shaking our
heads. Plodding on, we could see about a dozen headlamps climbing up the slope
from the Timberline Lodge behind us. After the moon set, we finally had to
resort to using our headlamps too. A couple of dudes passed us and verified that
we were on the correct track, though it went up and over and giant ash/dirt/rock
mound. Slipping and sliding with crampons on rock, we were back on snow
afterwards getting to the Triangle Rock camp after 3.5hrs. Now the smell of
sulfur was almost unbearable and we could hear what we thought was a giant
furmoil spewing ash up near Crater Rock. Not much longer and we were standing on
the "Hogback", a giant snow bridge just below the fun sections of Mt
Hood. Above the Hogback the berschrund was gapping open, closing off the route
to the melted out "Pearly Gates". Here I realized that we were
probably going to summit and time to stay focused due to the difficulties lying
ahead. We dropped down slightly on more rock then were standing at the base of
the "Old Chutes" routes. We waited for a while watching the two guys
work their way up trying to figure out if we wanted to rope up or not.
Apparently the slope doesn't get above ~45degrees, so we kept our
harnesses/helmets on and were prepared to pull out the rope if we needed it.
Due to the recent weather, the snow was in absolutely perfect condition to
crampon right up it! There were snow cups and a pretty good track that made it
seem like a giant stair-stepper. Awesome!!! Taking our time, the slope kept
increasing and after 45mins we topped out to peer over the top to the horizon
putting on a lightshow for the sunrise!! WOW! All sense of sleepiness and
exhaustion went away instantly. As soon as John topped out, he peered over the
edge and proclaimed, "how the f#ck am I gonna get back down that thing?!".
Funny stuff! Another 100yds of a rocky ridge and a snowfield put us on the
summit in just under 6hrs from the parking lot. The 5400ft gain seemed to go by
fast, must be the low altitude! We basked in the rising sun for 30mins and took
tons of pictures all around. Once a couple guided groups were near the summit,
we headed back down to beat the crowds in the Old Chutes, which are very prone
to rock fall. The first hundred feet we down climbed facing in, but shortly
after we were able to face out and followed the obvious track as many other
folks were on their way up. Standing back on the Hogsback with the difficulties
behind us, I breathed a big sigh of relief and knew it was just ~4000ft of
plunge-stepping and glissading back to the trailhead. Now the fun begins!!!! A
few glissades then following a snow cat track on the border of the ski slope
passed the time quickly. Though it was getting warm real fast, I was in
"get the f#ck to the truck" mode and hammered on through the mushy
snow and dumping my pack at the car. You couldn't smack the smile off of my face
with an ice axe! (though I'm glad no one tried) It was only 8am in the morning,
but felt much later considering the lack of sleep and 9hrs of solid hiking.
The four of us changed clothes, dried some gear in the parking lot, made our
phone calls, and basked in the glory of Cascade volcano adventures over the past
few days. Despite just about no sleep, we had a great "climbers high"
going and packed up with breakfast on our minds. In the strange little town of Rhododendron,
we witnesses Zach top his previous record by eating 4 plates of food! From
there, we did the long drive back to Seattle taking turns driving and napping
while making frequent stops to help stay awake. A quick detour and stop at
Multnomah Falls was good for some quality people watching!
Six hours after leaving Mt Hood we were in Seattle catching up with the other
folks before heading to an Irish Pub for some much deserved Guinness's and Irish
The 3am alarm sounded after just a few solid hours of sleep on the hotel
room floor. I could've slept for days. But instead, we ferried our butts back to
the airport for a 6am flight. Sleep came easily on the plane. After a drive
home, a quick shower, and catching up with petting Denali.... I headed to work
tired, hungry, but with an ear to ear grin. Three peaks and 16K+ feet of
elevation over a few days will do that to a person!