Post Rainier......

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 Hood 004.JPG (170836 bytes) 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 theHood 007.JPG (244173 bytes) 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 Hood 010.JPG (225147 bytes) 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 wasHood 014.JPG (231441 bytes) 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 Hood 019.JPG (193266 bytes) 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 lightshowHood 028.JPG (278744 bytes) 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 Hood 030.JPG (209641 bytes) 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 8amHood 033.JPG (225023 bytes) 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 Hood 044.JPG (211520 bytes) 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 Stew. YUM!

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!

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