Portland and Packing (June 25-26)Shortly after Adam mentioned his conference in Portland, I bought a plane ticket and made my first trip to the Pacific Northwest. Continental wanted to ruin my trip badly and bumped me off my non-stop from Newark to Portland. Mind you this was at 745am and I lost my seat to one of several skateboard-toting kids headed to Hood for summer camp. Eventually, I made it to Houston on a 1145am flight, watched the Euro Cup match between Germany and Turkey, and landed in portland right after 6pm. A quick ride on the light rail and I was downtown. We promptly headed out to sample the fine selection of beer available in Portland and quickly put away a large swath of IPAs. After fighting the headache in the morning, we made it to Enterprise and picked up our chariot - The Mighty White Cobalt.
At $40 a day, it was well worth it compared to $90-$100 at hertz. We left the car at enterprise and headed to the hotel to try and get a quick nap. 1030pm came quickly and we walked the few blocks back to the car with full packs and got a few strange looks from people headed out to the bars.
Summit Day (June 27)Technically, summit day started at 10:30 the night before when we left the hotel, but Friday the 27th was when we actually started hiking. After a quick food and water check, putting on gaiters, and filing our paperwork, Adam and I took off from the Mighty Colbalt at 12:50am. Adam set a fast but reasonable pace up through the ski area. Neither of us knew where the exact route was (we would see the correct route on the decent), but after a few hours of trampling snow and dirt and rock, we were in the area of triangle moraine. The moon was out and the temps were in the low 40s - perfect for hiking but I did put my down jacket on to keep warm during breaks.
We stopped below the steep snow field and put on crampons as we saw a big group ahead of us. Their leader told us they left the parking lot at 10pm, which surprised us considering we covered the same distance in half the time. I guess that is what happens when climbing in a big group.
We passed the large group and made our way past some smelly fumaroles en route to the hogsback. Here we met a couple of guys roping up and taking a break. Our research about the route from locals led to our decision to not rope up. In the end, this made our ascent and decent much faster and at no point during the final 1000 ft did I feel uncomfortable with the climbing (It must be said that while I was comfortable, Adam might have lost a few deer pellets in his pants).
After a quick drink and food break and chatting with the two guys roping up, we started up the hogsback around 445am. They started around midnight and to our delight, we were the first people to head up the hogsback for the day.
The bergschund is wide open and a well trampled path leads to the left towards the old chute route. However, the path goes right over the left end of the opening so I headed further out on the slope to avoid any possibility of breaking through. After cutting left, I kicked steps up for a few hundred feet to join the footpath.
The sun was rising and Hood's shadow came into view.
Two younger guys from the Portland area were about 100 feet behind us the rest of the way. The main path leads to the left up the old chute route. I saw a more direct line to the right that looked a little steeper but would bypass the catwalk on the summit ridge. The snow had frozen the night before and was absolutely perfect for cramponing.
I was leading this whole section and kicking steps in dagger position was getting bit tiring, but shortly after 6am, we topped out on the ridge and saw the summit only a few feet away.
We finally reached the summit at 6:05am for a total ascent time of 5 hours and 15 minutes. The views from the top were amazing with plenty of other cascade volcanoes in clear view.
We followed the same route down, downclimbing the top 400 feet then sidestepping down to the dirt next to the hogsback.
There were at least 4 roped groups moving up the mountain at a very slow pace. Conga line if I have ever seen one.
Parting ThoughtsWe hauled ass down the mountain and made the car by 9:45am for a total round trip time of just under 9 hours. Adam definitely pushed the pace on the front end of the hike in with a rate of over 1300' per hour and we averaged 1100' per hour for the entire ascent.
This was definitely one of my favorite climbs so far and the only summer route where I have been on snow >99% of the time. It was great to be the first people on the summit and have the summit nearly alone for a few minutes.
After the climb, Adam and I decided to try and drink Portland dry, a task in which we almost succeeded. 6 breweries and an organic beer festival later, we finally headed home, only to start making plans for the next trip.