Mt Hood June 17-18, 2004My first experience at mountaineering had been the previous year on Mt Rainier. I climbed the mountain (part way) as a member of a 5 client-2 guide team. We spent 5 days on the Wilson Glacier with an RMI Sr guide more interested in resting/scouting his ascent of the Furhers Finger than giving us a true shot at summiting. But that is another story. In early 2004 I planned to climb Mt Hood and thought if I traveled that far I might as well climb a few peaks. I planned a 6 day-3 peak ascent in the Cascades: Mt Hood, Adams, and St Helens.
I flew out of Virginia on a Thursday night, arrived in Portland and drove to a Bed and Breakfast in Government Camp late late that night. I sorted out my gear and slept about 5 hours. In the morning my hosts left a small breakfast before I drive up to Timberline to meet my guides at Timberline Mt Guides. (Virginia/North Carolina lack a whole lot of glaciers so my experience is somewhat limited.) Joe was our lead guide; we had a assistant guide and 5 clients. We checked out our equipment and we all made our way up the edge of the Palmer glacier , a nice sunny day. We slowly climbed up the edge of the glacier and camped about 8000 below the split of the Palmer and White River Glaciers. It was extremely windy during our camp set up. We had some dinner and crashed.
Our summit attempt began about 1:15 am. When we made the Hogsback, we were the first team and it was still dark. It was extremely windy, cloudy, and flurries. Three of our group decided to descend; father/son from Chicago and one of our rope team (after much encouragment from our guide; "I REALLY think you should go down."). Joe thought it would clear up but was ready to turn back if conditions did not improve. When we made the Pearly Gates it cleared, daylight increased and we made our way to the roof of Oregon. It was a glorious morning, very few people on summit as many groups retreated at the Hogsback in the poor conditions. Roberto, a carpenter from Portland, stood on the summit for a second year; what an accomplishment! For myself 1 peak down, 2 to go.
We slogged our way down to camp and back to the lodge. I was whipped from 4 hours sleep total in the last 2 nights. I took my guides out to eat, damn near falling asleep during our meal. Our meal finished; we parted ways and Greg, an old friend from my childhood, met me for a continuation of my trip. We went to the room, unpacked, rested and ate again. During dinner I kept mumbling, cursing, face falling forward almost into my food. Greg thought we should retreat to the room and sleep, which we promptly did.
Mt Adams June 19-20, 2004The next morning; after taking my rental to Portland, we made our way to the Trout Lake RS to get a permit to camp at Mt Adams, and our "lunch bags". The approach road was clear with a fair number of cars, we packed and we started up to the Crescent glacier. Along the approach we were passed by some Mennonites, complete with simple dress, boots and ice axes; very odd. The snow was loose and soft, we punched through in some places. We camped on the glacier, about 8500 feet. There was another group camped and that evening we were treated to a fox scampering across the glacier. That night my meal didn't quite agree with Greg but he slept well.
In the am we began out long slog up to the Lunch Counter and the False summit; passing a group of reserve Marines form Ft Lewis not tolerating the altitude well. (They were a squad from Ft Lewis on a warm up for Mt Rainer. Their commanding officer was quite experienced in mountaineering. Marines are a pretty tough bunch but toleration to altitude is something not really "trainable".) Talked to some folks who came up, I think, the Avalanche Glacier with plans to ski down. One members ski shot off Pikers Peak to the glacier below, what a bummer.
On Pikers Greg began got a headache and was feeling feel bad, he decided to return to camp. I summited again in outstanding weather; what a view! I returned to camp after a long glissade down to the Lunch Counter(I lost a water bottle) and post holing through the soft snow down to the Crescent glacier camp. Greg wanted to stay in a hotel room and I didn't object; so we packed up and made our way back to the car and thence Cougar. There we found a campground with a small cabin. We scored a permit to climb St Helens, ate out at the pizza parlor, and went to sleep.
Mt St Helens June 22, 2004For our rest day we hiked a 10 mile loop of of Windy Ridge, the NE side of the mountain. On that hike we saw a wealth of wild flowers but walked by only 1 tree, a four foor tall spruce. It reminded me of desert hiking in the SW. In the distance was Spirit Lake, crystal blue surrounded by a barren plain and still full of logs. Unbelievable to imagine the explosion and everything being vaporized. Our country has so many different places (that many of us have had the privilege to see).
The last time Greg climbed the St. Helens was in summer,all the snow was gone and it was a major slog fest on the pumice; two steps forward one step back. He was feeling the altitude after Mt Adams and didn't really want to do another long climb, so he opted to go shoot photos and let me climb up alone. (I had told my wife I wouldn't hike alone. Later I told her I had climbed with 50 of my closest friends from the state of Washington. LOL) The weather was outstanding for my summit day. He dropped me off at Climbers Bivouac to summit alone, and I headed up. I made Monitor Ridge and I decided to follow the snowfields as I thought it would be easier than rock hopping. Saw an unprepared group of 3 replete in jeans and t-shirts, going up the ridge. I passed them and never saw again. Another long walk, I saw maybe 20 people in front of me. Finally made the summit. Outstanding view but in the back of my mind I kept expected the mountain to shake. To see the devastation was amazing. The 2 sides of the mountain were polar opposites; to the north a desert, endless green to the south. The other Cascade Peaks were clear on this crisp day; Rainier was north, Adams east, and Hood to the south. What a great hike, great weather for the 6th straight day.
I met some climbers from the Mazamas scaling the peak in order to officially join. We glissaded down, ripping (again) my REI rain pants. (After 10 years and 3 repairs, I though they should retired.) Met Greg at the pick up time and we headed to our room at Cougar CG. We checked out, drove to Portland and I was able to met Gregs wife. A great finish a wonderful trip; 18,000 vertical gain in 6 days. Really lucked out on weather; sunny, mild temps, no wind over the 6 days in the Pacific NW.