Delirium had set itself amongst my brother Isaac and I while climbing around Devils Kitchen. It was the beginning of last autumn with no beta for our climb, and worse no experience. We were far from being suitable mountaineers, but while sliding downward on car sized rock slabs near Crater Rock we weren’t pretending to be either. Our only prior exposure on such terrain was limited to childhood climbs in Oakridge and a select few summits. We had to bail. That day presented two great realizations. First, to not climb without having at least some solid beta is idiocy and that preparing one’s own safety, as much another’s, cannot be over achieved. Second, as miserable and drudging a day it had become it also stemmed a great desire in Isaac to begin climbing mountains. Thus the dream began and over the next Four months preparations were made to attempt another summit during a better season.
Isaac and I near Devil's Kitchen on Sep. 28, 2009.
A Harsh Reality
“I was going to head up the mountain,” said Luke, “but now I think I’ll just go to the beach.” He presented a good point while preparing our rental boots and crampons at the Mountain Shop in Portland, referring to the possible “zoo” like conditions of the day to follow. The extremely nice February weather was definitely going to draw a crowd to the mountain, but Isaac and I were determined to get an extra early alpine start and hopefully stay clear of such a danger. Of course our procrastinating ways had us arriving in Timberline’s lot by 1:30am, an hour behind schedule, but with 30-40 mph sustained winds at 15 degrees Fahrenheit [Timberline Lodge's last reading, taken at 10pm] it didn’t matter. There were several occupied vehicles around us likely holding a similar position, wondering when to head out? I spoke with one group who showed up 20 minutes later and were getting ready immediately, but they didn’t respond to any of my novice questions about the current conditions. Perhaps they were still asleep.
Tracks up the Hogsback to the Old Chute are surprisingly visible from the Lodge.
Don't Turn Back Jack
After an hour had passed the lot began bustling a bit with those who had been idle, but outside conditions remained unchanged. Although the original plan was to be ahead of the crowd our better judgment told us to let the [hopefully] more experienced climbers go ahead and watch their progress. Another hour had gone by and a late alpine start was finally at hand. Unfortunately the comfort I imagined in seeing both the mountain and other climbers with our ascent was not in sight during the initial 3,000 feet. With my head pointing down away from the wind (chill factor at around -1 to -8 Fahrenheit) and my body wrapped tight I couldn’t see much and was able to hear even less – it was a strange feeling of solitude. Several climbers were already retreating by the time we had reached the upper slopes of the Palmer Glacier. This was a little concerning and to again get no positive feedback from anyone when he or she passed us was definitely aggravating, but it was all about short-term goals at this point.
Isaac struggling to keep his footing. My left eye froze shut during this run of photos.
Minutes after sunrise and quite the contrast in conditions.
Now climbing above the Palmer on pebble ice and frozen crud the spindrift was horrible, albeit beautiful with the colorful sky. We could periodically look up at the summit and look down toward approaching climbers. It felt like we were heading up the Cliffs of Insanity from the Princess Bride as a lonesome climber was making headway on us. We deemed him the Dread Pirate Roberts while gazing upon his bouncing headlamp. Later he caught up with us on the Hogsback where we discovered he was just another climber, Jim Lundblad, and in contrast to our presumptions the first of friendly faces. Following our encounter with Jim was a guy heading down the old chute who had earlier soloed a variation of Devils Headwall [I recently discovered this was Mr. Clam], then two more preceding him. Everyone up here was extremely friendly and helpful – it was as though the changeover from night to day went hand in hand with people’s moods. Having achieved two of our short-term goals while refueling on the Hogsback our hope to summit was also now rekindled by encouragement of passing climbers and the stillness of the crater.
Our second quick stop for the day.
Our first real break. Ham sandwich on the Hog anyone?
In the weeks prior to this climb I had been looking at several TR’s and threads on both SP and CC stating the best route up the Old Chute was to head down to Hot Rocks, as opposed to traversing, and those who choose to go below the cliffs are in extreme danger of icefall. However the Hot Rocks route looked deadly in my opinion, although perhaps I am simply inexperienced in knowing the danger associated there. The amount of sulfuric gasses emitted from the surrounding fumaroles would engulf a person attempting to head that way, at least at that time. Maybe this isn’t an issue if a person is far enough away from the actual vent, but between not knowing what that distance is and reading about being asphyxiated by oxygen voids I decided to steer clear of such areas. With this in mind I sat observing the ice above the traverse awhile and in a half hours time witnessed only one sizeable chunk come down along the path, about that of a car tire. Isaac and I decided to get a move on before the sun began heating the cliffs. Now that no one was on the summit, according to those who passed us, and we were ahead of everyone else, the timing felt right. Encountering only minimal icefall along our final push we hit the summit sooner than anticipated and to our surprise it was not only void of people but also completely calm and warm as well.
The Hogsback at 9:36am.
Approaching the Old Chute with Jim heading up toward the traverse.
Spending over an hour on the summit lounging with a hot cup of peppermint tea was a huge blessing as we originally expected to have less than Twenty minutes before it became too cold to bear. Jim met up with us and we spent some time talking with him about his past adventures up the mountain. Behind him were several skiers; some heading back down the Old Chute while others kept heading along the ridge to Wy’East. With a quick wave goodbye to the small group at the summit Jim, Isaac and I were now back in the Chute downclimbing. Jim went on ahead of us with a fast and casual walk while Isaac and myself opted to descend slowly and face the mountain, securing our axes until we reached the Hogsback again. The only real danger in doing this was lingering in the line of falling ice from those climbing above, a fact proven when a baseball-sized hunk of ice hit my knee and a soccer ball sized piece of ice came down on Isaac’s shoulder. Both instances were extremely painful, but luckily neither caused us to loosen our grip or hinder the remainder of our climb.
A beautiful winter day on the Summit - 11:15am.
Erik Webster and companion were the second set up after us.
The Dread Pirate Roberts himself.
Our Next Move
In retrospect I feel really good about the climb and wouldn’t have wanted it to go any other way, especially considering it was our first summit of Hood and first winter ascent. Our gear held up great under fairly harsh conditions and we were never under prepared for the varying terrain we had encountered. Our goal wasn’t even to summit as much as it was to gain more climbing experience and meet other mountaineers, but I am definitely not complaining that we met all objectives. It would be nice to head up new routes with a well-versed small group and hopefully learn from the knowledge that they could pass down. Wy’East, Adams and Shasta hold places of high value for the Holk brother’s immediate future.
I didn't realize we'd be in frame, but glad we were; genuine expressions for a 12hr climb.
Was some good readin'. Yes sir, had me some good sittin' time with that. Perhaps I will illustrate (from memory) our next adventure. And yes, I totally used your photo for my profile picture. Finally got this thing to work!
I was to have been climbing the same day as you. I got to the parking lot about 11pm. When I realized the conditions, I knew I was not even going to try to leave the parking lot.
That is great post and very informative to me. You didn't say what the winds were like on the way down. Did they pick up again? When? How fast? I know from sailing experience that winds would much rather go AROUND a hill than OVER it. I'm guessing the same is true on mountains.
There's NO WAY I would be climbing the last 400 feet to the summit if I knew that ice chunks were falling down.
I see that unlike me you are not a procrastinator; I was just getting up from a two hour "rest" at 11pm. The ice chunks above the Hog were a bit concerning, but at no point did we feel threatened by them. As for the winds, it certainly was chilly on our climb down, but the winds weren't even half as intense by 3:00pm. Thank you for the kind words about the post.
Nice pictures- yes I appreciate the nickname. I got frostbite on my cheek! Fun day, sorry I didn't stick with you but my foot hurt and I had to get my boots off so skied in a bee line to the car. I will post some video someplace when I get some editing time.
Holy cow! I'm glad to hear you made it down safely overall and don't worry about making a quick escape, that is totally understandable. That frostbite sounds horrible and hearing about it made me look up treatment options in an ehow article; I hope you're already on the mend.