Made the climber's bivouac on the evening of 5 August. There was no problem getting a permit for a weekday climb. I was originally planning on walking the trail solo until I met up with a bike mechanic from REI who happened to be solo as well. We swapped war stories at a hospitable hiker's campfire and agreed to get a 6 am or so start. The free beer and camaraderie felt like an Old Milwaukee commercial. A beautiful clear night turned to clouds and rain by 3 a.m.
We woke and dressed light for the effort. I ditched my technical gear, but kept the 'essentials'. We moved out at a good clip. Brian (my mechanic-partner) carried an extra light load so I set the initial pace. We didn't break and passed through a group of Mazamas once we cleared the timberline. They started an hour and a half earlier so we were making good time.
The hike turned into a light scramble and visibility started really getting bad and the rain picked up. An athletic young lady started bounding from rock to rock right through us. We chatted with her briefly, noting that she had no pack and was wearing nothing but hi-cut shorts and a long sleeve shirt. She explained that she left her pack with her companions down below who were moving too slow. I offered my shell jacket telling her she would need it soon.
She scrambled ahead of us but stayed just inside of the diminishing visibility. After fifteen minutes she stopped and she'd like to take me up on the shell jacket offer. We stopped and I unpacked my shell for her. As we were beginning to move out again, one of the young lady's companions came up behind us and joined in. We briefly introduced ourselves after we decided to move up together.
At 7,200 ft the wind and rain started pounding us from the south. It was getting worse as we moved higher. The two gals decided enough was enough and turned around after agreeing to leave my shell jacket at my car. So wearing shorts, a poly-tee, a Dri-Clime, and my boots I pushed north with the wind and Brian setting a solid pace. We passed a gentleman on the way down, who seemingly appeared out of nowhere in the cloudbank we were now well immersed in. He said he wasn't taking any chances. We pushed on as the wind increased to about 35-40 mph and the rain turned to sleet. At around 8,200 ft (according to my altimeter) we knew we were at the crater rim, but could not see anything. My hands were slowly freezing in my light and soaked wind gloves. Brian had no gloves on and could not feel his hands. I was about to ditch my pack and make for the "true" summit when I stopped to look around at all the warning signs. Zero vis...high winds...unfamiliarity with the terrain...improper clothing. Brian noted my hesitation and said, "If you're not sure, we should turn around".
I had to agree. Noting the semantics of a summit definition (crater rim v. high point of a volcano), I looked at Brian and said "I call this the summit". We smartly moved out and gave a brief report to other parties as we moved down to the trail.
As I learned before, weather can turn an easy climb into a minor challenge very quickly - especially for the unprepared. Even the small giants can turn mean on you. - CW6
Glad you made it safely. You probably should have turned around but I likely would hve done the same as you. (Its that indestructable streak). I've done a fair # of solos I shouldn't have done alone; but if you make good preparations to minimize the risk, then hike and accept the possible consequences. I do worry more now that I'm older. My wife quit asking me where I'm going, she doesn't want to know.