The Climb - Coopers SpurThe funny thing is that I'm not really a morning person - I'm not. But I'm always up for an alpine start and especially so if there's a summit up for grabs as well.
Every summer I head to Oregon, back home. My parents and sisters still live there and my kids need to see the ocean each year and remember they have grandparents up there. It's also a chance for me to slip away for a day or two and play on my home mountain - Mount Hood.
Two years ago it took me three trips to the hill to summit and ski Hood from the South Side (weather was brutal) but since I was solo on that last attempt I chose to leave the skis at the bergshrund on the South Side route and have regretted not skiing from the true summit since. Since the South Side is a "been there done that" I chose a more striking line this year - the Coopers Spur. Since I had the line picked out, I only needed someone amped enough about skiing in July who wouldn't flinch at the opportunity - Tim was my man. He would later admit that he thought we were going to be skiing some headwall and not a steep exposed "you fall and you WILL die" proud line. Ignorance is bliss.
the "proud line"
I met Tim just shy of 11pm at the Circle K in Gresham and we were off to Cloud Cap via Hood River. Driving through the clear night I couldn't help but dose off a bit despite the last 13 miles of rough gravel road. We kept pushing back our start time saying, “Ok, a 3am start will be good” to which we’d then say, “well, how about we sleep for an hour and leave at 4am” and so it went.
“Is this it?”
“I don’t know,” I replied, "I think this is the start of the trail" to which Tim replied “Wait a second, I thought you knew how to get here!?”
“It can’t be that hard – the mountain is up there” pointing at the silhouette in the sky. I think he was having his doubts about finding the line.
1.5 hours of nap time and we were off at 5am – a bit later than we had planned. As we neared the timberline the sun painted the mountain.
Follow my ski tips - they point to the line.
Good morning from St. Helens, Rainier and Adams (L to Rt)
We kept ascending over snowfields and scree trails to the "spur" stopping a bit before to stow some gear we knew we wouldn't need.
As we got closer it struck me that the line was steeper than I had previously thought. I had never really been closer than the road from Govy to Hood River so viewing the line from a distance gives you no perspective as to how the last 3000' kicks straight up. I'll admit that I had some tentative thoughts about our chances. Fortunately I was out in front of Tim so I couldn't find a sounding board for my hesitation - I just had to ignore it and keep on going. The wind started to kick up and was quite chilly as I reached the start of the "climb" where I switched from trail runners to my Scarpa Matrix. Found a couple of Wild Country stoppers sitting near Tie in Rock - booty gods were smiling on me.
Can you spot Tim?
Yea, those are alpine boots. One determined Tim and one sweet line.
Getting steeper - the view was hard on the eyes- Rainier and Adams (left to right)
Just after I took this photo we observed a large dishwasher size rock and some of its smaller followers peal off from the lookers right. We watched them tumble down the spur and pitch off the cliff onto the Elliot Glacier below. We weren't in any danger from it but it got our attention.
I passed Tim and led up into the rock chutes. As I entered the first slot a rock just bigger than a bowling ball pealed off just above me and to the side. It bounced past me and as I turned I saw it was headed on a collision course for Squirrel. I yelled "ROCK, ROCK!!!" and saw Tim stand up from a head down climbing position. He had what I would estimate to be 1.5-2 seconds to make his move. I could see him hesitate for a moment with the thought of "do I move right or left". I kept thinking "move, move!" and figured that I was about to see my buddy die by getting hit squarely by this rock. (Amazing what you can think about in 1-2 seconds) At the last possible moment he dove to the climbers right as the rock whizzed by in the exact location were he was standing - about chest high. "We've got to get up and down this thing pronto!" I yelled down.
I only managed a couple more photos on the rest of the climb since I wanted to get out from under the rocks.
Near the summit looking down - falling here est verboten!
On the summit - looking down the route we'll ski. This rib is a "don't even think about falling" no fall zone as well - [IMG]http://www.feedthehabit.com/pics/ski/kentours/mounthood/summit_down_mounthood.jpg[/IMG]
I walked over to the true summit and waited for Tim who I had heard earlier groaning or moaning. I thought he was singing along to his iPod. After he got on the summit he sat down and gritted his teeth and moaned about his feet. He was in some wicked pain.
Obligatory Summit shot - looking south with Jefferson in the background.
to be continued....
The Descent - Coopers SpurJust as we were getting ready to click in and head down a couple of guys from the Portland Mountain Rescue showed up from the Old Chute route and walked over to check out what we were up to. I could tell that they weren't confident about our choice in route to ski descend and after respectfully and kindly offering up a couple of other choices by way of suggestion they said they'd watch and to have a great run. They were cool guys (with skis on thier packs as well) and I was glad that they didn't give us neg vibes.
I clicked in, offered up a little "guide my skis, keep me confident" prayer and off I went. The first turn is always a bit tentative especially when there is 3000' of nothing below you and a sliver of a path to a safe descent. I remember slipping out a bit farther to the skiers left than I inteded to and reminding myself that is was "Just another turn in a long season".
The route down hugs the rocks and then slips skiers right down the first of two chutes.
I stopped in the first "safe" spot and looked back up to see Tim starting off - and noticing that those turns looked and felt pretty good.
This photo makes it look like a blue run. It was a bit steeper than a blue. ;)
Summit steeze - the summit is just behind Tim
Tim skied down to me and past to the next pre-determined safe spot. We'd leap frog in this style the rest of the way down until we were on mellow slopes. We still had a couple of spots to get past until we felt like a fall wouldn't result in instant death. But the skiing was so engaging and 100% focus. I really enjoyed it.
Tim did too.
I only wished I had a better camera and the skillz of at least an rookie. Like for this photo:
We finally got through the rock chutes and down far enough on the slope below to where it mellowed out to just under 40. A couple more photos and we cut loose for some long turns down.
The Tim was hurting something fierce with the feet cramping issues but he skied like the MANG flashing one mid section of the descent like it was just another line at Alpental. After linking snow patches and milking it for every last inch of 4700 feet we were back to the car in just over 2 hours from the summit and on our way to some well deserved pizza in Hood River. As we drove down the conversation turned to how appreciative we both are to have experienced this day - particularly following my brain surgery in early Feb and the Tim's dance with the big C a few years ago. Nothing like extra innings to life making the sweet moments all the more sweet.
I'm not sure if I'll pull out the sticks until the snow flies. Likely not. Thanks Tim for the best finishing day to a season that I've had since 2002. Funny thing is, Tim was my skiing companion that day as well. The ski stoke never dies for Tim, never.
Parting Shot -