Ice Fall Too Much Too Take
Group: Dain Zaitz, Brent Fisher, Josh Friberg, David Bekken and Me (Ben Friberg)
Time: Left 12:00am 1/18/2009 Return 9:00am 1/18/2009
We left the Timberline Lodge Overnight Parking lot ready to go, excited for our trip, with the goal to climb roughly 5,500' to the summit of Mt. Hood before sunrise.
Things did no go according to plans.
The first part of the climb is relatively easy compared to the rest of the mountain.
After climbing 2400' we had two climbers who were not able to continue. One was very nauseous and the other had blisters that were taking over. (both climbers descended without incident and were safe) Beyond the 8500' elevation mark the snow changed into solid ice. Do not be confused with snow that has slushed and then refrozen. Go to your freezer and take out an ice cube- the next 2000' vertical feet were covered in layered sheets of ice- blue ice & clear ice (or whatever you like to call it).
Along with the difficult traction conditions there was a wind blowing from the east with gusting over 80mph. So not only were we climbing the mountain we had to fight the wind that was trying to blow us down- and did a few times.
I was feeling pretty fatigued by this point (Some how sitting in an office for 3 months with no exercise didn't prepare me for the climb). After 5 hours of climbing the three remaining climbers made into the crater area of Mt. Hood where we are surrounded by 500' sheer cliffs. As we worked our way out of the wind and closer to the crater we were stopped by the sounds of a very large ice fall off the steel cliffs to climbers right. Imagine a dump truck filled with ice chunks the size of bowling balls falling 500'. It sounds like a waterfall. As we moved forward we were stopped again, this time by a smaller ice fall--which we were in the path of. We hit the ground and with our helmets pointed uphill we each toook 2 or 3 hits.
Shortly after this sketchy experience a group of climbers ahead of us were hit by ice fall...our response after making sure they were ok was to take one last look at the summit only 900 vertical feet away and begin our descent. The descent was rather difficult given the ice, wind, 24 hours without sleep, and muscle fatigue but our team of three safely made it to the cars and had a nice big breakfast at the Huckleberry Inn at Government Camp.
4 climbs on Mt hood since I started climbing and this was the first time I had to turn back and it was a great decision and really helped to make the trip a memorable experience and to increase my Mountaineering skills.