Monitor Ridge, November 30, 2008
|This was an official OSAT trip led by Dave. The rest of us included Matt, Peter, Pete, and myself. Since the south side of the mountain is such a long drive from the Seattle area (4 hours), we met up at the trailhead the night before and made camp in the one inch of snow on the ground. I was Flabbergasted when Peter pulled a grill out of the back of his truck and started cooking huge steaks and giant tiger prawns. I usually try to eat mostly carbs the night before a big hike but in this case I would make an exception. Increasing precipitation chased us into our tents rather early but we were planning to be walking by 6 am so no worries.|Mount Hood Sunrise
|It was cold when I heard my mates stirring in the adjacent tents the next morning. There’s always that reluctance to get out of my warm bag but then I thought about where I was and decided my ambition would keep me warm enough. This would be my second attempt at Monitor Ridge. The first ended prematurely when an unexpected weather front moved in on us in the early spring of 2007. We had been forced to bivouac overnight in the wet falling snow just above the tree line. The next day was just more of the same. This time the weather was supposed to be flawless. We were even able to use the shorter summer approach.|
|Following a tip from people coming down when we first arrived, we left our snowshoes in the car. The snow on the ground as we started out was patchy and compact on the trail but we had expected a lot more, higher up. They told us not to count on it. I was glad that I was not leading in the dark on this morning because my headlamp battery was low and it would have been difficult to discern the trail. As we were nearing the tree line, we could see the sunrise developing to the southeast. At one point we came to a clearing and had an inspiring view of Mount Hood over a cloud-filled valley. I knew the Columbia River was somewhere down there under the clouds. Hood being one of the last volcanoes in the area I haven’t climbed, I felt a sense of the challenge looking at it.|Dave and Mount Adams
Gimpilator on the Rim |Above the trees, the Monitor Ridge route is fairly straightforward. Sorry for the bad pun. About every two or three hundred yards the top of the ridge is marked with a wooden post. We followed these up scrambling over the loose talus-sized volcanic rocks. At times the ridge would level out onto a small terrace and here we would encounter more patches of snow mixed with sand and mud. There were only a few spots steep enough to warrant using my hands and at no point in the day did I use the axe I was carrying. The view of Mount Adams to the East was especially encouraging as we worked our way upward. I recorded the route with my GPS as a kmz file. It is available for download and especially interesting if viewed in Google Earth.|
|It was nearly eleven when we reached the crater rim. There were a couple small groups already on the rim and a couple groups just behind us. I gazed down at the lava dome and watched the steam billowing off a couple hot spots. I imagined the fear of the poor stupid snowmobiler who had plunged over the edge into the crater back in April. (Read The Story Here). It’s truly a wonder that he survived. Then I noticed that the view of Spirit Lake, Rainier, and Mount Adams all in one eyeful was very good. Many times I had imagined myself standing here looking down into what had once been the heart of a mountain. It seems this kind of wishful thinking is usually enough draw to eventually take me to any summit I desire.|The Rim Top
There was a woman in one of the other groups who had done this hike many times before and she said that she had never seen the weather conditions this favorable. There was literally no wind and even the air temperature was mild. Not bad for the last day before December. The trek down was uneventful, but the traffic going back to Seattle at the end of Thanksgiving weekend is another story.
Crater Rim Panorama