Hike into the clouds.
The first big weather front of late summer is passing through the southern Willamette valley. Matt and I have a climb date with Diamond peak in the central Cascade range of Oregon. We both agree to do the climb despite the passing weather front. I am conservative about inclement weather adventure. The climb even though it is going forward is still tentative.
Matt and I arrive at the pioneer gulch T.H. at an elevation of 4,769 ft. The clouds are low and their is some snow on surrounding ridges. We load are gear and start are boot stomp up the trail. The trail is a mile and one half long and is steep as it gains one thousand foot in that distance.
On are way up the trail we hit snow at the one mile mark and soon thereafter we come across a fresh set of Bear tracks. I apologize we did not take a picture. We must have spooked the Bear,It weaved on and off the trail in just a couple of yards. It was not long after this that we came to the trail junction. At the junction we will leave the trail behind until are return.
I take a waypoint with the G.P.S were at 5,714 ft. We head up hill on a bearing of 40 degrees. We are now in the trackless forest. The terrain through this section of the climb is a sloping forested plateau for about three quarters of a mile. It is easy travel through well spaced Hemlock and Fir trees. Matt is a bit spooked,It is one of the rare times he has been off trail. I assure him between Map and compass and The G.P.S unit I would navigate us safely. He is still not so sure, he asked me a couple of times if things looked familiar.
We soon arrive on the southwest ridge proper. I wave Matt over to my position. I show him the abrupt edge of the ridge as it plunges into the the great southwest cirque. We are definetly on the mountain. I set another waypoint, I call it the ridge and were at an elevation of 6,598 ft. We are now at the level of the clouds and the forest is giving way to snow covered rock.
I am now breaking trail doing my best to maintain a line along the ridge crest. The rocks are slick,the breeze is picking up and visibility is limited. We are moving slower than I Like. It is not easy to see ahead and time is starting to get away from us. I am now spooked a little. I ask him how he feels and encourage him to speak his mind. "We have come aways and it would be shame to turn around" He says. I surmise it is not storming,it is just breezy and very low visibility. We choose to keep climbing with a turn around time of 2:00 P.M or complete whiteout which ever comes first.
I set another waypoint code name: up ridge, to help with navigation in case of whiteout conditions. We are now at 7,522 ft. and Its a 11:44 a.m. We start to get momentary breaks in the clouds. We get views of the upper ridge and summit. We are feeling a bit more optimistic now that we can gauge are progress. The ridge has a west to east tendancy. It is characterized by linear sub ridges which abrubtly end then feature a horizontal breadth of boulders that connect to the next linear ridge. We push on plodding are way through the snow choked boulder fields along the ridge. We cross the divides from ridge section to ridge section negotiating snow covered scree with loose rock. We then plod on again through knee deep snow and boulder fields. The weather still leaving us doubtful prompts me to set another waypoint. It"s code name: up,up, ridge. We are now at 8,186 ft.
We are now enjoying longer breaks in the clouds as we climb the final yards to the south(false) summit. The south summit is the apex for the ridge we ascended and the south ridge proper. A permanant waypoint at 8,422ft and 12:36 P.M. We are well within are turnaround time. The climb however has reached the crux. We are now at the traverse which is about a half mile long and three hundred feet of climbing to reach the summit of Diamond peak proper. The clouds are moving in and out pretty regularly and the wind has stiffened up a bit. I motion to Matt to put on his wind parka. I give him a trekking pole and tell him to follow me close.
We walk out onto the traverse and the wind about blows up against us pretty hard, A little scary! We begin to descend around the first Gendarme taking slow deliberate steps. I yell to Matt to always keep two points of contact no matter what. We negotiate the first gendarme and quickly work are way around a couple of smaller outcroppings. We are now out on one of two long sections of exsposed ridge. The wind has prompted me to were my fleece gloves( I hadn't put gloves on yet). We track along the edge of the windblown snow for easier footing. We reach the second Gendarme. I take us high on the rock though the way appears lower. It just looked to risky with the steep snow. We were forced to climb down to the lower passage anyway. We get around the Gendarme, walk out onto the second exposed section. We make quick work of this section and head up and through the final Gendarme and on to the summit ridge.
We gain the summit ridge and I turn back to tell Matt "where just going to tag the summit and get down." We arrive on the summit. we pull the cameras and I plug in a waypoint 8,744 ft at 1:15 p.m.. We beat are turn around time. It was by good fortune that not long after arriving the clouds would part. It was fastly looking like the mountain was ready to shine in all her glory. The day would turn out grand and we would have are summit, pictures,lunch and a safe descent the rest of the afternoon. It was matt bell's first major summit congrats to him.
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