Mt. Hood Climb, South Side, Old Crater Variation, June 2009

Mt. Hood. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Mt. Hood. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Mt. Hood is a 11,249 foot volcano located in Northern Oregon. It’s considered one of the most likely Northwest volcano to erupt in the next 30 years (3-7% chance it will erupt). For climbers, it has one of the easiest approaches with Timerline Lodge being located at 5,960 ft. The beautiful mountain also holds a tell toll to rival Mt. Rainier, mostly due to fools, unprepared, and inexperienced climbers make foolish decisions, climber without the proper gear, and climbing too late in the day.

In addition to having to worry about bad weather, a team member falling and taking the rope team with them, ice and rock fall (though with an Alpine Start this threat can be greatly minimized), one of the biggest threats comes from other parties falling and taking your party out or kicking ice down on you.

To try and reduce some of the dangers, we decided to break the Mt. Hood climb into two days: Day 1 – climb to 8600 ft camp, Day 2- start climbing at

You can see the Palmer lift in the background.  The mountain off in the distance is Mt. Jefferson. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

You can see the Palmer lift in the background. The mountain off in the distance is Mt. Jefferson. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

1:30am to beat the scary hoards up the mountain, summit at dawn and return to the car. Mt. Hood is a technical 11,240 feet Cascade Volcano and NOT a climb for anyone who hasn’t had extensive training in mountaineering.

We are climbers, we know no boundaries! Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

We are climbers, we know no boundaries! Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

We began climbing Friday, June 25th, mid-afternoon. We hiked on the Climber’s Trail which runs parallel to the Palmer Lift. (It’s a little surreal to climb a mountain by first climbing through an active ski area.

Along the way we stopped every climber we passed to get beta on what the route looked like. They all informed us that the Pearly Gates weren’t there and that everyone was going to the left of the Hogback. The standard route is to climb to Devil’s Kitchen, then up the Hogback, through the Pearly Gates and onto the summit. But, the info we were getting seemed to indicate that something had happened and you couldn’t climb the standard route.

At 8600 feet, a few hundred feet above the top of the Palmer lift, we made base camp. The weather was gorgeous, with views of Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Washington. It was fun to be able to be on Mt. Hood once all the skiiers and descend climbers left. We pretty much had the mountain all to ourselves.

Basecamp Mt. Hood. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Basecamp Mt. Hood. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

My tent at basecamp on Mt. Hood. Mt. Jefferson in the background. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

My tent at basecamp on Mt. Hood. Mt. Jefferson in the background. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Mt. Hood at Sunset. Photo taken from basecamp. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Mt. Hood at Sunset. Photo taken from basecamp. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Old Crater Variation. Mt. Hood. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Old Crater Variation. Mt. Hood. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

We slept for a while then woke up at 12:30am to start climbing at 1:30am. You could see little lights way down the mountain making their way towards us in a hurry. Time to beat feet up the mountain before the Hoard reached us. When we reached the Devil’s Kitchen, the Bergschrund had opened up splitting the Hogback, making it impassible to climb the standard route up the Pearly Gates. The Hogback had shifted left and the Pearly Gates were no more. So, the Old Crater Variation, to the left of the Hogback, with it’s 1000 foot wall of ice and steepness was the theme of the day.

We roped up at Devil’s Kitchen and started to climb the the steep 1000 feet of ice. Pick a chute any chute – after the 1000 feet of ice and steepness we had to go through a sketchy chute so we placed pickets since it was so sketch. We reached the summit at about 5:45 am just as the sun was rising. It was a gorgeous morning, no wind (which is unheard of for Hood), and views of Adams, Rainier, Helens, Jefferson and Washington.

After spending a few moments basking on the summit and enjoying our accomplishment of reaching the top of the mountain, we knew we

Sunrise from the Summit of Mt. Hood.

Sunrise from the Summit of Mt. Hood.

couldn’t spend much more time up there. The Hoard was nipping at our heels and we didn’t want to risk having one of them mess up and take us out. In addition, the ice and snow was melting increasing the risk of rock and ice fall.

Summit of Mt. Hood. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Summit of Mt. Hood. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Summit of Mt. Hood. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Summit of Mt. Hood. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Summit of Mt. Hood. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Summit of Mt. Hood. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Icy Chute. Descending from Summit of Mt. Hood. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Icy Chute. Descending from Summit of Mt. Hood. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

As we turned to head down the chute (the hardest, most dangerous part of the whole climb), the Hoard had nearly caught us. Dozens and dozens of peole were trying to push their way up the narrow chute. Time to get off the mountain.

When we reached the Devil’s Kitchen again we unroped. We made our way down to base camp, crashed for a while, broke down camp and headed out. Mt. Hood lived up to it’s reputation of an amazing mountain with amazingly crazy people on it. We saw a 6 person rope team, people climbing with long wooden ice axes, a family climbing without crampons or ice axes, people slipping and not arresting very well and people climbing with household ropes.

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~ by Genevieve Hathaway on March 16, 2010.

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