My buddy Kari and I went up to Mt. Hood to try and get in a winter ascent. As this was ‘winter’, we purposefully left late at 4am so we could enjoy some sunshine during the climb.
A thick ream of climber registrations showed we would not be alone on the hill.
On the slog up we commiserated about how packing for a climb always takes 3 hours, regardless of how much goes into the pack. The moon lit the way for an hour or so until it dropped below the ocean and we were left with our headlamps.
Despite the top of the Palmer having been moved further north we made good progress up the glacier. We stopped to eat and put on crampons while listening to others plan for their respective climbs. While strapping on the crampons I realized they were adjusted for my ski boots and were a little loose and one of the heel straps was broken. Lame.
At about 9500’ our stoke started to run out. The diagnosis was a case of I-don’t-wannas combined with feeling out of shape. This was Kari’s second outing on her newly repaired knee so she was deciding to top out at Hogsback. I really wanted to top out ten feet below us. We decided to keep going to Hogsback and make another call up there.
Just as the sun poked over the rimed cliffs we got to the Hogsback. Kari called it for herself and offered to schlep the rope back down to the car. The summit was right there so I decided to keep going up, sans rope weight. The Pearly Gates looked pretty easy, even though another guy said it was icy and bailed back over to the Old Chute.
I climbed up nice steps to the left chute of the Gates to see how it was. The right chute looked more promising until a barrage of large ice chunks flew down said chute. I kept going up the left one and talked to a dude ahead of me who was in the steps. About then a large chunk of ice came down and crashed in front of me, breaking into a lot of pieces and bouncing off of my helmet. He said that was it for him and downclimbed to me and on down to the Hogsback. I went up a little further to see how hard it was. It looked super cool, but after seeing my left crampon move around a bit and more ice coming down, I decided it was time to head back down as well.
Rime ice continued to fall as I downclimbed to the Hogsback. Nothing terribly large was dropping so I finally felt comfortable. I saw one piece dropping and thought ‘That looks tiny, no biggie’ as it slammed into my right arm, causing me to scream like a child. That ended my thought of going up the Old Chute as I didn’t want any part of more falling ice.
I stood on the Hogsback listening to others discuss the conditions and whether it was good to bail or not. There were at least 40 people on the Old Chute face, which further sealed the deal. I adjusted my malcontent crampon and headed down. A few hours of trudging got me to the top of the Palmer, where I wished I magically had my skis, or at least my sled that I left at home. Another hour of hiking got me back to the car, where Kari was hanging out with a cider for us to split. I offered up some chocolate and we had a ghetto picnic in the parking lot before driving back home.