Mt Hood Leuthold
March 24, 2019
Coordinator: Andy DeGregorio
On March 24, 2019 four intrepid members of SAC met at Timberline Ski Resort at 12:00 midnight to attempt a route up Mt Hood none of them had previously tried: The Leuthold route. Any self-respecting Oregonian climber, serious about being a real Alpinist has probably climbed or has wanted to climb this route. It is much longer than any of the routes on the south face of the mountain and introduces the adventurous climbers to areas on the west and north sides of the mountain not frequently seen. It provides climbers with a host of different conditions that require a wide set of alpine skills. Route finding, steep exposed slopes, deep snow, hard and rime ice, and long ascents up challenging chutes through narrow passes all make for a serious night and day on â€śourâ€ť iconic volcano. As we started, beneath pitch-black skies, we were met almost immediately with a freezing rain and gusty winds. The higher we climbed the colder and worse the conditions got. We collectively questioned if we would even try to cross over to the west side of the mountain if the conditions didnâ€™t improve further up the route. We made good time to the top of the Palmer lift and over to Illumination Rock, where we peered over into the dark abyss of the Reid glacier on the west face of the mountain. We could just barely make out the outline of the Yokum Ridge, our major land mark, but the rain had stopped and the wind had subsided to where we felt more positive about our chances.
We put on our harnesses, crampons and helmets and tied into our rope. Ben took the lead, then Andy, Mark and Joe took the anchor position. From Illumination Rock we descended down onto the Reid glacier heading north towards the base of Yokum Ridge, where we then turned more easterly and began our ascent in search of the Hour Glass passage. The Skies were still black as we skirted along the base of the ridge looking for an avenue up and over. Ben and Andy took turns breaking trail and route fining through, at times, fairly deep snow. It was challenging. Mark, the most senior of the group, took a turn or two in the front but was rapidly tiring while Joe, quietly in the back, was beginning to have some problems of his own. Consequently, the yeomanâ€™s work on this climb was being done by Ben and Andy. One of the horrors we all hope will never happen to us when we are high on a mountain was happening to Joe. His digestive system was starting to give him intermittent fits which required him to make pit- stops and make use of the dreaded â€śBlue Bagâ€ť. Yup, it was the â€śDâ€ť word. Being a nature lover and true environmentalist, Joe did the honorable thing. That which he packed in, he was going to pack out. What a â€ścrappyâ€ť thing to happen on such a challenging night! Up we climbed, searching for the Hour Glass pass. The climbing was steep and owing to how dark it was we had a difficult time determining just where we were on the mountain. Our different GPS sightings didnâ€™t seem to help, and unfortunately, we chose to ascend a very steep chute that turned out to be too far to the right of the pass. Andy did an almost heroic lead up this nasty chute that alternated between hip deep snow and very hard surface ice. We later determined we had probably climbed up to a part of the Reid headwall. We carefully climbed until we could no longer safely go higher. Eventually, there was no reasonable way to go higher and our only option was to turn around and down climb the hundreds of feet we had just struggled up. And to add insult to the situation, Joeâ€™s nemesis struck again! In honor of Joeâ€™s stamina and patience in the face of his challenges, he suggested we call the errant chute, â€śJoeâ€™s Poop Chuteâ€ť. We all laughed, and agreed. (Beware of the Poop Chute if you climb this route, you wouldnâ€™t want to be the â€śbuttâ€ť of anyoneâ€™s jokes.) By the time we got back down, dawn was breaking and the correct route to the open slopes above Yokum Ridge became obvious, which made us feel much better. However, what was equally obvious was that we still had quite a bit of mountain to climb. It is at this point of the climb one feels similar to when climbing on the open slopes of Mt. Rainier or Mt. Shasta. You can see climbers high above on the horizon that look like small dots as they zigzag slowly towards the summit. The way was clear; it was mostly a long slog to the summit. Ben and Andy made good time higher, while Mark and Joe took a more pedestrian pace.
The views on this side of the mountain are breathtaking! It was easy to take breaks and pause to take in the majesty of the frozen wonderland. All around there were beautiful ice covered rock features that stimulated our imaginations. This is truly a magnificent route! Ben hurried ahead to the summit area while Andy patiently waited for Joe and Mark. Alice, Benâ€™s sweetheart and life-companion, was solo climbing the south face of Mt Hood while we were climbing the Leuthold. The guys got to the summit first, but it wasnâ€™t long before Ben saw Alice making good time up through the Pearly Gates and onto the summit. She had started her climb several hours after we had, and reached the summit in a blistering 4 hours! Way to go Alice!
Conditions on the summit were clear, calm and beautiful. We all hugged and high fived one another, enjoyed the views and took the obligatory summit group photos. The trip down through the Pearly Gates was uneventful, but different than most years. There wasnâ€™t much of a boot pack on the Hogâ€™s back this year, but the snow was soft and forgiving making our descent fairly easy. We each took our time coming down. Joe, once again, had to stop and take care of business, bless hisâ€¦.. heart!
One the way down, we came across a couple climbers stopped on the side of the ski run, one of which was suffering from dehydration. Apparently, several other climbers had passed by them, but no one was willing to stop and help. In true SAC fashion, our group stopped and rendered help to the ailing climber. Andy still had a water bottle mostly full of water, which he freely gave to the thirsty man while Ben ran down the ski slope to where a lift operator was located and asked him to notify the ski patrol that here was a climber in distress above. In time, help arrived and the sick climber was given a box of juice and a ride down the mountain by the ski patrol. It was a fitting end to a great day on Mt Hood. We all had a very successful climb and demonstrated the values that make members of the Santiam Alpine club such wonderful people.
Log In to participate in the forum.