Mount Hood Half Climb
May 18, 2013
Coordinator: Fritz Capell
Summit Altitude: 8800 feet
Elevation Gain: 2800 feet
Excursion Time: 6 hours (car-to-car)
Carpool ratio: 1.5 (people/cars)
Six of us set out from Timberline Lodge shortly after 6 am: 2013 climb school students Carrie, Trevor, and Nathan, plus myself, Michael, and Alex, from previous years. Our goal was to climb the more conveniently-located half of Mount Hood's South Route, up to about 9000 feet, to gain some experience on the mountain and to test out our gear and physiques.
It was raining as we arrived at the lodge, so we prepared for a wet experience, but it turned to snow almost immediately after we began to ascend. The weather was not unpleasant - just below freezing, with a persistent 20-25 mph west wind and moderate snowfall. Seen better, seen worse.
The visibility was very poor for the entire trip, and worsening with altitude. We never saw Crater Rock, Illumination, or the Steel Cliffs, even for an instant. We didn't really see anything. We followed the climbers' trail up to Silcox, and then the Palmer lift line, up to the lift building at the top, which we reached about 9:30am. Surprisingly, the building was open, and we were able to take shelter inside.
Though the problems with visibility were apparent, we pressed on intrepidly into the whiteness toward our 9000 foot goal. Our intrepidness lasted for about 15 minutes before we turned back due to poor visibility. We were never entirely whited-out, but pretty close, and even at best we could see only 40-50 feet. It was not what I would consider prudently navigable. We did not meet any climbers returning from the summit; we saw only one other climbing group, and they turned around at the top of Palmer - which I was glad to see, because they did not seem adequately prepared for that mountain, especially under those conditions.
Since the top of Palmer offered such a comfortable respite, we stopped there to eat our lunches, and then headed back down the lift line. When we reached Silcox again, we happened to see a very large crow perched on the roof, and a girl from the hut came out and gave him a number of large pieces of bread, which he proceeded to gather, stash, and apparently bury in the dirt. She said there is a pair of them that live somewhere down around the treeline, but they frequent the hut for bread and other goodies.
We reached the lodge again between 12 and 12:30.
In all, it was a perfect experience for a half-climb: weather somewhat hostile but not unbearable, and a good example of the challenge of visibility on that mountain. Everybody did really well and learned a little, we all had a good time, and I would be perfectly comfortable recommending the three new students for a future Hood climb. Solid and excellent climbers all.
Thanks everybody for making it a successful half-climb!
Fritz (leader) says:
Fritz (leader) says:
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