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Exploring Reid on the Mount Hood Graduation Climb

Hi SACsters,

No climb school students made the 5/11 Mt. Hood South Side climb, so Gregg Huld, Kipp Bajaj and Doug Adair headed off to see what kind of shape the west side of the mountain was in. Recent substantial snows, low freezing levels, weeks of cloudy skies, and several days of east wind meant lots of snow on Castle Crags and the Reid Glacier Headwall. After passing on the Castle Crags ramps, the group lead another team (who said they intended to do Leuthold Couloir) on a high traverse of the Reid below Castle Crags. Taking the first opportunity to climb, we were met with a widening bergschrund running for hundreds of feet along the face of the Reid. Doug probed the first likely snow bridge, pronounced it highly questionable, and proceeded to collapse the bridge of fluff into the 'schrund (on careful belay, of course) (photo 1). After climbing out, the second likely snow bridge proved the better choice. The team kicked 1,000' up the Headwall through deep snow, but after another team nearby announced that the ridge ended in a cliff, and after the summit and west crater rim disappeared in clouds, we carefully backed down the bootpack (such as it was). After jumping the bergschrund, we paused to adjust our gear when from the nearby cliffs we heard a loud "Crack." A large avalanche had released from high in the rimed rocks and dusted us on the way by. A bit shaken, we hurried across the mounds of new snow, looking up at the cliffs to see if there were other potential sources of concern (photo 2 with Reid Headwall and Yocum Ridge behind). Fortunately, the snows held and we made it back to Illumination Saddle with a tale to tell the tent city of Mazamas encamped there.

On the way down to Timberline, we heard of a team that attempted Steel Cliffs with the same result (slow going slogging through lots of snow, avy issues, poor protection opportunities). Unless there is a marked change in conditions (unlikely due to the continuation of the prevailing weather pattern and relatively low freezing levels), the 5/18 Wy'East/Steel Cliff climb will morph into a South Side graduation climb. I'll make that determination no later than Tuesday, 5/13.

Doug Adair

Santiam Alpine Club


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