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Mount Hood, South Route

In the summer of 2002 while climbing Mount Adams, Peter, our oldest, said he wanted to climb Mount Hood. What is it with Mount Hood, I wondered. I had not intended to take the kids up Hood until they could participate as full rope team members. But I set about figuring out how to get them up safely while they would still be dead weight on the rope. First, I determined to climb early in the season while the bergshrund was filled with snow. That way any fall would most likely end in a harmless run out. On the down side, camping in the early season can be a butt freeze, one we would have to live with.

Second, I decided to place protection and use a running belay. In a March 2003 climb I used pickets and determined both that five was a sufficient number of anchors and that pickets were worthless on that pitch in the early season. Snow flukes were selected for anchors.

Because no rental boots and crampons were small enough for Benjamin in 2003, Peter and I headed up by ourselves in early 2003. Cold winds convinced Peter we should turn around, which we did after one night. No other weekend opportunities presented themselves in 2003. So, third, I determined to watch the weather and take the kids up when conditions were optimal, even if that meant pulling them out of school.

In looking around for someone to join the climb, most of what I heard back was, "Not my kid on that mountain," or, "Not that heavy a pack on my back," (one of the fitness benefits of multi-day climbs with small kids). The one other climber and kid combination who were interested had a schedule conflict with what ended up being the dates. I had earlier asked Rich Margosian if he would join the rope team on summit day to, fourth, double the odds of catching any fall while still in self-belay. Rich agreed, ended up being able to make the summit date and caught many falls on the descent while still in self-belay.

So, finally to the details of the climb. We drove through rain up to the mountain, the last remnants of a light storm that had moved through the day before. Timberline Lodge was fogged in and it was too cold to get started. We hung out for awhile waiting for the sun. We started climbing at 9:45. The wind was intense during the first hour of climbing. Benjamin wanted to turn back. But I assured him things would get better, which they did a bit. We camped on the snow at 7,850' in a slight depression east of Palmer that offered some wind protection. Although the wind had let up some, it was never calm on the first day.

After the sun came up on day two I headed out of the tent to relieve myself. It was so cold in the wind I had to pull my pants up in between wipes to keep my butt warm. When back at the tent I told the kids we would hang out for awhile, wait for the sun to warm things up. We started climbing at 10:00 and climbed in comfortable conditions to 9,600', near the summit of Triangle Moraine. The wind was coming from the north and east, so by climbing higher we were able to find calm in the shelter of the caldera walls. We camped on the northwest corner of the moraine, usually a spot to be avoided to escape the standard west wind.

On the third day we awoke to continued calm conditions. We set off at 8:00. By the time we reached the base of Hogsback around 9:30, the boys were roasting in their snow bibs, so the bibs came off for the climb up Hogsback. Rich had been there since 7:00 (I'll save the readers from the reasons for the time difference). But it was warm there, actually a bit too warm, so Rich was fine. On the summit we encountered the first wind of the day. The goose down had to be broken out. We grabbed a few summit photos. The boys had been calling their school classes each day with a progress report. They were supposed to call from the summit but the phone would not pick up a signal there. So we headed down out of the wind after only a short time. Summit phone calls were made from the base of Hogsback after the descent. Benjamin was spent from the climb. The short time on the summit did not allow him enough time to recover. He fell many times on the descent of Hogsback, but after a long rest there was fine for the remainder of the trip down the mountain. After breaking down camp we got out sleds at about 9,300' or 9,400' and rode the sleds all the way to Timberline Lodge. The boys crashed and burned a number of times, which made for splendid fun.

That's the whole tale about how a nine and an eleven year old reached the Hood summit. While Peter was gung-ho, this was his requested mountain after all, Benjamin had doubts and fears along the way. The night before we went for the summit Benjamin was tossing, turning and jolting out of sleep what seemed like all night. After reaching the summit, while we were tearing down high camp Benjamin remarked, "I'm not playing GameBoy. I'm not playing a computer game. I'm not reading a book. I'm doing something real." Benjamin could finally enjoy himself.


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