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Mount Hood

Excursion Time: 4 hours car-to-car
Carpool Ratio (people/cars): 4 - a new record!

A Santiam Alpine Club team made a valiant assault on Mount Hood, on January 20, 2010, and made it... oh, about a quarter of the way.

The team consisted of myself, Jenny Wang, Simon Boyd, and Rick Matula. We started from Timberline Lodge about 11:30pm.

The weather was brutal, 10-12F with a constant battering northeast wind, 30-40 mph. Saying it was cold hardly does justice to the experience. Of course we hoped that at least the wind would let up a little, but no such luck. It was so windy that is was difficult to walk, and the headwind slowed our progress. Any exposed skin was quickly aching with cold. We were ready for cold, of course, but this was pushing the limits of our preparations.

The snow surface added additional unpleasantness. The wind created a weak crust, which would usually break easily, but sometimes wouldn't, leaving a slippery wind-scoured surface. Everybody took numerous spills. The trail was cat-tracked up to Silcox, so that part was fine, but above that, if there was a groomed trail, we couldn't find it.

After two hours it was clear that we weren't having any fun and had little chance of doing so this night; we pushed on another hour trying to reach the top of Palmer, but eventually gave up even on that. After all, there was a sunny tomorrow on the flatlands that we could yet enjoy if we just gave up and went home.

Ultimately what turned us back was my cold feet. For some reason the boot/sock system I used successfully last year isn't working out this year, and my toes start to freeze almost immediately. I had the same problem on the last conditioning climb, and had attempted some improvements, but to no avail. Other than that, we were holding our own pretty well in spite of the conditions, and could certainly have continued right on to the summit, or at least halfway, if we had a taste for the misery.

There was almost nobody else on the mountain. One the ascent, we saw a team of three and a solo climber also turning back, and later we saw another team still ascending toward the Leuthold Couloir and refusing to admit that as soon as nobody was looking, they were going to turn back too.

Unfortunately, the wind assisted us in adding one glove and one green helmet to the mountain's Spring Yard Sale.

We turned back around 2:30am, reaching the Lodge about 3:30. All in all, another adventure-filled day in the mountains! Thanks everybody for enjoying it with me! Kudos on the bravery of even getting out there, being adequately forewarned what brutal conditions awaited!

Fritz Capell

Santiam Alpine Club


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