Oregon: Part One - Mt. Hood
I have a lot of goals, one of them happens to be to climb all of the volcanoes in the cascades. To get started with this goal I decided I was going to tackle Mt Hood first.
I chose this route because of the low technicality and because it's close proximity to a metropolitan area, which was important for this trip because I am still too young to be trusted with a rental car.
So after arriving in Portland, I had some time to kill because I was meeting my good friend Tech from the PCT at a bar after work. We grabbed some drinks, ate a bit of food and headed off to my new friend Katie's talk at the Portland Patagonia store. After being told to follow our dreams by Katie we were off.
We ended up arriving at the base of Hood just as a thunder and lightning storm was passing by. We slept for 30 minutes before Tech asked me if I was still going to head up. With a resounding "HELL YES!" I jumped out of the jeep and started prepping for the long trek that would come next.
I started hiking at 1:30am. I was the only climber on the mountain from what I could tell, and what I could tell wasn't much. The first 3 hours of uphill hiking were filled with rain, sleet and snow. It was mother nature puking on me with everything she had to offer. I eventually made it up to the Palmer lift station where I was petrified because I could hear water rushing down something. Being in the clouds the whole 3 hours and not being able to see anything I had no idea what was around the bend. It turns out it was just snow melting off of the lift station.
I took a break here to drink some water and eat some food (snickers bars and reeses of course). All of a sudden the bright lights of a snowcat appeared. I first thought they were going to tell me it was too treacherous and I should turn around. To my amazement, 3 guides and their clients popped out, and started commenting on how it was raining... huh, if only you had hiked up that 2500ft you would know what the rain was like.
I continued climbing ahead of the guided groups. The temperatures started dropping as the warm front passed and the cold front started coming through. Everything was freezing including my headlamp. I had to switch out to my backup, thankfully, I had a backup.
The mountain got steeper and steeper. I'd like to think I maintained an even pace up the mountain, however, I'm not really sure. All I know was, it was dark, I was kind of lonely, and I was still headed up.
By 5:30 I had made it to the Devil's Kitchen. This is known by rocks and pores or whatever you want to call them that emit sulfur from volcano. Key note, don't hang out on the rocks because you will suffocate and die.
It was there I kept looking down at the guided groups. It appeared as if they weren't moving. I looked up at the summit. Not exactly sure at where these Pearly Gates I was supposed to cross through were. It was at that weird twilight time where I couldn't see anything. Clouds were rolling over the summit and I started getting cold from standing there. I thought about putting my puffy and other gear on to wait and see where the guided group went. However, I didn't want to be that guy that piggy backed off of the guided group and knew it would be extremely rude. With the clouds mostly staying over the summit I decided today wasn't my day to summit. I turned around. With little mountain to go and all that hard work behind me.
I started down. Plunging through the snow as I had reviewed in some youtube videos. When I reached the guided groups, I could tell the guides had questions. I told them what my predicament was, alone, unsure of where to go, white out on top. They understood, and said thanks for kicking steps into the way up for them. I continued down. Eventually the clouds would part with phenomenal views down the mountain. Going down was exciting because I would go through clouds where I couldn't see more than 3 feet in front of me. Luckily I had my GPS, where I tracked my path up and was able to follow it again on the way down.
Looking back at the summit, I might have been able to make it when the clouds broke, but was it worth the risk? I still say no. I think I made the right call. The mountain isn't going anywhere.
I made the slog down and woke Tech up from his nap before stripping off my gear and planning the rest of the day.
I love this mountain.