Friday morning, 01-Apr-2016 (Like… seriously early morning. Sort of 31-March-2016 evening, even)
I see it sometimes, biking home from work.
I’ve seen it most mornings, driving from Portland into Hood River.
And from Horsethief, it’s a lone Beacon against the sky.
Mt Hood can’t be missed where I live.
That means I need to climb it!
While exploring in Seattle Sarah had noticed that the weather over the next week would be beautiful – sunny, warm, and no snow/rain in the Mt. Hood area. Which is ideal weather for a summit attempt; the key is that the sun will bake down the snow, thickening it up and making hiking much easier. And Mt. Hood is best hiked in the winter, since the snow fields hold the loose rock together, and in one section actually form a ramp that gets you through the caldera of the volcano.
So we planned it up, found a third person who wanted to come along (or, more accurately, Sarah and Stacy invited me to be their third) and made the plans to make the attempt!
We all met up at 11:30 PM on 31-March in the parking lot of the Timberline Lodge. Sarah and Stacy were already napping when I arrived, so I took their lead and curled up in the back of the Mustang for a few quick minutes of sleep. Then at 12:30 we roused, packed up, filled out forms, and headed up!
The walk… well, it’s long. The real killer is that we hiked by headlamp… which caused shadows which made me think that the trail was leveling out just barely a dozen yards ahead. When, of course, it was just as steep as before, continuing onward and upward in a never ending trudge of alpine suffering.
So I kept walking.
We took a short break, and I collapsed onto the crash pad I’d brought as a seat.
We started up again, and I kept walking, following Sarah and Stacy upward.
We started smelling the fumaroles – volcanic vents from the core of the mountain (yes, Hood is a volcano… a mostly dormant one). The vents spewed out sulphuric gas… not especially dangerous unless you’re in the vent itself, and even then it takes (from what I hear) hours for a person to suffocate from the exposure. But even hiking up… you can smell them. Rotten eggs, a stench that isn’t overpowering… but it’s there.
Combining the smell with the altitude… I was having trouble. I haven’t ever really hiked above 4,000ft, and here we were at 8,000+. I had a headache, and my legs were tired. But what else is there to do? I kept walking.
The sun started to peek over the ridge line. We kept walking.
Finally… I couldn’t keep walking. Sarah coaxed me upward another hundred yards, to a spot where the slope leveled off and I could lay out to rest. Those steps were seriously some of the hardest that I’ve ever taken in my life… my crampons were slicing into the ice, and my axe kept me balanced… but they didn’t help.
I kept dropping to my knees every few steps. I wasn’t even hungry, and water wasn’t helping me out at all.
So, I rested. Sarah rolled out my pad. Stacy pulled out the sleeping bag that we’d brought in case of emergency. I drank some water, ate some food, and slept.
While I was out, the ladies hiked a bit farther – around a fin called Illumination Rock. Stacy headed down from there, while Sarah came back to check on me. We rested, then headed back down the mountain.
The drive home was difficult, but we made it. I slept like a log, passing out as soon as we got back to the house. The rest of the weekend was relaxing – recovering, mostly. Taking Ollie for some playtime in the Columbia River, and enjoying being at sea level once again.