So the short version: We were within 300 vertical feet of the summit, and had to turn back due to ice fall. Below is he story in gory detail. I know this is another “dear diary” but I feel like sharing :).
This appeared to be the perfect situation for making a successfull summit of hood this spring. There haven’t been nearly the normal number due to the freak storms causing high avalanch danger and the interspersed heat waves that have caused excessive ice fall. Two people were injured this past weekend due to this. Today, however, was supposed to be the best shot for the next couple of weeks due to the storm that dumped rain on Portland tuesday, but was supposed to leave “minimal” snow on Hood (~0.5 inches). After the warm weather, the snow was consolodated and the avalanche danger would be low. Plus, the cold front would keep the ice together on the crater rim. The weather forcast and or the thought process was a bit wrong. Here is what happened:
We left Timberline last night in a total blizzard with a temperature of 29. I thought the climb leader would call it, but we went forward as the weather was supposed to clear. After hiking in conditions I wouldn’t even ski in for about 3 hours, we reached the top of the Palmer snowfield and indeed, the snow subsided and the stars came out. However, the cold did not stop, but this was part of the plan. After donning crampons at this point, we made our way up around crater rock. The sunrise and the very crecent moon were great. Up there, you can see the entire moon with the sun shining on the small part. Kind of looks like a death star. From there, we made our way up to the Hogsback. The entire time it was getting colder and colder. When we stopped at the bottom of the Hogsback to eat, put on our harnesses and rope up, it was 10 degrees with 20-30 MPH winds. This corresponds to a -12 wind chill factor. I had my gloves off for about 1-2 minutes and really frost bit them. They are still purple and num on the tips. Roped up, we ascended the Hogsback and cut over left to go up the “Old Shute” we had just gotten onto the shoot and by this time the sun was rocks and warming up fast. Now we had the opposite problem. After about 15 more minutes, a few chunks of ice began to fall. At this point, we could make the Summit, but probably not make it down safely. As we started decending, the sun started hitting the 2 ft (not 0.5 inches) of fresh snow that had fallen and was now being warmed. Avalanches most commonly occur between 30 and 45 degrees. However, apparently 38 degrees is the sweet spot for slopes. The slope we had to go under is 37 degrees. If we would have gotten caught up in an avalance there, we would probably be washed over the cliffs directly below the formed gully. So now we in a rush just to get out of the crater. The final loosener was the fact that Timberline has put the kybosch on glissading in their “area” This meant it was only safe to glissade a short distance above the Palmer chair lift. From there, with the increased heat and intense sun, I totally burned the bottom of my nose and the inside of my nostrils.
This is definitely the most physically, and possibly emotionally demanding things I have ever done. It was a lot of work to get so far and come up short. However, at least I am back in one piece. I will post some photos soon.