Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Climbing Mt. Hood

Sorry for the third hiking/climbing post in recent days, but I'm on a roll.

I already told about my inspiration to climb mountains in a previous post. Perhaps the most ambitious climbing adventure was ten years ago when my oldest son, Blair, and I decided to climb Mt. Hood, the highest peak in Oregon. While a number of people have perished on Mt. Hood in climbing accidents over the years, I figured that thousands climb it each year, and if we did our research and preparations, and were careful, we would be okay (even without a guide or going with an experienced group).

We rented ice axes, crampons, and boots from REI and headed to Timberline at around 4500 ft. elevation to start our climb to 11,249 ft. just after midnight. It is recommended to climb at night so you can summit soon after dawn while the snow is still firm and debris won't fall on you. I found the hardest thing about the climb was mental--specifically climbing all night in the dark. Even though it was July and pleasant weather, there was a breeze blowing down the mountain off the snow and it was quite cold. We rested perhaps an hour about half way up and we felt rather discouraged and tired. But we kept going.

It got steeper and more precarious towards the top, but once we started seeing light in the eastern sky our spirits rose and we were doing fine. Just below the summit is the Hogsback, and the Bergschrund (a deep crevasse you have to hike around and jump over).

We used the ice axe to plant with each step so we always had stable footing on the very steep final section. Just don't look down, keep moving, and don't think about it too much (I'm very afraid of heights!). Then, the exhilaration of reaching the summit!

We could see all the prominent NW Cascade peaks up and down the range. We could see Portland to the west. Then there was the long slog back down the mountain, and the tiredness from no sleep and hard climbing settled in.

Ever since I have not looked at Mt. Hood the same. I see the majestic peak towering in the eastern horizon and contemplate standing there on the top.

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