Ascent of Mount Hood on 2011-06-09

Climber: William Musser

Others in Party:David Musser
Date:Thursday, June 9, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Snowmobile
Peak:Mount Hood
    Elevation:11239 ft / 3425 m

Ascent Trip Report

Day one was actually the 8th where we had mountaineering school. Practicing glisading, self arrest, various rope and snow step techniques, use of crampons. We went to bed early at 6 PM. Alarm woke us at 11:30 PM time to put on the multi layers and drive back up to the Timberline Lodge to meet the others at 12:30 AM. Our gides from Timberline were Rodney Sofich and Ben. The other member of our climbing team was Joe Cook and federal enforcement officer on assignment to "audit" the climbing lease and some older gentlemen that ended up staying with Rodney. This was their second attempt at Hood and used Rodney last year. Weather and one climber forced them to retreat last year. There was a large overnight team of about 12 people with other Timberline guides as well.

Day two the snow cat left at 1:00 AM and drove the ski slopes from Elevation 6000 to 8500. We began our ascent at 1:30 AM. The neve snow was like a snow with a light ice crust - was perfect and we put on our crampons and used them from the start to the summit. The slopes begin a nice gentle 15 to 20 degrees but get up around 30 degrees approaching the "hot rock" vents. It was still dark and Rodneys team was far slower than us so Ben split us out from Rodney's team and we ascended at a much faster pace from then on. We caught and passed several times the large team that spent the night up on the mountain. Finally passing them for the last time, we headed to Crater Rock and Devil's Kitchen which have lots of warm gases rising and the smell of rotten eggs (H2S)was apparent. The volcano apparently had last activity in the 1800s but there was a lot of gas features (phemerals sp??) near where the southern rim is missing. We used Palmer Glacier then Zigzag Glacier then Coalman Glacier. All were more of snow field all though there was some small fissures that acted liked a secondary bergschrund. The is a bergschrund near the top of the glacier but we scooted to the left of it to head to Old Chute

Our team of 4 ( David and I with Joe Cook and our guide Ben) roped up at one of the steaming vents at elevation 10,400 or so. The pitch slowly increased to 35 then 40 degrees in the upper bowl. Another faster independent team and solo climber passed us and cut strong grooves in the snow and we followed them in the larger chute to the far west side to get the best rim topping out while other teams headed to the smaller chutes to our right. The steepest slope near the rim was 40 to no more than 45 degrees and we used the low dagger on the ice ax to steady ourselves. We had long passed our starting team and the overnight team. Rodney saw us come out of the couloir as he was ascending with his team to our left. He was successful in getting them up this year!

The rim topping out was amazing as the crater rim at this particular chutes is only a few feet wide and it is 45 degrees on the ascent side but to the north it plunges far more vertical. We were there to see the sun about to rise and spotted Mount St Helens, Mount Rainier, and other prominent peaks to the north.

We worked along the crater rim with some undulations and summitted at 5 AM. We were not the first to summit but there were only 2 groups ahead of us. We had plenty of time to ourselves before the masses would catch us. Impressive as the slopes were filling with climbers that looked like ants crawling up to join us. The sunrise was beautiful and clear. The shadow of Mount Hood reflected on the clouds far below was interesting to see and film and was capped with a sundevil rainbow with double rings.

On the way down, Ben sank and anchor and to avoid the other groups upclimbing the other larger chutes all around us, selected a very narrow and steep chute (or short couloir) to the far east since none-one was using it coming up and nobody appeared to be in queue to use it below us. It started out 10 feet wide but narrowed to only a few feet and became icy and steep. I believe this was in the area of the Pearly gates but I am not sure, I just remember it was farther to the right (looking up the mountain) or farther left looking down and very steep. There was one tricky section that probably was 50 degrees for a short stint. He belayed us for a full pitch of rope back stepping thru the chute for a rapid descent past the other teams climbing to our left.

Luckily we were up fast and in perfect rime ice and back underneath the hogsback early. Our other climbing team lead by Rodney Sofich with three other climbers ( 2 of which were even older than me!!! in their 60s) were far slower and witnessed the accident on the mountain described later herein.

Since we climbed the next two days with Rodney we heard his account as well - the accident on the mountain was after we cleared the ridge so we never even heard it. A refrigerator size chunk of rime ice or larger, cleaved from the corniced area and began breaking into fast moving chunks in the fall line towards many climbers. Rodney's team by now was safely on the hogsback ridge and watched as the ice fell through the Timberline overnight team and one woman was hit in the face and scraped and another woman was not able to duck and hurt her ankle. More ice fell past them and seeked out but another woman climber from and non guided group and hurt her bad enough they had to get emergency folks to take her down. No serious injuries but enough of a scare to get local attention in the paper the next morning as follows:

Mount Hood climber injured by falling ice chunk.
By The Associated Press

An Oregon woman climbing on Mount Hood has been brought down off the mountain after a giant ice chunk hit her, causing her to fall about 300 feet. Clackamas County sheriff’s spokesman Jim Strovink says 30-year-old Meredith Jaques of Hood River is reported to have suffered head, neck and back injuries. She was brought down by toboggan late Thursday afternoon to Timberline Lodge and sent on to a Hood River hospital. Witnesses said three other climbers suffered minor injuries when the 20 feet by 40 feet ice chunk broke loose.

and this account from another paper:

Published: Thursday, June 09, 2011
By Noelle Crombie, The Oregonian

A team of American Medical Response paramedics and Portland Mountain Rescuers is en route to the Hogsback area of Mount Hood this morning to help a 30-year-old female climber who was injured in a "slight slide." The rescue is expected to take another three hours while the ten person team locates the woman and brings her down on a sled to Palmer Glacier. One of the mountain's Snowcats will take over transportation from there. The woman is currently being cared for by the 12 members of the group she was climbing with including a retired physician.
Clackamas County Sheriff's Detective Jim Strovink said the climber had injuries to her scalp and minor injuries to her back.
"Her back injuries are reportedly not too bad but she has a nasty gash on her head,” Strovink said.

"Obviously, there's concern but there's no sense of urgency here," he said, adding that the paramedics know the woman's location and her injuries are not significant.

That makes two state high points I have done now where there has been an accident on the day I was doing them (Maine-Baxter Peak on the knife edge last year a cameraman helicoptered off from injury). Reminds you to be cautious, prepared, and use guides when you are mountains that you are not familiar with and realize it is an activity with risk.

Lower on the slope, the sun came out and the snow became mushy and we peeled layers. The day before it dropped below 32 and snowed on us. Today on the way down it got into the 40s. David and I sped back to the car after taking plenty of photos. We all practiced glissading for fun and Dave and I were at the car at elevation 6,000 by 8:30 AM. We beat all the other Timberline teams up and down for the day so we were happy with our pace.

Extra Gain = from descending the hogsback ridge to the steaming vents and we started with a more easterly side of the upper bowl so that we could reach the rim of the volcano at the narrowest part of the knife edge at sunrise. There was also some minor traverse up and down along the ridge and in other locations.
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
After successful summit, preparing to descend through the gate as the morning sun reflects the peak of the volcano above onto the clouds below (2011-06-09). Photo by William Musser.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2929 ft / 892 m
    Total Elevation Loss:5429 ft / 1654 m
    Round-Trip Distance:4.6 mi / 7.4 km
    Grade/Class:1, 2, 3, 5
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Snow on Ground, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Ski Poles, Guide
    Weather:Cold, Breezy, Clear
Perfect Snow climb weather 36F leaving - summit 32 F Timberline 46F
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2869 ft / 874 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 2739 ft / 835 m; Extra: 130 ft / 39m
    Loss on way in:130 ft / 39 m
    Distance:1.8 mi / 2.9 km
    Route:South Face to Old Chute
    Start Trailhead:Cat track drop off  8500 ft / 2590 m
    Time:3 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:5299 ft / 1615 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 5239 ft / 1597 m; Extra: 60 ft / 18m
    Gain on way out:60 ft / 18 m
    Distance:2.8 mi / 4.5 km
    Route:same except descended down lowering thru Pearly Ga
    End Trailhead:Timberline Lodge  6000 ft / 1828 m

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