Archive for: June, 2016

Mt. Hood, Old Chute

Mt. Hood, Old Chute

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

Despite the unbeatable weather, when we pulled into Timberline Sunday morning the stoke level was at an unusual low. We were both feeling the effects of a short night, and pulling our packs out of the car brought the unfortunate realization that we only had one pair of crampons between the two of us. This was especially disappointing as we had tried unsuccessfully to summit this mountain multiple times, and were now determined to finally get to the top. So, as Beyoncé would do, we made our lemons into lemonade. We hoped that the warm weather and softening snow would make crampons more of a bonus than a necessity. We thought at least we could start moving up, and see how far we could get.

The first 2700’ up the south side route run just climbers right of the Palmer chair, which this time of year is shuttling paying skiers most of the way up the mountain. Skinning this stretch can be a bit of a slog, but we found a good rhythm and enjoyed watching racers bash gates as they cruised down the slope. We made respectable time to the top of Palmer, and stopped for lunch about 3000’ above the car. At this point the grade started to steepen, but the snow was soft in the 80+ degree weather and this made for smooth progress.

At a little over 9000’ we found ourselves on the wrong side of narrow stretch of rocks running the fall line. We took off our skis and scrambled left back to the snow, where we had a mostly clear view of the path to the summit. Crater Rock lay another 1000’ above us, and from there you could follow the boot pack straight up through the Pearly Gates or left towards Old Chute. Steel Cliffs loomed tall and sheer to the right. Directly ahead of us Devil’s Kitchen was a jagged cliff band covered in snow and rime, jetting up into up into the cloudless sky. As the temperature rose, we heard frequent ice and rock fall tumbling from these cliffs.

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From there we could see that the grade would soon prohibit skinning. We strapped our skis to our packs, and I put on Sam’s crampons. The thinking was that Sam would get more purchase on the footholds in his ski boots than I would in my snowboard boots, and therefore that I should have the spikes. We started gaining ground quickly, and as hoped he was plenty comfortable without extra traction. By the time we gained Crater Rock we had multiple incentives to keep moving. The steam from the fumaroles was so thick with sulfur it was uncomfortable to breathe, and the warming temperatures meant increasing rock and ice fall from the upper cliffs. We angled left towards Old Chute due to its more modest grade, and put all our energy into punching through that channel as quickly as possible.

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At the top of Old Chute we came up the south side of a knife-edge. Peering over this ridge I saw that the north face of the mountain fell away below me, and Rainier, Adams, and St. Helens appeared in the distance. We carefully followed the ridge right to the summit. Although it was relatively warm from the constant sun, the wind was whipping on the summit and we were happy to add a few layers. Once we were more bundled we could better take in the view – in addition to the Washington volcanoes we had stunning views of Jefferson, the Sisters, and the Columbia River Gorge.

For the descent we walked back along the ridge line to the top of Old Chute, and strapped in there. The very top of the chute was steep and slick, and I was glad to have my ice axe in hand. About 200’ below the ridge it opened up into cirque with soft corn and smooth turns. It had been four months since I had ridden due to a broken foot, and I was thrilled to be back on the board. The descent was quick, and the snow made for fun riding down to the top of Palmer. At that point the lift had closed, and we had the runs to ourselves. The snow was stickier that far down, but skied out enough that we weren’t lurching out of our boots. At the bottom we followed the last thin track of dirty snow all the way to the parking lot. It’s always great to finally bag a summit that has skunked you a few times, and the lemonade that day was especially sweet.

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Snow Creek Wall, Outer Space

Snow Creek Wall, Outer Space

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

What originally was planned as a weekend mission out to climb Leavenworth, became a day trip to do Outer Space when the weather went sideways. Turns out we missed a nasty day on Saturday too. The guy at the shop in town said “it just doesn’t rain like that here often”. However by Sunday it had all blown through so we cruised out there to take advantage of the second longest day of 2016.

We left Seattle a little after 8am arriving in the Snow Creek parking lot about 1030am. We were on the trail by 11am. It took us about 50 min to get to the cut off to cross Snow Creek. The trail cuts left after crossing the creek, goes over some logs and then joins a well worn path up the hill to the base of the wall. We skipped that though, in favor of a bushwhack up the right side until we got worn out and traversed over to the base of the route.

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There were probably 3 or 4 teams on the wall when we arrived but it moves fairly quickly and we didn’t have to wait long to get going. We started on the Remorse variation, to the left of the vegetated gully. It sort of just meanders left until you hit the ledge just within earshot and almost a full 70 meters of rope out. From there the second pitch climbs the ramp to the right straight up the the Two Tree ledge and joins with Outer Space proper.

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From here we found our groove and knocked off the crux pitch up to the short pedestal ledge where we sat and thought about climbing while we let a couple of faster local dudes pass us. They were nice about it though and despite going ahead, they left some rock for us to climb.

From there it is two pitches of a steep, splitter hand crack to the top. The crack is only interrupted once at the start of the final pitch with a bit of a tough move, stepping left off of the belay ledge and using a finger crack and a couple of far left knobs.

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We topped out a bit before 7pm and rushed down to beat the light. The walk off sucks big time but it is well marked so I guess whatever. I think we were back at the base of the wall by 8pm and back at the car by 930pm. Over all a great climb, a classic route and a very long day.

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