With my Everest climb cancelled (Nepal Earthquake Disaster), shortened summer vaca time (from a month to 5 days) & flew to Oregon – Plan B: Mt Hood, Crater Lake & another marathon (of course).

Briskly left my airport hotel at 5am (Studio 6 was a dive 🙁 ), quick stop at a 24-hour Walmart for lunch supplies & water – then an hour-half drive to Timberline Lodge in Gov’t Camp (trailhead to Oregon’s majestic Mount Hood).

Spent last week googling the multitude of reasons why not to hike Hood in August – but with a smile on my face & a pack overloaded for sub-Arctic conditions, took the PCT (right of the lodge), and started my day journey.  Veered off the PCT no more than half-mile in & started UP.  No ropes, no ice axe – 2 shirts, double socks, crampons & my bestest boots would have to do today.

Pro: ‘eye on the prize’ – No false summits, Hood is visible from Step 1.

Con: lack of switchbacks – In Colorado we’re spoiled with miles of trail to 14er summits.  In Oregon, it’s a straight path UP – 35% grade, no boulders, over volcanic dirt which hasn’t absorbed moisture in years.

Tough hike start – UP 3,000ft+ past Silcox Hut, to the top of a local ski lift (8,600ft).

Two steps up, one step back – like hiking in sand with no rock to steady your step.

Dust – whole lotta dust.  Like I imagine what hiking on Mars’ Mount Sharp would be like.  This area is generally packed with snow – absorbed directly in the atmosphere before melting into the volcanic soil below.  Effects of the California drought are visible up & down the Pacific West.  Streams are down, trees brown, forest fires reported from Northern California, across Western Canada, northward to Alaska.

During my ascent, stuck too close to the lift & lost Hogsback, pushing up Zigzag Canyon – Hood’s climbing route.  Slow going, dry hiking in August, no ropes – loose dirt & scree, strong smell of sulfur (fumaroles/volcanic vents).

Followed the fall line, hiked left of massive Palmer Glacier.  Absolutely stunning!

UP a 1,000ft of Palmer before floor conditions self-frustrated enough to try short steps on the glacier edge itself.  Super slick in August.  I watched the 2002 accident clip before I left Colorado – one wrong step, fast glissade, then down a crevasse.  Wore a bright orange cap this day – wanting to be identified, understanding the inherent danger.  Slow and steady.

Nearing the top of Palmer, I could free-climb up & further east – hiking the saddle over to Hood.  Is this possible?  I could hug Palmer Glacier, reach its top, find a break, traverse the glacier, righting myself closer to Hogsback.  Is this possible?

Lack of knowledge can kill ya.  Ideal to be hiking with a local or on a weekend, when I could copycat/tag-along other climbers.

Chose the glacier route, saw the glacier break – but ended it there.  Summit fail.  Not today – lotta snow, lotta ice, no other peeps on the mountain & lack of knowledge/questioned my skills.  Ate half a Walmart sub & took in some of the most amazing views.

Not a fan of the desolate hike landscape but Palmer Glacier & Mt Hood (only another 1,200ft UP) – hooked on that vision.  I’ll be back.

Mount Hood’s Palmer Glacier

 

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