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Mount Hood from Trillium Lake, Oregon

Peak Week, Day 5

Climbing Mt Hood

When I completed my solo ice climb of Mt Hood I had never seen the mountain in person in the daylight, arriving into Portland late the night before. I had done tons of research and many interviews, but as I sat at the trailhead in pitch blackness that May morning, I wasn’t sure I was ready. Scared, actually. People had died here.

My procrastination cost me valuable time. Typically climbers should be off the summit by the time sun hits the steep escape route, turning it to deadly slush. In fact just a few weeks later 4 climbers did in fact die on this same route, and their rescue helicopter crashed!

I talked my self into beginning my ascent by relieving myself of the pressure of getting to the top. “Just climb until the sun comes up so you can take a few pics, then turn around if you want to.” It was similar “carrots” like this, dangling in front of my nose, that kept me climbing higher.

As the sky began to brighten in the early dawn I encountered a climbing team of four, all roped together, I was sternly reminded that I “should be on the way down by now” to which I replied, “Oh, I’m just going up as far as the big crevice to get some pics,” my latest carrot.

Topping the hog back ridge leading up to the crevice I met up with another roped climbing team of 4 descending, another warning that I should be on my way down, and yes, another carrot – only going as far as the crevice.

When I arrived at the crevice, my breathing shuttered a bit. It was every bit as ominous as in the photos – a hundred feet long, 30-50’ wide at its widest, and deeper than the eye could see. What’s worse, the final pitch to the top was but a few hundred feet directly above it!

It was not my wisest decision, but seeing the summit “right there” was a temptation greater than I could resist. You guessed it, I trudged on, over a thin ice bridge at the narrowest far end of the crevice, back across the precarious top lip of the crevice, then straight up a long snow shute to a bald, ashen summit.

It was 8:00am, 30 minutes after sun-hit. I snapped a few obligatory summit photos then took a long stare down that long steep return slope, knowing full well what waited for me at the bottom if I were to slip.

When I took this photo in the summer of 2018, staring directly up my ascent route from Trillium Lake sixteen years later, I felt that same shutter in my breathing. A wave of emotions and memories flooded my mind, and then a smile. No matter what I, or anyone else, might think of my ill advised solo climb of Oregon’s famed Mt. Hood, I’ve been to the top, and no one can ever take that away from me!