December 11, 2011.
Today I was excited to join an experienced team up Mt. Hood using a route that was new to me: West Crater Rim. I was invited by a trusted climb partner so I didn’t do much research on the route ahead of time. I was just there to play follow-the-leader.
We left at an ungodly hour so as to climb in the coldest and darkest part of the day. Rock and icefall is a hazard, so an early start helps to mitigate some of that danger. I took a photo of the team just before we began, and never touched my camera again that day. I was just trying to keep up and be a good team member!
The route began up the standard south side, something I was quite familiar with. Near the base of Crater Rock we veered left and climbed up on the other side towards the crater rim.
The terrain here was crumbly rock covered by a thin layer of snow and ice; quite possibly the most terrifying portion of the climb. We climbed with no ropes, just ice axes and crampons, so I paid real close attention to every step and knew that each one was taking me closer to better climbing conditions. I breathed a huge sigh of relief once that was over.
Back on good snow, the climbing became enjoyable again. The sun rose higher over our heads as we approached the rim and traversed to the true summit. It was a nice place to take a break and enjoy the progress we’d made up the mountain. Also a good time to remember that we were only at the halfway point: we needed to get back down!
We descended the south side route with all the others on the mountain that day. Near the bottom of the route, the snow surface was chunky and made of unstable blocks. My formerly broken foot was in a lot of pain from having to negotiate the blocks. My pace slowed down considerably and Linda stayed behind to keep me company on the final bit to the car.
I was happy to have another successful ascent of Mt. Hood under my belt! And I was reminded again of the consequences of having that broken foot. Just when you think everything’s under control…the universe has a different idea about how things are going to feel.