The time had finally come for our much anticipated trip to Oregon to climb Mt. Hood. Thanks to how expensive it is to climb mountains with guides, we had no choice but to drive 18 hours to Oregon… After a long drive we finally spotted this menacing mountain!
Oregon is really cool because as opposed to having mountain skylines there are just several massive prominent volcanoes sticking out that are hard to miss.
We were nervous but pretty excited to climb our first glaciated peak. Mt. Hood has snow all the way up it year round. This would be our first time where we would use an ice axe, crampons, and be on rope teams.
In this picture you can even see some of the ice and rocks that are at the top. You might also be able to see that there is a ski resort on Mt. Hood. The ski resort goes up to 8,500 feet and there were actually a lot of people there skiing for the 4th of July weekend! Even by Colorado standards that is crazy!
Our first day at Mt. Hood was our snow school day. We had a training class to learn proper technique for walking on snow fields, crampon techniques, how to use an ice axe, and how to self arrest (when you throw down your ice axe in order to stop sliding if you have slipped and are falling down the mountain).
We hiked up a few hundred feet and had a really pretty view of Mt. Jefferson.
On the left was the snow field that would practice and learn on, but we still had a consistent view of the top!
We were surprised how much we learned and how much better we got at maneuvering on the steep snow. At first we pretty much consistently felt like we were going to fall! At first we practiced without any gear to help and this forced us to get better at just knowing how to walk on it. By the time we added crampons and the ice axe it was much easier!
This snow might not look that steep, but trust me it was! The closer you got to the top the steeper it got (just like most mountains). At one point I joked that I wasn’t sure about Mt. Hood but I was pretty certain I could summitt this mini snow mountain. Our guide said “good, because in a few minutes you are going to”. I practically had to eat my words cause it turned out even this was a lot harder than it looked!
The next thing we practiced was actually being on a rope team. Being on a rope team was a little scary to me, because it is more comforting than being on your own but at the same time you’re still just connected to other human beings, and you can’t help but think “what if one person goes down and then we all go down…”. On a mountain where people fall to their death every year this is a slightly terrifying thought!
When we actually climbed our rope team was 4 people. First in line was our guide Geoff, then a 97 pound woman from the Netherlands with a strong accent, next me, and last Jeb. I found that being in the middle was pretty challenging. I constantly felt like I was being tugged in both directions by the people on both sides of me. Since we weren’t crossing any glaciers with major crevasses (like Rainier) we were short roped the entire time we were connected. So with a short rope you don’t have much space before you are being tugged on!
We practiced working our way up, switching directions (where you have to step over the rope- without getting it tangled in your crampons, and also switch your ice axe to your other hand). Next time I am getting what they call an ice axe leash, because when we actually went up Hood and it got progressively steeper I was terrified I might accidentally drop my ice axe. It made me feel sick to my stomach to think about how screwed you would be if you dropped it. I have heard horror stories of people dropping gear at 17,000 feet on Denali and being told “ok pack it up, you’re headed home- your summit attempt is over), You NEED your gear!
So for the last 300 feet of Mt. Hood it gets so steep that they use snow anchors. It is basically this metal bar thing that they drill into the snow and ice as extra protection. Our guide wanted us to trust the system so he had all 3 of us lean back with 100% of our weight into the harness and ropes to show us that even if we all fell at the same time we wouldn’t be going anywhere. For me who has almost 0 fear of heights but a pretty strong fear of falling when not secured/strapped in, this was huge for improving my confidence and reducing my fear of the mountain.
We look so laid back just standing here in the ice axe/crampons stance!
By the end of snow school I was still nervous and anxious for Mt. Hood, but I was night and day more confident about my ability to do the technical aspects of the climb.
There was no way to not be nervous for this hike. Climbing Mt. Hood was not only a dream of ours to climb but a part of our larger goal of doing all of the state high points. Not to mention the $1,400 to have guides, the over $3,000 worth of gear we had spent over a year accumulating (by buying 1 item each month), the 6 week training plan that had consumed all of our spare time (and was making me a very cranky person lol), AND the 18 hour drive to get there.
So our meet up time for hiking Mt. Hood was 11:30pm. Yes, that is right – we started hiking at midnight and hiked straight through the night. No way to get sleep before that, especially when you’re camping and the sun doesn’t even set in Portland till 9:03pm…
Regardless of the time we were plenty awake with excitement!
We had a midnight snow cat ride partially up the ski resort portion. The European woman said “isn’t this cheating?” But as the guide put it, “There is nothing technical or impressive about hiking in a ski resort”. The snowcat doesn’t save you any of the “hard” part.
I was pretty excited to ride it because I had never been on a snow cat before, and this was actually something that had been on my bucket list!
I’m not sure if it was because it was dark and I couldn’t see where we were going, but I found the snowcat ride a little scary. It kept seeming like any second we were going to lose traction and slide back down the mountain, but I guess those things can manage a lot more than you would think!
Since we hiked all the way up in the dark, this is my “Jeb hiking up Mt. Hood” picture.
Hiking up Mt. Hood was neat because since it is a volcano there were gases coming out of the crater. It smelled like rotten eggs for a good portion of the way up, but I do love volcanoes!
So this is the best picture we could get of people coming up over the edge at the last 300 feet at the top of Mt. Hood. Despite it being the steepest thing I’ve ever been on, I wasn’t too scared because I knew we were anchored in pretty well.
What did scare me was before we started up this part, it seemed to take forever for the guides to go ahead up and get it set up. They basically just slam an ice axe in and attach us to that and then just leave us there hanging off of the mountain while they set it up. I don’t know how long it actually was but it seemed like a good 15 minutes of just clinging to the mountain as the sun started to come up being able to see how high up we were and how far you would fall before slamming into the rocks below if you were to somehow go down.
We had to admit we did feel pretty cool coming up the last 300 feet. It was so steep you are basically leaning against the mountain and swinging your ice axe in and kicking in your crampons and pulling yourself up.
We got to the top just as the sun started to rise. That was probably my favorite view of my entire life standing there above the clouds, looking out at Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Rainier. and Mt. Adams, and literally feeling like we were on top of the world.
The road to Mt. Hood was not an easy one for me. I constantly struggled with the self doubt of “can I do this?” and “is this worth it?”. And to stand there having just answered “YES” to both of those questions was one of the proudest and happiest moments of my life so far.
It was INSANELY windy and cold up there, that is why I have such a pained look in my face. We had to stay roped together even on the summit because the wind gusts were so strong we were literally getting blown around and almost knocked off our feet, Jeb included. We later found out from our guide that if the wind had been 5-10 mph stronger he would have pulled the plug on our summit attempt. WE GOT SO LUCKY!
I wish these pictures did justice to how beautiful and amazing it was up there but unfortunately there wasn’t quite enough light to get a great picture.
Looking back down. The cliff faces up there with sheer drop offs combined with the wind were pretty crazy.
Maybe we’re just weird because I know so many people (especially women) where there favorite pictures of themselves are their wedding photos, but not for us. These next few pictures are my favorite pictures of Jeb and I.
WE DID IT!
The wind has my jacket so inflated! lol.
Can anyone guess where we’re headed for the next 4th of July?!?! Mt. Rainier here we come! Soon it will be time to train for an even bigger, more prominent, more glaciated peak. This one suggest a 12 week training plan instead of 6…. But on the bright side I lost 20 pounds training for Mt. Hood, so I’m pretty excited to get into even better shape next summer!