"The climb that wasn't" Top 5 Page for this destination Mount Hood Travelogue by goingsolo

Mount Hood Travel Guide: 86 reviews and 205 photos

It rains in the desert and it snows in May

The three of you who read my pages know that I was supposed to climb Hood in May, 2006. It was the long anticipated climb- the first adventure in ice and snow and the gateway to bigger and better things- Ranier, Shasta, Kili.

When I first heard the weather reports, I wasn't too concerned. The guide service said to be prepared for cold weather. Mount Hood has year round skiing for a reason. And a little bit of rain wasn't going to get me down. Arrived in Government Camp Friday afternoon under gray skies. What's the Pac NW without a little rain? Drove up the Timberline Road in a winter wonderland. It was an eerie, this-is-not-Memorial-Day weekend kind of feeling. It began to snow at the base a few minutes after I got there. Concerned that the Ford Taurus and its Native Floridian driver could not navigate an icy road, I headed down to the relative warmth and comfort at Gov't Camp.

How Cold Is It?

Saturday morning. Snow Falling at Gov't Camp. Reports of up to a foot on the mountain. But, I'm an optimist of sorts. Or just naive and dumb., A little snow won't stop this climb.

Got a road from two women who were in town to ski. Their SUV handled the snowy road better than the Taurus could have. They advised that I shouldn't be too hopeful about the climb. This wasn't good visibility weather. They gave me some hand warmers and wished me luck.

Better put on those layers

Met up with the guides from Timberline Mountain Guides at their office at the ski lodge. Got fitted for crampons, handed an ice axe and loaned a bigger pack. I'd brought all the gear on the list, which seemed ridiculous when I was packing it. But, with temps like this, a down parka started to sound like a good idea.

The plan for day one was to learn some basic skills: how to use an ice ax, how to climb while roped together, using crampons, self arrest and things like that. We were supposed to finish at about 2 p.m. and then come back at 2 a.m. ready to start our journey to the summit. With this weather, it was doubtful that anyone would be able to find the base of this mountain, much less the summit.

No Climb For You

The group assembled at 9 a.m. and the bad news was delivered. The guides had been up at the Hogsback around 2 a.m. and there was zero visibility. Since so much snow had fallen earlier in the year, the new snow created a danger of an avalanche. We could still make a try for it,. but it was unlikely that we'd get farther than the Hogsback. The group had to decide. Right now.

Should I stay or should I go?

I still wanted to go for it. I was plenty scared and ambivalent. The optimistic side said that half a mountain was better than none at all. The more cautious side said that the danger wasn't worth it and, best case scenario, I'd be miserable.

But the choice was made for me. The other members of the group all indicated that they were out. I didn't think the guides woulld welcome taking a solo climber up, so I agreed that I'd cancel as well. The good news was that we could sign up again free of charge at any point in the future. And the consolation prize was that we'd still get to learn what to do with an ice axe.

We headed over to the base to do the snow and ice training class. I tried to block out the feeling of disappointment that comes from knowing that something you've waited this long for just isn't going to happen. Fortunately, the snow and pelting rain (or was it pelting snow mixed with rain? hard to tell) distracted me from my melanchonly thoughts.

The afternoon was actually a lot of fun. We got to trudge up and down semi steep hills, learned roping techniques, practiced using an ice axe and crampons and worked on self-arrest maneuvers like the one where you're dropped head first down a steep hill and you have to stop the fall by planting an axe and rolling over it. Not my personal favorite. As a consolation price, were able to try climbing a short wall with the axe and crampons. At one point, the sun came out briefly, barely. This ray of hope was followed by rain and snow coming down even harder. Mother Nature was definitely turning us away. Never fear those mountains in the distance. But you'd better respect Mother Nature when she's in this kind of a mood.

After we returned the gear, I got a ride down the mountain with a couple of guys who were staying at the same hotel. We arranged to meet for dinner later. Over beers, we joked about the stories we'd tell about the climb, ranging from how we were stopped short of the summit because we had to save someone from an avalanche to just bluffing and pretending we actually made it.

In the end, we all agreed that we'd never do that. There's no pride in pretending to have climbed a mountain. And there's no memory of how you felt when you reached the summit. Most importantly, there's no photo to prove that you were there. Although, with some creative Photoshop editing, I think you can fix that one. Still, it was better to keep the tall tales as mere jokes and plan to climb the mountain for real next year.

This would have been the summit picture. I could have photoshopped it and pretended that it was. But I'd rather wait until next year and climb the mountain for real. I hear its usually warm during Memorial Day weekend. I'm hoping there won't be snow two years in a row. If there is, my next vacation will be to the Carribean.

  • Page Updated Jun 9, 2006
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