Mt. Hood - "The Pencil" FADate:
We've always heard "The Pencil" come up as an obvious unclimbed line on the north side of Hood. Let me start by saying it's totally possible that some hardmen/women knocked it off back in the 80's or something but, as there was no record or beta that we could find, we're thinking it's a new route. Community, please let us know if this is not the case, certainly don't want to be making false claims! Our buddy Mike had really been eyeing it for a while and made an attempt recently but got turned back about 1/3 of the way up. When we saw the weekend weather forecast we moved it to the top of the list and Mike, Jacob, Tim and myself were all psyched to go for it.
The prime weather and conditions brought Mt. Hood climbers out in full force, us among them. Originally we had planned to climb in 2 teams of 2 as it's always super fun to be in the mountains with your friends, but unfortunately Mike put a nail through his hand in a carpenters accident a day before and had to opt out. Major bummer as he was the driving force behind the objective. He was still psyched for us to give it a go and provided us with what beta he had from his previous attempt and a showed us a few old photos of the potential exits onto the north face. So Tim, Jacob and myself followed through and were in the lot by 2:00 and skinning shortly after.
We approached via the standard slog up the south side and were the first to hit the hogs back at about 4:45 where we ditched the skis, ate some food, and tried hard to convince ourselves to take off the belay jackets. To start the day off we wallowed over to the Devil's Kitchen Headwall and group soloed the route by headlamp, putting us on the top in perfect time to see the sunrise from the top of Oregon, a first for me.
Descending the Sunshine
After a few photos, some water and food we descended the Sunshine Route to Snow Dome. From there we roped up and made a beeline for the bottom of the route. Pretty uneventful minus a little harmless fall in the bergschrund by Jacob. We crossed it once more and I started up the thin alpine ice. We were happy to find solid sticks and moderate climbing up to an obvious slung horn. Pretty sure this tat was from Mike's last attempt on the line. I brought up Jacob and Tim and launched off onto the next pitch which turned out to be the crux. The climbing was mostly thin-ish ice of varying quality. Anywhere from hero and plastic to aerated and garbage, but for the most part sticky and secure, with the odd front point on rock placement. I followed the line of least resistance that took us through a few steep vertical sections and was about a full 60 meters of WI 3/3+. I placed a small but decent looking nut (always hard to tell the rock quality but it looked pretty good actually) and 2 screws on the pitch, prioritizing finding a proper anchor with the gear I had left. Thankfully the climbing was secure and I found a bomber ice and rock anchor in a perfect location right below the final ramp.
Starting the crux pitch
Tim in the crux
The next pitch was a very quick section of secure WI3- right off the anchor that gradually mellowed into a snowfield with easy neve. This took us to the top of the pencil proper in a 60M+ rope stretcher. Tim and Jacob actually had to start simul-climbing so I could reach good ice to build a belay, so to future parties, a 70 would have been perfect if using the same belays. We were atop the pencil, but above us was another short 30 foot section of WI3 that would take us up and onto Cathedral Spire. Thanks to Mike's beta and a photo he shared with us, we suspected that the top of the spire would connect down to the north face via a small snow patch. The section looked to good to pass up so we decided to try and finish the route in a direct line and headed up. Jacob dispatched the lead in style and brought us up. We simuled the rest of the snowfield to the top of Cathedral Spire. The beta paid off and we had a short downclimb in loose, unconsolidated snow to the notch above The Ravine and joined the north face.
3rd pitch start
Jacob starting up Cathedral Spire
From there we followed the finish of the North Face Right Gully to the top, where we popped over the summit and into the sun. For the second time that day we stood on top somewhere around 2:30 in the afternoon. We celebrated a great day, reorganized, and descended back to our skis. Great skiing conditions capped off a perfect day of Oregon alpine climbing.
Huge shout out to Mike for all the help with this one and letting us use his beta, knowledge and gear as well!
Thanks for reading!Gear Notes:
-4 screws, 1 stubby and 3 13's (could have used more although ice quality varied)
-minor rock pro (.5-2 camalots could be useful as well as some nuts)
-mini kb's (found a home for them, maybe not necessary)
-2 pickets (solid in spots, but not on the route proper)
-2 60M twinsApproach Notes:
Southside slog, up Devil's Kithchen Headwall, down Sunshine to Snow Dome, traverse diagonally in a straight shot to the pencil.