Trip Report: I was originally looking for a single push Rainier bid if I could find a partner, and asked Michael if he was interested. He said "yes, but ... already going to N Face of Hood." Their group of three turned into a group of four (though possibly two groups of two). I had the N Face of Hood as a possible ski descent, ever since seeing it in the Cascade Volcano Guide a few months ago. So our plan was to climb the route, and if Michael felt comfortable enough with a ski belay that we would go for what I think would have been the first ski descent of the right couloir.
Michael and I left the cooper spur trailhead on skis at 6pm and were bivyed at 8000 feet just below the Cooper Spur and asleep by midnight. With the splitter weather window we opted to go sans tent and were treated with perfectly clear skies, amazing stars, and not a breath of wind ... its too bad no point and shoot or iPhone can capture the sight.
The other two members of our group (Mike and Luke) did not want to bivy and instead single pushed it, leaving the TH at about 1am.
We regrouped at around 530am at our bivy site, Michael and I were still getting ready, so Mike and Luke pressed on and then we regrouped again closer to the bergschrund. We eyed a possible crossing from afar, and zeroed in on it. Michael and I kept skis on all the way to the schrund. Our initial assement of the crossing was spot on, we roped up and it proved to an easy crossing.
Once across, we unroped, and it was a relative wallow-fest up and into the right couloir. There was a small ice step, maybe WI1 or WI2- ... I was able to climb it with only a single tool and a whippet. It was then on to the what is probably considered the first ice step, a short WI3 section (needed both tools, so I consider it WI3; not sure how exactly the Alpine Ice rating is actually applied). Luke soloed up, Mike goes and takes a few swings and then decides that he wants a belay - so Michael headed up tailing a rope and gave Mike a belay (presumably off a picket). I used this down time to melt some water, since I had very wisely left one of my half liter water bottles outside during the night. Then I soloed up, coiled the rope, and followed the train.
We then trucked our way up the left side of the couloir. The whole time I am thinking that this ski descent will be incredible, the setting, blue bird sky, good enough stability, no significant avi concern, and the snow looked featured enough to ski well, but not to deep to be especially dangerous. It was another several hundred feet to the second step. On the right it looked to be bigger and more imposing than the first step; but on the left it looked lower angled and thinner, possibly very enjoyable. We decide that the right side is the way to go, and then we debate whether a belay would be necessary for this one, and conclude that since we have the ropes, and the gear, why not just pitch this one out. I head out, place a single 13cm screw early to take out the factor two fall possibility and sling it long with a screamer and up I go. The ice took first swings really well, took front points great, but was a little thin in some areas, and before I knew it, I was pulling the last vertical section and on top. Michael thought that soloing it would be a good idea, up until he was about halfway up and then he (unknown to me) hastily tied into my tailing rope. I tried setting up a belay on the right side above, but pickets sucked and screws were just as bad, so I moved over to the left and got a bomber picket, just as Michael was coming up and was yelling "take! take!". I was clipped into the anchor, but the rope was not in the belay device yet, so I pulled all the rope I could and gave him the most awkward hip belay ever, but it worked. When Michael got to the belay we beefed it up to a two equalized picket anchor, and when Mike got to the top we added a third picket to the fun. This, fortunately, would be the hairiest section for us.
Then it was another several hundred feet to the top of the couloir, which again, looked to be in great condition, and I was thinking that this ski descent was definitely going to get done today. It was here that Michael broke the news to me ... that even with a ski belay, he would not be comfortable skiing this couloir. CRUSHED, I said: "no problem." I debated with myself the possibility of doing it solo, turning out group of 4 into a group of 3, plus me - and decided that was something I would not do, break apart a group just to selfishly chase a dangerous goal (if there was no schrund on the bottom, I would have been more inclined to do it). It will be there again for me to try and ski.
At this point we opted to follow the route to the right, and up the third ice step, which we all soloed, was a decent length of WI2 to WI2+ (second tool could have been optional). Mike was pretty gassed by this point, but made it up the third step solo. Then it was a short section of snow to the fourth ice step, Mike then asked to be belayed on the last section, so I tailed a rope for him, it was again WI2 to WI2+ (second tool optional). The steepest part was pulling the final snow wall up to the summit (two tools required). I stuck my head over the top to see two or three climbers standing there, got one to take my picture with his iPhone (got them, priceless, thanks sir!), then climbed up and over and put Mike on a hip belay. Michael summitted a few minutes after I did, solo; then Mike, on belay; then Luke, solo.
With all four climbers on the summit, via a moderately technical route, with perfect blue bird weather, and an open bivy ... its hard to get any better.
We descended via south side to a staged vehicle.
As probably my last climb/trip until mid-October, a special thanks goes out to Mike, Michael, and Luke for making it a great one to finish on.
Pictures to follow
Gear Notes: Michael and I brought:
7 screws (2x10, 2x13, 2x16, 1x22) 2 80m 7.8mm double ropes (with the idea of rappelling the technical sections of ice on ski descent, and not wanting to get stuck in a bad place without enough rope) 3 pickets 4 screamers 3 single length slings 3 double length slings 1 triple length sling
Actual gear placed: 1 screw, three pickets (I'm not sure what was used on the first ice step for a belay).
Not sure what Mike and Luke brought.
Approach Notes: Easy skin up the Tilly Jane and then up the left side of the Elliot Glacier. The schrund was super easy (this time).
Edited by dave schultz (03/10/1305:08 PM) Edit Reason: status of summit pics
I'm not familiar at all with Mt Hood, since we had two skiers and two on foot we descended down at varying speeds and regrouped at the climbers registration in what I would consider the lodge. You did not talk to me (that I can remember), though definitely a possibility you talked to one of the other three guys.
Must have been thine skiing partner, then.. He was sporting ski boots.
How was the skiing back down?? I was headed over to the east side and was eating shit skinning up on ice to ice under shallow slab on my split.. finally took a nasty slip above the canyon and had to ride back down over skittery ice in climbing boots with a probably torn rotator cuff and fucked up jaw.
Must have been a lot better elsewhere- I saw plenty of BCers coming back on, none commented on the hazardous conditions.. I personally didn't find acceptable conditions till I hit groomed snow halfway down palmer.
Ben - sounds like a ride. On the way down I had a bright red jacket and Michael had a green jacket.
I found the skiing on the S Side to be pretty unsatisfying, tough I never really enjoy the downhill in AT gear.
The conditions were pretty wind scoured, with some powder stashes, and frequent sections of what I would "ice crystals" that were nasty to ski across but could for the most part be avoided. The Right Couloir would have been much more enjoyable
Good stuff! We were aiming for the N. Face that same weekend. We climbed up the south side, and were going to head down to climb the N. Face, but decided not to because it looked like a legit wallow-fest. We instead opted for a great ice route up the Devils Kitchen Headwall. If you need a partner to ski the N. Face in the future, let me know!! Would love to do it.