Trip: Mt Hood - Yocum Ridge Trip Date: 03/08/2020 Trip Report:
Climbed Yocum on Sunday along with @nkimmes. We left Timberline at 3:30am. At illumination saddle we encountered two other climbers also heading for Yocum. The four of us crossed the Reid unroped until the other two took a slightly lower line and both went waist-deep into a crevasse. We quickly threw on the rope and headed for the obvious ramp leading up to the ridge, gaining it without too much trouble. We reached the base of the 1st gendarme at 7:30am. At this point the other group was in front of us as we had accidentally gotten into some steep stuff on the southern side of the ridge while they took a gentler ramp to the north.
The angle increased quite a bit towards the top (perhaps 70 degrees?) and both our groups belayed a short pitch here, though there wasn't much gear placed other than the initial, questionable anchor screws:
This led to a small ledge. Noah excavated a bunch of crap and managed to place two cams in the underlying rock. I came up and led through a final 15 feet of bulgy vertical rime to the top of the gendarme. I didn't see what this part looked like before the first two went through but from below it sounded like it required about 1000 pounds of rime to be hacked away (thankfully it all went down a gully to the south, off of the ridge).
Last part to gain the top of the gendarme:
Above this we proceeded up a bit to the final, highest, most narrow point:
The first group had rapped on a rime bollard (and survived) so we used it as well. Here is Noah getting ready to rap:
Once he was down to a flat-ish spot Noah lowered me and then I led past him. Getting around the next tower involved very exposed traversing on the north side of the ridge on vertical rime/exposed rock. The ridge in this spot was basically just a pile of loose rocks that has somehow, improbably, remained vertical. I was happy to basically be on top-rope as the rope was still looped around the 1st gendarme. I got to a large, flat ledge where I could brace myself against a rime wall, took in all the slack, and then lowered Noah who came to join me. Around this time I looked at my phone and noticed that it was 9:30, meaning it had taken us a full two hours to get up and over the first gendarme.
Photo below: Me, on top of the gendarme. Noah on the small ledge he rapped to. Ye on the large ledge I ultimately lowered Noah from. I'm not sure how they got down there. I'm guessing they did it more efficiently but maybe we get extra points for cleverness?
From there Noah led a full 60m pitch of knife edge ridge, placing two pitons, three pickets, and an ice screw:
This took us to the large mushroom in the above picture where the ridge changes direction and heads to the left. Here we unroped and walked up, under the 2nd gendarme, to the top of the 3rd.
Coming up by the 2nd gendarme:
The other group had been at the top of the 3rd gendarme for a while but we caught up in the time it took them to build another bollard. They did the short rap directly onto the ridge crest and we opted for the 60m rap to the north. The rap onto the ridge looked good but we were trying to make up some time and figured we could move faster traversing the snow slope below rather than negotiating more knife-edge ridge.
Bollard on top of 3rd gendarme:
The slope we rapped onto, with someone in the other group still visible up on the ridge:
We quickly traversed up and right to get back on the ridge, passing the other two. This brought us to the base of the upper buttress:
I was feeling pretty good/relieved here as I knew we could now safely retreat down the ramp into Leuthold's if needed. Neither of us knew what to expect from this part of the climb as there just isn't a lot of information out there. I knew that the original Beckey route traversed to the right before heading up a gully (but the guidebooks show it being in different gullies) and that the Wickwire variation was more direct. We started up the narrow, rambling rime slot in the center of the above picture, which I think must be the Wickwire variation:
Our path dead-ended in an unclimbable rime amphitheater and we decided to rap down to a large, visible gully, which we guessed was the Beckey route. Maybe in the above photo we could have continued climber's left up the ramp rather than come up onto the rime fins? It's hard to know but in hindsight that seems to be the only other reasonable option. I didn't expect the route-finding in this area to be problematic but the buttress is huge and seems like a never-ending maze when you're on it.
Getting ready to rap on another rime mushroom/bollard:
The other two about to follow our (possibly poor) route choice:
After some typical rappelling shenanigans (tried to be lazy and use 1 half rope, which of course wasn't quite long enough) we found ourselves on the southern flank of the buttress. There are a lot of appealing looking gullies up to the ridge crest but they're all quite long and it's impossible to see what you're getting into. I believe we were in the largest gully that appears the most prominent from the south (looks like the Beckey route in the Mullee book). It started with a short WI3 step. The ice was surprisingly great so we didn't bother to get the rope back out. Above that conditions alternated between rime and sugar snow. At one point I wasted about 5 minutes when Noah's steps in a sugar snow chimney collapsed and I found myself digging a hole rather than climbing upwards. Around this time I was beginning to fully bonk and just wanted to get up to the Queen's Chair. Probably the reason there are no photos of this part of the route anywhere is that everyone is completely wasted by the time they get here. At the top of the gully there was a slightly longer, steeper ice step, with a lot of non-weight-bearing crap and exposed rock mixed in. Noah soloed it and after a small amount of pleading put me on toprope.
Noah at top of upper ice step:
Above that the gully curved to the right and we came out onto the top of the ridge, about level with the Queen's Chair. The fun wasn't quite over as of course we still had to climb up and down a few rimey bulges in the ridge, which weren't serious but required full concentration in my tired-ass state. We got to the Queen's Chair and it was about 5:30 - we had been on the ridge for a full 10 hours. We plodded up to the top, then down the old chute.
I wanted to write this as soon as possible while the memory is still fresh. I will come back and add some more details and general thoughts later.
EDIT: Adding a few more thoughts now:
I think we got very lucky with conditions. With a couple annoying exceptions the rime was solid and supportive. It was quite cold and there were some thin, high clouds, so everything remained solid throughout the day.
At first I was annoyed that there was another group on the route, but it was actually quite nice. The exposure is mentally taxing and it was really helpful to be able to use their two bollards without expending much time or effort of our own.
Going directly over the 1st gendarme is committing. Bailing off the ridge after that point would be difficult and require multiple rappels into uncertain terrain. Having the misfortune of encountering bad weather or unclimbable conditions after the gendarme would be a real nightmare.
Pickets seem like the most reasonable protection. We carried too many screws and only placed two.
The upper buttress is large and interesting with multiple possible lines. The short ice steps we found would be worthwhile objectives on their own if approached from Leuthold's and the Retreat Gully.
3-foot pickets, screws, pitons, cams, a spectre, bring all the weird stuff and hope that at least some of it is useful. Approach Notes:
Normal Hood south side stuff. Crashed a Silcox party on the way down and drank a lot of their beer.