Trip: Mt Hood - Sandy Glacier HW
In an attempt to avoid the crowds of the SS, explore a different side of the mountain, and do so with an sub-alpine approach, a plot was formed last week to climb the Sandy HW starting at Ramona Falls TH (aprox 2,400').
After watching the weather from tuesday blow through and hoping for clear skies and cold temps, we pulled the trigger wednesday morning and headed out to fill our guts with some knarly diner style breakfast (which would later become the object of fantasy the following mornings). Afterwards we were off to drop our getaway car at Timberline Lodge, then stop by Zig Zag ranger station for some road access beta. Hearing that the road to Ramona falls was clear, we were soon at the TH, geared up and on the move a few hours later than we hoped. Soon we were confronted with the usual river crossing bs,
a.k.a. the "Sandy River slack-log"
What would have been easy trail was soon choked with patches of snow, forcing us to eventually snowshoe up around 4,500'. The late start and snowshoeing through increasingly deeper snow soon took it's toll, and we eventually were forced to choose a campsite around 6,000' on Yocum Ridge. At that point we opted to add an unanticipated day to our climb, stretching our food and fuel supplies pretty thin. As night fell on our first camp, springtime shin-deep mash soon turned to sturdy crampon-o-licous styrofoam. This coupled with a perfect view of our route made everyone anxious to climb..
The following morning we were up at dawn to begin the trek towards Sandy Glacier across sexy untouched snow slopes..
From Yocum Ridge near 8,000' we spied what looked to be an amazing bivy site completely sheltered from rock and ice fall in all but the worse conditions. We also noticed a surprising lack of said rock and ice fall on both Yocum and Cathedral ridges, except for one troublesome rock and ice band around 8,500' and well to the north of our eventual camp. We roped up and crossed the Sandy Glacier without incident.
Looking for that perfect spot....
We opted for a snowy knife-edge ridge (looked like a mini hogsback) that we we dug our platform out on. Definitely a cool exposed bivy site...
That evening we while melting snow we ran out of fuel, leaving our pastas hard and our freeze dried meals dehydrated. (Q: Has anyone ever tried to re-hydrate a freeze dried meal with cold water, and if so how long did it take? ) We saved what little snacks and water we had for the climb the following morning, and went to bed to the sound of distant rockfall with stomachs growling.
The plan was to start out on the route by 2am, hoping to reach the crux pitch by first light. The slopes outside the tent door were 40 to 45 degrees and 6-8" of snow on top of a hard melt/freeze layer, making for decent kick-stepping. We made good time up the wall and arrived at the crux just when we had planned. Just as we turned off our headlamps the soft morning light showed the way through rock outcrops and rime fins, followed by steepening slopes and better alpine ice. I remember thinking to my self that the conditions were consistently-inconsistent. Powder, rain crust, powder over rain crust, snice, and short but sweet sections of bomber alpine ice.
Topping out from the crux (pre-crux photo didn't come out)...
Me and "Big-E" on the upper HW, courtesy of my man Taylor...
The wall is definitely sustained, with 40-45 degree slopes to the crux, followed be 50-55 degree slopes to the top of the wall/bottom of the Queens chair (note: the Queens chair and the SS descent was the worse icefall of the whole trip!)
Us on the summit ridge...
I'll save everyone the pain of the ubiquitous summit photo.
We descended the SS via the staircase worn into the old chute from all the recent traffic, and were at the car in a couple hours.
All in all an amazing trip, and a real ass-kicker coming from 2,400' feet but made for a satisfying climb. Rise up fellow climbers, and just say no to the south side slog!!!
2 pickets (barely used-more dead weight)
3 screws (never used)
1-30m rope (glacier crossing, never used on route)
1 ax and 1 tool (could use 2 tools, although sometimes it was nice to have an axe)
1 leaky thermarest, a.k.a. "the orange tortilla"
Snow shoes (in retrospect they we could have gotten away without them and just put up with post-holing, especially since we had an extra day. Had some moments when I wanted to jettison some extra weight and would fantasize about "losing them" off my pack.
Yocum Ridge turns into a snow slope around 4,400'