Trip: Mt Hood - Reid Headwall
so... this will be redundant as a conditions report, and somewhat embarrassing, but it's good story. I'm still deciding what to think about it.
I've been wanting to try Leuthold as a step up from the south side. After a few weeks of conflicts coming up, partners dropping out I figured eh, do my first non-SS climb as my first solo too. Felt stoked about that, I haven't done much new or challenging in a while.
I set out Saturday night with a whippet, sumtec, and rented snowboard boots from Timberline - I forgot my mountaineering boots back in Portland, didn't drive my own car
I packed light with extra clothes but no bivy gear and obviously no ropes, wanting to see how fast I could go alone with a pack. I was pleased with my time: 80 minutes from the the Mazama Lodge to Timberline, 170 minutes from there to Illumination Saddle
I dropped down onto Reid at the break of dawn and started an abortive traverse straight across before cliffing out.. that honestly was the sketchy-feelingest part of the whole thing, traversing above a rock band through partly-fused ice blob rubble. Wasted nearly an hour on that shortcut. Back down to the glacier.
Here's where I went wrong: misinterpreting the advice of some guy headed out to Sandy Headwall, I started up a spicier variation just right of that big round, light colored gendarme and from there followed the footsteps and path of least resistance up right instead of downclimbing back left to the couloir. At that point I was still convinced that I was on route: the next runnel was wide and mellow enough to be a tiny couloir, that first step could be described as some sort of hourglass, and maybe the snow was just icier than I'd anticipated.
Last time I was able to sit down or access my backpack for a while:
I spent the next three hours being very calm and trying not to die. Snowboard boots perform very poorly when front pointing. I think I'd have been comfortable soloing the route on that day with rigid boots and a second ice tool.. is that insane? I'm sure it depends on conditions, but the ice seemed very secure and I didn't see any significant icefall.
Found a secure place to stop:
Now for the self criticism:
I could have aborted the climb after I forgot my boots
I could have spent another pound to pack a second ice tool, as I'd originally considered. That would have been wise on an unknown route.
I could have checked a photo of the route before starting up. I'm not sure that necessarily would have helped, the aerial photos only make sense now that I've spent time on that side.
I could have downloaded a GPS track, but I hate the way that abstracts a mountain to a set of canonical routes.
I shouldn't have deviated from my plan, trying that guy's variation.
I could have turned around after the first ice step, but I may have made the right choice continuing up - the ice was manageable, and more predictable than the looser stuff I'd ascended.
I think that being without a rope was dangerous, more than being alone. Would I have made better decisions or been safer if I'd set out to solo Leuthold with a partner? If I had fallen, I don't think that prompt (-ish, after downclimbing) first aid would have been of much use.
With regard to travelling alone, I'm glad I did this, it's everything I love about mountaineering x2: the sense of remoteness, solitude, self-sufficiency and consequence. I'm still figuring out what level of risk I'm willing to accept.