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GregD

[TR] Mt. Hood - South Side Pearly Gates 05/24/2020

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Trip: Mt. Hood - South Side Pearly Gates

Trip Date: 05/24/2020

Trip Report:

Nothing short of perfect climbing conditions on Mt. Hood Sunday morning. Our party of three started right about midnight. The sky was clear and the stars were out but the waxing crescent moon provided no additional light for us. Snow conditions were firm and cold. Two of us were on AT skis with skins and one in our party carried a snowboard and used snowshoes. Skinning conditions continued to be excellent above Palmer, however as the route got steeper and icier we opted to drop our skis and boards about 1,000 feet above the top of Palmer. In retrospect we should have just traversed a bit and taken them all the way up to devil's kitchen.

We got in line at the hogsback and took our time as we were behind a couple other parties. Most people were ascending the pearly gates and then coming down the old chute. This made for a nice circle and less of the usual traffic jam. No sign of the bergschrund which still seemed to be covered in snow. As we made our way up to the gates the line of climbers seemed to all be headed to the right gate. Normally I've climbed the left gate and after discussing with my partners and the other teams, it seems that the only reason people were going for the right gate was because that's where others were going. So we took the left gate and had it all to ourselves. I kicked steps for about 100ft in perfectly firm snow pack and then once we got into the hour glass there were footsteps the rest of the way to the summit. I don't think I've ever had that section all to myself before and it was incredibly enjoyable.

We took our time and it was about 7:30 by the time we reached the top. It was a first time on top of Hood for one of our party. Conditions were a bit cloudy up top with greater visibility up to the North than the South but little to no wind. I would estimate 50+ people made the summit on Sunday morning with 100+ more hiking or skinning as far as devil's kitchen. We made our way back down through the left gate as still no one else was on that route. The rest of the descent was uneventful and the snow had softened to make things easier for us. Skiing was decent all the way down to the top of magic mile, then it was just warm Cascade concrete with no groomed run to follow down the mile.

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Gear Notes:
Prior to the route changing years ago I would have never considered needing a second tool for the pearly gates, but these days almost everyone had one and it certainly makes things feel way more secure using two tools in a low-dagger position. Also want to give a shout out to my new Atomic Backland Carbon ski touring boots (the 2018-2019 version before the BOA lacing system) and their removable tongues. Flexible and light for the way up and stiff enough for the descent.

Approach Notes:
As noted in the previous post no need to get a reservation or anything with Timberline. Just drive right up to the overnight lot and register in the climber's cave as usual.
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Posted (edited)

A couple of comments, glad ya got up and down without incident but a few observations. The route has not changed, people have. People have skipped learning to be competent with a single tool and immediately go to two tools. So while one may feel way more secure using two tools in a low-dagger position that feeling is misplaced.  And for what ever reason when I look at your picture it reminds of years ago when I went by three climbers in about the same place, all with their axes also in their left hand which was the the down hill side. Just after I passed them they all went sliding down the Hogsback. May just be the perspective. That said, the middle climber needs some mentoring on rope management so to keep it out from under their feet.

Edited by ScaredSilly
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Posted (edited)

Hi ScaredSilly,

I respectfully disagree. I want to say it was the early 2000's when the glacier significantly shifted. Prior to that the Pearly Gates were never that steep and almost no one climbed the old chute. For a number of years after it seemed that the old chute route was used exclusively. Now, in my experience, parties may attempt any one of the gates and/or the old chute again.

I'm glad you feel comfortable with one tool. I can certainly mange the technique, however I believe our party was safer, faster, and more efficient with two. I noticed many more parties had the same idea and was simply calling out the change from my first climb in the 90's when I would have never seen anyone with a second tool. It surprised me as well.

You are of course correct though, the middle climber is a very experienced back country skier who made his first summit attempt with two experienced climbers. While being roped in the middle is arguably the best place, it does provide for tricky rope management, which was a constant correct and adjust. What you can't see is his second tool in his right hand in the photo but yes, the pick in his left hand is pointed the wrong way at that particular moment as he recently shifted from having it correctly in his hand on his uphill side while traversing to a vertical ascent with his second tool in his right. That was caught and adjusted later but thanks for the observation.

I know it's not the most exciting or adventurous climb but my hope in posting this TR was that someone might appreciate a current update on a popular route.

Edited by GregD
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You are correct that the Hogsback shifted. It goes back forth and has done so for centuries. It is well documented. While that does change the route some and where people may go, my comment was more of an overall assessment of climbers these days just going for or being given a second tool way too early rather than learning good technique. Which for lower angle slopes is not efficient and later becomes a crutch because they lack they proper technique. I will be honest taking a new person who was correctly placed in the middle and giving them two tools gets them up the hill in the short term but does nothing for them long term in making them a competed climber. 

 

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Posted (edited)

I hate to pile on but I hope you were placing protection/pickets.

If not please educate yourself about the dangers of unroped team climbing on those routes. If not for yourself then for the others you put in harms way.

Edited by diepj
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HI Diepj, I couldn't agree more. I always carry pickets and screws if roped on that route and am prepared to use them in a running belay, especially if anyone is climbing below. I'm well aware that the biggest danger and accidents have happened when one team slides down into another on that route. I've climbed just about every variation of the old chute/ pearly gates over the years. Roped, un-roped, one tool, two tools, big party, small party, organized climbs, solo climbs, winter conditions, spring conditions. I've been up when we were the only party in site and also turned around just because there were way too many people on route to safely navigate. Happy that in this case the snow was perfectly firm, but not icy, we had the chute to ourselves, no one was below us and there was no sign of the bergschrund.

Stay safe everyone!

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