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[TR] Mt Hood - Black Spider - Center Drip 03/17/2021


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Trip: Mt Hood - Black Spider - Center Drip

Trip Date: 03/17/2021

Trip Report:

@Nolan E Arson and I climbed Center Drip on Wednesday. I usually write overly detailed trip reports but am going to keep this brief and possibly vague because 1) I'm busy/tired, and 2) I feel it's important to preserve the mystique of this route. Here's the quick Cliff Notes version with some pictures.

- We started stupidly early because the forecast looked warm and I had a work meeting at 3 (you can guess how that worked out).

- We reached the top of Palmer 1:12 after leaving Timberline. I compared our packs when we stopped and mine was about 20 pounds lighter. Sorry dude!

- Traversed the White River around 9000' where the big ramp always is and tried to maintain this elevation across the Newton Clark. Uneventful.

- From below the face looks barren, dry, uninspiring and crumbly:


- But the following very zoomed-in aerial photo had me fantasizing about a vein of climbable ice on the upper mountain:


- There's some serious bergschrund action at the bottom. We delicately tiptoed between two massive cracks and then almost stumbled into a third (really, who expects there to be 3???):


- First rock band at the base of the couloir = covered with snow. Walked over it.

- Second rock band is exposed, we belayed a short pitch. There's a smear of ice that's maybe not actually ice, thankfully it's not that steep because the anchors were probably not actually anchors either.


- Below is a picture of the (very thin) ice that matches the line drawn on Wayne's original topo. We did not climb this but instead continued up the couloir to the right maybe 30 meters, for a variety of mundane reasons.


- We pulled out of the couloir on this short curtain which basically follows the line on the Mullee topo. Not sure why Mullee's line doesn't quite match Wayne's but they eventually intersect part way between the couloir and the upper snowfield.


- Above that there was a bunch of fun, moderate ice climbing! It was a bit hard to believe but I was beginning to think the whole idea wasn't totally stupid.



@Nolan E Arson led into the snow field and somehow recognized one of the rocks or something (??????) from Wayne's trip report. The ice was super thin and I wasn't convinced that this was actually the line, but eventually I traversed out and committed since there weren't any more appealing options. It's not really visible in the pictures but there was a consistent 1-2' wide smear of protectable ice weaving its way up through the rocks.



- A ways up I lost the thread and I think took a wrong turn when the ice disappeared under some snow. I climbed a few meters of improbably steep, unsupportive snow, and then did a couple traversing mixed moves to get back on the route, while being ferociously blasted in the face with spindrift of course. I placed a decent cam and a really bomber nut.

- Looking down on the upper pitch:


@Nolan E Arson led the last short but very mixed pitch up to the summit snowfield. Delightful crampon-on-slab action:



Other notes and thoughts:

- I found this route quite stressful simply because we were never really sure what we'd find or if we'd be able to finish it. Rapping off always would have been possible but a giant pain in the ass. The ice on the upper pitch, seen in the aerial photo, is not easily visible from below. 

- But overall it was pretty reasonable, I'd hesitantly say "safe," even in these thin conditions. There were ample opportunities to place short screws and the anchors were actually pretty confidence inspiring above the first pitch. There was seemingly decent rock pro in the two spots where it was needed. And the climbing was never hard.

- I agree with the WI3 grade, though of course it's a bit weird and funky. We had to do a small amount of mixed climbing but it was never very steep, just balancy.

- It took us a long time to climb the route but thankfully it remained very cold and there was no rock or icefall. I stayed in my belay parka the entire time.

- Fric-Amos is still icy. The lower pitch from the previous trip report is totally buried and ramp-like.



Gear Notes:
Many screws, 1 picket, a few cams and nuts, a few pitons (not used).

Approach Notes:
Started from Timberline.
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Glad we could get this done, @zaworotiuk! Thanks for writing up another TR of our climbs. 

And thanks, @wayne for all of your pioneering. What a fantastic route in an intimidating setting; it felt bigger than Mount Hood. 

8 hours ago, zaworotiuk said:

I compared our packs when we stopped and mine was about 20 pounds lighter. Sorry dude!

Haha, maybe 10, but you do all the trip report heavy-lifting, so I think we’re even!

I agree that although the climbing was never that hard, the generally thin conditions we went up in often made for tricky tool placements. But the moves never felt desperate, just very engaging.  And the exposed rocks were consistently “unhelpful.” All part of the fun—like the streams of spindrift that would flow down, get caught in the wind, then blast back uphill and into your hood and face. A novel experience!

Edited by Nolan E Arson
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