Jump to content

[TR] Mt Hood - Elliot Cirque, Variation 05/02/2021


Recommended Posts

Trip: Mt Hood - Elliot Cirque- Variation

Trip Date: 05/02/2021

Trip Report:


A claim of a first ascent on a mountain as popular as Hood must be precluded with the fact that it’s always very possible that a line has been done by a pre-internet team, or a team not seeking interweb plaudits... So please let us know if you’ve done it or know someone who has!
Edit 5/18: This line has been climbed by Cliff Agocs and Brandon Seymore in May of 2016; they may have been the first, or it may have been done even earlier. 
The Raven is a line that parallels the existing Ravine line. I’d spotted this line on my first trip up the Elliot Headwall this year, jaw-dropped at the amount of ice all over. The dark rock band above the ice looked menacing yet alluring. This seemed almost as obvious a line as the Ravine to me; one which points directly up in line with the initial starting ice flow. The line climbs the "Potential" between D and E in this photo: http://www.portlandrockclimbs.com/mt-hood-rock-climbs/eliot-headwall.htm
I had recruited a friend to join me on this objective, but, after a long traversing pitch on bullet hard ice above the gaping bergschrund, he decided he didn’t want to continue and we climbed the established Center Cirque Direct, which was still in incredibly good shape, but I digress.
I was lucky to link up with Matt @zaworotiuk who had interest in this line and in the Pencil. Matt's been climbing a ton of rad routes on Hood this season and I was stoked and confident in heading up with him. 
We met up at Timberline and headed out promptly into heavy winds and a piercing cold. Nearing the DK we entered the cloud. We forged on, trusting the signs of sunshine ahead, taking our time, but it was a harsh re-run of winter in May.
We eventually dropped onto the glacier to the base of the Pencil. Eyeing it, it seemed very thin, very mixed, and hard to protect. We kind of regret not going for it but the wind and cold definitely made it more intimidating. I think it’d still go now, it would just be a trip. Anyways, I digress again. 
Traversing the upper Elliot: 
Matt near the base of the Pencil:
Deciding against it we hugged the left side of the glacier to avoid cracks and reach the base of our route. 
Pitch one started with a nice WI3 flow that kicks back and weaves its way through a rock couloir with occasional bulges higher, 50m. 
Myself on P1:
Matt wrapping up P1:
Pitch two is steep snow or easy ice to a pretty short, but pretty steep pillar, WI3+/4, 45m. 
Matt headed off towards the pillar center of photo:
Pitch three starts on easy ice to steepening mixed terrain to a 40-foot mixed crux, hooking chossy cobbles and ice blobs with a solid thin crack on the big chockstone for pro. I was also able to drill in a 10cm stubby in an ice blob. Some pictures I've seen show more ice in this section, so in fatter (hard to believe) conditions it may be a thin ice pillar. Felt about M4+. Easy ice/ steep snow straight up above to easier terrain shared with the North Face. 60m. 
Myself in the crux:
Matt topping out the crux with Cathedral Spire below:
After topping out directly onto the summit, we sat and enjoyed the first warmth we'd had all day. Matt and I, having been sneaked out of the Pencil, were hungry for more, so he showed me the Right Cirque variation on the Elliot Headwall which we simuled in two blocks. Reaching the summit ridge, it was HOT, and we made our tired, happy way down the slushy south side to be once again greeted by the viciously cold wind as we hit the parking lot. 
Back up the headwall:
All the action this area has seen this year has been inspiring and I can't wait to hear of more! 


Gear Notes:
Brought a lot, used cams 0.2-0.5 & lots of 10-13cm screws

Approach Notes:
South side

Edited by ACosta
  • Like 2
  • Rawk on! 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fantastic! What a sweet line! 

Strong work, gentlemen.

I love how rich and varied the climbing is on Mount Hood. There is so much to do up there! 

The crux photo is gnarly! Looks both exhilarating and terrifying. Get that pic into Alpinist asap!

Edited by Nolan E Arson
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Awesome route. So much happening on the Eliot since that solo of yours a month back.

How was the top out on your final lap? Any ice left or was it all rock in that upper rockband. We scouted the top Saturday but got socked in by clouds and decided not to try. 

Edited by DET
Saturday, not yesterday
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for getting out and for writing this up! I checked with the normal sources (Wayne, Anastasia) and they don't know of any previous ascents, though of course it's hard to be certain. One day a few weeks ago @nkimmes and I talked about doing this line but I was in a rush to get back for work and pitching out the bulletproof WI2 traverse ate up an embarrassing amount of time. We were also pretty intimidated looking up at the exit chimney. From the glacier you can see the huge chockstone and the overhanging cracks on the right. The way @ACosta led around to the left is not really visible or obvious until you're in the small bowl directly underneath. And it was still maybe the hardest 40 feet of climbing I've done on Hood!

Here's the full line:


@DET The right Eliot Headwall line (McJury-Leuthold according to the one random topo linked above) still has good ice in the exit chimney, as does Center Cirque Direct (as of Tuesday). Things are getting a bit thinner but I think we're also getting some more thaw/freeze cycles so it could all be here for a while!



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Brandon Seymore and I (Cliff Agocs) climbed this line in May of 2016. We chose it because it looked a little less heady than the Ravine. At the time, the first pitch was WI 3+ or so. The upper bits were moderate mixed. We never even considered if it might be a first ascent. It's hard to imagine any particular spot on Mount Hood still being unclimbed. There are probably some WI exceptions at different parts of the year on the North Buttress and on the Black Spider. However, on a moderate feature like the Eliot Headwall, it's pretty unimaginable that someone hasn't already wandered up into whatever patch of ice you climb. It is a fun route and a proud send, but it's not an FA. It's the Eliot Headwall - one of many variations. I'm happy to attach photos later, but they are on the harddrive of another computer that I don't have access to today. Happy to attach them, if folks want.

  • Like 3
  • Rawk on! 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

First off: Funny how the OP still describes this as a FA on his Insta-jizz account. https://www.instagram.com/p/COdjvptBG7T/ 

Also, since when was the PDX spray club the final word on FA's?! According to that photo the OP linked, myself and a half-dozen other folks should have credits for Eliot HW FA's, but as Clifford said, its all the Eliot Headwall. Thinking some gully or flow is unclimbed just cause Nick hasn't heard the spray is a helluva assumption, and you know what they say about assumptions and donkeys. 

Consider the number of IFMGA guides who have put up FA's in Alaska and the Himalaya and who started their career guiding on Hood (I can think of at least 4 off the top of my head and I never met most of them). Then you consider guys like Steve House and Scott Johnston and their various partners who were living in Bend while training for and doing FA's in the Karakoram and how they were running fitness laps on all the volcanoes for a solid decade plus. While any number of the old guard can tell you about various ice/mixed lines of significance and who did what, NONE of them are published in the AAJ, a guide book, or online in any form. 

As someone said in another thread on here recently... "I experienced this issue a few years ago when I went to publish known routes on MP and was asked not to. Part of the reason given by developers and other regulars there was the parking access situation, but the other reason was to preserve the sense of adventure. The community by-and-large did not want to know what was there so that they could continue to practice ground up adventure climbing. Every ascent felt like an FA, until you found some old pins or a bolted belay station, but you had to mentally commit and prepare in the same way. Maybe, for scant resources like Mt. Hood ice routes this same ethic would preserve that sense of adventure. People could simply say "I climbed the Eliot" and post some cool pictures instead of worrying if that exact rock step or ice flow has been done before. Then everyone could go have an adventure and we can build skills for bigger adventures in bigger mountains (which I thought was the point and might actually lead to real FAs)."

Edited by Cptn_Sprayhab
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Looks like Adrien changed his Instagram post. Good for him, and knowing the guy, I bet he just didn't care enough about social media to make the change right away. 

Cptn, you quoted a post I made on the "Do summits matter?" thread. To be completely transparent I've made the same mistakes of assuming FA-ship in the past, its an easy mistake to make in the scheme of things. In fact, this past winter I claimed a couple "Second Ascents" which could very well be 10th ascents for all I know. That includes the Emde-Ablao on Middle Sister that Adrien and I did without any knowledge of the prior ascent and which I promptly sprayed about, so I'm probably a hypocrite here... though I do like the idea of preserving the adventure as I said, especially in Oregon where resources are limited. 

Anyway, mainly I'm psyched to see Adrien, Matt and others getting after it this winter and I think it would be awesome to have an Oregon crew competing for grants and making trips to bigger ranges like the Karakoram in the next few years to try exploring more off the beaten path objectives and getting some more good adventure stories here. 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the negativity @Cptn_Sprayhab! Always super conducive to constructive conversation. I'm so sorry I don't update my insta-jizz to your instant standards. I am glad you had the time to check out my page though, thank you! 

I really don't care about this being an FA or not. I went back and worth about whether to post about it, but figured I'd do it to see (as my original disclaimer reads) if this particular line has been done before and if it had any history, as it was an intimidating and engaging crux (for my weak self at least). 

I think this conversation opens up a whole can of worms about FA's and grades and sharing stuff online and so on (I do try to stay away from spraying on MP, and I thought CC was a safe place). This is something I've wrestled with personally a lot. There are powerful stories to tell from up there, but at what point does sharing your story dilute the experience and open it up to analysis and judgement from folks who weren't there and don't know you? I am all for preserving sense of adventure and don't want to see everything put up online either. But climbing is not what it looked like back in the day, and at a certain point we have to simply accept that, and rethink our definition of adventure (which, news flash, is different for everybody). 

What makes me sad and somewhat disgusted at the climbing community is when I see ego evolved in our outdoor pursuits. It's all contrived as fuck. There are no rules. We're trying to fit square pegs (humans, grades, history) into round holes (nature). Especially when it comes to ice climbing, even grading things seems stupid, as there is so much variation from year to year, even day to day. Same with FA's. What does it really matter if someone climbed a particular piece of rock or ice before? I agree with you, it doesn't. What matters most is following your inspiration and coming up with your own adventures that challenge and excite you. Which is what we did here. 

I do acknowledge that I jumped the gun calling this a first ascent and posting on here and will learn from that mistake.

I look forward to hearing what you consider to be a "real" FA. Are people like Steve House (or God forbid, the holy grail of IFMGA-land) the only ones with the authority to call something an FA? Do the only legit FA's involve having to travel halfway across the world to some foreign country, where the locals may not even know what climbing is and why people do it? 

Let's not take ourselves too seriously here, and just go have fun outside with our friends. 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks @Cliffordsa for the photos and info! Looks like the exit pitch was pretty dry for you as well? There's a random photo on mountain project that shows ice flowing down each side of the chockstone but I never saw it form in my many trips over there this year.

@Cptn_Sprayhab I don't see a problem here. @ACosta originally said that the line may have been climbed before and promptly retracted the FA claims when we found out it had been.

I find the pervasive "every square foot of Hood has been climbed" belief interesting. No one (so far) has taken issue with our Cathedral Ramp FA claim from a month ago. No one disputed Three Little Monkeys in 2018 or the Pencil in 2017. Other Black Spider routes were put up as recently as 2010 and no one complained about those either. Either all those lines were in fact unclimbed or the true first ascensionists have advanced into a Zen state of truly not caring at all. It's easy to assume some near mythical figure like the aforementioned Steve House would've done everything on Hood, but apparently when asked "what's the best alpine route in Oregon?" he settled on Jeff Park, which probably barely registers as "real climbing" to most of the people in this thread. So it's reasonable to think his Hood resume might not be that extensive.

Of course there have been a lot of hard people who have done a lot of hard things on Hood, and some of them have undoubtedly kept quiet about it. It wouldn't surprise me if any number of the routes I mentioned above had been previously climbed. But if people are going to be purposefully secretive or reclusive then they're willingly removing their own voices from the conversation and there's not much the rest of us can do about it.

Preserving "ground up adventure climbing" is an interesting topic of discussion but if that's a style of climbing you'd like to pursue shouldn't you just, I don't know, avoid spending time on climbing information websites like this one? :D


  • Like 1
  • Rawk on! 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...