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Mount Hood--Leuthold Couloir, the unroped route


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Back on May 22, 1999 I climbed Leuthold with my buddy Matt, we started at 5:20am from the lodge and got to illumination rock at 7:00am. Where we took a 30min break diciding to leave everything at the Saddle. All we took was my panny pack with te camera, water bottle, and some beef jerky. We just had our two tech tools and crampons to keep us connected to the mountain.

To climb it unroped you must hug the west face of the Castle crags, and watch out for you extremities, I got nailed in the elbow and thought I broke my arm. Then continue hugging the Castle Crags into the first couloir continue up this couloir (which would be the closest one to the saddle). Then somewhere above the cliff of the middle couloir, the couloir that hugs Yokum Ridge connects with the one you started in. Make sure that after this point you continue hugging the right but at any fork go left. The last major fork would send you to the gerdarmes if you go right, only do that if you want mixed climbing during the winter or a very cold spring or fall night. We summited at 12:40pm (noon) the climb took us 7hrs 20min. Make sure you do a snow pit at the saddle! Watch your step in the running rivers of snow!

Good technique and speed are the keys.

[This message has been edited by Joe Poulton (edited 04-18-2001).]

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I did this route with a friend back in Feb. We went unroped using just crampons and an ice ax. Took us about 6.5 - 7hrs from the parking lot. One of my top five favorite alpine ice/snow routes. Just have to make slipping not an option. Stay hydrated and take plenty of GU or other sustenance so you don't get tired and start tripping on your own crampons. :-)

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Here's a question for you two and any others who've done the Leuthold:

I've been up the S. Side route several times and think of it as a fun and relatively safe conditioner with the luxury of a beautiful lodge if you choose to eat, drink, and/or stay there. Among other things, the hot tub is great. I've now agreed to take my brother-in-law down to climb the mountain (weather permitting) in mid-May.

He is a total beginner. Big and strong, but not super fit, no experience walking on snow to speak of, and no technical experience with rope, axe, crampons, etc. I think he does fine at altitudes of 10,000 based on his skiing experience.

If he feels spry if and when we get near Illumination Saddle, I'd like to drop over and try the Leuthold. However, the point is to get him to the top of the mountain and down in one piece by any route with a smile on his face. The question I have is simply whether the Leuthold would be a bad choice for a beginner lacking snow skills and who may run out of gas before topping out. What do you think?

Thanks for your thoughts,

John Sharp

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i have done it twice. if oyu have questions about him poopin out i would say no. once in the coulior you are in it to win it. the route i personally think is not that demanding physically, though for someone who is new it might be. he might be in good physical shape but can he hadle it mentaly that is what i would ask myself.

opinion would be to keep him on the south side.

p.s. i am taking a gummer up there as well in may, maybe we should combine forces. safer eh!?


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I would say definitely keep him on the S side. While the Leuthold route is not that bad for anyone used to traveling on steep snow/ice I think it could be downright scary and/or dangerous for a newbie. I know of a couple of people I knew who fell down that thing and they were lucky to escape with just a few broken bones.

You could throw in pro but depending on conditions (ie too soft for screws but too hard for pickets) it may or may not hold. Plus it would add a shitload of time to the ascent. The S side will be plenty adventurous for a first timer.

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They were roped together but had no pro in. On guy popped off and jerked the other guy down with him. Witnesses said they had to be doing about 50mph and going airborn occasionally. In my opinion one of them had no business being on it. He was way out of shape for that sort of thing and probably got tired and tripped on a crampon. Thats one of the reasons I prefer going unroped on some stuff. It's always a measured risk though :-)

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So my (longwinded) two cents: If in doubt, stay off it with the beginner. I've sucessfully climbed the route twice, fully covered with snow in April '96 and this past January with bare rock and steep slopes for the traverse once on the summit ridge.

With snow, it's fabulous (couloir and ridge)! This past January, the couloir was still fantastic, but the ridge was definately above where a beginner should be. There was very soft snow- hard to protect- and bare rocks to hump yourself up and down (yes DOWN) over. Add in variable wind gusts and the fact it's a 60° slide into the crater to your right or a X,XXX foot fall off the N side cliffs to your left and I'd be willing to bet you'd reconsider.

For this recent trip, we (2 of us) were roped across the Reid and stayed that way all the way. Exposure was never really bad and max angle is rumored to be ~45°. The solitude and alpine feeling you get dropping over to the Reid is phenominal (leaving behind the SS crowd) and the couloir and Queen's Chair boast great vistas.

There's nothing really technically challenging up the route except for negotiating the runnels- specifically the one in the hourglass- and the summit ridge depending on conditions. We did no running belays and set no pro... Until the summit ridge.

We took our time over the exposed rocks on the summit ridge using our axes and body weight for the belay/anchor. The snow was very soft and I was thinking how inopportune it would be to test the anchor...

So I digress. Depending on the conditions, my personal opinion is that it can be no more difficult than the SS route. There is still a very exposed ridge to traverse (actually, even Queen's Chair spooked my first partner too).

In the long run, it's your ass that will be tying in. It is a fantastic route and wonderful experience to share, but I would want to share it only with someone who I can depend on to keep me from landing on the Coe.




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To keep the thread alive...

Have you considered taking your brother-in-law up the West Crater/Zig Zag Glaicer route? (To the left of Crater Rock). In bad conditions it's an avalanche trap. But in most conditions, it's safe, and not that much steeper than the SSide. Something to look into anyway.

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