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[TR] Mt. Hood- CycloSummit #1 - Wy'East (very out of season) 9/6/2008

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Trip: Mt. Hood- CycloSummit #1 - Wy'East (very out of season)


Date: 9/6/2008


Trip Report:

CycloSummit #1: Mt. Hood Wy'East Route (a.k.a Out of Season Mayhem)


Jay and I met when he noticed my xtracycle (http://www.xtracycle.com/) parked outside of Portland Rock Gym one night last spring, the first sentance out of his mouth was "man, you could haul a lot of climbing gear on that." The conversation quickly turned to bicycle assisted mountaineering, which I had thought a lot about, but hadn't spent too much time thinking about mostly because I figured I wouldn't find a partner willing to entertain even more pain and physical exertion than is usually involved in mountaineering.



Jay loves bicycling. I love bicycling, and we both hate burning gas to go mountaineering. We both love mountaineering, and suspect each other to be just shy of nuts.

Stymied by high environmental costs (and financial cost) of car based mountaineering, the love of bicycles (we are in NW Oregon), and feeling a desire to add adventure to a normally popular route, Jay and I decided to hit the Wy'East route (grade 2) on Mt. Hood this past weekend. We figured if we were going to ride our bicycles from my house in SE Portland to Mt. Hood with all our mountaineering gear on our backs, it would at least be wise to choose a route we were confident we could summit.


This was our rough plan:

Saturday Sept. 6:

9am: Meet, eat, pack

12pm: Cycle to the mountain via Springwater Corridor, backroads, and Hwy 26

6pm: Arrive at Timberline, secure our bikes, eat, sleep on the benches in the climber registration hut using our packs for thermarests and warm layers for insulation.

Sunday Sept. 7:

12am: wake up, stretch, eat, and get it together

1am: on route, looking for a good crossing over the White River Glacier

Climb the Wy'East route with impeccable speed and style

9am: summit, celebrate

descend, Wy'East or Old Chute as terrain, fatigue, and timing dictate.

12pm: Back at Timberline, get bikes, head down to Portland

4pm: Back in P-Town, sleep.


As you might imagine, it didn't go off just like that.



As we were set on biking to the mountain, every piece of gear counted, because we would be riding with it on our backs. Since we expected minimal snow cover, and felt confident not roping up on the described route, we took no ropes, harnesses, pickets, screws, no stove, no pot, and no tent. I took the frame out of my pack to make it less rigid for the cycling, my only pieces of true emergency gear were my emergence space blanket and a 2'x2' of ridgerest pad. Jay figured I'd be nice enough to share in a bind and took exactly what he needed.



The trip started out with a massive breakfast at 930am Saturday morning. We ate, looked at the route, looked at two week old pictures of the south side, psyched ourselves up, checked the bikes, and left my house at noon. We hit our first navigation snag on the Springwater Corridor itself, however a little bushwacking and technical footwork in cycling shoes proved effective solutions:


Packing up in SE Portland


We took the ride easy, knowing we would need the energy later for climbing up to Timberline.

Around mile 45 we stopped at the Zigzag Subway to grab post ride food before heading up the mountain (Subway is generally pretty efficient in terms of Calories/$$). We were both surprised at how little our packs bothered us.


After Subway, my clipless pedals gave me an advantage on Jay's platforms as we began the long climb up to G-camp and T-line. Jay and I split, but met up for photos, and a chance to fix a flat in Jay's back tire. Fantastic sunset photos.


On a bike, you definitely notice the 2000ft gain in 5.5 miles from Hwy 26 to Timberline- especially after biking from Portland (and climbing another 2500 ft in the previous 10 miles), you notice it even more than usual. I arrived at the lodge around 720pm, it was getting dark and cooling off- the tourists were pouring out of the lodge, only to find me very sweaty, stretching in the parking lot, wearing nothing but bike shorts, my pack and a my glasses. I was beat, and never, ever, has a Subway ham sandwich tasted soooo good. Jay showed up around 8, and we scoped for a place to stash the bikes and prep for sleeping/climbing. We both allowed as to how we felt very tired from the ride. Sean is a regular mountain goat at the Wy'East lodge and runs the ski patrol racket there. He offered to let us leave our bikes in the ski patrol office while we climbed- high style Sean, thanks!


Since we didn't bring sleeping gear, we wore all our clothes and slept on our packs on the benches in the climbers registration hut- I found sleep easily, unfortunately Jay did not. We were dozing off by 9, and decided to push back departure until 3am just to allow some more rest after a tough ride. We woke at 2, stretched and ate, got our gear together and set off up the standard route. My legs felt surprisingly okay for having finished such a tough ride 6 hours prior, but I suspected I wouldn’t have my usual endurance.



Aside from skirting some impressively large crevasses on the White River Glacier, our climb was relatively uneventful until we got to the base of the ramp up the Steel Cliffs. The route was largely snow free, which meant pushing through some fairly tiring scree fields. Starting around 9200 feet there was a snowfield that gave us easy access to the ridge behind the Steel Cliffs, but we noticed a significant amount of rockfall coming down on us. We climbed the snowfield, to the ridge, and enjoyed spectacular views to the east, south and west. Our guidebook had made the route sound very straightforward from here “follow the ridge to the summit”. From where we stood, we could only see an imposing set of gendarmes that marched north from the Steel Cliffs and obscured the summit. We still aren’t sure exactly which part of the route we were on, but at that point were definitely sure that the route had just gotten significantly more interesting, especially on our already tired legs.


This is where the climb really got interesting. For the next 3 hours, Jay and I picked our way gingerly through three super loose rock gullies, dodging intermittent rockfall from above, and trying to sort out how to get up on the summit. Finding ourselves in the 3rd gully and looking at what was obviously the summit, we were a bit stymied by a almost entirely melted out snow/ice ramp that turned the entire gully into muddy paste. By the time I had scouted the line, I was largely committed to finishing- Jay and I had already agreed pushing forward to the summit was significantly safer than trying to downclimb the previous rock gullies. Jay took a rock in the arm, awarding him a small surface wound, and I got hit on my helmet, boots, and pack, but with no injuries.


The line to the summit was a short technical snowfield with patches of hard ice surrounded by melted out, highly unstable sludge (snow+mud+rockfall). I put my crampons while seated on a basketball size rock that seemed to be the only thing didn’t move when I touched it. We powered up the pitch into increased rockfall (it was 1015am at this point) and summitted at 1050am. We were both pumped with adrenaline from the sketchy terrain and rockfall, but enjoyed perfect summit conditions, no wind, clear skies, and predictably awesome views. We rested for almost an hour then headed down the Old Chute route at noon.


From our vantage on the Steel Cliffs we had seen several other parties descending the Old Chute earlier in the morning, and were expecting a straightforward descent. Rockfall continued with the warming day, and we both felt a strong desire to get down to the bikes and start working on the ride home. Both Jay and I had climbed the Old Chute several times, and didn’t expect any trouble with the terrain, but seeing as how difficult we found the Wy’East, we should have expected some surprises here as well. Probably due to a mix of fatigue, elation, and relief to be on more solid ground, both of us missed some surface signs indicating crevasses where we honestly never expected them. crack1.jpg

Jay was about 20ft downslope from me when I looked down to see him failing his arms, armpit deep in the snow. We weren’t traveling roped up, nor were we packing anything for crack rescue- we had agreed early on to climb solo. I did a double take before I was completely convinced of Jay’s predicament, after which I realized I needed to get in a position to help, without becoming a victim myself. Fortunately, Jay wasn’t a big fan of being stuck in the crack- his legs were kicking air and after his first attempt at getting out he could see an ice mushroom below him surrounded by a whole lot of deep, cold nothing. His second attempt to roll out was quick and effective and we headed downhill pronto. This crack was about 2/3 the way up the Old Chute, above the Hogsback Bergschrud, and just below the snowfield narrows in between the rock fins that form the Chute- this was much higher than either of us had expected to find any cracks.


We continued down into the crater and traversed the bottom of it to the Hogsback, several significant rockfall events followed our descent and kept us on our toes. Once below crater rock, the walk down was uneventful- aside from a massive rock slide that calved off of Illumination Rock. Jay and I concluded that the mountain is most assuredly falling apart this time of year. We made good time back to Timberline (2hrs 40m), and after a some food, repacked for the ride home. We updated Sean on conditions when we retrieved our bikes from his office, and started down the hill at 3:35.


Needless to say, the ride home was definitely more fun and less work. After 35 minutes of coasting downhill we stopped at the Subway in Zigzag to refuel (pretty much 14 miles without cranking). Jay was complaining of fatigue and soreness until he got a sandwich in him. Then he turned into a monster. We rode from Zigzag to Portland without stop, with the exception of a few stoplights. Somewhere just outside of Gresham my left started feeling seriously crappy, but other than that, both of us felt strong. We pulled into my driveway at 7:10pm, 7:20 minutes after standing on the summit of Mt. Hood.


Jay- Thanks for an amazing human powered adventure, and I’m really glad that crack didn’t eat you for lunch. It was an awesome weekend.




Gear Notes:

not much. bike gear, layers, a puffy, 2'x2'ridgerest, and emergency space blanket.


Approach Notes:

65 miles of cycling, uphill

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Great TR! Very impressive. Ive just starting riding my bike to work, about 26 miles round trip, and that beats me up!! I can only imagine your pain!

Monster trip!

thanks for sharing!

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Awesome! If you ever wanted to push it even further you could leave the 26 traffic behind and mt bike the trail all the way up to T-Line from Zig-Zag!

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why does this pic make me want to hurl so bad?



i guess it's harder to get the bike approach to work in winter when the mountain's actually in fun shape...

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Nice work dudes! Serious stuff with all the loose rocks you must have been looking at. 1 rock on the bean while on upper Wyeast and that 2000' or so ride down the talus would have been a bitch eh?


Wow. :o


:tup: to making it back.

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Mmm, glad you boys didn’t get nailed by rocks in the wrong places… This to me emphasizes the importance of that midnight departure time from Timberline for those late season climbs. And the immanent unpredictability of big mts. – crevasse danger in the Old Chute!

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Does anybody know of other climbs that people have done in the Northwest using bikes instead of cars to reach the mountains?


I'm thinking this might be an interesting article for a future issue of the Northwest Mountaineering Journal. PM me if you have any leads.


I'm aware of the speed bike/ascent of Rainier done earlier this year that was reported on Mike Gauthier's blog:




A friend of mine bicycled round-trip from Seattle to climb Mt Stuart a couple years ago. That was a multi-day trip.


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We didn't do much research on previous attempts at this, but as Jay's post below indicates, you can definitely expect to see at least several more of these trips happen in the next year. The style of climb, the purity of experience, and the incredible partnership that it creates has made it a defining experience for me, and one that I hope to repeat soon.


If there is an article for the NW Mountaineering journal, Jay and I would love to contribute a report, please let us know how we can help!


However, I'll be happy to wait for better mountain conditions. I also own an xtracycle cargo bicycle that Jay and I believe may be essential for pursuing more technical climbs that require more gear and support equipment. This was a great start.


Just so you all know, I may have written the trip report, but this was Jay's climb as much as mine, and having such a solid, motivated partnership was probably still the defining facet of success.


Thank you all for all the support,

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Nice work guys! Especially Jay for making it all the way up on flats. Get that guy some clipless pedals.


I thought about doing this a couple of years ago as a human-powered sea-level to summit climb. If I get the time, I'll try it some day. You can ride from Astoria to Portland mostly on back roads and HWY 30, and then take your route up the mountain. Would definitely add fatigue and mileage, since it's about 100 miles from Astoria to Portland.

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