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The Cascade Kid

[TR] Mt Hood South Side 5/20

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My friend (a former NOLS instructor about to head back to China to be a bum and study) and I decided on very short notice to do some work on the South side of Mt. Hood in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. The night before as we tried to snag so Zs down in govy, I could hear it raining outside and was wondering to my internet-stranded self how the conditions were going to pan out. We left the T-Line lot at 1:30 am to ~15-20mph NW winds and new snow blowing sideways. Worrying slightly about visibility, we headed up anyways to reach clearing at about 7k' with no moon and a decent cat track to tramp along.

 

[img:center]http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3395/3552242451_c6c1c0958d.jpg[/img]

 

We brought some red plastic sleds with us to speed the descent and stashed them in a pit just off of the end of the cat track before heading up to the rock band. The snow was alright, about 4 inches of windload on top of a hard and icy layer that I suspect was frozen rain of the night before. We made good time up to crater rock after noticing a group of 12 ragtag lights (Mazamas?) following up our steps about 20 minutes behind us. I wanted to put good space between us and them so as not to get tangled with them on the final pitches.

 

[img:center]http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2475/3553051004_371c2599a5.jpg[/img]

 

The hog's back made for easy going and steps were already kicked west across the slope to the final pitch. Snow conditions here were of mild question, with a fairly loose layer predominating on top.

 

[img:center]http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2455/3553052858_8ee721d855.jpg[/img]

 

Punching up through the rime as the pair ahead of us descended from above rained some down on top of us, we topped out at 7am to meet some Volkl sponsored skiers seemingly preparing to shoot a segment East of the summit. Enjoying the bluebird skies for ten minutes or so, we descended. Meeting a solo climber halfway down the pitch, he informed us that the ragtag bunch was roping up on the hogs back. As we turned the corner, we were greeted with a zoo.

 

Two rope teams of four were tightly bunched on the upper reaches of the hog's back, while another was progessing out onto the traverse. The leader placed four pickets in the space of probably 40 ft while his team moved behind him at an agonizing crawl. It quickly became apparent that he had not explained to his apparently novice companions how to pass pro, and so each had to be shouted instructions as they reached the first of the pickets. My partner and I opted to move quickly and descended to them intending to pass. When we reached the leader he was crouched next to the second member of his team and when asked what was up, he said "His harness is literally falling off" (Mazamas.). This man, despite having placed four, was still wearing at least 6 other pickets like a suit of armor, along with several ice screws.

 

We snuck past the circus and headed down the hogs back and had reached the second to last of them when he, looking nervous at my approach, prudently dropped his ice axe down the slope, where it came to rest next to a fumarole. Quickly becoming anxious while the man behind him asked loudly and repeatedly "Why did you do that? What are you going to do now?". A shouting match quickly ensued between the rear team and the leader above about how they weren't going to summit, which did nothing but make the man so nervous that he looked like he was about to legitimately panic. I decided to take matters into my own hands and whipped out my ski poles, handed the man my axe, and walked him through turning around and walking back down the hogs back to where they had left a pile of their backpacks. The whole team was a joke, and the man was actually in kinda bad shape. We got him set sitting on the hogs back to wait for his friends, and he informed us that this had only added to his bad day, as early his crampon had fallen off (what??). As soon as he was seated, he started to get stomach cramps and had to stand back up. Getting him seated again, my WFR self started asking the usual questions and found that he was actually pretty dehydrated. Noticing that the teams were headed back down, having made it no further than where we encountered them, we got ready to leave once he was secure. A few questions yielded very predictable answers. Yes, they were mazamas, and all "first timers" except for the man in lead.

 

Taking leave of him and absolving ourselves of legal liability, my partner and I quickly descended to T-line to find that our sleds had been replaced by a cat track. Probing at length with my avy prove, I failed to recover them, and I suspect that they were in fact confiscated by whoever had decided to drive a cat in a circle right there.

 

We were back at the car by 10:15 or so, having dallied to look for the sleds, drink a redbull, and talk to an old fellow at the top of t-line. All in all it was easy and solid, and a good start to our season (and my partner's 1-day season- she is at this moment back in Beijing).

 

[img:center]http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3625/3553052132_b76121e05f.jpg[/img]

 

A few final thoughts on the group at the hog's back though:

I am relatively new to this sport, but I've got some sense in me, as well as the skillset needed to tackle a fairly benign route like the S. side of Hood. Even though I've spent little time on the mountain and haven't really seen the range of who tackles these sorts of things, it was clear to me that the group in question was so radically out of place as to put themselves in danger. New to the forum as well, I don't know the going opinion of Mazamas, but I'd like to lodge a complaint with the cosmos: it is an extremely ridiculous situation when institutionalized risk actually makes things riskier. Opting to rope up, they wasted valuable time as the snow above warmed, and they moved out into the shooting gallery only to run into a problem that further decried their unpreparedness (how does a harness fall off?) which left them standing on that slope for easily 30-40 minutes.

Their leader was also in no position to be leading 11 inexperienced people, as merely accepting such a charge decries foolishness. Furthermore, as the situation around him became more complicated and dangerous, he responded by becoming more agitated and feisty with his group, and failed to come up with a solution to any of the problems that he faced.

 

I appreciate that the Mazamas respond to a desire in budding outdoorsmen to reach the high places in the world, but to assume responsibility for the unaware and unprepared is dangerous, and may lead either to decreased interest in mountain travel, or worse, tragedy.

 

Edited by The Cascade Kid

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Fantastic report man. One of the better South Side TR to date, your pics are stellar as well.

If you go back and look at probably the three most recent trip reports from Hood you will see that they all include a run in with the Mazamas of some sort. I have been up Hood twice this year and both times it has been a cluster fuck of some sort. I witnessed the same thing you did, although I still feel it was a 10 person rope team not two 5s, on the Old Chute route. I have mixed feelings on the issue: First I am stoked that they are getting people outside, I think that is a wonderful thing in this day-and-age. But I agree that the manor in which they do it in is not very safe IMHO. I feel that there is a time and a place for learning these mountaineering techniques, and that pitch before the summit on Hood is neither. There are many other suitable slopes on Hood in which to practice rope team travel, which are not in the way of other people.

 

Would other care to weigh in on this?

 

TCK, there is some dialog between some Mazama members and others in my Hood TR.

Also just wondering, is the 12 person party rule in effect for Hood?

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Also just wondering, is the 12 person party rule in effect for Hood?

 

Yes, Because that is the restriction placed by the Forest Service pertaining how many "heart beats" can occupy the wilderness at one time , in one team. It's an out dated requirement that eliminated horse teams and oxen teams from traveling on trails in the designated "wilderness" around Mt Hood. It is still enforced, epecially when it comes to thru hikers on the PCT, which hits Mt. Hood. The PCT allows pack animals and stock to cross wilderness.

 

Remember, Pack animals and wagons at one time where considered the ATV of the early 20th century.

 

Hence the regulation.

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sucks about the sleds!

 

I can give a brief 'mazamas' take on this. I moved here from out east, had plenty of experience hiking in the Appalachians and even some backpacking trips at elevation in south american. serious snow/climbing experience, I did not have. Many things I will read a book/forum/fly by the seat of my pants (car repairs, gardening, plumbing, etc) and it is fine, I learn, and gain skill. Sure, doing some of the scrambles here (helens, s. sister, wallowa peaks) were just an extension of hiking..

 

However, climbing, even on a 'tame' one like Hood on a good day, wasn't one of those things I just wanted to jump into. Ideally, I would have a friend or friends who know what they are doing who are willing to mentor/supplement what I can read in freedom of the hills. However, without that resource, the basic mazama course was what made sense. And we spent a weekend on hood with snow skills, many separate days in our harness climbing/traversing/passing through pro in various settings throughout the class, going over things.. sounds like someone was asleep in class...

 

Having now summited hood once with a group of mazamas people, but not an 'official' climb, I am signed up for an 'official' climb with a large group (11). While our first climb was still a 'big' group (6) compared to most trip reports I see here, we left very early, moved fast along the traverse, and didn't have any issues with anyone's hiking strength/gear/ability. While I am looking forward to this next climb, with more of my classmates, I am admittedly more hesitant that we may rope up for the sake of roping up, move slower along the traverse, and I will be exposed to more risk than being unroped. When our first group was up there last week, all roped groups were going extremely slow, and many had tons of slack line between people - which seemed somewhat besides the point. All the roping definitely seemed to be an impediment to other climbers and to increase the risk of falling ice hitting by spending more time along the traverse.

 

With that in mind, I probably will not sign up for another hood ss mazama climb after this, though I will climb hood more. However, I would posit the experience of a group of 4 to 8 who have all climbed for a few years, doing jefferson or shuksan or olympus is probably a dramatically different attitude/experience. Mazamas do a lot of climbs on hood's south side, but they also do a ton outside of that on other peaks and I have my doubts they are viewed (or even recognized) in the same manner by other climbers at locations outside of hood. Hood bring out the newbies, heck, thats why I'm here.

 

my obvious goal is to stick with the handful of people I've met through this class who I trust and enjoy being around to pursue climbs on our own.

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Back in the 70's my cousin (God rest his soul) took me up Hood for the first time. My uncle insisted he bring the rope. When we got to the upper mountain I asked, "What about the rope?". He replied "I ain't letting no idiot drag me down the mountain". Looking around I noticed I was the only idiot with him....

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He replied "I ain't letting no idiot drag me down the mountain". Looking around I noticed I was the only idiot with him....

 

That's a good story!

 

 

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Man, I'm not putting my foot in my mouth again on THIS issue! Water and I had a great climb last weekend - We did leave early and traverse fast. That was the key I feel. No one cried, no one died. And he had a COLD beer for me at the end!

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do you call it outdated in the sense that the limit should in fact be lower, as those pack animals have been replaced with people traveling in large groups?

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