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Holk

[TR] Mount Hood - Leuthold Couloir 5/20/2011

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Trip: Mount Hood - Leuthold Couloir

 

Date: 5/20/2011

 

Trip Report:

Sigh ... Sorry to throw yet another Hood report up here. However, I want to eat my cake too.

 

My brother Isaac and I made an attempt at Leuthold on Friday. Unfortunately our start came later than intended by a couple of hours and in turn we paid the price for it with ice/avy danger later that morning.

 

Everyone seemed to want the summit that day - seeing hoards of climbing teams in the lot frightened me - so it was quite nice to immediately deviate from the standard path to ascend over the Zigzag glacier up to Illumination saddle. Traversing the Reid Glacier below the bergshrund's was choice and there was a solid boot pack to follow as well. At this point zero ice had fallen from the rime covered crags above and the snow continued in good shape, although it was clear we had entered a dangerous region as recent avalanches were obvious.

 

The moment we began our ascent of the Couloir our ears could pick up the sound of small trickling ice. At this our ascent quickened. Too rushed for protection we opted to short-rope up from there. At a point just prior to the hourglass our route deviated up a narrow gully that came to a dead end. First thoughts brought us to believing we could climb up and over the rime ice, but as the slope increased to near 60 degrees and with the rime to climb being yet even steeper we opted to back out. Had we have continued our path would've led us up the Reid Headwall.

 

So, at this point we're quite tired, the sun wasn't going to stop rising and our terrain was worsening by the moment. My brother and I both decided it was best to downclimb asap and be off the glacier before the imminent instability led to our deaths. Upon our descent, as we neared the glacier once more, an avalanche came roaring off the top of Castle Crags to our right and hurled deadly sized hunks of ice down toward our traverse path. Smaller pieces of ice flew past us and it was much help having a helmet, since otherwise there would be several dents in my scull. Our pace quickened. Half an hour later and we had returned to Illumination Saddle.

 

In the end, I know that we would have been fine had we climbed up the correct point within the hourglass and not gone astray. That said, I have no intentions of attempting this route again until it's well below freezing, that is to say, next winter. Oh right, and from what the other reports have to say, I'm actually quite glad I never made it to the summit ... no sharing of the west side to be had.

 

With the exception of an awful "1940's baseball mitt" sunburn across my face all is now well.

 

How my heart soared that we were climbing Leuthold this day!

leuthold1.jpg

 

Isaac roped up at the summit ... err, I mean Illumination Saddle. Jeff in the background/my next target.

leuthold3.jpg

 

Saint Helens and lower Yocum Ridge looking freakin' rad!

leuthold2.jpg

 

Isaac crossing the Reid Glacier with Illumination Rock and a semi-full moon behind.

leuthold4.jpg

 

The beginning of the couloir atop old avy debris.

leuthold5.jpg

 

This is after our downclimb of the 55+ degree crumbling off chute. Quite deliriously happy to be out of there.

leuthold6.jpg

 

Seldom seen views of Leuthold for the time of day. Happy to have it, happier to have not.

leuthold7.jpg

 

No lingering happened here, trust me. Photo taken while on the move.

leuthold8.jpg

 

The end.

leuthold9.jpg

 

Gear Notes:

cramps, venoms, munchables, 8mm 30m glacier rope, unused pickets, HELMET!! and so forth.

 

Approach Notes:

Climber's left is nice & full-ish moon meant no headlamp!

Edited by Holk

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I'm glad to see you made it back safely, what time would you guess you made it back to Illumination Saddle?

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Well, again I'm glad you made it back safely, seriously. I don't want to be preachy, because there's plenty of that on this web site, and that's not my interests, but you are luckier than you probably know.

 

You remember the avalanche debris you came to at the bottom of Leuthold Couloir? That avalanche occurred around 4:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon and slides continued into the early evening. The one that came down through Leuthold was the largest one. Why do I know this? I have a good view of the mountain from my house, a pair of good binoculars, and climbed the route (the standard Leuthold route) a few hours earlier than you did.

 

Anyway that avalanche you witness from Castle Crags on your way back was tiny compared to the one that came off Reid Headwall at 11:25 a.m. (give or take a couple minutes, I actually saw it happen with the binoc's from my house). This avalanche was at least twice as big as the debris pile you saw at the base of Leuthold and ran out on the Reid Glacier twice as far. Obviously this would have covered the boot path area about where your brother was in the last photo (give or take).

 

Again, I'm not telling you this to be preachy, or to be "more awesome" than someone else, I'll leave that to other bloggers. I'm not "more awesome" than anyone- I still have sore calves because we hauled ass until we got well past the hourglass and I'm out of climbing shape. It just pertains to what we were both doing that day. Your pictures are way better than ours.

 

 

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Thanks for the information Millsb. I don't think that's preachy at all, and do expect to hear some from others. I fully agree that it was way too dangerous there, and knew at the time even that we were luckier than we figured. I've read enough about that route to understand it's instability at any temperature above freezing.

 

I admit we should not have attempted the route given the immediate signs of danger entering into it, plus our late start, because there really was no room for error or back tracking, such as we did. Had we entered the proper couloir we would've made it out of there in time, but just barely.

 

So like I said in the report, no more attempts until next year when things are solidified. Thank you again for the update on the route and the serious reminder of just how treacherous that area is!

 

Glad you made it safely and were successful.

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We arrived at Illumination at around 3:45 (a little early, and a little crazy). If it wasn't frozen hard, we were going to head to Devil's Kitchen Headwall or the Pearly Gates as a last resort. It was really cold at that time, some guys camped at the saddle said the inside of their tent was 27, I think it was in the low 20's and everything was really hard all the way up Leuthold. So we went for it and went fast, were well above the hourglass by 5:30.

 

From my house I have seen 3 big avalanches on Leuthold this winter (I've been watching because my friend and I have been wanting to do this route). One ran almost the whole length of the Reid Glacier, just enormous.

 

I saw you were looking at Jefferson, that's a fun (but long) Mt. I did the Southwest Ridge (read long and tedious), but it was fun and not really too difficult. I am not sure if you've done it before, but the traverse was easy and so is the summit block (obviously that depends on conditions, I went early July because the horn held rime late that year).

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That said, I have no intentions of attempting this route again until it's well below freezing, that is to say, next winter.

 

Nothing was shedding/sliding off Leutholds and Reid HW today as we passed them en route to Yocum which was in great shape too until mid-day! But then again just a few would enjoy being out there in the marginal forecast with 30 mph winds :)

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That said, I have no intentions of attempting this route again until it's well below freezing, that is to say, next winter.

 

Nothing was shedding/sliding off Leutholds and Reid HW today as we passed them en route to Yocum which was in great shape too until mid-day! But then again just a few would enjoy being out there in the marginal forecast with 30 mph winds :)

and so ya'lls tr is in the werks? :)

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Nothing was shedding/sliding off Leutholds and Reid HW today as we passed them en route to Yocum which was in great shape too until mid-day! But then again just a few would enjoy being out there in the marginal forecast with 30 mph winds :)

 

Intentions and realities differ quite often and you do tempt me. However, I don't know if I care to head up that side of the mountain for a little while. Thinking Cathedral Ridge instead.

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and so ya'lls tr is in the werks? :)

 

Ha, Ivan - I am currently half blind and when I recover after the ER visit... I'll tell ya the 3rd gendarme is what a bitch! :fahq:

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Thinking Cathedral Ridge instead.

 

Certainly a worthy objective that was also in great shape when we looked at it from Yocum. Do consider its "early season variation" starting at the Sandy glacier - it seems to be officially open for the season and will only get better with more snow on its way.

The Sandy's shrund is easily passable on the left next to rocks.

 

The mighty Cathedral ridge as seen from Yocum:

5759238511_3e11725ef3_b.jpg

 

Purty Cathedral taken out from the canadian rockies theme:

5759250019_25df690f36_b.jpg

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well, it'll be russki, so no doubt it'll contain:

- many innocents dying or being hopelessly hurt

- bad weather

- heartbreak and tragedy

- ultimate intoxication

 

:)

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OK, ok, OW - not much to cough it up really but when/if I ever finish the route I will do my best, to cough it up that is :)

 

The original idea was to have a casual C2C walk to the west side, cross Yocum ridge at 8600' which we did and crawl down onto the Sandy glacier over the shrund and then head up the Sandy HW gully "12 d" (the closest gully to Yocum ridge from the north) to the Upper Buttress, link up the "12 c" traverse below the buttress (apparently, not recommended due to extensive rime) and finish via "1937" exit to the Queens Chair.

Little did I know at the time that Yocum has 6 subridges with the second one being the sketchiest.

Well, somehow we missed the 12 d entrance and instead headed up the 5th subridge of Yocum all way to the 3rd gendarme :)

Sustained 60-65 deg with lots of rime (and thank god, nice alpine ice underneath) and decent knife-bladeable rock here and there. A serious whiteout was frightening our further existence so we chose to downclimb, although taking the Retreat Gully 12 b to bail down to the Leutholds on the other side might have been a better idea. The camera got hit by fallen rime, so only a few pics survived.

 

Up on Yocum:

5759783570_4e46a720d2_b.jpg

 

Myself at the base:

5759785604_d999d2e1f2_z.jpg

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Your photos rock! May I ask what sensor size/lenses you used?

 

The photos seen in this post were taken using a Canon G11, which is more of a Point n Shoot/SLR hybrid and is rather convenient for shooting without really ever stopping.

 

However, I need to get it together and take my DSLR from now on, which is a Canon 7D, because it shoots absurdly higher quality imagery.

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