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[TR] Mt Hood - Leuthold's Couloir 5/4/2011


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Trip: Mt Hood - Leuthold's Couloir


Date: 5/4/2011


Trip Report:

Todd arrived just as I finished ziplocking my cream cheese and peanut butter burrito. I shoved the bag in my pack and rushed out the door to flag him down. It was 1:30 in the morning. I threw my gear in the trunk and hopped in his car.

“You get any sleep?” Todd asked as he poured a cup of coffee.

“Didn’t even try. I literally just got back from the bar.”


Cats were out and busy when we started skinning away from Timberline. Ahead of us in what looked like the sky was the parade of headlamps from the midnight trekkers ascending the south route. We had just reached Illumination Saddle as the south slopes became fully visible. I was slightly ahead of Todd during the traverse and hadn’t noticed that there was someone with him. His name was Paul. He offered us tea and whiskey. I took a swig from his flask and chased it with gummy bears. Paul’s partner had bailed during the skin up the Palmer lift and had to turn around. After sharing drinks we decided to team up. Neither Todd or I had done this route so we were happy to have another mind with us. We ditched our skis on the open slope of the saddle as a last sign to the world before dropping down to the west face.



Todd took the first lead as we descended to the Reid glacier. Untouched by winds and direct sunlight, the sheltered west face preserved much of the late April snowfalls. We swapped leads often to take turns breaking trail through the deep snow. Without our skis we moved slowly across the glacier and allowed the sun to warm the upper slopes of Leuthold’s. As we ascended towards the Hourglass, golf ball sized chunks of ice were already trickling down the mountain. It was mutually understood without words that getting through the Hourglass as quickly as possible was crucial. Foregoing anchors and ropes to save time we entered the narrow ice shoot that formed the waist of Hourglass. Within a couple feet of entering the shoot we went from post-holing to throwing daggers and balancing on front points. Sharp pings from falling ice pellets acted as reminders to hurry up every time we stopped to catch our breaths. The upper slope of Leuthold’s was blanketed in direct sunlight as we climbed out of the Hourglass. We took a break in the safety of the upper slope of Leuthold’s to shed layers and eat a little before climbing out of the couloir.

We gained the northwest ridge around 11:00 am. With the most difficult climbing far behind us, it was now just a scalding confrontation with time. The altitude and relentless sun only made it worse. After a while the repetition kicked in and the view separated my mind from the climbing. I became so detached that the summit took me by surprise. Disbelief soon subsided and I ditched my pack and took a heavy seat on the summit ridge. Paul’s flask came out and made its way around. We only sat there long enough to eat whatever food we had left, take a couple pictures, and pour one out for Paul’s late aunt before dropping down the Old Shoots and making our way back to our skis.




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