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[TR] Mount Hood - Steel Cliff(s) 6/25/2011


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Trip: Mount Hood - Steel Cliff(s)


Date: 6/25/2011


Trip Report:

So, I have to know, are they the Steel Cliffs, or the Steel Cliff, as Oregon High has it?


Whichever, it looks as though anything on top of that shoulder, is called the Steel Cliff route. I think that what we did was the green route in the following picture, and I think that what is expected is the red route, but I'd be curious to hear what others have done. This photo was taken on June 25th late morning:


Here are what I think are the same routes from a sligthly different angle (This photo was taken on June 24th at about 9pm):



We started at 9:45pm (yes, PM) on Friday, June 24th - the forecast was for high winds, with even higher gusting winds, until about midnight. I figured that by midnight, we could start the actual route, with less fear of stuff being blown down on top of us. The freezing level was forecasted to be low-ish, below 10k feet until sometime on Saturday, after which, it was expected to rise, hence my desire to do at least some of the route during the night. One of my partners thought that we were crazy to start a technical route in the dark. Had I ever done so, before? On a route that I didn't know? Hmmm - I couldn't remember if I'd had or hadn't. . . Anyway, we were there, so we went. I found the base of the route by noticing that a rock field started. We headed up from there. We switched leads and I stopped paying attention to where we were going, as long as it was up, I was happy. A little while later, we stopped for a rest and one of my partners said that he just wasn't feeling it. We hopped him up with Toblerone and caffeinated Gu, and he and his carpool mate went back down - we'd done nothing that we thought was "technical" up to that point, so we didn't worry too much about him heading down. We were all used to steep terrain.


Michael and I continued on up, but after a while, it was looking like a maze, and we couldn't see a clear path, so we decided to try to take a snooze and wait until light, with Michael suggesting that maybe we should think about roping up (and putting in pro) from now on.


When the light came, we moved up, but for some reason, Michael wasn't interested in roping up just there. Maybe the light gave him courage, I don’t know. So we went up, and we started coming to one challenging section after another. We finally chose one of the challenging sections, and started up that. I tried, first, in a gully with rocks – how hard can that be? I hooked both of my tools on a nice rock and pulled up. I was a happy camper until I noticed that there was a crack in the rock, on the side that both of my tools were on. I moved one. Michael decided to head up to my right, right in the center of the smallish gully. He managed to clear the band of rock, and noticed a softer snow gully off on the left side and headed up that. I followed, noticing that his legs were longer than mine, so it was all I could do to get my leg up on top of the rock band before heading up the soft left gully. I neglected to take pictures of that gully. Sorry.


At this point, we knew we had to go seriously up, and finally roped up. I took a couple of pictures while Michael was setting up. This one was due east of our spot, with the sun rising, looking toward the Wy'east:


There was this slanting (non-90 degree) rime ice:


but Michael suggested that I head up the 90 degree stuff. I’m so malleable, so I did it, hoping that the whole thing wouldn’t peel off with me on it (but the rope and my belay would have held me, right?). It didn’t peel - and it was only 5 feet or so before I felt as though I was on something solid, and saw a huge gaping hole to my right, which would have made that slanting bit of ice a real challenge, since it was over that hole. . . whereas, where I was, I was able to casually walk over to my left, and see a really easy path to, what turned out to be, the top of the Steel Cliff, although I didn’t know that at the time. I went the entire rope length before belaying up Michael. We switched leads and he got us to the top, which put us solidly onto the Wy’east.


Here are the views after topping out. First, the obligatory shadow of the mountain:


Then, looking down the route we took:


Then the look up the rim (part of the Wy’east route):


And then a look at the rock and rime ice melting off from all around the rock (see how much space there is between the ice and the rock?) which gave me pause, thinking about what I’d climbed. . .:


For those of you interested in Wy’east conditions from here on out – they were spectacular, with someone having skied practically the whole thing, earlier, including the traverse around the gendarme!


Here is a view while going along the rim toward the west – looks like folks lined up going around Crater Rock:


Here’s a view, with the big gendarme in sight:



It was so beautifully covered that I was tempted to climb up and over, but we went around and then beneath it (in the skier’s tracks). Here is my foot, with the rope draped around it, having just gone under the gendarme, and about to go up the last bit to the rim, again, but looking down:



And here’s looking up, from that same spot, at climber’s right – we went around that second, small gendarme, to the left, as part of the rim walk to the summit:



That's it - it took us 11.5 hours to summit, including the snooze and a couple of rests and such, but yeah, compared with some of the studs and studesses on Cascade Climbers, we were slow. . .


(FYI, on the summit, we met two guys who had done the Devils Kitchen headwall - they said that it was about 1/2 snow and 1/2 waterfall ice.)



Gear Notes:

Didn't seem to be any call for ice screws. Pickets are handy if you don't like chancing oblivion.


Approach Notes:

We headed northeast from the top of Palmer, following a fairly gentle slope down onto the White River, and, as near as I could tell, ended up right at the base of the route.

Edited by leora
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Hell yea, nicely done! That was Sean and I who met ya on the summit.


We did Devils Kitchen headwall (right variation). Just to clarify conditions on DKH, we used 4 screws and three pickets. Conditions were variable from solid snow to thin snice. A short WI2/3 step (15-20ft) in the second pitch protected well with screws, everything else was pretty sketch until the slope mellowed out. Lots of fun! Go get some!

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Ah - great to hear from you, Rick, and get the exact scoop!


On mine, I forgot to mention that having a hammer (on my ice tool) was convenient, as some of pickets had to be driven into this ice/snice. . .



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