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goran

[TR] Mt. Hood - Reid Glacier Headwall 1/5/2014

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Trip: Mt. Hood - Reid Glacier Headwall

 

Date: 1/5/2014

 

Trip Report:

Dan, Dave and I took off from Timberline at 3:40a on Sunday morning. We were on top of Palmer at ~5:15a, After some shivering as we waited for morning light, we departed the saddle for the Reid Glacier at 7:15a. Only a strong breeze coming from the east prevented conditions from being optimal: clear and cold, with secure, firm snow.

 

I led across the glacier, staying as high as possible. We turned back uphill at roughly 9k'. There were no crevasses to cross except the 'schrund, which was well-bridged. There wasn't a significant amount of debris coming down from above --- all signs were positive. Progress was fast up to the first gully at 9,600' or 9,800'. I continued to simul up through the gully, placing 3 10cm or 13cm screws in shallow ice. The ice was aerated, and made for solid, one-hit-wonder sticks. There was occasional exposed rock and dirt, but navigating it was straightforward.

 

As I placed a stubby just before a 15' section of steep ice, I felt a large, jolting impact on the side of my head. Fortunately, my stance was secure; once I finished placing the screw, I felt at my helmet and found a significant gouge. Crap.

 

After belaying Dan and Dave up to the , I took off through the next gully. In an open snowfield just below it, I glanced up to see football-sized ice chunks only 50 feet up, coming down straight for me. I jumped to the side and landed in self-arrest position just in time as a chunk of ice hit the side of my thigh and sheared my ice clipper, scattering a few screws down the face.

 

The rest of our time on the face was a blur: I'd lead out as far as possible and we'd simul until I was through the steepest steps, at which point I'd establish a belay in the most sheltered spot possible and bring Dan and Dave up. My overwhelming concern was that the sun would hit the rime above us and create a bigger shitstorm than we were already experiencing. Fortunately, though we were pelted by many smaller pieces of ice, those first two impacts I described were by far the largest.

 

Being on a rope together may or may not have added safety --- if any of us had been struck by ice and fallen as we simulclimbed between belays without gear, we would almost certainly have been unable to arrest the fall. At the same time, being on a rope meant that two of the three of us were on belay through the most technical and exposed sections of the climb.

 

At any rate, we topped out on steep snowfields above the danger zone at or before noon. Looking down at the Hogsback bathed in warm sun was a welcome sight indeed. We topped out, lazed around, and made it back to the lot at 4p.

 

In retrospect, I suspect that the uncharacteristic easterly breeze was knocking loose the large volume of rime we were bombarded with. It was cold on the face, and the sun didn't touch the ice above us all morning. I'd like to think we made the best of the situation by moving fast, making route-finding decisions to avoid the worst of the debris, and staying solid physically and mentally. We were also very lucky.

 

Dan and Dave were consummate partners, and this wasn't an adventure any of us will forget soon. The climbing was enjoyable, and if it weren't for the excessive objective danger, I'd give the route a solid 4-star review. That said, if this was a cold day on the hill, I can't imagine what a disaster zone the face would be had the day turned unexpectedly warmer. I don't think I'll be back.

 

 

Gear Notes:

60m double rope, way too many screws (only placed 3), a few pickets, 2 tools each.

 

Approach Notes:

Boot to Palmer, crampons from there. Rime ice embedded in snow between Crater Rock and Palmer on the descent.

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Wowsers! Sounds like type two fun. I was soloing DK Headwall that day and had some ice come down but nothing like you're talking about. Makes me realize how lucky I was! I'm sure the route will be less dangerous at other times.

 

Why did you wait at the top of Palmer for the sun? Obviously it didn't sound like a bad decision at the time in terms of route condition but sitting around for 2 hrs seems like a lot of unnecessary shivering.

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I've had a similar experience on the Reid, clear and cold but a little wind was knocking stuff off left and right (luckily it drains through gulley systems on the face!). Our crux was bailing- waiting for the chunks to stop so we could practically run across a huge debris chute (climbers right exit after the first or so gulley?) and we made it out alright with a fun improvised exit. Don't know that I'm missing out on much besides a few bruises from rockfall at best...but that's just me. I think Hood climbers in general have a higher propensity for shrugging off debris coming down; that's just part of the climbing.

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Wow if you just added in a part about going up one gully too early and having to rap down a few hundred feet whilst leaving behind an expensive ice screw this would be identical to my experience on Reid. Scary to say the least! The randomness of the falling ice is too spooky for me.

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I've been hammered pretty good, coming up Reid. I've been right in the middle of one of the steps in pretty steep/thin conditions, and had to duck my head in and hang on for dear life while getting beat on by avalanche for what felt like eternity. The positive is that once shit builds up over your pack and helmet, the chunks don't hurt nearly as much when they hit you.. the downside is that you have to stay there in that stance with all that weight on your calves until it's done, or risk getting stripped off.

 

All in all a FANTASTIC route, when it's in good condition... but it can be a sonuvabitch when it's shedding.

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Based on other peoples' experiences, apparently the falling ice we experienced was not uncharacteristic. For perspective, my helmet may well have saved my life on this climb (and is completely wrecked); if that's normal, count me out for a round 2!

 

Do the North Face gullies have similar objective hazards!?

 

Why did you wait at the top of Palmer for the sun? Obviously it didn't sound like a bad decision at the time in terms of route condition but sitting around for 2 hrs seems like a lot of unnecessary shivering.

 

We spent 15 or 20 minutes on top of Palmer, shuffled over to Illumination Saddle, and shivered through the roping up process. In total, we probably spent about 1:20 not moving before sunrise. Originally we planned to melt water at Illumination Col, but (a bit ironically) we were ironically too cold and wind-ridden to be bothered heating water up.

 

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ice/rockfall is an altogether common and largely unpredictable part of pretty much all hood routes - nearly got the number of my mess while soloing the sandy once, a cannon-ball sized chunk that initially i thought had broke my goddamn femur and left a bruise the size of my whole thigh :) quite the dismal down-hobble n' side-hurt back to illumination and escape....

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Yup....climb Hood enough times, and 'close calls' with ice or rock fall are inevitable. I had a near miss with a basketball sized chunk of rock that had sloughed off Crater Rock above me as I traversed back to Illumination Saddle. Will never forget the sickening sound it made as it whizzed by me.....twas a widow-maker for sure....

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Yup....climb Hood enough times, and 'close calls' with ice or rock fall are inevitable. I had a near miss with a basketball sized chunk of rock that had sloughed off Crater Rock above me as I traversed back to Illumination Saddle.

 

Climb hood enough and ice/rock falls are nothing. Its the damn body falls that are the inevitable.

 

Will never forget the sickening sound it made as it whizzed by me.....twas a widow-maker for sure....

 

Figuratively and unfortunately in some case literally ...

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