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[TR] Mt Hood - Reid Headwall 1/27/2014


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Trip: Mt Hood - Reid Headwall


Date: 1/27/2014


Trip Report:

so... this will be redundant as a conditions report, and somewhat embarrassing, but it's good story. I'm still deciding what to think about it.



I've been wanting to try Leuthold as a step up from the south side. After a few weeks of conflicts coming up, partners dropping out I figured eh, do my first non-SS climb as my first solo too. Felt stoked about that, I haven't done much new or challenging in a while.


I set out Saturday night with a whippet, sumtec, and rented snowboard boots from Timberline - I forgot my mountaineering boots back in Portland, didn't drive my own car


I packed light with extra clothes but no bivy gear and obviously no ropes, wanting to see how fast I could go alone with a pack. I was pleased with my time: 80 minutes from the the Mazama Lodge to Timberline, 170 minutes from there to Illumination Saddle




I dropped down onto Reid at the break of dawn and started an abortive traverse straight across before cliffing out.. that honestly was the sketchy-feelingest part of the whole thing, traversing above a rock band through partly-fused ice blob rubble. Wasted nearly an hour on that shortcut. Back down to the glacier.




Here's where I went wrong: misinterpreting the advice of some guy headed out to Sandy Headwall, I started up a spicier variation just right of that big round, light colored gendarme and from there followed the footsteps and path of least resistance up right instead of downclimbing back left to the couloir. At that point I was still convinced that I was on route: the next runnel was wide and mellow enough to be a tiny couloir, that first step could be described as some sort of hourglass, and maybe the snow was just icier than I'd anticipated.


Last time I was able to sit down or access my backpack for a while:



I spent the next three hours being very calm and trying not to die. Snowboard boots perform very poorly when front pointing. I think I'd have been comfortable soloing the route on that day with rigid boots and a second ice tool.. is that insane? I'm sure it depends on conditions, but the ice seemed very secure and I didn't see any significant icefall.


Found a secure place to stop:




Now for the self criticism:

  • I could have aborted the climb after I forgot my boots
  • I could have spent another pound to pack a second ice tool, as I'd originally considered. That would have been wise on an unknown route.
  • I could have checked a photo of the route before starting up. I'm not sure that necessarily would have helped, the aerial photos only make sense now that I've spent time on that side.
  • I could have downloaded a GPS track, but I hate the way that abstracts a mountain to a set of canonical routes.
  • I shouldn't have deviated from my plan, trying that guy's variation.
  • I could have turned around after the first ice step, but I may have made the right choice continuing up - the ice was manageable, and more predictable than the looser stuff I'd ascended.
  • I think that being without a rope was dangerous, more than being alone. Would I have made better decisions or been safer if I'd set out to solo Leuthold with a partner? If I had fallen, I don't think that prompt (-ish, after downclimbing) first aid would have been of much use.


With regard to travelling alone, I'm glad I did this, it's everything I love about mountaineering x2: the sense of remoteness, solitude, self-sufficiency and consequence. I'm still figuring out what level of risk I'm willing to accept.








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a great route to solo, actually, though maybe not if you've never been to that side of the mountain or done something similar - luetholds is a really straightforward and common solo, and lord-know half the folks who've set out to climb it have done the reid accidentally instead :)

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wtf... i give you kudos for two huge things---one, you started at the mazama lodge--seriously? good on you for that, seriously whats that another 2000k added for a route that doesn't require it. In my wildest dreams I wouldn't... except to ski down the extra after a climb.


and secondly, how'd you rent boots in the wee hours (or did you walk up to tline the day before??). damn you must have had some serious mental drive and self-justification to go through the process of renting boots and still going for it. thats some really unflinching commitment or impressive self-deception. Certainly helps me frame myself as a puss, I'd probably abort if i forgot my socks..let alone boots. Glad those rentals didn't turn you into hamburger foot in the middle of your route.



safer with a partner--generally, yes. A line attributed to Bruce Temper but relayed to me through an avy instructor prior climb ranger on hood and rainier said "You live and die by your habits". It is a worthwhile line to consider. All variables aside you're generally safer with a partner.


And getting mixed up on that side of the mountain --- the first time I gave it a go we did a wrong gully but then were able to traverse over to the upper part of Leuths. I swore and swore I'd never make that mistake again, I studied multiple images, google earth, etc. 4 years later going back there we made a wrong turn (for about 20ft). though after the 3rd time i think that was the charm (no issues).


cheers, thanks for sharing.

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you look like the guy we saw coming up the 14a variation as described in Jeff Thomas' Oregon High, which means that you were farther south than what you are showing, here.


Good job in starting that from the Lodge. Somehow, I'd suspected that you'd done a quick ascent.


Steve, I can't fault him for going unroped on the Reid. It was very wide open. It felt like a late summer climb. We specifically did NOT rope up while on the Reid because we didn't want to put in pro on the glacier crossing, and wouldn't have been able to stop each other had one of us fallen.



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Yep, that's me! I should get that book, it's surprisingly tough to find detailed route diagrams online.


Habits, yeah. It's like free soloing, right? once is an experience, do it every week and eventually it'll kill you.


I hiked up to Timberline on Saturday with some folks. $35 for an overnight rental! I consider it a back payment for walking on their ski runs all year

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Sheesh Brian, it's a nice photo/topo and all, but really? Your expectation is that photos don't get used without attribution on the internet? I agree that the proper thing to do is for the OP to credit the photo, but you could educate the poor boy with a little more grace (PM, eh?). We all knew it wasn't his photo, but it isn't the end of the world.


Deep breaths.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Hey Nimrod,

You know one other thing you shouldn't do? Steal other people's photos from another website and not at least give them credit. Your first photo showing your route is my photo from summitpost.com.




Either remove it from your TR or give credit in your TR.


Brian Jenkins/Stiflers Mom


Pulled the offending photo. If anyone's looking for beta, Steph Abegg has some amazing aerial photos of all the cascade volcanoes, including a nice topo of Hood's southwest side.


Stiflers, have you considered watermaking your work before posting it to the wiki?

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Stiflers, have you considered watermaking your work before posting it to the wiki?


There is really no need per say ... all photos are copyrighted immediately. Something that is well known but ignored by many. Watermarking only makes it easier for enforcement as a watermark is not typically seen in the photo.


If I have a photo I know will likely get copied I put a big ole copyright notice boldly on the photos.

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