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[TR] Mt. Hood - Devil's Kitchen Head Wall (Left Variation) Solo 4/26/2015


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Trip: Mt. Hood - Devil's Kitchen Head Wall (Left Variation) Solo


Date: 4/26/2015


Trip Report:

This is my first trip report so forgive any shortcomings. Also the pics suck because I had some trouble keeping my hands warm and wasn't much interested in fishing for my Iphone.


I've been wanting to climb this line for most of the season. Cruising past it en route to the Pearly Gates at least a dozen times, it was hard not to notice it's aesthetic appeal. In mid-March, I was wallowing around on Hog's Back when I saw some dude cruise up solo from Crater Rock into the route as he might have waltzed into his neighborhood coffee shop. Thus the seed was planted, and I've had my eye out for good conditions ever since.


I'd heard one is wise to wait until it is "in" before attempting it so I bowed out twice this season on concerns about the quality of the ice. As you can see from this (bad) picture however, it looked passable. It was cold, there was little wind, and the ice looked to be decent enough, so I dropped my pack and skis and headed up into the small couloir.


I swam through waist deep snow. As the slope angle picked up I was sufficiently concerned about the whole thing cutting out beneath me that I climbed against the rime on the right hand side of the couloir, trying to keep at least one tool in the ice. It was exhausting and painfully slow, but I finally attained firmer ground as the pitch neared vertical beneath the first step.


Looking at previous trip reports and photos, I had concluded that so long as there was decent ice through the first step that the route was "in" and wouldn't present any serious technical challenges. It looked fine from below, but as the line curves slightly left, the chimney through the first step that makes for the crux of the route was obscured. It wasn't until I was just beneath it and quite committed that I saw a large bulge of ice formed at the very top of the chimney. After a quick survey of my options I decided climbing out onto the vertical ice to the right of the chimney itself seemed preferable to trying down climb.


Not wanting to give up so easily, she threw me another curve ball. As I whacked away for a decent placement with my tools, large sheets of the thin ice started spider cracking and coming off. It felt a bit like trying to climb a wall of porcelain dishes. The rock underneath wasn't much better, so I moved back left into the chimney.


Luckily I found a space underneath the overhanging ice large enough for me to snake my left hand and the head of my ice tool underneath it. After cutting a couple very precarious footholds, I jammed my left hand under the protruding ice bulge, twisting the head of my tool to create some tension. This allowed me to step up and try to get a decent placement above the overhang with my right axe. Apparently I was not yet done paying for my presumptuous overconfidence. My clumsy and cold right hand managed to surgically remove a two square foot sheet of ice, laying bare the area within my reach above the overhang.


High on lactic acid and low on options, I quickly discovered that extra 15% of endurance and cunning that apparently only shows up when one has been foolish enough to find himself in such a situation. Just as I thought I was going to take the fast way back down to Crater Rock and give PMR an opportunity to practice their new fumerol rescue protocol, I managed to back step with my right foot and stem against the rock on the left side of the chimney. This let me stand up into my under cling another few inches and sink a decent tool placement above the overhang. A few more shaky foot placements and I was through!


Through the rest of the route I was treated to the full array of Mt. Hood cuisine including deep unconsolidated snow that clung to the improbably steep couloir, popcorn rime ice that seemed to disassemble itself if I breathed on it, and chossy mixed climbing that ended up being the best option. After a few stops to warm my hands and a fair amount of cursing, I clumsily flopped onto the summit ridge in a manner that must have brought to mind an exhausted walrus.


That was FUN! Or something like it. I limped my way back to my skis and made it over in time to see my buddies rip a beautiful line down West Crater. I have one tingly blue finger, a pulled muscle in my back, and a whole new appreciation for technical ice! A solid weekend it was indeed.


Notes: 5:10 car to summit, 1:30ish on route. There was no real chance for pro that I could see. Maybe some sort of deadman above the first step, but it would have been mostly psychological. The overhang that gave me such attitude was hard to see from below. I suspect though that a few more melt-freeze cycles will even it out and render the route in fine condition. I did not do the climber's right finish around the gendarme due to the very loose snow and my desire to purposefully descend the south side, not accidentally descend the east side.


Here's what it looked like from below. The blue was very deep snow, the green decent climbing, and the red was the touchy part.




Here's one my buddy took as I hauled myself up onto the summit ridge.




Gear Notes:

Two tools and not a lot of common sense.


Approach Notes:

A slow and lazy skin from the parking lot right to the route entrance.

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just out of curiosity, how much ice climbing experience do you have? Not trying to be a dick, just sounds like the route has gotten way gnarlier recently.


When was the last time you climbed it? I've done the route in both fat and thin conditions, and when it's thin, it's fucked up.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I actually don't have much ice climbing experience so to some extent take this with a grain of salt. Still, I looked very closely at all the beta I could and I am pretty confident that I just ran into a gnarly set of conditions on that day. I went an looked at the line two days ago on a quick Pearly Gates climb and the route is totally thrashed now. It looks like mid July up there.

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