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mtep

Mount Hood

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Sorry. The name and grade is just a troll to get you to read my PSA. I actually did climb Hood yesterday, but it was by walking up the Old Chute.

 

When I first started working on Hood as a climbing guide, it was horrifyingly common to see people roped up long without pro in both the Old Chute and Pearly Gates. Our trips would typically be up there an hour or so ahead of the long-roping hordes and descending into the spaghetti was always the scariest moment in my day. In the past year or two, people have moved away from this technique. (thank you!!!) I suspect that this is largely due to a generational shift in the Mazama's membership who has recognized the misapplication of this technique on this mountain for the dangerous and short-sighted choice that it is. I bring this up to preface my rant with the fact that things are better than they were and the emotional reaction behind my whining below is likely due to a reduction in tolerance for long ropers brought on by not having to deal with them on a daily basis.

 

So yesterday as I was descending with my team, two teams of five are working their way up the Chute below us. I asked where they were from and if they were with any sort of organization. They replied and told me that they're from Seattle and are with the Mountaineers. The man leading the charge had a Seattle Mountain Rescue (or some such) patch on his shoulder. I didn't want to get into it then in the heart of the terrain with my team standing by, so I headed back down.

 

Rant: Climbing has inherent risk. How individuals choose to manage risk for themselves is a personal choice and form of self expression. This is one of the coolest elements of climbing and the sport is richer for it. Organizations however, have a responsibility to their members and to the public to manage risk well and to not increase risk exposure for other users through their mere presence on the mountain. Yesterday morning myself, my guests, my coworkers, my friends, and everyone in the Old Chute was put at significantly greater risk through the institutional ignorance of ten people making poor choices. Choosing to rope up long on steep, firm, unglaciated snow without any anchors simultaneously made everyone's day that much more hazardous and ignored decades of historical data highlighting how dangerous it is to misapply this technique in this specific piece of terrain.

 

The Mountaineers seems like a really cool organization. It's great that they can bring together so many people and create a large and diverse mountaineering community. That being said, they have a responsibility to all of us to operate at a higher standard than the average joe and yesterday morning they most certainly were not. (in fact they were operating well below that standard)

 

If you're unclear on why this is an example of misapplication: When you're tied together without anchors on steep snow, it's unrealistic to expect your partners to be able to self arrest/hold the team if you fall. Then, when someone does fall, you have a 30-60m clothesline that will floss everybody below you off the slope. The rope isn't keeping you safe/reducing the falling hazard and is dramatically compounding the risk by multiplying the effects of a fall. In short, you're better off soloing. On this exact slope, this has been the cause of countless accidents, injuries, deaths, and one helicopter crash.

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Thank you. A big reason I climb the Hoodwand almost exclusively in the winter these days.

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I am a member of the Mountaineers and it pains me a little bit to read this. I agree, roping up in this area is quite a bit more dangerous than ascending rope-less if you are not placing any kind of pro. I was up on Hood on a Mountaineers climb two weekends ago. We went up the Pearly Gates, while roped, and placed multiple pickets. While we clearly weren't the fastest group on the mountain, we played it safe and had a great time.

 

Unfortunately this seems like a pretty big problem on Hood. Obviously I think that organizations like the Mountaineers and the Mazamas need to be held to higher standards. However I believe that Hood is 2nd most climbed volcano in the world, which as you can imagine, leads to a lot of people climbing who don't know what the hell they are doing.

 

Glad you pointed this out. I definitely had to put my 'Mountaineers Pride' aside while reading this, but I completely agree. Ever since I have been a member of the Mountaineers, every climb we've done has been extremely safe, sometimes a little ridiculously 'too safe' if that's possible. It really surprises me that a leader would do this.

 

Anyways, thanks for pointing this out. This is one of the most important things for people to consider if they're ever thinking of climbing Hood.

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Ha! Trolled me.

 

But great post. This echos my thoughts exactly and needs to be communicated to new climbers (and leaders) everywhere. In this scenario, a rope presents a hazard much greater than simply a false sense of security.

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Good post, I am member of the Mountaineers and a climb leader for the club and can understand that in the heat of the moment it can be hard for folks to take constructive advised or recognize when they are endangering themselves and/or others. That said, our club is very serious about having high standards for climbing and are very concerns about the safety of other members in the climbing community. We do have a safety committee that analyzes and reviews all kinds of issues regarding safety concerns. I know from my own experience life/climbing we all make mistakes one time or another and most of us walk away un-harm and are un-aware of the mistake. My best learning experiences have come when someone has constructively point out these issues so I can avoid them in the future. Perhaps the more constructive thing here would be to write an email to Mountaineers explaining what you saw so the individuals can learn from this event.

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Thanks for posting mtep! I'm a Mountaineers member out of Seattle and just wanted you to know that I found your PSA and this thread through a Seattle Mountaineers facebook group (oh yes the crazy sharing power of the internet ). I know the trips I've been on with The Mountaineers have been very safety focused and I've been on trips where we've actually discussed this type of clotheslining. Thanks for the reminder and just wanted to let you know that the PSA is definitely being shared.

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Good post.

 

Another alternative to soloing this or staying roped and setting pickets on a running belay would be lead up the chute and hip belay the rest of the folks (that needed a belay). The belay would be off an anchor (deadman a couple pickets). any belaying in there clogs up the chute of course.

 

I think teams (including clubs that often often 9 or even 12 folks out) should strongly consider limiting their size (4 max?) on this route, at least on weekends.

 

 

 

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And if you say anything to the presumed leader, no matter how discretely, you always get this, "fuck off, I know what I'm doing" look, followed by a high-chinned, "Thanks, we're good!". And if you're lucky, you might even get a lecture on how climbing un-roped is for cowboys and wingnuts.

 

Though I may have made that face once or twice myself while doing something stupid... :wazup:

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i tried to casually mention (as best as possible) it/ask why roping up without pro to a politically conservative poster here who climbed hood with his brother a few years ago and posted video of being roped in the old chute. But wow, that did not go over well.. really went ape shit..

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I'm a member of the Mountaineers and Seattle Mountain Rescue and I know the climb leader you must be referring to. For what it's worth, I seriously doubt you would have gotten a poor reaction if you'd tried to discuss your concerns.

 

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Thanks for posting Max, I was disappointed not to read a sick FA story, but I totally agree with your assessment. If groups want to practice long-roping for crevasse travel they should go to other parts of the mountain, maybe where there are actual crevasses, and not endanger everyone else.

 

Like diepj said, there is a reason most of the local and competent climbers don't climb Hood during tourist season.

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Wow. I'm pleasantly surprised by the civil tone and reasoned discourse above! Score one for online forums. (surprised not because of any preconceptions about the Mountaineers. More because this is the internet after all)

 

Anyway, a couple notes to add: A coworker of mine told me that he expressed his opinion of the technique being employed to the leader of the front team. (likely in an abrasive and mildly offensive manner, knowing my coworker) The response he got was "this is how we always do it." This is, however, second hand information and there's a slim possibility that my coworker is making this up.

 

Lastly, for those that see the solution to long-roping sans anchors as long roping with anchors (aka simulclimbing) I'd suggest that it's still not much better of an alternative. The eyes of MSR Coyotes pull through at about 6kn. That load is pretty easily attained in the event of a full rope team of four people whipping onto a single picket. (assuming the picket was placed well, in good snow, which in my experience of people simul-climbing in these situations, it probably isn't)

 

A far better strategy (and one that most of the Mazama programs seem to be employing the past couple years) is to solo as far as group comfort allows (with everything ready to transition to pitched climbing: harness on, rope stacked in pack, tools/pickets easily accessible w/o pack removal, etc...) Pitch what needs to be pitched, and then fix a rope for people to hand-line down on the descent.

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i tried to casually mention (as best as possible) it/ask why roping up without pro to a politically conservative poster here who climbed hood with his brother a few years ago and posted video of being roped in the old chute. But wow, that did not go over well.. really went ape shit..

 

Sometimes folks (esp. newer climbers or conservative ones) rope up "just in case" then end up deciding conditions don't warrant pro. Then it's a matter of being too lazy to untie. I did that on the zipper the first time I climbed it.

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