Mt. Hood – Old Chute

A beautiful day to be on a beautiful mountain!

Leaving our quaint little cottage in Hood River at 4:00am we made our way up towards Government Camp. The gas gauge reading near empty quickly made me regret last night’s lethargy. This was quickly succeeded by a feeling of frustration when we remembered that Oregon, in all of it’s glory, doesn’t let you pump you own gas and there is not a station in Hood River open at 4:00am. A few profanities later, we left Hood River gambling that we could make it to Government camp with the little fuel we had. Five minutes later a friendly member of Oregon’s finest wanted to chat with us about my expired tabs and broken tail light. Olya looked at me a little concerned with how the morning was starting, but in her ever optimistic way smiled and said, “Well we have gotten all of the bad stuff out of the way so now we can have a great climb!” By 5:00 we were at the base of Hood wandering through empty ski lodge trying to find the climbers registration station. At 6:00 we were moving up the side of the ski area watching dawn rise above the horizon. The frozen cat tracks and knee-deep postholes from the previous day warned us of the temperatures to come. Looking at our watches we picked up the pace a bit.

8:00almost to the top of the palmer lift Olya lets out a little yelp and stumbles slightly. Watching her graceful recovery I don’t worry. I think to myself “this is probably one of the toughest girls I know, surely she is all right”. However, five minutes later Olya’s limp has grown, her knee is throbbing, and our pace has slowed dramatically. Talking it over we decide to head for the chair lift and get her a ride down. My fingers are crossed that it’s not anything too serious, I know Olya has a full climbing season ahead of her, and included in that is our trip to Denali in a month. Handing over my car keys with a big hug we part ways. She catches a ride on a snowmobile down to the base and I continue up solo. The original plan was to climb Pearly Gates route but as a solo climber I decide to head for the Old Chute instead. It’s about 10:00 when I reach the hog’s back and the north winds gently waft that wonderful sulfurous perfume right onto the climbing route. The hind quarters of the cascades are as active as ever today. My pace quickens.

10:30 I am heading up the Old Chute. Intense sun is baking the rime covered peak and I get to play dodge that ice for about 30 minutes. As the slope steepens, a group of four is descending and knocking down melon sized debris. To avoid being killed by their clumsy footwork I tighten up my crampons and head up a 55-degree chute off to the right. With my ice axe gripped tighter that needed I made my way up the icy chute eagerly anticipating the summit view that awaited.

11:00 I am sitting on the summit, two skiers there to join me, and I am happy to ask them for a photo. Oddly enough the guy taking my picture is also named Forrest, a climbing ranger on Mt. Rainier. I take in the fresh air and relish in what is possible the clearest view I have ever found in the cascades. My largest regret for the day is that my partner wasn’t standing there with me. These moments are always better shared. The descent was quick and painless as I was eager to get back to Olya and check in on how her knee was doing.

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