Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mt Hood

Mt. Hood is the highest point in the state of Oregon.  This glaciated dormant volcano rises 11,239 feet above sea level.  As a high point, it is on my life list.

Now, I’m not into ropes, crampons, or ice axes.  If I can’t see dirt, I don’t want to go there.  If my hands and arms have to support most of my weight, I don’t want to go there.  I also like to have an established marked trail.  There are no trails to the summit of this mountain.  Since Mt. Hood is rated a class 4 technical climb, the top was never on my list of things to do.  To mark this mountain off my high points list, I planned to go as high as I felt comfortable.  At least, I can say I’ve been there--I saw the mountain.
Summit Parking lot, summit is 4 miles away

Gene had researched possibilities for our “climb” and came up with Cooper Spur Trail on the east side of the mountain.  Although Cooper Spur does not go to the summit, it is the highest established and maintained trail on the mountain.  Plus this is the second most popular climbing route to the summit.  That all sounded good to us.  Gene printed the directions to the trailhead, trail description and maps off and we started out just before 8 AM for the 60 mile drive.

Our driving directions indicated we should continue on US 35 to Cooper Spur Road.  After several miles we came to an intersection with a road sign “to Cooper Spur Road”.  We were confused so decided to continue on to the Forest Service Office just a quarter mile down US 35.  We learned from the ranger, to our shock and dismay, that the forest service road we were to take after Cooper Spur Road was closed.  The only way to get to our trailhead was to walk an extra 9 miles.  That was not an option.

Cooper Spur Trail being eliminated, our only other choice was to go around to the south side of the mountain to Timberline Lodge.  This is the ski area and the trailhead for the most popular route to the summit.  The only problem with that is that the snow comes all the way down to the lodge.  This may be the only ski lift in the country that is open year round.  Besides that, the only established trail in the lodge area is the Pacific Crest Trail and its high point on the mountain is the lodge.  Oh well, no other choice, so that is where we headed.
As high as I got on the first try

When we got to Timberline Lodge parking lot, we were surprised to see that the snow had melted in areas as far up the mountain as perhaps a 1000 or 1500 feet.  And in the dirt, we could see several paths going up.  These were paths made by skiers and snowboarders who were not using the lift.  We hoisted our packs and chose a path that looked pretty good.  After a half mile or so it went under the snow.  We could see other paths that looked heavily used so we went back down and took the Pacific Crest Trail to connect with one of these other paths.  We got lucky this time and were able to climb for about a mile.  We were pretty high on the mountain, almost as high as the ski lift and almost to the glacier.
This is my summit

Speaking of the ski lift.  Yes, we could have ridden on the lift higher than we were able to climb.  However, since I wasn’t going to the summit, riding the lift seemed somehow like cheating.  If I wasn’t going to the top, the least I could do was hike as far as I went.  Most climbers don’t use the lift anyway; they either hike or hire a sno-cat to take them to the top of the lift.  They reduce their chances of getting off the mountain safely, if they way until morning to ride the lift.  The climbers are on the mountain far before day light.
Timberline Lodge, Mt Jefferson in the background

While at Timberline we toured the lodge.  It was built in the late 1930 and is fairly rustic--what you would expect of an early ski lodge.

We were pretty pooped after the 60 mile drive back home, but excited to have experienced another one of those “life list” things.

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