Just like last year at this time of the year, a bunch of the guys from my Church and I planned to go climb Mt. Hood. Since we had to plan around four schedules it really made it tough to be able to adapt, and we had to set a date ahead of time. We settled on the first weekend and June and then crossed our fingers for good weather. Two of the guys had joined me last year but for the other one this was going to be a whole new experience.
About a week out from the climb I started to pay attention to the weather, and things were looking favorable. As the days ticked by the weather report started to show a storm coming in on Friday night, the night we wanted to make our summit bid. As I mentioned above this was the only night that the four of us all had been available, so we did not have any wiggle room. Three days out the forecast was still calling for bad weather, and I went about coming up with other options just in case. The weather was calling for 90% chance of rain on Friday night and switching to a mix overnight with a 100% chance in the morning. This was also to be with winds around 25 mph and gusting to near 40. This was not exactly what we wanted to climb the mountain in.
When I started to look at other options, Broken Top and Mt. Thielsen both came to mind. Being a bit further south they both had more favorable weather forecasts but were far from perfect. They both called for a 50% chance of rain and winds in the teens gusting into the 20s. When Friday finally arrived it was a perfect bluebird morning, and I was secretly hoping they botched another forecast. Unfortunately, throughout the day the clouds started to roll into the mountains, and it was clear our storm was arriving. One of the guys had to back out at the last minute but three of us decided to carry on and give Broken Top a whirl. With a better forecast and being closer to home, we thought it would at least be a good adventure.
We got all packed up at my house and were on the road shortly after 6 pm. After some stops for food and snacks, we arrived at the Dutchman Sno-Park at around 8 pm. We wanted to start at Todd Lake, but the snow was still too high and there was no way to get off the highway and park. Starting at Dutchman meant an extra 2 miles of hiking but a slightly higher starting point. I decided to skin in while the other guys were just going to walk. The snow was about 3 inches of slushy snow with a firm 6 to 8-foot base underneath. As we started our trip, the wind was blowing softly, and it was only sprinkling occasionally. We were able to cover about 2 1/2 miles by the time it was getting dark and found a spot that seemed sheltered from the wind in case it got windy overnight. I brought my Black Diamond Megamid for us, so we could all be under the same shelter. The Megamid with floor makes for a decent shelter in the snow, but you are not totally protected from the elements.
It was funny being out in the middle of the mountains and still having cell phone service. We were only a couple of miles from Mt Bachelor and still had enough of a signal to call our wives and let them know we were safe and down for the night. It was shortly after 10 that we called it a night. While I cannot speak for the other guys, I slept terrible. For some reason, I was cold and woke up not feeling very good at 1 am. The rain at this point was on and off, and I decided to put on my down jacket and softshell pants to warm up until I had a break in the weather. After this I could get a bit of sleep, but it was anything but restful. My feet, for some reason, were really cold all night, and I was only able to sleep in short spurts. We had planned to get up at first light but when I awoke at 5 and 6 am, it was pouring out so we ended up sleeping into 7:30. The weather had seemed to lighten up, and we ate our fruit bar breakfast and broke down camp. We planned on stashing the non essential items here and picking them up later on our way out.
The morning was gusty with blowing clouds but little to no rain. The snow was similar to the previous night, but we found it fairly easy going. I was still on my skis, and they were walking. The route climbs slowly with little ups and downs as it passes Moon Mountain and then Ball Butte. We occasionally had glimpses of the lower reaches of the mountain but were primarily relying on my GPS to make sure we were heading the right direction. Our plan was to hike up into the crater and access our situation and whether we wanted to try for the summit or not. I do not think any of us realized how long the approach was as it just kept going. It would have been nice to have been able to see the mountain; it would have helped motivate us to keep on moving. Once we hit the slopes of the mountain the going got much tougher. Now my buddy who was getting his first taste of mountain climbing was starting to tire, and we were making a bitter slower time than before. As I watched the clock, I realized that the summit was out of reach and decided to take stock of our situation at noon. When noon arrived we were still about a half-hour from the Crook Glacier, so we decided to call it a day and start heading back. We took a couple of pics in the whiteness with several old avalanche debris fields giving the only contrast to the snow and clouds.
The guys had brought some sleds to help on the descent and were able to get some sledding in before having to walk. I, on the other hand, had skis, so I could ski down quite a way before having to skin up again. This meant that I had to wait for a while as I did not want to leave the guys behind. As we began the hike out the weather got progressively nicer, and the sun was even coming out on occasion. The mountain stayed locked in clouds as we turned and checked often. By the time we reached our camp, the guys were beat and for me, my feet were killing me. They had gone partially numb and had stabbing pain when feeling came back. We took a break at our camp and repacked our bags for the last couple miles out. We cruised out with the promise of food once we got into town. What a strange change of scenery it was too. We left windy, snow, and temperatures in the 40s to come into Bend where it was 70 degrees, and people were in T-Shirts and shorts. All was good though as we stopped at Kona Mix Plate for some Hawaiian food and talked of our next attempt at Broken Top later in the summer. Hopefully, in better weather, as always, your mileage may vary.
[button url=”http://connect.garmin.com/activity/185644047″ style=”black” size=”small”] Day 1 GPS Track & Map [/button]
[button url=”http://connect.garmin.com/activity/185644059″ style=”black” size=”small”] Day 2 GPS Track & Map [/button]
Gear Used (of note)
- Rab Stretch Neo Jacket – This was my first opportunity to really put this jacket to the test, and I was impressed. I could regulate my temperature well and never overheated on the climb or the descent.
- Beyond RoughRider Pant – First time using these pants. They were comfortable and shed wind well.
- First Ascent Microtherm Down Shirt – A lifesaver at night as I was really cold from the wind. This helped a lot.
- Camp USA M5 Backpack – First real trip with this pack. No complaints but still getting used to it.
- Black Diamond Megamid Shelter w/floor – 8 years and still going strong. A bit drafty for the cold conditions, I need a true 4-season tent.
- Big Agnes Zirkel Sleeping Bag – Good bag but got a little wet with the rain.
- Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Sleeping Pad – Needed a thicker pad for sleeping on the snow.
- Outdoor Research Arete Gloves – Like the gloves, just not the Velcro on them. My only complaint.
- Helly Hansen Warm Ice Crew Baselayer – Regulated temperature well and I did not stink.
- Icebreaker Bodyfit 200 Tights – Love my wool baselayers. Warm, comfortable, and mostly stink free.
- CEP Compression Ski Socks – Wish I would have had thicker socks for sleeping. Otherwise these were comfortable and my legs felt good. No blisters but some rubbing on the ankle areas.
- Snow Peak SnowMiner Headlamp / Lantern – Great light! Both headlamp and lantern. Was very handy for setting up camp in the dark.