Friday, March 8, 2013

Bad Skiing Forecast? Good Climbing.

The end of my ski season is rapidly approaching and I have been trying to ski as much as possible.  When I saw the forecast for last weekend, rain to 7k and lots of it, I was more than a little upset.  

After some internet pursuing, I finally decided to head out to Frenchman’s Coulee or Vantage to do some rock climbing.  Fellow AAI guide Chad Chochran and friend Boe Trosset were willing partners.  We departed Bellingham late morning on Friday and started the drive.   

After driving south on I-5 for about an hour, chatting, and abusing iPhone internet, we slowly came to the realization that alpine climbing could be very good with the previously dismal forecast.  The rain that had previously been the bane of my existence was going to be followed by rapidly lowering freezing levels on Sunday and then sun on Monday.  

Kicking ourselves for not realizing this earlier, we pulled over, grabbed some coffee, and debated alpine objectives.  Settling on the north face of Mt. Hood, we headed back to Bellingham to grab our alpine ice gear.  

The plan was to rock climb Saturday and Sunday, then head to Hood for the high pressure on Monday.  We arrived at Vantage Saturday morning to find good weather and lots of people.

Chad on Ride Em Cowboy 
George and Martha
Most of the day was cloudy but late afternoon brought clearing skis and beautiful light.  Conditions made it hard to stop climbing.  We decided to end the day on Sunshine Arete, a 100 foot tall bolted arete. 

It was hard to stop climbing

Sunday dawned clear and cold.  We climbed a couple pitches in the sun and then bolted for Mt. Hood.  After gathering the necessary supplies, we drove to the Tilly Jane snow park and turned in around ten.

Prepping in Targets parking lot. Photo: Boe Trosset
Getting up at O'Dark thirty is never fun but we managed to start moving by two am. The rain followed by low freezing levels produced great conditions.  Travel was fast and easy. After a couple hours of hiking in the dark, sunrise on the Eliot Glacier was a most welcome sight.
Hard to beat the views on the north side of Hood Photo: Boe Tosset

We continued up the glacier and reached the base of the route around 8 am. The lower coulior, or gully,  was easy snow up to the first ice step...

Our route is the righthand gully.
Low on the route, below the first ice step.
After leading the first ice step and belaying Chad and Boe up, I began to feel the altitude.  As Chad was feeling strong he led the next block of simul-climbing.  This involved allot of steep snow and 50 degree ice.
Approaching the second ice step.  Lots of calf burning 50 degree snow/ice.
Chad took us to the top of the second ice step, which was by far the best climbing on the route. Feeling better, and not willing to let Chad break any more trail, I led the next simul-block which put us right below the summit.
Chad on the second ice step.  Photo: Boe Trosset

High on the route
We topped out right around noon and began the long downclimb of the Cooper Spur.
Mandatory summit shot.  Chad, on right, looking like an alpine gangster.

While it appeared short and easy, the descent was longer and steeper than anticipated.
After a long and uneventful descent we made it back to the car just before five and started the long drive back to Bellingham.  While the forecast may have been bad for skiing, it turned out to be great for climbing.

--Dustin Byrne, Instructor and Guide

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