The American West Coast had offered us a rather generous winter in terms of snow, consequently the routes which usually would no longer be possible to climb at this time of year were in immaculate condition (or that’s what we thought)! The long weekend was coming and our eyes had stopped on the North side of Mount Hood. A perfect gully with two ice falls awaited us for a two-day expedition!
Date of ascent: May 23-24, 2020
Mountain: Mount Hood
Road: North Face Right Gully
Alpine grade: III WI3
Length: 2 days
For the first time, after more than three hours of hiking, I saw the North face of the mountain. The landscape reminded me of the peaks we climbed in Peru and where Chris and I met a little while ago. We set up camp on the Eliot glacier, making sure to camp as far as possible from the crevasses. A little earlier, Chris almost felt in a crevasse while attempting to set up the tent a little closure to the route.
We started our ascent at 4 am with the goal to arrive at the bergschrund at sunrise. We could see in the distance a team that also seemed to be heading towards the gullies. We could also see two separate teams climbing the Cooper Spur, and another team climbing the Sunshine route. After a few hours, we arrived at the Bergschrund relieved knowing it could still be easily crossed through the middle-right side.
Chris threw the idea of climbing the left gully to avoid following too closely the group in front of us. After taking a look at the waterfall which was in great shape but pretty vertical, we opted for the right gully.
The first waterfall ice was in good condition. We met James at the rappel station while he was belaying his partner. While belaying Chris, a huge piece of ice fell on my head breaking my helmet making it unstable… Nervously I put on my hood to make sure it doesn’t fall over my head and leaves me unprotected.
After the first ice fall, we simul climbed for several meters while playing at the « dodgeball ». The team ahead of us would call out the ice or the rock, and Chris and I, would dodge as best as we can! After climbing in deep snow, we arrived at the second waterfall. The waterfall ice was thin, melted in most of the sections and a scary amount of snow keep on falling from the top making the climb of it impossible.
After weighting out a couple of bailing options, we opted to continue to the summit and cross through the rocks on the left side. After a long time trying to find the best way to go around we found our way back to the final rock steps that would later lead us to the summit!
We got to the summit, ate, and decided to descent on the south side by precautions due to unstable snow on the North side and high risk avalanches on the Cooper Spur and Sunshine.
We hitched a ride from one of the Timberline lodge folks, slept a the hotel and recovered our tent the next day… or what was left of our camp. Our tent had been blown away despite rocks put inside by high winds.