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Climbing Mt. Hood's Sunshine Route/ South Side Snowboard Descent

Climbing Mt. Hood's Sunshine Route/ South Side Snowboard Descent

Climbing Mt. Hood's Sunshine Route/ South Side Snowboard Descent

    On April 21st we left from the Oregon Splitboard Festival and the rustic comforts of the historic Tilly Jane cabin (5,500~ ft. elevation) at 3:45 in the morning. We skinned up on splitboards through the frozen forest snow until we reached the treeline. Not surprisingly, it is much harder to navigate in the dark and we did a few circles trying to find the Tilly Jane creek drainage. When we emerged into the alpine we were far west of the drainage and found ourselves on Eliot Glacier's east lateral moraine. The Lyrid meteor shower was going and we were treated to several small streaks through the sky, and like most Mt. Hood climbs there was a great sunrise.
     We made our way down the moraine in snowboard mode, and then skinned up the glacier. A beautiful night turned into a blustery morning and the gusts were very disconcerting. Even so, we charged on. Mountaineering is as much of a test of will power as is it a physical workout. After we crossed the glacier and started up the "snowdome" it became too icy to use the splitboard. We switched to crampons and headed up, French stepping, duck walking and front pointing until the bergshrund.

Looking into the bergshrund, where snow pack separates from moving glacier was quite scary. A dark, deep blue kept us on our game. Above the bergshrund the snow was very icy, and required a few kicks to get each step planted firmly in the steep slope. Refusing to look down a two ice axes got me to the top.

As we gained the ridge we realized our mistake. This face was not going to soften today and we would not be able to snowboard down it safely. We had to man up and make the decision to summit, cross the summit ridge and snowboard down the south side route. This meant we would have to hitch hike from from Timberline lodge to the Tilly Jane trailhead and skin back up to the cabin. Well, it was better than downclimbing the gnar, or snowboarding to our deaths. It had to be done.

The west ridge of the mountain was covered in feathery rime ice that varied in size from inches to feet. There were some truly amazing ice formations up there. At this point we had a "mission" attitude and no photo stops followed.

We gained the summit and transitioned into snowboard mode, and I lowered myself into the Old Chute, heelside with an ice ax in hand. I made one jump turn and realized something was wrong. I planted my ice ax, and looked down in awe that my toe strap was rendered useless. I completed the extreme ride with just one strap on my back binding, and not to mention the missing LT pin. Truly a sketchy mountain experience.

     I did an on site DIY fix with a shoelace at the Hog's back and shredded hard from there. An hour or so trying to score a ride on highway 26 worked out well and all that was left was to skin the 2.5 miles and 1,800 vertical feet to the cabin. Luckily, the other Splitfest Oregon attendees had some chili and breadbowls, and of course some beer ready for us at the cabin. Many miles, but most of all 7,000 feet of climbing.

Thanks for reading, springtime volcano season is coming!


Tags: climbing
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