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Mt. Hood, North Face Right Gully (IV, WI3, 5,300)

Mt. Hood, North Face Right Gully (IV, WI3, 5,300)

Mt. Hood, North Face Right Gully (IV, WI3, 5,300)

Mt. Hood
North Face Right Gully
IV, WI3, 5,300

     Mt. Hood's north face is a harsh environment in the winter. Strong winds always blow, the sun shines on the face for only two cold hours in the early morning, and constant spindrift avalanches pour down its face. The ice is hard, and the snow is deep. Still, I had an uncontrollable urge to climb this mountain, up the north side, in the winter.

     On New Year's day, Ryan #2 (Snowboard Dept.) and I left Portland and drove to the Tilly Jane trailhead at 3,800 feet. We started the long trudge up the cross country ski trail at 4 pm. Three uneventful hours later we arrived at the stone shelter on Cooper Spur and found it packed with snow, but dug out.

I slept nicely in the snow cave despite only bringing a lightweight summer sleeping bag.

     We awoke to windy, cold conditions at 3 am and made coffee and got ready for the day ahead. By 4 am we were hiking up the ridge to the north face. We chose to traverse the north face rather than climbing the glacier in the fresh snow. There were a couple of tense moments on the traverse, one where my right crampon blew and I was left hanging from my axes, and another when I was finding a way across a bergshrund to gain access to the right gully.


     Climbing up the bergschrund below the gully presented another difficulty. I reached across the crevasse and placed an ice screw in glacial ice on the other side. Then I went for it. Luckily nothing collapsed and we made it across safe. Constant avalanches of loose snow were pouring down the face and made the climbing interesting. I led to the first ice step and climbed to the right of the spindrift avalanche funnel, on hard ice with two ice screws placed between us simulclimbing.

      The snow slope above was a welcome reprieve from the hard ice. We climbed through light but consolidated snow to a protected boulder. We cut out a small ledge and stood there for a few minutes. Spindrift was raining down on us filling every crack in our outerwear with snow. It filled my hood, and filled the cuffs of my frozen gloves.

    Several hundred feet of steep snow brought us to the second ice step. The avalanches had gotten strong in this part of the gully, pouring over the vertical ice. I swapped the lead with Ryan, and instead of climbing through the avalanche flow we climbed to the left on hard, steep ice. Two more ice screws were placed and we reached another steep snow slope. My calves were burning, my shoulders ached, and my forearms were near cramping.

   We traversed left around a loose rock buttress and up another section of gully. We reached a small saddle seperating the north face and the Eliot Glacier headwall and continued up. Another ice pitch put us on the final snow slope below the summit cornice. We trudged up, gaining inches with every wallowing step. We used ice axes to tunnel through the summit cornice, and plopped onto the ridge. The sun shone on our faces for the first time in 20 hours. I felt warm and happy.

      Failure is not an option in life. You will always fail at one time or another. I have failed many times at many things. That is what makes success that much sweeter. Mountaineering is a direct expression of this. You are faced with a problem and you must overcome it, and when you reach the top there is no doubt you acheived your goal. If only acclomplishments in normal life could be so black and white...so fullfilling.



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