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Snowboarding Mt. Hood's Old Chute Dec. 22nd 2011
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Snowboarding Mt. Hood's Old Chute Dec. 22nd 2011

Snowboarding Mt. Hood's Old Chute Dec. 22nd 2011

    In order to snowboard off the summit of Mt. Hood, everything has to go right. December 22nd 2011 was one of those days.
    Oregon had been in a month long dry spell and the snow at the resorts was hurting. Texts were coming to my phone reading "glare ice" and "worst skiing ever" from co-workers who were already up skiing at Mt. Hood Meadows on the 21st. The goal was the summit though, not the ride down, so we summoned the motivation to awake at midnight and head to Timberline Lodge.
     Upon arriving at Timberline Lodge we met up with the co-workers at their primetime bivy spot. What it lacked in views it more than made up for in heated floors. We enjoyed Jetboil coffee barefoot and gathered our gear for the climb. Splitboard, skins, crampons and two ice axes.  A climbing helmet is a must for Mt. Hood. Food, extra clothes, lots of water, a webbing harness and some webbing just in case. The ten essentials plus three personal essentials. We were ready to go.
     We set off at 4 am from Timberline Lodge and made our way up the gully. The snow was frozen solid and none of our skins gripped very well. It was looking like it was going to be lots of cramponing and not much skiing until an angel came our way. A diesel powered Piston Bully angel. We followed the groomer up to the top of Palmer lift on perfect uphill corduroy.
     There I switched to crampons and the sun started to come up. The star show continued to the west with several meteorites. To the east the sky was fire red.

Then it rose.


   It was a beautiful day and there was barely any wind. The snow started to soften as we climbed up further. By the time we made it to Crater Rock we were getting excited for the ride down. Not only would it be possible and save us time downclimbing, but it was actually going to be somewhat fun.

 
   While resting on the snow formation known as the Hogsback, I dropped my Quetee' sunglasses and they slid down the slope into the steaming abyss of the fumarole. The pit in the earth belched and a strong odor came out. Those Quetee's are like gold these days at about $3 an ounce and I am very upset I've lost my last pair.
    Here on the Hogsback I got out my two ice axes and proceeded up. I quickly traversed under the bergschrund and watched out for ice fall. Small pieces of ice were falling down and did sting a bit if they hit you in the wrong spot. After doing the end run around the deep, wide, blue bergschrund I front pointed it strait up the Old Chute. It was easy climbing until the last 75 vertical feet, which varied between firm winblown, rime ice and alpine ice. I pulled myself atop the summit ridge with trembling arms and took in the view. The great thing about mountaineering is the sense of accomplishment. You set a seemingly impossible goal and you achieve it in a matter of hours. It is amazing what a bit of will power can do.

   
   I strapped in on the summit ridge and bid farewell to my climbing companions. It was time to snowboard down. In hindsight I probably should have given my camera to my friends on the top, but for some reason it makes me uncomfortable to have someone taking my picture when I am doing potentially life threatening tasks.
    The amount of concentration it takes to snowboard in no fall zones is intense. I lowered myself with two ice axes self belay style on my toe edge until the crux. The Old Chute was about 150 centimeters wide and my board was a 164. After a bit of toe side billygoating, I was onto firm but rideable windpack. I made some swooping turns just underneath the crater walls, and did a heel edge death traverse above the Hot Rocks. After a small leap across the bergschrund I was back at the Hogsback waiting for my climbing partners.
     They made it down safely, downclimbing through the chute and then skiing from the crater wall. We traversed around Crater Rock and then threw a shock and awe campaign on the mountaineers climbing up. I could see the look of jealousy on their faces as they knew they were in for a long downhill walk. The mellow chute below Crater rock rode well, and the snow was soft and carveable down to around the 7,000 foot elevation. There I hopped on Timberline's groomers and surfed it sideways until the parking lot. A perfect day on the mountain.

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