We only got a few hours of sleep in before we made our way to Ilwaco for a short visit with Gabe’s dad on January 1st. We had been checking the weather for Mount Hood, a mountain that we have tried to climb together in previous years but never got the weather window. But, the weather was on our side this time and that evening we drove to the Timberline Lodge. We tried to catch some sleep on the floor of the climber’s cave, a room with heated floors where Mount Hood climbers register. With climbers coming in throughout the night, we weren’t able to get much rest. While many climbers chose to start there climb in the wee hours of the morning, we opted for a late start and got up at 7:30 am (on 1/2/16). We were heading up the mountain by 8:30 am.
It was a beautiful sunny day, but very cold and windy! We caught up to a group of four at the top of the Palmer lift. At an elevation of ~7,000, conditions began to change from hard snow to ice. It was here that we took a short break and put on our crampons. We were both exhausted from getting very little sleep in the two nights prior, but were able to stay just ahead of the group of 4. We took quite a few breaks and to be honest, we weren’t even sure we would have the energy to make it to the top. But at the end of each break, Melissa would encourage us to go a little further, and before we knew it we were right below the Hog’s Back in Devil’s Kitchen. This bowl is aptly named Devil’s Kitchen because of the prominent fumaroles. This area of Mount Hood is quite stunning, with steam rising out of fermal holes and surrounded by large rime ice formations that tower up from the summit ridge. With the summit in sight, it was impossible for us not to want to continue on to the top!
We could see climbers ahead of us who had chosen the “Old Chute” which is the standard route most years, and no one had yet attempted the Pearly Gates, a route that takes you through a narrow gulley between large formations of rime ice. With climbers coming down the standard route, we decided we would go up through the Pearly Gates and the climbers we had passed followed. The route was in great condition, and we were able to kick steps in the steep snow all the way through.
We reached the summit, just beating a climber who had come up the Old Chute. With the other climbing group coming up the Pearly Gates behind us, we decided we would go down via the Old Chute. This required following the ridge west from the summit, which was very exposed to the high winds, and down climbing some steep snow and ice. It definitely felt a little trickier than our route up! But, we made it safely back down to Devil’s Kitchen and hiked down as the sun was setting.
It was an awesome experience to finally climb Mount Hood together. Hood is a very important mountain to Gabe, who has climbed it many times. Melissa also loved climbing this mountain, which was very different from the peaks we climbed together in Alaska.
After Hood, we spent time visiting with friends and family. On Friday, 1/22, we headed to Smith Rock for the weekend. We met up with some friends and spent the weekend climbing. On Saturday, we spend the day in the Dihedrals and Melissa got in some lead climbing on the easier routes. On Sunday, we had some ambitious plans of completing an aid route on the west face of the Monkey Face and camping in the cave. However, it had been awhile since Gabe had aid climbed and it took him longer than expected. We had only completed the first pitch when Gabe decided we should just rappel back down. It is really pretty funny because we ended up carrying so much gear up over misery ridge (camping and a full aid climbing rack) for only one pitch and then carried all the gear back over to the bivy. “Good training!” as Gabe often says.
With good weather in the forecast, we decided to stick around and climb on Monday too. We mostly climbed easy to moderate single pitch routes and climbed up until, and even a little after, it was dark.
On Tuesday (1/26), we made our way to the coast. We did stop for a quick walk at McDowell Creek Falls, just east of Lebanon. It is a beautiful and short hike with four waterfalls, and it was a nice way to break up the driving from Smith Rock to Corvallis, where we made a stop to have dinner with friends before driving to Newport.
On Saturday (1/30) we tried to summit Kings Mountain in coast range via the east ridge with our friends Dorian and Betsy. We ended up bushwhacking in the rain up the wrong ridge. Luckily, we decided to turn around before getting too far up, and made it back to the car in the daylight. It was definitely a type 2 fun day. The next day we went backcountry skiing with Dorian in the Mount Hood area. This was much more enjoyable, although Gabe did crack one of his ski bindings. But, the binding was not all the way broken, and Gabe was still able to ski all day.
From the Portland area we made our way to Joseph, Oregon. Gabe has family in Joseph, and the Wallowa Mountains are where Gabe first began adventuring in the mountains. After spending a few days visiting with family, we headed out the East Fork of the Wallowa River to spend a weekend backcountry skiing. We left Friday (2/5) and made camp about two miles shy of Aneroid Lake. Gabe’s cracked binding ended up breaking further on this first day. Luckily, the binding was okay as long as it was in downhill mode. It was ok, but it made uphill travel awkward for Gabe who looked like he was limping up the slopes. On Saturday, we set up a base camp in a meadow beneath Jewett Peak. We had planned on setting up camp at Dollar Lake and skiing on Dollar Ridge, but there was high avalanche danger, and the slopes off Dollar Ridge were too steep to risk.
Friday and Saturday had been a little windy, but Sunday and Monday were absolutely beautiful; sunny and with little wind. We spent those two days taking laps off of Jewett Peak at a leisurely pace. It was definitely one of the most relaxed backcountry trips we have ever taken. The Wallowa Mountains were definitely one of the most quiet and beautiful places we have been to on this road trip! Next we are making our way to Montana, hopefully for some good ice climbing, and more skiing!