Monday, April 14, 2014

Hood's Nordwand

It seems like the North Face on Mt. Hood, especially the Right Gully, is considered an excellent route and I had built it up in my head as a big deal. My logical side had quickly realized that it was well within my limits but I had stared at pretty pictures of the face for too long and it had started to become more dream than reality. I assumed it would get done "one day," after all those other climbs I wanted to do. However, things aligned more quickly than I suspected. A friend decked soloing, making me less likely to climb alone, and the obscure nature of other routes made partners hard to find. So I made the North Face a priority and ended up hiking out of the Tilly Jane Trail Head with Travis on the first sunny and free weekend I'd had in a while.

Travis setting up the tent with the North Face of Hood in the background.

Looking up the Cooper Spur with the Eliot Glacier and Hood on the right.

A room with a view... to pee now or pee later, that is the question.

We hiked up to the Tilly Jane cabin and on to Cooper Spur before making camp on some exposed rocks. We brewed up, ate dinner, relieved ourselves among the boulders and stunted trees, and went to bed with warm water bottles between our feet. We awoke at 3am and brewed up again while snacking and getting dressed. Started hiking out onto the Eliot Glacier at 4am as a party of three crossed over to try Sunshine or some other route in that vicinity. We skirted the Eliot's crevasses on the left and got buffeted by wind coming down the mountain as we neared the face. Climbing too high, too early we ended up on snow ramps left of the Left Gully and had to down climb over the schrund and traverse past a rock rib and over to the start of our route.

Hood's North Face (taken that afternoon): our approach in green, the route in red, steps in blue boxes.

Travis approaches the first step (water ice) with the Eliot Glacier below.

We racked up inside the schrund as the sun started to rise. I lead over a precarious looking (but actually quite stable) ice block to reach the entrance to the gully and the base of the first step. Travis then lead up step one on solid, slabby ice. He made quick work of it, placing two bomber screws. He then did the grunt work, hauling the rope and breaking trail, as we simuled up the middle snow gully. This is the longest section of the route and had the most rock fall as the gully turns beneath a shattered rock rib.

Travis kicking his way up the middle section of the gully towards the second step.
Looking down on the Eliot Glacier from halfway up the face.

Bomber anchor below the second step.

At the base of the second step I racked the only rock pro (tricams) and considered the completely bare rock. I tried a direct line but down climbed from before the mossy crux when I saw that there was no pro. I then went left up some slabs, placing three solid pieces and pulling a bulge at the top. After that I lead as we simuled straight up (right of the rock headwall) and pulled right onto the summit (no cornice!) to the surprise of several other climbers.

Looking up at the second step. I tried the direct line up with the moss and snow, but ended up going out left.
Travis, happy to be past the second step.

Pockets galore on this tower. Sport climbing at 11,000 ft anyone? Where's a bolt kit when you need it?

Looking out to the East. Cooper Spur is the snow ridge below.

Travis approaches the summit of Mt. Hood.

We chatted with other climbers on the summit, including two who had just had a full-on experience climbing the Sandy Headwall in high winds and constant ice fall. Everyone on the South and West side routes spoke of crazy wind. It was hard to imagine this having been warm in the sheltered and slightly East facing gully all morning. We then headed down Cooper Spur and got blasted by said winds while back-daggering the first thousand feet. Once below the shoulder on Cooper it cut out and was nice and warm. We sped down to the flat section and quickly stripped off our shells before slogging back along the ridge to camp. We snapped photos of the face, packed up camp and hiked out fairly fast. We were back at the car by 2:30, washed the mud off our boots in the creek and drove straight home.

Travis and I on the summit. Perfect weather with Mt. St. Helens behind Travis' leg and Rainier on the right.

Travis descending Cooper Spur. The North Face is on the right and the Black Spider is the wall on the left.

Travis rests his feet and repacks before hiking out to the car. Eliot Glacier and the North Face of Hood in the background.

The whole route was a blast and I understand why people speak so highly of it, but it was definitely shorter and less involved than I had imagined. Certainly we had excellent conditions, except for mixed climbing on the second step, but if not for the exciting mixed section I would have been disappointed by how easy the route was. I will certainly return to the Eliot Glacier and the North Face of Hood again. It is absolutely beautiful with ice cragging, alpine routes, and ski touring (plus a fricking hut to stay in!!!) that make it very appealing. Cooper Spur would make a phenomenal ski descent and it would be fun to attempt a link-up of both gullies in good conditions or climb something on the Black Spider.