This blog post is brought to you by my awesome and crazy husband, J.
The above title is one of my favorite Blues Traveler songs and for this post it stands true for my latest adventure. In the pursuit to climb the highest peak in every state, my latest adventure brought me to Mt. Hood, Oregon’s highest peak at 11,249 ft. Now while you are enjoying the wonders of summer with shorts and trips to the beach, I was freezing to death (literally) while attempting my 35th high point.
After last year’s successful summit bids of Borah Peak in Idaho, Mt. Whitney in California and Mt. Rainier in Washington, I was ready to conquer Hood. I summoned up my hiking and climbing partner Bolt (Bobby) for the adventure and warned him that we would not be putting our life in danger like our lighting filled climb of Mt. Washington in 2008. Luckily he agreed this was not a time to temp our fate, as he knows we have many more mountains in our sights, including Denali. Upon arriving at the base of the mountain at just before 2am at an elevation of about 5500ft, the snow and winds had already started.
We immediately started out in snow and after less than ½ mile the snow turned to white out conditions and left our visibility at less than 10 ft. The winds picked up and the snow/ice was pelting us. Now some things struck me as odd as we began our climb. First, there were close to no cars in the lot that morning (Hood is the second most climbed peak after Mt. Fuji). Then there was no trail and no people! We did see two other guys leave about 30 minutes before us and thought there would be a foot-beaten path to the summit, but we quickly saw no people and no path. So we had to stop almost every 5 minutes to gather compass readings to make sure we did not walk off the mountain.
With the heavy snow, winds and us stopping too much to read the compass we started to realize this may not be right. As my Father-in-Law says, “if does not look right, smell right or feel right, it aint right.” And this day was not right. At around 4:30am at an elevation of 8500ft, we gathered our senses and came up with two options. 1) Hunker down and get in our sleeping bags to wait for the sun and see if we can find our location or 2) Start heading down. Knowing that the summit was not in our future we decided the safest option was to get down. Of course our tracks were gone so we blazed a new path down this beast of a mountain.
We got to our car around 6:30am, slept for about an hour, got a cup of coffee and when the sun came up since we were already suited up we hit the mountain again to hike up to and beyond our initial turn around spot. Don’t worry, we had no intention to summit or even enter the danger zone. The conditions on the second hike were just about the same but we had some daylight and could actually see much further.
We felt accomplished on both hikes and upon getting off the mountain the second time around 2pm, we ate a big meal and slept hard.
So the next morning, this is what we saw from the base. This would have been the night to climb, we missed it by one day.
But that mountain will be there forever, and it will see me again. Hopefully next time I will be standing atop with a big “I gotcha” grin on my face. You can’t win them all.