Ski Mountaineering

Hood and St Helens

(Private trip)

Memorial Day Weekend 1992

Lisa Freundlich

The San Diego SMS contingent consisting of Lisa Freundlich and Reed Moore, ventured to Oregon over Memorial Day weekend to extend the ski season. On the first day of our trip, we purchased lift tickets and skied the Miracle Mile and the Palmer lifts, open from 8am-2:30pm. The runs were long, slope moderately steep, no lines!

The snow was superb until approx. Ipm, when it turned slushy, but the ungroomed areas provided more deluxe snow. We stayed at the Timberline Lodge, a the base of Mt. Hood. Built in the 1930's, Timberline is renowned for its elegant woodcarvings and handmade wrought iron fixtures. Rooms cost between $50-100/night.

On the 2nd day of our trip, we met up with another group, including 2 SMSer's sans skis, Nancy Gordon and Diann Fried. Lacking skis Nancy had severe withdrawal symptoms. They along with Bill Lingle and Todd Lomelino were the support crew for SPSer George Hubbard, who needed Mt Hood to complete the "high point of 50 states". This was his 3rd attempt, due to bad weather, to attain Hood. Mt. Hood at 3426 meters is the 2nd most climbed mountain in the world, 2nd to Mt. Fuji.

We dragged ourselves out of bed at 2am to begin climbing the south route, as the rangers advised us that a later start could expose us to rockfall due to inordinately warm weather and melting.

The half moon reflecting on the snow guided our way until daybreak, no flashlights were needed. We were able to don our skis at the trailhead and skied to almost the top of the chair lifts then carried our skis to crater rock. We cramponed to the summit, passing numerous large parties of slugs, mostly Portland natives. When we passed the Devil's Kitchen and Hot rocks, we were overwhelmed with the smell of sulfur steam. As we climbed up and passed thru the Pearly Gates the sun crested the top of the mountain. It was a perfectly clear day, we were blessed with views of Mt. Adams, Rainier, St. Helens, Jefferson and 3 Sisters.

The snow was ideal for cramponing but there were ski tracks from the top of Mt. Hood, and on our ski descent, the snow was still fIrm and bumpy, but skiable. We appreciated the excellent ski conditions on the lift to complete our descent and arrived at Timberline in time for breakfast and partied the rest of the day.

The total elevation gain was 5300' vertical, 8 miles round trip. From Diann's perspective, the steep "hogback" section was 60 degrees, but Reed's scientifIc equation estimated 34 degree slope. The ranger told us a guy slipped and slid down the Hogback and had to be evacuated. Supposedly, the man slid at 60 mph and suffered severe skin loss.

On the 3rd day, we went off to climb Mt. St. Helens. We obtained our permits to climb Mt. St. Helens at Jack's restaurant in Cougar, Washington, the day prior to climbing, as required. There is a 40 person limit; we had no problems. We drove to the north side of Helens to witness the devastation that occured in 1980. This side trip is highly recommended.

Day 4 we camped at "Climber's Bivouac" , at the base of the south side. Our sleep was delayed due to some rowdy church group singing aroung the campfire (off key, I might add). We were rudely awakened at 4 am by someone's alarm clock that repeated about 50 times "wake up, it's a beautiful day", for the whole campground to hear. Fortunately, we had planned a 5am start. It was fIrst light as we meandered up the lush, green, well maintained trail. We dressed in shorts and t-shirts. No crampons or ice axes were needed. At the last 500' we skinned up and skied to the top. We were awes tuck by the view of the smouldering caldera a 1000 feet below us. One had the feeling that at any moment the sleeping dragon inside could awaken. Thunder boomed nearby, terrifying us. The sky darkened, giving urgency to our descent. We danced on the soft com snow, reveling in every turn of the @ 30 degree slope. The snow was ash covered, but the coverage was superb. To maximize our skiing, we detoured west of our route up and had to traverse over 9 moraine fIelds to return to the trail. We skied 3,000 feet of vertical. Total elevation gain was 4,500 feet, @ 10 miles.

After the climb, we considered jumping in a nearby lake, but used better judgement and opted for a hot shower at a campground. As we drove back to Portland for our return flight, the rain pounded on our rental car.

This Memorial Day weekend surpassed our expectations and we look forward to shredding Mt. Adams next year. Interested?

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