After climbing Mount Saint Helens last July I learned of a few Native American legends that tell the story of the three smoking mountains.
Louwala-Clough – Mount Saint Helens
Pahto – Mount Adams
Wy’east – Mount Hood
Those epic tales and the fact that you can see each summit from one another made me want to climb them all! Only two weeks after climbing Saint Helens an awesome group and I climbed Adams! Just under a year later it was time to complete the trifecta by capturing Oregon’s highest peak! Two of the four guys in our crew climbed Mount Whitney, California’s highest peak, with me last year so you could also say it was time to move up a state! I was in California a week before this hike and I’m glad I choose the window seat on the way home.
This got me jacked up and ready to stand on that summit! Moose thought he was ready too…
I certainly wouldn’t take him on this climb so only thing missing from the trip was my love Ellie who I’ll come back with to complete her trifecta.
Now down to the nitty gritty!
Mount Hood stands at 11,249ft and is a ‘potentially’ active Stratovolcano. I guess they’re not quite sure? You’ll certainly think it’s active if you take the south side route past the fumaroles. You start from the Timberline Lodge ski resort at 5,924ft and gain roughly 5,300ft in 3.5 miles! We chose to go during the peak climbing season, April to mid-June, to minimize some of the avalanche, crevasse, cornice and rock/ice fall danger. These can all still be risks so as a team we made a plan for every possible bad situation including inclement weather. We knew what to do in any emergency, we knew the details of our route and we all prepared our bodies by going on many similar climbs! With those three things checked off we were ready to enjoy it!
The man who put our trip together also drove the 5 of us to the Lodge from Seattle Saturday morning, May 18th. We arrived in the early afternoon but we wouldn’t begin our climb until 1am that Saturday night/Sunday morning. This would allow us to avoid peak rock/ice fall hours when the sun is out and shining. The only permit you need is a free self registered Wilderness Permit! After securing those, we reviewed recent trip reports, looked at weather forecasts, packed our bags and practiced our self arrest before a night of relaxing. Some relax in ways different than others…
All day clouds moved past the mountain in frantic fashion until around 5pm when they began to wisp away.
By 6pm our wicked sweet route was visible!
We brought rope and harnesses in case someone needed to be belayed down the Pearly Gates. We never needed it! Around 8pm we all attempted to get some shut eye in a nearby dispersed campsite. I couldn’t help but stay up for sunset.
After maybe 2 1/2 hours of sleep we were up getting ready to climb! The mountain was clear and the stars were out but that didn’t last long. By the time we started (1am) the entire mountain was engulfed in clouds. The next 5 hours were spent in those clouds. Visibility was low and sunlight was nonexistent but the boot paths were easy to follow and the temperature was perfectly cool.
The first point of interest was the Silcox Warming Hut. Since we start from a ski resort you’ll see a lot of people lug their skis up to ski down from Crater Rock. Maybe after another season of skiing I’ll be ready for such a descent. We never saw the next POI, the Upper Palmer Lift House, so we thought we were going mighty slow until we reached the following landmark, Crater Rock. We were actually moving at a great pace and we all felt ready for the crux of the climb! There was still fog surrounding us but as the sun rose we received a few glimpsed of the mountain’s shadow!
Crater Rock is hard to miss but even if you couldn’t see it you could smell it. The horrid rotten egg smell comes from two active fumaroles seeping sulfuric gas. The first fumarole is named the Devils Kitchen. I find it interesting that to get to the Pearly Gates you must first pass the Devils Kitchen!
The next fumarole was named the Hot Rocks for obvious reasons.
The last 2 shots were taken on our descent when the sun finally hit the southern slopes of Hood. I did not taken many photos on the ascent as I was locked in and still in a fog. Our crux started by hiking between the fumaroles on a narrow ridge called the Hogsback. Every step was getting steeper but I was feeling great. There were only two groups ahead of us but one team was roped up and moving slow which ended up creating a bottleneck that would leave us stuck breathing in the sulfur. A combination of that and some puke that lay next to the trail started to make me feel like crap. We finally had the space to get by the bergschrund crevasse or as I like to call it the bergerslerger and I had to take a seat.
I was hit with weakness but didn’t think I had altitude sickness I just think I shouldn’t have ate a pepperoni stick while sucking in the sulfur. Lucky for me the team had a plan but then I hurled and felt 100% again. I swear it was just my weak ass stomach. All that was left was the Pearly Gates which was what I was most excited about! It would have been tragic to be so close and have to turn back but I was prepared to do so if I didn’t get better. The Gates were such a fun climb! I always felt safe with my ax and my crampons dug into the earth.
It was 7am and we were standing on top of Oregon with the summit all to ourselves!
Below us was a blanket of clouds with only the other “smoking mountains” peaking out. To the northwest was Louwala-Clough!
Below is the view of Hood from Mount Saint Helens Summit (July 17′).
And to the northeast was Pahto!
Below is the view of Hood from Mount Adams summit (July 17′).
The trifecta was complete but not truly complete until we made it down Wy’east safely. With the weather finally clear we took our time taking it all in.
In honor of my late Grandpa Lou I have brought his old tusk horn to the top of each smoking mountain and given it a summit cry!
In addition to the smoking mountains was Mount Jefferson to the South.
And Mount Rainier, Washington’s highest peak and next year’s challenge to the north!
Having the thought of not being able to summit and then doing so really felt good!
Best of all getting down was no problem! It took us 6 hours up and 3 hours down. Crawling down the Pearly Gates was fun as expected. The slope was gnarly!
The sun was just starting to peak over the Pearly Gates so we were making great time and avoiding the rock/ice fall concerns.
The Bergschrund (bergerslerger) was again no threat.
We made quick work of the Hogsback to get away from those nasty fumaroles.
Right as the snow leveled out near Crater Rock I ate it catching my gaitor with a crampon. Glad it happened there!
Steven and I were also prepared for burning man.
From there on out we attempted to glissade where we could. Because the sun had just touched this snow it was still very icy and not fun for your tush. Some places did provide opportunities!
It was a cheerful descent that was highlighted by passing the Silcox Warming Hut where a group of people gave us some celebratory beers! They were very generous as they had climbed Hood the previous day and knew what we had just put ourselves through.
From there we raced down the mountain in a dire need of a clothing change. Not before taking some pictures of Jefferson of course.
At 10am 9 hours into our morning we made it back to the parking lot!
That was the greatest morning ever even considering the puke! After a wardrobe change the next logical step was to have a large family meal at the Timberline Lodge but someone had to catch a flight out of Seattle that night so we instead stopped at a food truck park in Sandy, Oregon. After 4 hours of being crammed in the car and 9 hours of hiking it was time to rest at home with my pup! Looked like he got after it his weekend too!
That was one long glorious day with some glorious people! Next up Shasta, Rainier and Baker!