Title: April 26, 2004, Mt Hood, South Side
Post by: Amar Andalkar on 05/01/04, 06:34 PM
I had originally been planning to ski the SW side of Mt St Helens, but as I drove south on Sunday evening, the forecast 12000 ft freezing level for Monday seemed to rule that out. It was getting quite late and I was tired after a weekend of crevasse rescue practice on Rainier. I would need a very early start in order to do that lengthy route on such a warm day, so a better plan seemed to be Mt Hood and the standard ski-the-lifts-and-summit-too routine. So I drove past the St Helens exit, reached the Timberline parking lot by midnight and slept in the car.
Monday, April 26, was the first day for Timberline's spring hours (8-2:30), so I yo-yoed the Magic Mile and Palmer lifts for 2 hours as the snow softened to corn and then headed from the top of Palmer towards the summit by 10:15. Instead of putting skins on and later having to take them off, it was clearly faster to just crampon up on foot, and I reached the summit in under 2 hours. The bergschrund on the Hogsback was in great shape, very solidly bridged with the main crack beginning about 50 ft west of the crest (the crack was roughly 100 feet long, maximum 5-6 ft wide). Loosened by the warm sunshine, snow chunks were regularly falling from the rimed rock faces above. Even worse, a grapefruit-sized rock dropped 50 ft from the left edge of the Pearly Gates right into my footsteps behind me just after I reached the safety of the summit chute, so I was glad to be wearing a ski helmet this day. On top, winds were light and all the climbers had already descended, so I had the glorious summit of Mount Hood all to myself.
I had planned to ski the West Crater variation, but a large avalanche over the weekend had left a 2-ft high crown several hundred feet long over there, and filled the exit gully past the W side of Crater Rock with debris. So I just skied the regular route instead, starting around 12:30pm on good softened snow with minimal sastrugi even at the top. The summit chute required sideslipping / sidestepping to ski down, as attempting any turns would have been very difficult on the 8 ft wide staircase there. Below that, the snow was nice corn on the Hogsback, and stability was good, as I set off no sluffs or slides. The high avalanche hazard over the weekend (caused by 2 ft of new snow followed by very warm temps) appeared to have subsided and stabilized by Monday. Below Devil's Kitchen, I angled around the lower edge of Crater Rock, and skied the SW facing slopes down to Illumination Rock, the snow quality was better here than on the over-softened southerly aspects. From Illumination Saddle, I had a good view looking north of 4 massive avalanche debris piles which had been deposited onto the Reid Glacier over the weekend. I skied down the SW-facing Zigzag Glacier to about 8000 ft and then angled back SE to reach the Palmer lift. Yo-yoed Palmer again on very soft snow until closing time at 2:30pm. Overall, it was a fine day, 27000 vertical feet of nice spring skiing and a summit descent too. The SW side of St Helens would just have to wait a few days...
This photo shows the condition of the Hogsback and bergschrund, with the avalanche crown in West Crater visible at left. Click here (http://www.skimountaineer.com/TR/Images2004/HoodHogsback042604-1200.jpg) for a double-size version of this photo.