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Activating Mt Hood via South Side Route | March 31st, 2021

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NOTE: Conditions on Mt. Hood can change weekly, even daily. Consult up-to-date weather, avalanche, and beta reports. 

On March 31st, 2021 I took advantage of a weather window and reasonable avalanche forecast to activate Mt. Hood (W7O/CN-001) via the standard South Side route.

I arrived at Timberline Lodge at around midnight and filled out the required climbers permit before bedding down in the truck for a couple hours of sleep. After a breakfast bagel and thermos of green tea, I climbed out of the lot and clipped into my skis for the skin up to Palmer. The climbers trail follows a catrack from ~5800' to the top of the Palmer ski lift ~8500' over two miles. This took me about an 1:20. Not my best time, but a reasonable pace. The top of Palmer is usually where climbers will take their first break and eat a bar or two. On this day there was hardly any wind. I could already smell the rotten eggs of Devil's Kitchen wafting down the mountain. 

From Palmer, I headed up and up the mountain. For a while I was the highest headlamp in the darkness. My pace slowed as I had to navigate across more frequent ice patches in my skis. Even with ski crampons on, it was slower going. I finally swapped into crampons at 9,750', just shy of Devil's Kitchen. This is when I was overtaken by 3 climbers, something I was grateful for because it meant that I didn't need to kick the bootpack to the summit myself. 

With crampons on my boots and skis on my back, my pace improved. I made Devil's Kitchen (10,150') at 6:20am. This season's snowpack at Devil's Kitchen is very strange. The fumarole was quite exposed, showing large crevases. The usual route heads immediately left up to Hogsback. There were a number of fractures, possible crevases, and a steep lip of snow here. This required carefully navigating around these features to gain the slope to hogsback. Alternatively, a climber could go right and circumnavigate around hogsback, while avoiding a large snow cliff on the north side of the fumarole. 

I stashed my skis at Devil's Kitchen and headed up. The hike up to Hogsback saddle was steeper than I remember and the snow was softer than it had been lower on the mountain. Possibly loaded from the recent windstorm. 

The climb up Hogsback was straightforward. I followed the ridgeline up the mountain. The Bergschrund was mostly covered. It had been completely exposed only a couple weeks before. A good example of how conditions on Mt Hood can change weekly, if not daily. 

I gained the summit through Pearly Gates Left variation. This route was mostly good snow, but did have one short ice section. I had my ice axe and my whippet, which made this ice section a bit easier. 

On the summit I chatted with two other climbers before setting up for some SOTA action. 

This was my most excited SOTA activation. It was a whirlwind 2m pileup of 29 QSOs in 20 minutes. Huge thanks for the chasers, especially those that got doubled on and patiently waited to try again. 

After 20 minutes of constant logging my radio hand was numb and it was time to start moving again. 

The typical descent on Mt Hood is to walk west along the Catwalk and descend via Old Chute. On my way up I had observed Old Chute and it looked *okay*, but I was a little concerned about wind slab avalanche danger there. I decided to descend via Pearly Gates because 1) I was seduced by it's proximity, and 2) There weren' any climbers coming up it! 

I chatted with some climbers on Hogsback and even ran into a friend who was also doing a solo summit bid. I recovered my skis at Devil's Kitchen and clipped in. It was pretty awful snow down from Devil's Kitchen. Bumpy, hard, and chickenheaded. I carefully made my way west towards Illumination Rock. Here I found better snow and got some good turns in. I made my way back to the resort and skied groomers down the mountain. I turned for the climbers lot and was back at the car at 10:53 am. 

Here's a video of the activation:

Crater Rock and Moon at Dawn
Climbers on Hogsback
Hot Rocks Fumarole
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