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Monday, June 6, 2011

Mt Hood

Scott and I decided to sacrifice Saturday to finish our exam, and declared Sunday Fares Boulos Day Off! We drove down to Mt Hood on Saturday evening, and departed the car at 2AM Sunday.

The climb starts at an altitude of about 5,800 ft, climbing along the edge of the Timberline Lodge ski area. The first few hours are in total darkness. We could see only by the light of our headlamps. I couldn't see the top of the mountain, but I could see the tiny white dots of others headlamps in a curving line up the path, for a long way. It was pretty awesome to see how many people were climbing. Hiking in the dark was actually pretty nice. It's quiet, it's not too hot (though it was probably in the 50s, much warmer than expected) and you can't see how far you still have to go, so you just keep going.

We hiked with our skis and ski boots on our back. It made the way up a lot harder having all that extra weight, but the way down would be much quicker and more enjoyable. I dropped my skis off on the side of the trail after a couple hours of hiking, Scott a little after that. After dropping the weight, the pace felt much more comfortable. It was a couple hours into the hike when there was just enough sunlight to see outline of the peak. It was a pretty sweet sight. We reached the glaciated portion of the hike, and eventually put on our crampons. Since the weather had been pretty warm, the snow even near the top was softer than I expected, but crampons and an ice axe were still needed for a safe ascent. About 1,000 feet from the summit there are several open volcanic vents. It is an interesting sight, but the extremely strong sulfer smell was somewhat nausiating. It gave me motivation to not rest too long and keep going, even with how tired I was.

We reached the summit of 11,250 ft at about 7:30AM. The view was pretty amazing. It was a sense of accomplishment that I had reached the top, and relief that I didn't have to keep climbing. We relaxed at the top for a little while, taking in the sights, and snapping some photos, then proceeded back down. The top section was fairly steep, so climbing down we had to take some careful steps. After that, it was smooth sailing down to our skis. The snow was soft, and it was nice to get a little June skiing in. We were back at the car at 10AM.

It was a great experience. Climbing to a peak that high gave me a taste of what things will be like when we climb Mt Rainier next month. It was a somewhat humbling experience - It was more challenging than I thought it would be. Climbing on almost no sleep did not make it any easier (less than an hour in the car). The altitude seemed to make the biggest difference between the training climbs I've done. It was exhausting. At times I could get in a groove and move pretty good for a little while, but then the altitude and fatigue would get to me, and it would take a minute to catch my breath. I've got a month to get some final training in.

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