Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Devils Kitchen Headwall "ice" climb

Several have requested pictures. My camera broke, and I haven't gotten around to finding out why it won't turn on, nor to buying a new one (anyone have an old one they want to sell me?), so I only have pictures if someone else on the climb takes them. Fortunately, for this climb on day 3 of my leave of absence, a climb up a different route on Mt. Hood, that I'd been attempting and failing for various reasons, one of my partners brought, and actually used, his camera, and then gave me the pictures!

We started out as a foursome, Tom, Wim, Joe, and I, in the wee hours - I think that it was about 1am - on previous climbs, I'd been taking a fairly long time to get to the base of the headwall, and we wanted to be sure that we were there by first light, so that we'd be up the headwall and back down before ice started to fall with all of that solar energy beaming down. As it turned out, we got up fairly quickly, and possibly due to that speed, Joe wound up getting a touch of altitude sickness and had to go back down (yes, it can and does happen on Mt. Hood, even though we weren't yet at 10,000ft (3048meters)). I thought that I'd been keeping him in range, but when Wim, Tom, and I briefly rested at the base of Crater Rock, from where we would diverge from the main trail up the south side of Hood, there was no Joe appearing. There were a string of people making their way up, so I told Wim and Tom to head on up, while I waited, thinking that Joe was one of the string. Since it was still dark, we still had some time. In the string of people, Joe still was not appearing. I finally started calling his name, and to my surprise, someone answered. Not Joe, but someone calling out that he'd gotten sick and turned around to head down. So much for me keeping him in range. . . When climbing with someone, one is actually supposed to climb WITH the person. . . Somehow, I'd confused someone else's headlamp with Joe's and so thought that he was still with us. The second surprise was when the guy who responded turned out to be someone I knew and was asking for Wim. He and his climbing partner, it turns out, had ALSO decided to do this very same route. Wim had forwared a write-up I'd done on my previous attempt at this route on to these folks, and they, too, thought it sounded like fun so decided to do it. Ok, so I was annoyed at this. Routes like this tend to take a REALLY long time if you have a bunch of people gumming up the works. 2 or 3 people can usually race (well, not race, but at least go fairly quickly) up a technical route, but the moment you get more, or a couple of groups of different speeds and abilities, it just takes FOREVER. . . And forever it did take, but it was actually quite fine.

By the time I'd gotten myself all situated so that I could catch up to Wim and Tom - everyone was already underneath the headwall, and actually heading to a route further east. Sometimes voices don't carry very well, especially when one has a balaclava over one's mouth, which I did. I was still only about 1/2 the way across the "Devils Kitchen bowl" to them, when I stopped to yell at them. It came out as gobblydigook, so I had to rearrange all of my head gear before they could understand that they'd overshot and needed to go back a bit. So, with that, and Wim falling into a rock moat that took him some time to get out of, I finally caught up to everyone at the base of the headwall. The snow was very deep, and in this section where the moat was, there was a nice crusty layer, with nothing beneath it, as all of the snow had been melted by the rocks beneath it, warmed, I believe, by the heat coming out of the mountain, vented at various places, including the spot called the Devils Kitchen. Had I been with them, I would have taken them around that area, as I'd already had the pleasure of falling in in a prior week.

We'd all waited until this point to put on our harnesses and crampons and switching to ice tools from our hiking poles. Since it was steep, we got to stamp out little platforms for ourselves and our packs. We decided to sort of climb as a 5-some - giving the other group our ice-screws, and having them go on ahead since they were two people, and therefore, presumably faster than the 3 of us would be. After we were actually *in* the route, a 6th guy, solo, came up behind us. We offered to let him run on by us, which he didn't do, so he wound up waiting an hour or two while we putzted and he practiced making v-threads, with lots of ice pouring down the gully anytime anyone up above did anything, until he finally decided to turn around and go up another route. What are the odds? I've *never*, *ever* seen anyone on this particular route. Even when someone says that they are going to do the Devils Kitchen Headwall, they mean a different gully. Heck, that's what we called a different route that we did several years ago. So today - 3 groups decide to do the exact same gully. Very unusual.

Here is what the start of the route looked like, on that day (you should be able to click on the picture for a bigger version):
There's a nice little ramp of ice that was more threatening the week before, but now was all filled in with snow just before it, so a piece of cake to walk up. The other team is standing at the next ice area, the first that needed protection.

I don't know if you can see all of the rime ice hanging down on the left side. It's stuff like this that makes us want to get up and out of the gully before the sun starts shining on it. As it was, we were in no danger - it was a nice 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-10C for you non-US people) in the gully for most of our climb.

I put this next picture of Tara from the other team in for several reasons:
One - this is just before the final ice climb. Doesn't look like a big deal.
Two - there is another picture of it, with Tara halfway up that makes it look like a bigger deal.
Three - this is basically from where the next picture, pointing down at me was taken:
I was busy belaying Tom up. Wim had lots of time, so was busy taking pictures in all directions. So, below me, was Tom (can't see him), and way below is the "bowl" of Devils Kitchen. You might be able to just make out our footpath dead center of the picture.

This next one has Tara climbing the ice that was above her two pictures ago:
I think that I was in roughly the same place as she is (she's the one on top looking down) in this picture when, a little later, I fell. It happened so fast, I don't really remember it at all - I just remember hearing Wim howling, and then being concerned about him. It turns out that one of those sharp little pointy things on the bottom of the crampons that we wear beneath our boots, caught his leg, just above the knee, on my way past him. Fortunately, not only did his super-duper doubly protected pants not get cut open, but also, he wasn't damaged, permanently, at all (in the following days, not so much as a bruise appeared)! Tom and I did spend some time looking on the ground to see if blood was appearing, since even though the clothing wasn't cut, it still could have burst the skin underneath. However, no blood appeared, and Wim realized that nothing was desparately wrong at that point, and none of my bones seemed to be broken, so we resumed climbing. Well, I resumed for a little bit, and suddenly, wasn't feeling up to the challenge. I decided that someone else could lead, and asked Wim if he'd mind. I was wondering why I didn't feel like doing it - somehow forgetting that I had just taken a fall from there. . . Wim was definitely better - not only not falling, but also just climbing straight up it, and then went hunting around for a good place to belay me from up top. Since he knew he was going to be going out of earshot in search of a place to belay me, he told me that he'd pull the rope three times when he was ready for me to climb. I've never had the "pull on the rope" signal be successful, before, but I agreed to it. He went out of sight, and, in a little bit, I saw, miraculously, 3 pulls on the rope. I expressed my surprise to Tom that it had worked, and headed up. Later, I discovered that Wim had never gotten around to giving me a signal. I don't know if he was belaying me or not at that point, but there wasn't much slack in the rope, and I spent some time cleaning out all of the protection so that Tom could just climb when we got around to him, and I made it up with no particular problem that time (what a phsychological difference between leading and following!).

After we got out of that area, we had this to look at:
That's Wim in the orange jacket, and Tom ahead of him. At this point we'd gotten off the rope and were just heading up to the summit. I'd decided that maybe Wim would like to be in maybe ONE picture? After that, Wim, better at photography, took this one of me:
(Jae, if you look closely at the the big picture on the blog, you'll see your name on the ice tools - I'd loaned mine to Joe, so was still using yours.)

We had Tara take this summit shot of Wim, Tom, and me (left to right in the picture):

Most folks were taking the old chute down. I wanted to take the direct route down the Pearly Gates. I'm glad that we did, because Wim told me later that he noticed the footpath for the old chute was right on top of a cornice! They don't break off too often, but when they do, they usually are accompanied by news reports, like the one of the snowmobiler (without his snowmobile) who survived a cornice fall into the crater of Mt. St. Helens. I'd prefer not to be in such news reports.

Always attached to his camera, Wim took a final shot of me after having gone through the Pearly Gates, and about to head over to the Hogsback, where you can see 3 people clumped together:
You can also see a couple of dots coming up around Crater Rock (that's the big thing that the Hogsback leads into), and down on the left is what I call the bowl of Devils Kitchen. On the upper left of the picture is the Timberline ski area, with the "miracle mile" ski lift heading up the Palmer.

On the way down, Wim took this picture, and I dressed it up to show our routes. The red (rightmost line, for those who are colorblind!) is the one that we took up. The green (leftmost line) is the one that we took down, with a little circle partway down it signifying about where I was when Wim, above me, took that last shot of me. I've also labeled the Hogsback.

Makes you want to run up there and do it, yourself, doesn't it?

Statistics: Mt. Hood: 11,239ft (3246 meters). Tallest mountain in Oregon. This was my 13th successful summit of Hood, via any route, out of at least 21 starts. Mt. Hood is, I've heard, the second most climbed mountain in the world, after Mt. Fuji in Japan.