Matt at the Hogsback, giving up the summit attempt in collapsing weather

Mt. Hood, Oregon (11,240')

May 24 & July 11, 1998

one of the mountain pages on muellerworld


First Attempt:

About a year after I moved from Anchorage to Los Angeles, four of my friends wanted to have a mini-reunion and try to climb Mt. Hood together.

We had reserved 5 spots with Timberline Mountain Guide and were joined by one other man, Hans, from nearby Vancouver, Washington. He was in his late 50's and was strong as an ox. On Saturday, we went thru the standard "snow school" on the lower slopes of Mt. Hood, and satisfied the guide that we were familiar with roped travel, self-arrest and climbing techniques.

Deb, Shirl & Kelly at snow school Practicing rope travel Deb, Kelly, Matt Bob, Steve, Shirl

After a few hours, we adjourned to an early dinner, and a good night's sleep.

At 10:30pm, we all woke up and started getting ready for our midnight meeting time at the Timberline Lodge. Once we were ready, we drove up to the lodge and met our guides. We filled out some paperwork, grabbed "bluebags" (in case we had to poop on the mountain) and set off to meet the snowcat that would be transporting us up to the top of the ski lifts.

The snowcat was very cramped. It took about an hour to get up the slope, and we unloaded into the low-visibilty night. Unfortunately, the previously star-filled sky was no longer so promising: it had given way to low clouds.

We knew the summit was already questionable, but we'd try to get to the Hogsback and make a decision there. So we climbed. I'm not sure how long it took or what time we started, but it seemed to pass pretty quick, and we reached the Hogsback in what the guide said was very good time. It was still dark, and it seemed quite certain that'd we'd gone as far as we would.

Rob and Kelly on the Hogsback at 10,700' Turning back, just below the bergschrund Low visibility glissading Shirl Glassiading Back at the Timberline Lodge after<BR>skiing down from the Palmer Skilift Kelly sleeping on a bench<BR>at the Timberline Lodge

All of us had brought skis for the descent, so when we had down-climbed to the top of the ski lifts, we skiied to the bottom in the dense fog.

I knew I would be in the area in 6 weeks, so I signed up with Timberline Mountain Guides for a second attempt at the tail-end of my upcoming month-long summer vacation.

We cleaned up and got something to eat, and made it into Portland before 10am to meet up with a friend of Kelly's.


Second Attempt:

My second attempt on Mt. Hood came about 6 weeks after turning around at the Hogsback with my friends. This time, I joined a small group of guided climbers that had completed "snow school" together the day before, Hans (from the first climb) was one of them! I had forgotten that he was in the Timberline offices when I booked my second trip, and he had done the same. It was great to see him, but we ended up in different groups, and I only really got to see him in the snowcat and on the summit.

I was teamed up with a brother and sister combination who share one "adventure trip" together every few years. They were nice and the sister was a pretty strong climber, but her 40-ish brother was unfamiliar to mountaineering and altitude. Above the Hogsback, he slowed considerably, but he summited.

And then he puked.

The prymid-shaped shadow of Mt. Hood At sunrise (Mt. Jefferson in the background) Matt on the Summit (Mt. Adams in the background)

After 20 minutes on top, we slowly worked our way back down the steep slope to the Hogsback to retrieve our backpacks that we had cached there earlier. We descended as a group after a small snack, but the guides allowed me to leave the group near the ski fields and hustle back to meet Sue at the Huckleberry Lodge so that we could be on our way towards Seattle.

Much to my surprise, we ran into Hans as we were leaving Government Camp He invited us for a pizza near Vancouver, Oregon which was on the way to Seattle and near his home. It was nice to finally have time to find out what he'd been up to. After lunch, we went our different ways.

My vaction ended the next day as I flew from Sea-Tac back to Los Angeles. I arrived at LAX, gathered my two huge duffel bags, and was waiting at the curb for the FlyAways bus to take me to my car in Van Nuys, when a man standing next to me said "something weird is going on. I'm not sure what, but something isn't right" (it was kinda weird because strangers don't talk much in LA and they certainally don't make eye contact). Two minutes passed and we realized that there was NO traffic in the LAX horseshoe.

I hiked up to the upper level and found 3 buses stacked up waiting for something...

The driver wouldn't let me in but after 20 minutes a group of us were finally on-board the bus and I was on my way home. It turned out that there had been a shooting in front of one of the drop-off areas and traffic had been shut off to LAX.


updated: February 8, 2003 matt@muellerworld.com