Yesterday my wife and I attempted to climb Mt. Hood, a beautiful dormant volcano just outside Portland, Oregon. This was our backup after our planned climb of Mt. Rainier was derailed due to horrible weather. Mt. Hood is 3,000ft shorter than Rainier and most people climb it in only one day instead of 2 to 3 days like Rainier. It's still a glacier which means hiking on snow the entire time and some objective dangers that we needed to be aware of.
We left Washington Monday morning to do a light waterfall hike close to Hood before we headed up to Timberline Lodge. This would be our starting point in the morning. We set up "camp" in the back of our rental car, I heated up some water for dinner, we ate, I infused, and we laid down. It was surprisingly comfortable for being the back of a car, but there wasn't a whole lot of sleeping. I couldn't help thinking about the climb especially since an epic view of Hood appeared just before we laid down. It's an impressive mountain and a little daunting!
Our 11:30pm wake-up call came quickly. I think I slept for 30 minutes, but overall I felt good. We tried to dress as much as possible in the warm car and just after midnight we stepped out into the wind. As we started the climb from the the east side of the lodge conditions seemed good; the snow was in good shape and the winds were mild. It was much cloudier than I expected but the full moon would peek through intermittently. We climbed for 20 minutes before the winds picked up. There was a forecast of 10mph winds overnight diminishing into 5mph in the morning. The winds were much stronger than forecasted and with it came some nasty sleet precipitation. To make it worse, it was blasting us almost straight in the face.
Jess and I got our hardshells on to keep us dry but after over an hour of this weather it started to take its toll. The sleet finally broke but the winds persisted. I asked Jess how she was doing and she said that her fingers were getting cold. We took a moment to adjust her layers; she put some mittens on as well as my expedition down jacket. We were hoping that would be enough to warm her up but it didn't help.
There is a running joke with Jess and I about our body's ability to regulate temperature. She laughs when I go outside in shorts to shovel in a snowstorm and I tease her that she is wearing a hoody and slippers in the middle of summer. In the instance of being on a mountain in not ideal conditions, temperature regulation is extremely important. Unfortunately, this nasty bit of weather chilled Jess to the bone and she couldn't warm up. She pushed herself really hard to overcome this, which I am very proud of, but she was miserable. We reached the top of the Timberline Ski lift at about 8,500ft and I could see the misery in her eyes. She's not a quitter, and she was willing to push herself farther for me.
I really appreciated her drive but the right call was to go down and get her warm. It was a big bummer just because I felt really good on the climb, especially considering my recent hamstring injury, but we are a team and we make decisions that are right for the both of us. On the way down, Jess admitted that she hated every bit of that climb. This type of glacier mountaineering is a brutal sport that puts us in very uncomfortable situations and for some individuals, like myself, we enjoy it; for others, including Jess, there was no joy. I'm bummed that she is probably done climbing glaciers, but i'm really glad that she was brave enough to try something that I love. I can't ask for more than that!