From the first time I saw the North Face of Mount Hood in the summer of 2010 from the porch of Cloud Cap, I had wanted to climb this striking line. Head-on, the route looks improbable. It's only from high on the Eliot Glacier or Cooper Spur that the true angle is revealed and looks reasonable.
Kelsey, Goran, and I left Seattle on Saturday morning to pick up Jess at the airport and head down to Mount Hood for the Right Gully on the North Face. We considered a car-to-car mission, but decided that a head-start and better view into the weather would be wise, so we loaded up with overnight gear and made the approach in trail runners with boots in our packs. At the Tilly Jane A-Frame, multiple folks mentioned howling winds at tree line. The forecast had clearly called for wind and precipitation on Saturday, followed by partly sunny and more mellow winds on Sunday, so we were cautiously optimistic until reaching Cloud Cap and experiencing the weather first hand.
We guessed that winds were gusting over 60mph and couldn't see very far with the light snow that was falling and blowing horizontally across the landscape. We set up our tents in the lee of Cloud Cap on the East side and tied them down. During Jess' explorations around our campsite, she discovered that members of the Snowshoe Club were staying in their cabin not 100 feet from our tents. They invited us in out of the wind and proceeded to offer up other-worldly hospitality. We sat by their fire, were offered beers and leftover pasta, and traded stories of ice climbs as well as a few jokes. What a great group of guys.
After a restless night with howling winds and shaking tents, we awoke at 3am to an uncanny silence. The winds had completely stopped. I was giddy with excitement to open the tent and see what Mother Nature had in store for us. We were in and out of the clouds as we hiked up the moraine, but broke out of them shortly before the large cairn and saw Hood for the first time on the trip at about 4am. The excitement was palpable.
Having 4 of us worked well for the Eliot Glacier approach because the new snow was boot+ deep in many places and took some effort to get through as the alpenglow formed and slowly turned into a beautiful sunrise with views of Adams and Saint Helens. We traded pulls and were getting close to the gully entrance when Kelsey decided that her nausea was bad enough to keep her from eating, so we consolidated gear and she hiked back to Cloud Cap to recover. We switched our approach from 2 teams of 2 to a single team of 3 on a 60m rope and tied in at that point as we began to cross crevasses.
Reaching the bergschrund involved a bunch of steep, deep snow, which was pretty exhausting. Crossing the berg itself involved punching through and landing on the bottom side twice before successfully beached-whaling myself onto the upper side. We finally arrived at the base of the first step at 7:15am and sent Goran up to hit the ice. At this point, a solo climber who had followed our boot track caught us and, after a quick chat, headed past us on the ice step. We didn't complain since he would be putting in the boot pack for us for the next 2,000 feet! Thanks, Leon!
The ice went without a hitch despite a massive amount of spindrift which rained down on us as we climbed the pitch. After the technical bit, we quickly transitioned to relatively secure, unprotected simul-climbing up the steep snow to the next step. As last week's trip report suggested, it was too dry to climb directly, so I loaded up with our minimal rock gear and headed up the bypass to the left. I was able to find some more manageable snow than the soloist's line and ended up going through a small constriction about 50' left of the normal step before traversing back under a large rock formation and back onto the route. A few pieces of marginal pro were enough to add enough security to the relatively easy climbing.
From there, it was a bunch more steep snow to a saddle, then up across a bunch of short rock ribs until the final bit of snow and tiny cornice at the top. Our top-out put us directly on the summit with nobody else around at 10:45am. It was freezing and the winds picked up. Being Easter, Jess produced a chocolate bunny from her pack, which was crazy-delicious. We didn't wait long and quickly headed for Cooper Spur where we waded our way through knee- to hip-deep snow and finally arrived at tie-in rock at about 12:15pm. The rest of the descent was without incident.
Given Saturday's storm, I couldn't believe that we'd successfully climbed the route. Snow conditions had given us some pause at the entrance to the couloir and on Cooper Spur, but otherwise, the climbing was secure and relatively easy for how intense the route looked from the North. I'll definitely be back to Hood for some more of the goods and will have to bring Kelsey for another shot.