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  • Caltha Peak - hike/scramble (September 2022)
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| Featured Trip Report |

Last Updated: Mar. 20, 2005

Mount Hood - Reid Glacier Headwall, March 2005

Andy Johnson, Eric Hoffman and I drove south to Oregon late one Sunday afternoon for our first 'real' climb of the season. Eric kicked down for the sno-park permit at the Arco station in Sandy, after which we continued on to Govt. Camp and the lot just below Timberline Lodge. We pounded a couple beers and called it a night soon thereafter...myself in the car and Eric/Andy bivying on the partialy frozen mud.

After about 30 minutes of sleep spread over 4 or 5 hours, it was time to slog up the Palmer. We left the sno-park at 4am and hiked to the upper-most lift station in the howling wind. Once there, Eric reluctantly bowed out on account of a stubborn back injury (injured in the gym earlier in the week). Andy and I continued on to Illumination Saddle while Eric descended back to the car. From the saddle, it took us only one look down the Reid Glacier at the requisite elevation loss (600ft+) in order to traverse below Yokum Ridge (en route to Sandy Glacier and Headwall), and decided it was a bit much to pull off in a day. Plus, with a sleep deprived 3+ hour drive back to Seattle after the climb, and Eric already spending a boring day kicking around the Timberline Lodge while we were climbing, perhaps a less time-consuming route was more appropriate.

The wall above the Reid Glacier offers several popular and aesthetic options - Leuthold Couloir, Reid Headwall and its variations to name a few. We went in for a closer look. A short, icy traverse from the saddle saw us to the bowling alley that is the upper Reid. With limited knowledge of what was what, we settled on a route at climber's right - an interesting looking couloir/hourglass with rime ice amphitheater above. The decision to climb there was reinforced by what appeared to be less ice-chunks than elsewhere (some baseball sized) whizzing down at us from high above (the combination of sun and wind no doubt was causing this).

We incorrectly assumed our route to be the Leuthold fact, we climbed a variation of the Reid Headwall (var. 14a or 14b in Oregon High w/ direct finish). As we were kicking steps up the snow fan below the hourglass, a party of four traversed out to the far left of the Reid (we'd later learn that they, in fact, were heading for Leuthold Couloir). The route featured soft snow and nevé, averaging around 45 degrees with short ice bulges (55 - 60 degrees?). Periodically, chunks of ice would rain down on us. All we could do was hide our faces and endure the onslaught. Needless to say, there wasn't much looking up that day. We used screws, pickets and running belayed the entire climb with the occasional ad-hoc fixed belay.

Our "direct" finish proceeded straight up into a narrow chute with interesting blue rime ice fins choking its walls. There we encountered a short, but, near vertical and difficult to protect rime ice bulge before topping out on the sunny ridge overlooking Devil's Kitchen and the Hogback. From there, an exhausting slog traverse above Devil's Kitchen finishes via the south-side variation (upper West Crater) that tops out at climber's left of the Hogback route. A short stroll on the summit crest soon saw us to the very top of Oregon. Surprisingly, we were the only party on the summit. Despite what St. Helens has been doing in recent months, the views up there haven't changed much since my previous visit in 2002.

Descending the icy Hogback was a particularly nervous affair for me (crampons balling up). Andy on the other hand had no difficulties and patiently watched me slowly face-in down climb all the way to the notorious Hogback 'schrund. We then plunge-stepped and glissaded the upper Palmer and booted down sloppy mush at the edge of the ski runs, reaching the lodge around 3:20pm. A fun, exciting climb...some challenge, but never desperate. Pretty much what Andy and I were looking for. Sorry you had to sit this one out Eric.

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