Mt. Hood – Reid Glacier Headwall (II AI3)

Kyle and I cruised the Reid Glacier Headwall on Cinco de Mayo 2018.  This route is considered “one of the longest and most committing” on Mt Hood. This is a seriously beautful and inspiring peak with ridiculously easy access – a nice luxury!  It had been a while since I climbed a mountain, and I was itching to get out and push hard again.  This route delivered!

Kyle taking a break on the route.

Kyle and I geared up at Illumination Saddle after a quick two-hour approach.  We were pumped up after the ~2300 foot ascent from the parking lot and felt that we were making good time.  We dropped down onto the Reid Glacier and beelined for the route. After climbing over two bergschrunds, we decided to stow the rope in my pack.  Pushing hard, we moved up the endless 60 degree snow and ice climbing, moving toward the rock towers that delineate the upper route variations. Staying out of debris chutes in the snow slope was key to avoid the torrents of icefall that would come every few minutes.

A scenic cruise!
Approaching the rime-covered rock towers.  Photo: Kyle
Kyle climbing to my stance above a constriction of ice.

Things got much more interesting as we gained the upper part of the route where the climbing got more technical in the couloirs among rime-coated rock towers.  Kyle spotted a beautiful runnel of blue water ice that was too perfect to pass.  We eagerly frontpointed up fantastic ice, enjoying one-swing sticks in a wild alpine setting.

Climbing neve above the ice runnel.  Photo: Kyle
Kyle evaluating route options above the ice runnel.  Just out of view is a mixed gully of thin ice and crumbling rock.
A touchy traverse and downclimb section. Photo: Kyle

Once we topped out on the headwall, we could see about 40 people on the mega-popular South Side route.  We could have joined the normal route here but opted to ascend one last steep, icy headwall to reach the summit ridge. We traversed the Ridge to the summit. I was feeling the altitude at this point!

Kyle at the top of the Headwall.
Photo: Kyle

After tagging the summit, we walked down the Pearly Gates to the Hogsback.  Here, we took off our climbing gear before the final push to the car.  Kyle had smartly carried skis up the route and was about to cash in on some turns on the way to his car.  As Kyle peeled off his skins, I stared down at the parking lot and mentioned that I thought I could get down in an hour and fifteen minutes.  Kyle looked at me with shock and said it is minimum two hours to get down – after all, it is 4000 feet of descent.  Kyle began the ski run to his car and I switched into trail running mode.  My new mantra was to “jog, not slog.”  I reached my car and looked at my watch – only 50 minutes from the Hogsback! After 8 hours of near-constant motion, I grabbed the chocolate milk from my cooler, cranked the music, and began the drive back to Spokane.

Summit at 11,239 feet.
Kyle descending the Pearly Gates while we discuss the ethics of face-out downclimbing.

Gear Notes:

We carried 2 pickets and 4 screws – and placed none.  We did use a 30m skinny rope for the crossing of the Reid Glacier.

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