Planning to climb Mt Hood has always been pretty simple for me. If Kyle Tarry texts me about climbing this rad volcano, I simply pack my kit immediately and blast the six hour drive to get there! Using this strategy in the past has yielded ascents of Reid Headwall, Yocum Ridge and Cathedral Ramp. On January 23rd, 2022, we did a fun linkup of Leuthold Couloir and the Eliot Headwall, which offered some steep ice climbing.
Our romp up Leuthold Couloir was a bit slower than anticipated due to very icy conditions and fatigue left over from ski touring the days prior. We both used two ice tools to get past the most exposed section in the hourglass as quickly as possible, surprised to find water ice (!) at the crux. Without any drama, we blasted the remainder of the route, crested the summit ridge and dropped down a short distance on the Sunshine route. Here, we got a look at the Eliot Headwall, which was disappointingly thin. Kyle thought we could still make a line go by traversing in from the right, accessing the normal second pitch of the Mcjury-Leuthold route. We frontpointed across the highest reaches of the Eliot Glacier until finding a good enough piece of ice to build a belay off ice screws. Kyle set off on a steep traverse around the corner to see if we had enough ice to continue.
Once around the corner and out of view, Kyle let out a yell and I heard the familiar rhythm of ice climbing: swing kick kick, swing kick kick. Protection was very limited on this pitch but the climbing was super fun, steep and steppy alpine ice. The real problem with climbing in these conditions was finding a suitable belay anchor. I followed the long pitch and Kyle warned me not to fall off as I traversed a corner near his questionable belay. I couldn’t bear to look at whatever anchor we were connected to and I already had the rest of the ice screws, so I frontpointed past Kyle to lead a pitch of easy ice, bringing us to a deep chimney in the rock wall above. I couldn’t get any good screws for an anchor at the base of the chimney, so I was forced to climb up to a nice blue section of ice in the chimney itself and build a mostly-hanging belay there.
Kyle cruised the crux pitch which featured well-protected, technical ice – awesome! After this, I lead one last steep snow pitch to the summit ridge and glorious sunshine. A very icy, tedious descent ensued – my ankles were sore for days.
We were unable to use any of the rock gear we brought. 8 screws was about right, but we would have used a few more if we had them!