Mountains have been in my periphery since before I can remember and have played a common and important role in much of my artwork. But one mountain in particular has always been the object of my affection: Mt. Hood. I have admired this iconic mountain for years. I’ve tromped around it's snowy slopes, hiked through it's alpine meadows, contemplated it's grandness extensively and completely adored it since I was a little girl. Growing up in Oregon, to me it was a symbol of the beauty this state embodied but I also revered as an intimidating and sometimes dangerous place. Until a few years ago, I never would have imagined myself on top of it. But then something happened to me. Upon entering my 30’s, I gained an intense love for hiking and backpacking. I wanted to hike the Oregon section of the PCT. I wanted to climb mountains. So I joined the Mazamas, a climbing organization here in Portland. I was introduced to new skills like glacier travel, navigation and avalanche awareness. I made incredible, like-minded friends that wanted to climb with me. And we did. We climbed in the Three Sisters Wilderness, we climbed in the Northern Cascades, we climbed in the Tatoosh Mountain Range.
We also tried to climb Mt. Hood about a year ago. That first attempt was a real lesson learned for me. With frigid gusts of wind came low temperatures that I wasn’t prepared for. I became near hypothermic and needed the aid of my friends and climb leader to heat me up. They piled extra clothes on top of me and didn’t leave my side until I was warm enough to head back down. It was scary and rewarding, in a way, as it brought us all closer together. I was disappointed not to summit. We all were. But I knew our time would come again.
Fast forward to last Wednesday. With perfect conditions predicted on the mountain, we made a last minute decision to try and summit that night. Leaving the trailhead at near midnight, we made our way up behind Timberline Lodge towards the Palmer Snow Field and beyond. The going was slow and deliberate. The near full moon lit our way. We took breaks, ate and drank, kept ourselves fueled. There were moments in the beginning where I was sure I wouldn’t make it. My lungs weren’t adjusting to the altitude and I felt incredibly out of shape. But after a few hours, my body acclimated and I was feeling the pull of the summit. We reached the Hogsback just before the light of dawn started to color the terrain. Using 2 ice tools, we made our way through the Pearly Gates, dodging occasional ice fall and grinning ear to ear. When I turned around and saw the hues of the sunrise draping the landscape, I knew exactly why I was there. It was for views and moments like this.
We reached the summit at around 7am, exhilarated and exhausted. We’d made it! There truly isn't a feeling that quite compares. 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains and towns, a far-off flicker of light from Portland.
It felt great! Until we had to head back down. That part was a little demoralizing. But 5 hours later we were back at the cars, zombie-like from the sleep deprivation and exercise, but smiling and satisfied with an amazing climb. Would I do it again? Absolutely, and hopefully sooner than later.