I met Jessica this last summer in the Cordillera Blanca. Our relationship kindled quickly, and a few months later she moved here to Seattle from Montreal. As they would say- the rest was history. I guess we could say that this would be the start of our climbing history.
I believe that the definition of success in the mountains is ultimately the manner in which one pushes themselves to their limits, walking the line of control. Regardless of objective or grade, the difficulty is defined by one’s self. I would personally consider this my most successful off-season here in the Cascades. The goal was to get out there, even when the conditions weren’t primo, push ourselves, and go fo it. That, we did for sure.
January 12, 2019
I’ve always thought that the Pearly Gates, although a reasonably easy route in the spring and summer, is a true Cascade’s classic in the winter. This would be Jessica and I’s first climb together, and introducing her to the Cascades, I was given the opportunity to remember how special the climbing here really is. In that spirit, I wrote this in a more introductory manner. It ended up being one of my most popular posts of all time, and it would be just the start of many more climbs.
The time we ate a cupcake in the parking lot
January 26, 2019
The windowless offseason is always tough for climbers, and even though it was Jessica’s birthday, the weather looked fantastic and we decided rather than going out we would get out! Psyched about our relatively straightforward success a couple weeks prior, we figured going for the Devil’s Kitchen Headwall would be a great way to celebrate. I even very securely packed a cupcake and candle in my backpack to surprise Jessica in the tent that night.
Making our way up to the upper Palmer Glacier, we noticed something weird on the mountain. All the climbers were headed down, not up. What gives! We asked a few folks on their way down and were informed that the upper mountain was iced over with chicken-head-like features. I knew a lot of accidents had happened on the south side when it was covered in this sort of feature, so we made the call to head down. I surprised Jessica in the car with the cupcake, but sadly it was somewhat crushed. Instead of climbing, we found our way to one of our favorite restaurants in Seattle that night.
The time it was way too cold
March 2, 2019
Following the week of our cupcake fail, the weather had been bad. Serious bad. The mountain presented a window in-between storms during the weekend making us feel really lucky, but the temperatures were low. Even though I’ve been to high altitude plenty of times, some of my coldest moments have been in the Cascade winters. This would be one of those times. The forecast said -30°C, but I would bet all the money in my pocket right now that it was way colder than that. We left the parking lot with frozen fingers, ditching our trekking poles to keep our hands warm instead. A few hours in, our bodies were seriously disagreeing with the conditions. We knew that continuing would be dangerous, and I seriously doubted my ability to swing ice tools in these conditions. Turning around was the smart decision, and we took it.
March 16, 2019
It’s not fun to fail. It’s double not fun to fail twice. Jessica and I needed a win, and with the weather and temps finally starting to look positive overall, we decided to gun for one of the well known easier Cascade classics- the Leuthold Couloir. As we haded to our Illumination Rock camp, we toyed with the idea of climbing the Reid Headwall, but eventually figured we didn’t bring enough protection to do it safely. It would be saved for later, which did indeed happen in May!
Minus my sleeping pad popping, the Leuthold Couloir was a lot more chill than either of us expected, and we got up and down in good style. We were happy to have ticked it, but figured that would probably be the last grade II that we would shoot for.
The time we forgot our boots
March 30, 2019
We had our eyes on the Devil’s Kitchen Headwall since our first climb in January. It looked like a hen, nice and fat. We left Seattle Friday shortly after work, with the plans to stay overnight at a hotel in Sandy. When we arrived to the hotel parking lot, we realized that we missed something critical- our boots! The mood was low during that drive home.
The time we attempted the Devil’s Kitchen Headwall in thin conditions
April 20, 2019
We had been intending to go for the DKH for all of these fails, and our goal of climbing this was getting pushed later and later into the season. I have heard the advice- “if you can see exposed rock, the route isn’t in”. Hearing advice does not mean heeding advice, and still seeing the exposed rock, my over-zealous attitude led me up the first pitch.
I passed two bail stations on my way up and bootied some gear, I guess that should have been a sign. I worked my way further and further up looking for a good place to belay Jessica up to no avail. Running out of screws and neglecting to bring a v-thread kit, I downclimbed to a lone screw 30m above the belay station and lowered off. Booty earned booty lost.
April 30, 2019
With the early season looking really prime, I was itching to take a shot at one of my longer term objectives- Mount Hood’s North Face. Since her recent move to Seattle, Jessica was just a few months into her new job and didn’t feel comfortable playing hooky during the work week. This would be my only climb of the season without her as a rope partner.
The North Face lived up to its reputation. It felt like one of the huge Andian routes that I had been flying south for over the past few years.
The time we went wrong way up on the Flying Buttress
May 5, 2019
At this point we had failed to climbed the DKH so many times we actually believed that saying “The Devil’s Kitchen Headwall” out loud was bad luck. Knowing the the DKH V1 was essentially out from our previous climb, we shot for the Flying Buttress (DKH V3).
Getting about 30 meters up the first pitch, I could see that the obvious route to the summit was guarded by a miraculously still-hanging VW Beetle sized piece of rhyme ice. Looking like a death trap, I picked an alternative way up over more advanced terrain. Unfortunately, this alternative led to nowhere within reason. We decided to rap the route. Jessica dropped her phone at our turn-around point, whizzing past my head. Somehow we located it in a debris pile some 50 meters away from the base of the route.
Finding the phone!
May 11, 2019
Redemption. We needed redemption. One last climb. Since climbing the Leuthold Couloir a few months prior we had the Reid Headwall stuck in our minds. And since our DKH fails, we knew that things had been melting out a good amount. However, I was pretty certain that we could find success on the less sun-beaten SW face.
Getting up and over the face was the success that we needed. Getting to the summit, we knew that we could close the book on Mount Hood for the season. We booked it back down to the parking lot and waived goodbye.
To the best climbing partner in the world ❤