Mount Hood Speed Record

A couple weeks ago I climbed Mount Hood via the South Side route to try and see how fast I could climb the route.  To my surprise I came within 6 minutes of the official foot summit record!  Once down I realized that I didn’t give it my all, and there is a good chance Id be able to climb the route faster. After a few weeks of climbing other mountains, I decided to give the speed record a go.  I figured that having spent a month climbing above 10,000 feet 1 to 2 times a week probably had me in good aerobic shape.  I had also spent the last couple weeks perfecting my fast and light concept using a Salomon trail running vest to carry my mountaineering axe and crampons along with my hydration, clothes and food.

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Bare hiking trail for the first thousand feet or so.

 

A few days before my trip I asked a mountaineering group on Facebook if anyone had first hand knowledge or photos of the route from the last couple days.  A few people responded with very helpful information and photos that helped me understand that the conditions were significantly different than when I was up there two weeks earlier.  I also received one of the “you might die” posts telling me not to climb the pearly gates.  This is exactly why I usually keep to myself and not ask other peoples advice and why I specifically only asked for recent first hand experience.  This post really bothered me and had me thinking really hard about my plan.  In the end I decided to stick with my plan and make a split second decision on route as to whether I was going to do the Pearly Gates or the Old Chute.  The Pearly Gates is faster and more direct to the summit with potential for rock fall, and the Old Chute is slower with more opportunity to dodge rocks and falling people.  All of the previous speed records have used the Pearly Gates.

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Starting out at the start of the hiking trail.  The more standard snow start point was not in good shape so I opted for the longer route starting at the hiking trail.

 

On summit day I woke up around 3:15 skipped breakfast and started up the mountain at 4:06 am.  I started off on a maintenance road that was decent gravel with not too much volcanic sand.  Then maybe half way to the Silcox Hut I moved onto a foot path that was a little slower going.  Eventually I made it onto some snow and put on my micro spikes.  It was my first time ever using micro spikes and I was loving them!  I made it to the top of the ski are in 00:50’35.  I was hoping for 45 minutes, but I was just going to have to deal with it!

About 20 minutes before the Devils Kitchen I passed my first climber.  He was on his way down.  While continuing to move I asked him how it went and if he had seen any rock fall.  He had not summited as he felt it was too steep for him and he said that he had seen some rock fall on the right.  After this interaction I realized I had been able to carry on a conversation and continue moving!  this was exciting because that last two time on hood I had not been able to converse well moving and even struggled to drink.  My time at altitude was helping!

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Looking up towards Devils Kitchen and the Summit.  Photo taken on the descent.

 

When I got to the Devils Kitchen there were two parties, one two person party and a three person party roping up.  There was also a party or two in the Old Chute.  I asked the party of three if they had heard and seen any rock fall.  The responded saying that they had only seen rock fall on the cliffs to the right and that they saw no rock fall on the Pearly Gates.  This was decision time!  I only had a few minutes before I was going to have to make my choice.  As I moved up to the Hogsback I watched the Pearly Gates intently and paid attention to the hardness of the snow.

At the Hogsback I tightened my shoes, put my crampons on and left behind my trekking pole and microspikes.  I had decided upon the Pearly Gates.  I had seen no rock fall, the snow was still very firm and it was before sunsrise!  I made my way up to the Bergschrund, traversed under it and then climbed in and around some small crevasses that will eventually connect to the bergschrund.  I accessed the snow slope above the Bergschrund and used a combination of walking and front pointing using my mountaineering axe and whippet.  Once out of the Pearly Gates I still had another 50 feet or so of open slope to ascend towards the summit.  The whole time on this slope I was looking up at the bare rock on the summit thinking about how I didn’t want to walk on the rocks with my aluminum crampons, but I realized that I just needed to do it since it was a speed ascent.

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I stepped onto the summit after 2:51’51.  I beat the official foot record!  I took a few photos on top and then started descending the Pearly Gates.  Once out of the gates and under the Bergschrund I was able to run across the snow slope down towards my equipment on the Hogsback.  The snow was perfect and my crampons were gripping beautifully.  I put took my crampons off and replaced them with microspikes and continued on my way down.  At the Devils Kitchen I saw the party of two from earlier and asked them to take a picture of me and then continued running down.  On the way down I was able to link more snow fields and spend a little less time on the hiking trails.  I made it to the parking lot with a round trip time of 2:55’09 beating the previous foot record of 3:07’45!

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The conditions I had for my speed ascent were quite bad.  I think that the route was significantly slower than it had been a few weeks earlier when it was completely covered in snow and the Bergschrund was not an issue.  I think that the current and old foot records are quite slow for good conditions.  In good conditions someone should be able to easily make the summit in 1:30 and round trip from the Timberline Parking lot in less than 2:20 on foot.  The current fastest legal means time is 1:44′ held by Jason Dorias on skis.

As far as official and unofficial times, I am not a fan of official times.  There is basically only one person in the PNW doing official times.  Every round trip speed record on Rainier has been unofficial.  With GPS watches and GPS enabled cameras, I don’t think we currently need officials to vouch for times.  Maybe this will change, but I hope not.

My GPS track is located here: http://www.movescount.com/moves/move166832808

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Everything I brought with me

 

 

 

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Mt Hood Speed

 

Last week I climbed Mt. Hood as my first true mountaineering route. I had a fairly successful ascent via the Hogsback and the Old Chute getting to the summit in 3 hours and 28 minutes.   Considering that it was supposed to be my acclimatization route, I was fairly happy.

This past Wednesday I decided to return and see how much faster I can do it now that I have been in the mountains for a week and a half.  I decided to use a paired down version of my Mt. Jefferson kit and carry everything in my Salomon running vest.

I started from the Timberline Lodge parking lot at 5:41 am. The snow was quite firm and I wondered if I should have brought something like a micro spike, but I made it work with the slightly stiff soles of my mountaineering shoes.  I made it to the cat track at the top of the ski area in about 52 minutes.  Eleven minutes faster than my time last week! I was hoping for 45 minutes to the top of the ski area, but I was still happy with my pace.

Just above the ski area I stopped briefly to put on my crampons.  When I lifted up my toes to put the crampon on I noticed that my foot was shaking uncontrollably.  I thought it was interesting as I have never had this happen before outside of awkward social interactions or vertical climbing.  I just assumed it was a combination of pushing my limit aerobically and my slight apprehension since I have never tried mountaineering at this speed before.

I passed a few parties on the way to Devil’s Kitchen and along the way I was trying to decide which route to take.  The Old Chute like I did last week or the Pearly Gates.  Last week I had thought the Pearly Gates looked steep and scary, but today they were looking much more mellow.  I decided upon the Pearly Gates since there were no other parties on it and that it has a more direct path to the summit.

Walking up towards the bergschrund I made a mental note to myself that I needed to consciously balance my speed and safety.  I made an effort to get a handle on my breathing and heart rate before the steeps while still maintaining a reasonable speed. I also noticed my elapsed time and decided that there still might be a small chance that I could match or meet the official speed record of 1:56:39.  The Pearly Gates were much easier than I expected  and went smoothly.  There was a fairly good boot pack that was occasionally missing a foot placement.  Occasionally I had a foot slip if my placement wasn’t perfect since the anti snow plates on my aluminum crampons can sometimes be slick on snow.

Once through the Pearly Gates I realized that I still had 50 plus feet to go to the summit! Even though I was on a low angle snow slope I was still in a more cautious mode with a consistent fast walking pace.  In hindsite I should have sped it up a little here.

There was one person on the summit, and I found a little bit of energy in my reserves to run the last 20 feet to the summit for a time of 2:01:02. Just 5 minutes short of the official foot record, but I was still happy with my time and had a huge smile on my face. The other gentleman and I conversed a little bit between my gasps for air, took summit photos for each other and then I set off back down the Pearly Gates to try and set a record round trip foot time. I was already way past the ski round trip time, but I figured a foot record should be added to the list.

I made it down to the Devil’s Kitchen where I took off my crampons and continued down.  The snow was still too firm to glissade, so I ran/walked down firm snow which was fairly miserable.  Once I hit the flatter section down by the Silcox hut the snow was much softer and I was able to take long running strides, digging my heels into the soft snow with each step. 3:07:45 had me back at the parking lot and the white pole that I started at.

I didn’t beat the official foot record, but I was still quite happy since my goal had only been to beat my own time and see how fast I could do it!  I was quite happy how everything went and there are only a few things I would change.  The Salomon S/Lab X Alp Carbon 2.0 mountaineering shoes and Petzl Leopard crampons worked as expected.  The shoes were great on snow, and the crampon shoe combination worked ok on the steeper terrain in the Pearly Gates. The 6.8 oz Rock and Ice Idol mountaineering axe worked perfectly and I couldn’t notice it while on my back.  The Salomon ADV Skin 12 trail running vest worked perfectly.  I was able to access everything including my crampons and axe without taking the vest off. I was even able to take off my Arcteryx running wind breaker without stopping or taking the vest off.  This tactic was due to Samantha’s comment that she was able to remove her jacket without taking off the vest during a recent 50K race.  Remembering this comment I spent the previous evening running in circles in the Trilium Lake parking lot practicing taking my jacket on and off without taking off the vest.  I never thought I would be practicing my transitions for a mountaineering route!

The one thing I would change is the amount of water I brought.  I brought 2 liters in a bladder and I only drank 500 mL.  I tried really hard to drink as much water as I could, but I had a hard time drinking while moving since it interrupts the breathing process. Next time I would bring about 750 mL of water with me.

After thinking quite a bit about my performance and what things I could change, I have decided that I am quite certain I have a faster time in me. Possibly enough to beat the official foot record, but likely not enough to beat the unofficial ski record of 1:27:46 to the summit.  Unless I find out more information I am going to go ahead and claim the FKT for a round trip on foot without sliding aids such as skis or garbage bags.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mt. Jefferson Trip Report

 

This past week I was looking for a good mountain to solo in the Portland area.  I eventually decided upon Mt. Jefferson.  I was considering doing either the South Ridge or the Southwest Ridge, but both routes seemed a little uninteresting and the usual way of access is through the Pamelia Lakes Limited Entry Area which requires an entry fee. I decided upon the Jefferson Park Glacier since it seemed to be the most challenging and interesting of the routes on the mountain while still being easy to solo.

After picking up some groceries and things at REI I arrived at the parking lot a little before sunset on Sunday Night.  I slept in my car in the parking lot and woke up around 5:00 am and started up the trail at 6:09 am.  The trail started off through a typical PNW coniferous forest.  Around 5400′ I had to walk across my first patch of snow.  A little while later you come out onto the South side of a ridge where you have a fantastic view of the Northwest side of the mountain and the route of the Jefferson Park Glacier.

The park was mostly covered in snow with occasional wet marshy areas.  From here I continued up the rest of the way on snow.  I made my way up a drainage toward a small ridge and the Jefferson Park Glacier on the other side.  Once on the Glacier I stayed to the left hand side that was crevasse free.  There were a few exposed crevasses on the right hand side that were fairly large and exposed.  As I continued upward I was trying to notice where I would be able to cross the bergschrund to the snow slope and ridge above the Jefferson Park Glacier.  I decided to go up to the bergschrund and see if I could climb up it.  The ice on the bottom half climbed well, but about 15 feet up the ice/snow was so soft that my tools just pulled through it when I weighted them.  I then backtracked to the eastern side of the glacier where there were a few smaller crevasses.  I climbed up and around them onto a snow slope and then traversed around a small peak and then onto the ridgeline going to the summit.

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Looking up the Jefferson Park Glacier.  You can see the bergschrund in the upper right.

 

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My ascent route in red and descent route in green. Photo by Andrew Lauman
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The summit Ridge and summit

 

The whole time walking the ridge to the summit I was wondering where the rock was!  The descriptions I read online implied that there was easy rock climbing to the summit.  I did not see it.  I was quite glad I wasn’t going to have to solo some poor quality rock.  Instead, the rock was covered in a strange, wind affected ice that was some times difficult to climb with my whippet and super light mountaineering axe along with  my non ridged aluminum crampons.  Short parts of the ice section were vertical.  Once I got near the summit I was able to get onto some rock on the east side of the mountain that was free of ice and snow.  I walked this for 50 feet to the summit.  I sat on the summit for  a while, took in the sights and lathered up with sunscreen.

I was a little nervous about down climbing the ice section since I usually find it a little more difficult to climb down and that I found it a little challenging with the lightweight equipment that I had.  Fortunately the ice and snow had warmed up a little bit and the down climb wasn’t bad at all. I reversed my route except for a small section where I went straight down to the Jefferson Park Glacier instead of following my way up from the bergschrund.  The way out was quite uneventful.  I did stop and chat with one skier and two parties that were headed to Jefferson Park for some camping.  Once I hit the hiking trails I was ready to be done.  The foot pounding paths on the way out were not the most enjoyable part of the day.

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Looking back down the summit ridge.

 

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The view of Mt. Jefferson from the trail.

 

For the last two miles I ended up running.  I was so ready to be done.  I just wanted to be laying in my bed in the car eating food.  There were some really nice shady spots in the parking lot, so I moved the car into one of them and relaxed for the next couple hours.

Climbing Mt. Jefferson was one of the most enjoyable days I have had in the mountains in a long time.  It was really fun to do my first real glacier travel trip solo, have everything work well and realize that I can move fast, and even faster if I wanted to.

My times were 5:16’48 to the summit and 8:29’04 for 14.7 miles and a vertical gain of 6768 feet.  I am not sure if there is a speed record, but if someone wanted to do the Jefferson Park Glacier for speed, I wouldn’t be surprised if they could get a summit time of less than 4:30 and a round trip time of 7:00 or less.

While I wasn’t going for a speed ascent, I really enjoyed being able to do the route in one day with a pack under 10lbs.  For me it was much more enjoyable than hauling in overnight gear. I missed out on some experiences that can only be had with an overnight ascent, but every style has its pros and cons.

My GPS track can be found here: http://www.movescount.com/moves/move163660369

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Everything I brought with me in my running vest.
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The best mountaineering shoes ever! The Salomon X ALp Carbon 2.0 GTX.