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.