We started off at 430 in the morning. I was so excited about the climb that I really didn't much sleep the night before, waking up about every half and hour. I had been very excited about this hike for several weeks before. I've heard stories from different climbers about the experience. They all varied from, "Wow, you be hurting" to "It'll be cake walk." Granted the former came from a former college athlete, so you could say I had a few mixed messages about what to expect.
Now let me correct any of your thinking... I am not, in any sort of form, "in shape." Yes, I work my buns off at Lowe's every night, but its nowhere near cardiovascular. If you want me to lift 54 pound bbq's or sinks or weed whackers, I can do that for hours! But run a marathon? no.
So Scotty & Rob (friends from Germany) and myself started early in the morning. We went to Fred Meyers and picked up Scotty's friend Scott and we headed to washington. We stopped and picked up our passes at the Lone Fir Resort. Hahaaa, resort in the loosest form of the word. Ready to set off, now officially "checked-in," in case we went missing and we headed to the Climbers Bivouac (according to wikipedia pronounced Biv-wack). At the start of the trail at Climber's Bivouac, there is a great view of the mountain. I bit daunting as well. The first part of the trail is through the woods for about 3 miles, with a mild uphill grade. We were trucking along at a good pace, and I started to feel my heart beating in my chest. I was thinking to myself, "what have I gotten myself into?!?" I was already beginning to sweat and we'd barely even started.
Once through the tree lines we took a break. The view was gorgeous and the weather really was perfect. Warm but not too hot, with a slight breeze. Looking up at what we had to climb, I remember what happened 19 years ago and pray she waits one more day before doing it again. YIKES!
After our break we began the "real" climb. I've been hiking before, but I've never been "climbing." I mean, honestly the trail is uphill, between a 30-45 degree angle most of the way, literally climbing over lava boulders. All along the trail the USGS has put fence posts sticking out of the rocks to guide you up the trail. Other than that, you're pretty much on your own. Honestly, we were scrambling up the whole way. Climbing over boulders, occasional snow, shale and ash. Quite a time! Basically I was on a stairmaster for about 5 hours. At one point I was stopping to take a break for every 20 yards or so. Seriously. And the higher you got the harder it was to catch your breath because of the altitude.
The climb was rough, but the views were spectacular!! As you can see from my pics, you can see Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams the whole way up. And once you reach the summit you can see Mt. Rainier. Quite breaktaking!!
So I'll spare you the gruesome details of the last mile, which by the way feels like its straight up. About one mile walking, climbing almost 600 feet. STEEP! NOt to mention that the last 1/2 miles is on ash and shale, basically like walking uphill in sand. Yeah, that was fun. So once at the top, views were spectacular!! Scotty had brought along a flask of Maker's Mark for a celebration. To be honest, that sounded not at all appetizing once we'd climbed for 5.5 hours. But we passed it around, ate our lunches and enjoyed the view. It was funny, since the summit is honestly about 20 yards long and about 8 feet wide, with roughly 30 people milling about. People come and go, everyone cheering on everyone else as they reach the summit. Its a touch climb for anyone. We even ran into a girl who was "training for Rainier" who had 3 gallon water jugs in her back pack just for added weight!! Maniacs.
Finally ready to make our way down we notice people "sliding" down the snow face to the right of the actual trail. People were just sitting down and going for a ride. Most were not very graceful, but they seemed to have a good time, so we decided to give it a try. We must have been quite a spectacle as we slid down, I noticed many flashes to my left of people taking photos of us. It was so much fun!! wheeeeeeeeeeeeee sliding down the hill!!! We were all laughing so hard we could barely stand up. It was awesome. Once the trail seemed to end, we'd see it pick up again a few yards down the way and we'd go again. Wheeeeeeeeeeeee down even further. We could see landmarks of the trail passing by us on the left too. We knew we were near the trail so we weren't too worried about getting lost. a few more yards and wheeeeeeeeeeeee down some more. Somehow Rob must have greased his behind, because he was flying down faster than any of us. I was actually run over several times!! So much fun!!
I was really quite relieved to know that I wouldn't have to stumble down the mountain face the whole way down. And after an hour or so of sliding my common sense starting kicking in and I thought... hmmmmmmmm... do we really know where the trail is? are we going to end up on the other side of the mountain? My fears were confirmed when I looked up. The entire trip up the mountain, Mt. Hood was directly behind us. Now as I looked out, it was wayyyyyyyy to our left. Uh Oh Shaggy.
OF course we were at a point where just hopping on over to the trail was nearly impossible. Rob scuttled himself up and took a look. Well, we could either jump down about 9 feet onto wet rocks (not a good idea in my book) or climb up some rock and shale at an ungodly angle to head back to the trail. So up we went. Please note: I have never rock climbed. Why? Because I have a fear of heights. Not debilitating, but enough that I don't put myself into situations that I know I can't handle. Thank God my climbing partners were calm and cool, even if they weren't on the inside, they were on the out. Scott was great telling me where to put my foot, where to grab, where to go next. I was on the other hand, nearly hyperventilating. Visions of rock and land slides filling my head, knowing that at any moment I could be crushed until hundreds of pounds of lava rock. LUCKILY that was not the case, and we made it to the top. ONce there I nearly broke down into tears and I had to take a few moments to compose myself. It was at this point that I really just wanted to get back, get home, take a shower, and have a beer. We had about 3 more climbs and decents ahead of us as we traversed the mountain back to the trail, but none were as scary or as extreme as the first one. As Rob said, It was fun sliding on the ice, but we paid the price.
After that, the rest of the journey was uneventful. We finally made it back to the trail, and to be honest, we made about the same time as we would have if we'd walked the whole way. All said and done we were on the mountain from 7:30 to about quarter to five, not a bad day though. After we took our stinky shoes off and stripped down our of our sweaty clothes we piled into the car. Exhausted, hungry and a little wiser, we headed home.