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Mt. Hood

May, 1993    South Side Ascent

On Sunday, March 24, 1974, at the age of 21, my father, Dave Henry, and his climbing partner, Bill Magruder, then 18, were struck by rockfall while climbing the Castle Crags on Mt. Hood and fell and slid nearly 2000 feet, before crashing to a stop near Illuminist Saddle at the upper end of Reid Glacier.  They were found by other climbers at 10:00AM, three hours after their fall.  The fall down the icy slope was described as "sliding down rough Mt. Hood from Timberline Lodgesandpaper", and both men were critically injured.  Bill Magruder was in a coma with multiple fractures, but eventually recovered.  My father was also comatose, with a broken neck, broken pelvis, and severe head injuries.  He did wake out of his coma, but only to reveal serious brain damage, and passed away on Tuesday, August 31, 1976, at the age of 23, after over two years in a nursing home.

On March 14, 1993, at the age of 21, I announced my intention to take the Ptarmigans mountaineering course and climb Mt. Hood.  My mother almost had a coronary, but like a true 21-year-old, I thought nothing of it.  She begged me not to go, but I told her not to worry and went anyway.  In May, after a week of snow practice, we set off to climb the South Side route.  We set off at 2:00AM from Timberline Lodge at approximately 5800 feet, and climbed through a driving blizzard for the first couple of hours up to the Silcox Hut at about 7000 feet, a mile or so up the route.  I was freezing cold, my heart was pounding and I was breathing heavy.  I felt like I was dying, and I couldn't help but wonder if the other people were also dying, or if it was just me.  Eventually the snowstorm stopped, and the wind died down, and after another mile, near the top of the Palmer ski lift at about 8600 feet, we shed layers.  My baklava helmet, stocking hat, and sweaters said bye-bye for the rest of the trip. 

We headed around the East side of Crater Rock and headed for the saddle between Crater and the summit slopes.  By now I had lapsed into a trance and my exhaustion was complete.  I no longer felt pA look down the Hogsback on the South Side of Mt. Hoodain, cold, weakness, or breathlessness, just the crunch...crunch...crunch...of the steps of the person in front of me.  By the time we reached the Hogsback at 10,600 feet, the sun was beginning to come up.  The red and purple sunrise reflected off the snow on our crystal-clear morning, and we were all awe-struck at the fantastic beauty of the moment.  We followed the Hogsback towards the summit to a large bergschrund, which we crossed on a snow bridge. We then headed for a gully, called The Chute, which lead through some rime-coated towers called the Pearly Gates. At the exit of the Chute, we made our final assault on the snow slopes to the summit, at 11,235 feet.  The sun was now out in fine form, and the cloudless sky was perfect.  We shed most of the rest of our layers, and sweated profusely for the final pitch. 

Reaching my first summit was fantastic.  Never before had I seen such beauty, and experienced such inner peace.  To the north, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Baker were easily visible through the crystal clear sky, with Mt. Jefferson, the Three Sisters, and even the faint outline of Mt. Shasta visible to the South, with no clouds or summertime haze to obstruct the panorama.  The trip down was a lot of fun, since I had brought a pair of PVC coated pants from Columbia Sportswear.  I glissaded down the mountain like a rocket, pausing only to hike around the crevasse, and to wait for the less fortunate members of our group to descend.  My back and knees ached for a long time, but it was an experience I'll never forget.

I've put together a slideshow of the photographs that I took during the ascent.  The pics aren't that great, since they were taken with a disposable camera, but they're all I've got!  I was 21 at the time of the photos, so try not to laugh...


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