On Saturday I was able to make a 2nd attempt at summiting Mt. Washington. I had made an attempt last fall but turned around to head down with my buddy Matt from back east. This time I went with Evan and his friend Matt from Seattle. We made plans for the climb just two days before hand with Saturday giving us the best weather window. When Evan and I climbed TFJ (post before this one) earlier this summer we found ourselves stuck behind a bunch of people and some Mazama’s which forced us to wait nearly 5 hours total on the summit ridge for other climbers to descend. This time I was hell-bent on beating everyone to the climbing section so we left Corvallis at 4:30 am to start our hike around 6:30 am.
We flew down the PCT towards the climbers path and made it up to the ridge by 8:30 am. I lead the way down the PCT but felt the two of them on my tail so I ushered them to lead on up the ridge. Matt is 23 and Evan is in his mid twenties. Matt has been training for a 38 mile day hike around Hood and Evan has lost 10 lbs this summer climbing and exercising. I say this because I soon found myself running up the mountain after these guys. I was proud of myself that I was able to stay no further than about 30 seconds behind them for the whole day. But, damn... they are fast climbers!
When we made it to the final ridge section before the roped pitches I dropped my poles and stopped to take some awesome photos of a fin of rock on the ridge with TFJ and Jefferson in the distance. This proved to be a mistake because to our disbelief we found ourselves waiting behind a group of 8 older Mazama’s just 10 minutes later. They had beaten us to the pitch climb by only about 10 minutes and were flaking out rope to set up a fixed line to the summit. They seemed nice us to us but I still think it would have been considerate of them to allow us three young fit guys to jump ahead of them on the climb. We clearly would be up and down faster than it would take them to get half way up. But, adhering to climber’s etiquette we waited for them to head up. They had come in a much shorter route then us and had started at 6am instead of 6:30. We thus had to wait a total of about 1 and a half hours for the group and because of this they were afforded views at the top but we got clouded in by approaching clouds from the West. To my and Evan’s disbelief one of the guys was actually one of the guys we had to wait for on TFJ. He was a super nice guy but again... if I’m an older climber and see young guys fast approaching I’d let them pass.
Once the Mazama’s had made their way up Evan led the way up the first pitch with his 70 m rope with Matt behind and me cleaning up the route last. We kept this setup the next two pitches which were considerably easier than the first. While waiting down below for the Mazama’s and then for Evan and Matt to go up with me on belay I had put my full down pants and jacket on. I had learned my lesson from TFJ about being forced to wait in the cold for others so this time I found myself comfy and warm while I watched Matt violently shiver. I felt bad he was so cold. But... the problem was that the down was the only warm layers I had brought and I found myself staring at really sharp volcanic rock on the first pitch as I started to climb... about 30 feet up after a couple small tears I gave up and took my jacket off leaving my Gore Windstopper jacket on instead. This made it much easier to climb and I made it up quicker. We passed the Mazama’s coming down and it seemed like they were kicking nearly every rock off the top of the mountain. I heard “rock” yelled about 20 times. Between the 3 of us on the way down we only had to yell “rock” once. Again, we politely waited a little bit and I even put myself into a very uncomfortable position to allow them to pass by. Perhaps next time they will allow smaller, younger groups to climb ahead of them. I have always heard from other climbers that it sucks to encounter a group of Mazamas on a climb and now I can understand why. In their defense they all do seem like really nice people and I’m always happy to see others enjoying the outdoors but at the same time I wish they would be more considerate.
We found ourselves pretty clouded in at the top. We got one short break in the clouds to see a few views and stare down the south face of Washington from the top but that was it. There was a summit register with ski stickers all over it which I found amusing. We all signed it and got a photo of all three of us on the summit rock. The summit rock was the coolest thing I saw all day. It was clearly higher than all the surrounding rocks and therefore was a perfect lightning rod at the top of a mountain that itself looks like a lightning rod. Pierced into the rock were about 20-30 pinky finger sized holes of black melted volcanic glass where lightning had struck the rock. It was pretty cool to see how electricity had bored holes into the rock and melted it at the same time! We stuck around at the summit for only about 20 minutes before making our way down. Evan set up a rappel from the top and we made it down in 3 pitches. For the climb up and the rappel down I had my helmet cam on and got some really amazing footage. There was a lot of exposure and the various types of volcanic rock were beautiful in color. It was difficult to throw the rope down in the wind and it got tangled a couple times but Evan was able to work out the knots as he descended. Evan really did take care of us the entire climb and I always feel safe with him on rope.
From there it was a quick descent down the northwest side scree slope after I had picked up my poles. We followed the massive path of kicked up rubble left by the Mazama’s back down into the trees below where we passed them just before again reaching the PCT trail. It was nice to take a different route down the mountain than back down the ridge. We passed several meadows and rock slides which were pretty and colored by various alpine plants. Back on the PCT I found myself almost at a light jog trying to keep up with the two of them on the way out. We made it out the three miles in what felt like 30 to 40 minutes and were on the road home by 4:30 to catch the 2nd half of the first OSU Beavers football game at my place where there was a large BBQ going on already. It was certainly nice to arrive home to a cold bear, bbq chicken legs and a warm bonfire to chill by after a pretty tiring hike trying to keep up with guys much younger than me and in much better shape! Despite Matt being a hardcore Yankees fan (I almost pulled over and kicked him out --- kidding) I had a great time climbing with him and found him to be a great guy. I’m super stoked to have made it up the last mountain I had planned to summit this summer.
If you are a Mazama you might not like this post... But I still think you are nice people :)