Great 48: Summit of Rainier to Mt. Hood

I woke up to pink cirrus clouds outside the rear hatch of our minivan. It was cold; I had not slept well—only about 3.5 or 4 hours. And I was missing good light on account of bad intel. I hastily climbed to the drivers seat and stumbled into the Reflection Lake parking lot for sunrise. Mist swirled and cycloned off the water’s surface, and a perfect image of Rainier was reflected the the deep blue. Josh & Lindsay were close to reaching the crater at the summit of Rainier by now. I was content with my sore thighs and a good chunk of time to make photographs. 

By 8:00am, the quality of light had fallen off and I needed to make sure we were all ready to roll to Oregon and Mt. Hood by the time they had descended. After listening to the party of four I descended with last night lust over greasy pub burgers, I became resolved to ensure my party—who had (hopefully) also just summited Rainier—eat Clif bars and hot dogs from our cooler for lunch. So I tracked down three pancake breakfasts to go from the lodge down near the park entrance. 

I returned to the paradise parking lot and lost myself looking up at the mountain and Camp Muir. Sharp tapping on my window startled me: Dave was back already! 

He’d decided not to summit. Rather, he boiled extra water for Josh & Lindsay, helped them pack up camp, and brought some gear back to make their return trip easier and quicker. And not 45 minutes later, Josh and Lindsay clopped up to the van. 3 early returns—but Josh & Lindsay had summited and made superb time! Up some 4000 feet from Camp Muir to summit in well under 5 hours. 

The official summit time was 6:12 am PST. The clock is running on the next 48!

We packed up quickly and hit the road for Oregon. Four hours to Mt. Hood. Josh & Lindsay slept. Dave and I tried to stay awake. 

We repacked Josh & Lindsay’s packs quickly in the Timberline Lodge parking lot at the base of Hood. And they were off again. Dave ran back into town on an emergency tent replacement mission. I traipsed around the base of Hood. 

Once Dave returned, we got to re-organizing and streamlining our abundance of cargo. I tried finding them on the side of the mountain with my 350mm lens (they're two small dots on the left side of the frame... climbing up the second-from-the-left path): 

Then, Dave got a call from Josh—they’d summited in great time! 

We got to work cooking a hot dinner, tailgate style— tacos on a camp stove, out the back of the van. It’d be the last of those attempts on the entire trip. We quickly realized that tailgating was not time-effective. And the burger-greasy pot would remain in that state for at least 2 more days. 

Josh reported that Hood was in some ways harder than Rainier—a near-vertical ascent up the last bit (that required driving pickets and rappelling on the way down), and dangerous scree about halfway back. It was nerve-wracking and exciting tracking their small headlamps on the way back. 

Being able to see someone on the side of a scale-less mass of a mountain throws my sense of perspective off in a big way. Vertical feet seem to be very hard to fit into our brains’ sense of depth and distance. It also makes the peaks seem more attainable: that you can start on a path in a parking lot and summit a mountain of the scope we’ve been seeing in mere hours is a marvel to this midwesterner.

The bigger marvel is the accomplishment of summiting Rainier and Hood in the same day. Amazing. No big stretches of time to bask in the accomplishment, though: we were in the car within 30 minutes of their return for the long 11 hour drive to Idaho.