October 12: Gladd Ridge and Channels Through the Ice
In late October, just before the first snows came, I took a short ramble off trail, on what is becoming something perilously close to a standard route on the North Side of Mt. Hood: up Vista Ridge through Eden Park to Cairn Basin, off trail up Gladd Ridge (the once lateral moraine between the Ladd and Glisan Glaciers), across the upper part of the Ladd Glacier to Barrett Spur, and down via Dollar Lake or Wy’east Basin.
I get to the Vista Ridge TH a little before eight and start up the frozen trail. It’s still shorts weather for me, but just barely.
I don’t have an exact route in mind for getting from Cairn Basin onto Gladd Ridge, but find a well-established trail—people? game? both?—heading up from the side of the shelter through a couple gullies.
Gladd Ridge is in the center of the frame here:
Looking down the way I came:
There are a couple of steep-ish humps to get over at first, but then things mellow considerably, and it’s just easy ridge walking for a while. It’s almost preposterously posh—like someone built the thing just to make it easier on us.
I hop off the ridge at an obvious exit point just as things are getting sort of sketchy, and make my way through reasonably stable rock onto the glacier. This area’s usually a snowfield, but now it’s just rock and ice, which makes for beautifully surreal scenery, if slightly tougher walking.
Once on the glacier proper I don my spikes—this would be a very, very difficult route without foot traction—and make my way over toward Barrett Spur via the route of least resistance. I really, really love this sort of scenery.
There’s apparently a way onto Barrett Spur by going up a ramp on the south side, but I decide to just head north along the spur’s west side to the obvious saddle at its base. At some point—I’m not exactly sure when—the glacier changes into a snowfield, and the walking gets a whole lot easier.
Someone’s built a windbreak at the saddle, and I stop for an early lunch. (It’s been calm all day, but on the saddle, it’s gusting hard enough to knock me over.) Then it’s just a pleasant ramble down the braided trail to Dollar Lake, and back on the Timberline to Wy’east Basin.
I stop at Wy’east Basin for an adult beverage—it’s now after noon, which is sort of my threshold for non-brunch-related alcohol consumption—then make my way through the early afternoon, late summer light back down Vista Ridge.
April 1: The Elliot Moraine, Like I’ve Never Seen It
It was a snowy winter here, and in February—as much out of desperation as anything else—we bought snowshoes, and spent the late winter and early spring rambling up to see our usual summer haunts in their winter whites. In early April, we rambled up the North side of Hood, just a few miles from where I’d been in October: from the (packed!) Tilly Jane Sno Park, we snowshoed up (empty!) Polallie Ridge, then cut over off trail to the Eliot Moraine, spent a while hanging out in the wind, then high-tailed it down in the fading light.
We leave Portland around 7:30, wander around for a while looking for coffee and breakfast, then roll into the Sno (I really want to add a “W” there) Park just after Nine, just behind a large contingent of climbers. Or what we think are climbers: it turns out they’re just very, very over-prepared dayhikers.
The first half mile’s packed with people returning from the shelter and skiers heading up, but as soon as we turn off for the ridge, it’s mysteriously empty. MHNF just reported something like 18 inches of snow, but there are quite a few bare patches, and for a while I have flashbacks to 2015.
Eventually, though, we climb past the old guard station and back into a healthy winter. From the A-Frame, we veer vaguely west, and hit the moraine just above treeline. I’ve been here a few times: in July and August, September and October, with early season bugs and late season color. But I think the is my favorite. The flowers are buried, of course, as are the strange, sharp shapes in the glacier. But in their place is a perfect white coat, a mountain that seems somehow wilder than I’ve ever seen it.
We goof around for a long time, watching a storm pass below and taking twenty thousand pictures. But eventually, the hard wind gets the best of us, and we reluctantly ramble south to the shelter, and start our long way back in the evening light.
Really just a beautiful day in the snowy woods. I’m not sure what took us so long with snowshoes, but I’m so glad to have seen the light. I guess I’m even a little sad about the start of spring, though I’m sure I’ll change my tune when I see the first flowers.