PART 1: MT. HOOD

WITH BROOKE ENCE & MATT CHAN

7,706' OF GAIN | 11,249' OF ELEVATION

Every expedition we take, every day we live, every minute we’re alive, we create an experience. Experiences shape who we become and how we view the world. And when we keep pushing ourselves to make new experiences—to explore, to experiment, to climb new heights, and dive right in—we write new stories that can be shared with and provide inspiration for new generations of explorers and pioneers. From Summit to Surf, there are endless adventures to take and stories to pen.

 

We geared up to summit ourselves a hefty peak indeed: Mount Hood, one of only 1,524 ultra-prominent peaks in the world and the highest point in Oregon. Dangerous weather can and does move in fast, and as with any climb, proper gear, preparation, and professional guidance are paramount. We were joined on this climb by a couple members of the Beyond Family: actor and CrossFit® badass Brooke Ence, and Denver first responder Matt Chan. Brooke’s dad also accompanied us on our quest to bag this beefy northwestern peak, the two of them setting out to create a new family experience by reconnecting with nature together.

T-minus 1 day to climb. We huddled up in the lounge of our Best Western hotel while our subject matter expert ran us through the technical gear check, including helmets, ice axes, ropes, crampons, harnesses, pickets, ice screws, and a belay device. Remember, kids: the mountain does not have your back. Get a licensed professional who will.

All that technical gear was split up and assigned to different team members; everyone was responsible for something. We also went over what sort of environmental conditions we could expect, the accordant layers we’d want, and best practices. Hydration = must, right ahead of making sure your water lines don’t freeze.

One does not simply walk up Mt. Hood. There are many routes to choose from, the summit elevation is over 11,000 friggin’ feet, and we needed to summit by 10:00 AM to avoid increased risk of glacier melt and rock fall from the sun’s heat amping up. We picked the South climb route, summiting via the Hogsback ridge.

Our Best Western was nestled in Government Camp, the only town inside of 5 miles of Mount Hood. It’s a pretty tidy size, and we made the most of it: lunch and coffee at the Ratskeller bar and pizzeria, last-minute supplies from the Govy General Store, and a dinner at the Taco Shoppe that put the fear of God into everyone’s digestive tract (let’s just say there were fears of more than just rocks sliding down the mountainside the next day). Production gear was double-checked—cameras charged, SD cards clean—and then it was an early bedtime at 7:00 PM.

Mount Hood is a potentially active stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc. It was formed by a subduction zone on the Pacific coast and rests in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is located about 50 miles (80 km) east-southeast of Portland, on the border between Clackamas and Hood River counties. In addition to being Oregon's highest mountain, it is one of the loftiest mountains in the nation based on its prominence.

fs.usda.gov/mthood/

Compared to some other climbing teams, we positively slept in: up at 12:30 AM, out the door at 1:30, at the Timberline Lodge parking lot just outside the trail at 1:45, and then hitting the trailhead at 2:00. Those extra-early birds would summit well before us, but it would be in the dark; we started as late as we did so we could drink in that fantastic view. Our cadence was to work for 1 hour and then break for 15 minutes to rest and readjust packs and gear. This is our first 15-minute rest stop; we were still on groomed skiing grounds at this point. A quick shout-out to our friends at Mystery Ranch for supplying the packs we used; the Terraframe 50 proved to be everything we were looking for on this climb and then some.

2 hours in. The sun is starting to shine and people are still smiling; hangry faces are nowhere to be seen (yet). We’ve left the groomed ski areas and entered the Palmer Glacier, where the Hogsback route really begins.

Enjoy this view of us enjoying the view. Our subject matter expert is pointing out the shadow of Mt. Hood (trust us, it was pretty awesome). Fun fact: sometimes the shadow is inverted across the clouds.

Here the mighty Steel Cliff stands before us just as we prepare to enter Devil’s Kitchen. These majestic rock outcroppings provide excellent privacy when the tacos from last night achieve a summit of their own.

Most of the team only had up to three layers at work. If that sounds light, it was: we made plenty of heat on our own. It’s the sweat we didn’t want; that stuff’s a fast track to Freezeville. A breathable next-to-skin layer wicked up our sweat and passed it along to a breathable insulated softshell, which kicked out the sweat while holding onto the heat. The third layer came into play during rest stops (more on that later).

Pro tip: don’t put on your crampons too early. Ours would’ve been blunted and beat up if we wore them through rocky regions like this.

Here we come to Devil’s Kitchen, so-named for the preponderance of fumaroles. These noxious volcanic vents not only smell like the worst stink bombs from grade school, they also have a nasty habit of creating oxygen voids that’ll asphyxiate the unwary. Stay well clear of these.

"

Cheers to time spent with dad and climbing literal (and figurative) mountains.

- BROOKE ENCE   @BROOKEENCE

"Cheers to time spent with dad and climbing literal (and figurative) mountains."

- BROOKE ENCE   @BROOKEENCE

For Brooke, doing this hike with her dad held special meaning: “It was so healing to get out in nature, taking in all the views with good people around; especially this handsome dad of mine. My dad has always taught me to try and learn from what’s happening and then allow myself to grow and move forward with a better plan of attack. Life is a crazy thing, and I’m beyond grateful for this man and everything he has taught me.”

Remember that third layer we mentioned? Waste no time pulling those puffy buddies on when a rest break rolls around, like we did here. They maintain all that valuable built-up body heat while you snack and hydrate. We’re still in Devil’s Kitchen here, looking up at the Hogsback ridge. We broke out the ice axes and crampons here, partially breaking our own rule on the latter; there were more rocks ahead, but it was the last comfortable spot to equip them. The ice axes necessitated going from two hiking poles each to one. Even the one is optional, many hikers put both away at this stage.

Devil’s Kitchen is almost behind us and Hogsback is at last coming up. There are still plenty of fumaroles for us to watch out for, seen wafting away to our left in one shot and rising around the base of Crater Rock in another. In a third shot you can see cleared snow ahead of us, created by earlier teams.

Almost there! This looks down on the team as we made our final push up through the Pearly Gates chute, the steepest, most challenging portion of the climb. Normally we would’ve been roped here, but the preceding teams had essentially “groomed” the terrain into a nearly perfect stairway. This is a rare exception; we always recommend that you assess your conditions and consider forming a rope team.

Summited! Some faces are sharing triumph, others pain. Both are spot-on.

"

There was a moment where I crested the chute and the topography of the mountains leveled off. I got to take it all in: all the volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest poppin’ their heads out of the clouds. It was definitely a moment of fulfillment for me, having achieved something with a group of people I knew very little about. Then I kinda looked around and thought to myself, ‘Well, shit. Now we gotta go down.

- MATT CHAN   @MATT1CHAN

"There was a moment where I crested the chute and the topography of the mountains leveled off. I got to take it all in: all the volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest poppin’ their heads out of the clouds. It was definitely a moment of fulfillment for me, having achieved something with a group of people I knew very little about. Then I kinda looked around and thought to myself, ‘Well, shit. Now we gotta go down."

- MATT CHAN   @MATT1CHAN

Celebrate your summit, but don’t forget to pop on your puffy layer while resting. And remember to reapply your sunscreen! The snow-reflected glare can and will scorch any exposed part of you, including (no joke) the roof of your mouth if you stand there gaping. Always remember: when it comes to out-of-the-oven pizza and summit snow, proceed with caution.

Time to head back down to Earth. Our trusty subject matter expert is setting up the belay device for our descent, including a picket, prusik cord, and carabiners. We fit harnesses on team members who opted for the belay. Crater Rock stands in the distance behind the Pearly Gates chute as we start our descent. Some of the team went down unassisted, and some took the belay to help with the steep angle or to give their mountain-worn legs a break.

On our way back down toward Devil’s Kitchen. We know we keep pressing bathroom awareness, but it’s only because it’s easy to overlook. And right around now, those who hadn’t addressed things earlier began to feel a rumble that nothing to do with rock fall.

Crater Rock towers before us. To the left, Devil’s Kitchen begins; to the right, a team member returns from an impromptu visit behind the rocks. Like we said…

The crampons were off at this point. From here on out, the steepness and accompanying danger were on the decline (so to speak).

In between the thrill of having summited and hangry impatience, we found moments to look back and reflect on what we’d overcome.

With the summit well behind us, focus shifted to our growling stomachs and the burgers and milkshakes waiting to be stuffed into ‘em at the bottom. The whole team would’ve just teleported to the bottom if they could, so we did the next best thing: glissading!

The descent was just about over, and only one challenge remained: getting past the roughly 200-300 kids in town for ski camp without being mowed down. We identified boundary markers for the ski grounds and slipped past unflattened.

At long last back where we started, the parking lot of the Timberline Lodge. Layers have been happily shed in favor of cool-down athleisure wear.

The Timberline is a National Historic Landmark, built and furnished in 1936 by the Works Progress Administration and local artisans. It’s also a fine place to wind down after bagging a mighty peak.


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