Mt Hood: Illumination Ridge [part three, 8/17/2019]

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Chip Down
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Mt Hood: Illumination Ridge [part three, 8/17/2019]

Post by Chip Down » August 19th, 2018, 6:33 am

Yocum Ridge steals the show on Hood's west side, but his little brother across the Reid Canyon is pretty cool too. There's no trail, and getting onto the ridge from the bottom (in the general area of the upper Sandy River crossing, where the PCT crosses) looks to be quite difficult (I've explored up the canyon a ways, but haven't tried to climb out to the side). So, I started at Timberline Lodge, traversed above Mississippi Head, and continued clockwise to the ridge below Illumination Rock.

It's a well-defined ridge, so no difficulties following it down. It is rugged though, so staying exactly on ridgecrest isn't practical, especially in the rock-cornice section where the ridgecrest hangs over the Reid Canyon (my weight would be unlikely to send those rocks tumbling into Reid, but still). As expected, the views of the glacier impressed.

Very abruptly, at 7000', the ridge softens, broadens, gets a little sandy, supports vegetation. The difference is striking. If there was a trail coming up the ridge, this is where it would end. Interesting coincidence: this is also where the sun finally hit me, adding to the jarring change. From there, the ridgecrest was still a little tricky to follow down in spots, because of a series of steps that had to be navigated in various ways (but also easy to avoid for a hiker who isn't determined to stay on crest).

I'd been wondering where I would stop my descent. Would there be an obvious turnaround point? Fortunately, there was, where the ridge curved around to the south and faded, but there was also an obvious landing just off crest, so I gained that and called it quits. (6200')

There was a parallel ridge to the south that continued a little lower before abruptly meeting forest, but to get to it I'd have to ascend Illumination a ways until it was safe to cross over to that ridge, then follow what looked like some crumbly knife-edge stretches, to get views that didn't look like they'd be great. It was 10:00 and I was already sweating, even on my descent, so I knew I'd better be on my way back up.

For my ascent, I wanted to stay as far as possible from my Reid-side descent, watching for a more direct route to Mississippi Head. But I realized the terrain was just too rugged. Failure would be possible, and on a hot day, I needed to be efficient. Still, I did stay as far south as possible, for variety of scenery. The lower part of the ridge (below 7000') was beautiful parkland, Paradise Park quality. I saw a buck! Not only was that shocking because of the elevation, but also because this isn't an easy place to get to. Although I suppose his presence here suggests there is a way to gain the ridge from below. Eventually, as I approached the top of the green broad part of the ridge, I was squeezed back pretty close to my earlier descent route, but I still found some fun scenic variations to the south.
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That's my ridge over there. I gained it at the bottom of the cliffy section. It's not the PITA it appears in this pic; challenging, but scenic and fun.
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Even before I gained ridgecrest, I could hear the waterfalls.
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Look at all those waterfalls! Notice how foreshortened the glacier appears from this angle. You get the same effect when crossing the glacier; it feels like you're on a short ice shelf that plunges into the abyss.
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More of the same, but a little different look.
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Starting back up, a little above my turnaround point. So many options!
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Looking back down at my turnaround point.
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I love places where you can see flowers and ice together.
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This pic really highlights how abruptly the ridge goes from broad to sharp at 7000' (pic from a .gov site, so I don't feel bad about using it without credit).
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Illumination Saddle, at lower right, is tagged incorrectly, not by me)
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What this pic lacks is a size reference for the dramatic boulder-on-boulder.
Last edited by Chip Down on August 18th, 2019, 9:43 am, edited 3 times in total.

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romann
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Re: Mt Hood: Illumination Ridge

Post by romann » August 21st, 2018, 10:05 pm

Nice ridge! I cannot help but think this looks like real mountain goat country, almost strange not to have them there. They'll likely do well, when they finally find way to Mt. Hood, or get reintroduced.

Do you have trip report about crossing Reid Glacier? What time of year was it, and how did it work?

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Re: Mt Hood: Illumination Ridge

Post by Water » August 22nd, 2018, 1:27 pm

nice TR. solid brewski to finish on, and that's an understatement.

Romann I think he was referring to crossing the reid in the pursuit of a climb perhaps or circumnavigating the mountain. What would you like to know? The drop down off the back of illumination saddle is always the hairiest part of it, imo. I have roped up for it and gone unroped.. it is a continual debate for me because the accouterments for glacier travel vs what is needed for climbing Leutholds... leutholds basically all you need is what you'd need to climb the south side. But if you're going to bring glacier gear... I feel like you should be serious about it, but maybe I over-think it. Like roping up is good, but if someone falls and is non-ambulatory, you should be able to extract them. So that's pickets and pulleys. At the end of the day I have to say bringing all the crap for leutholds seems overkill, so if it's a high snow year, and it's feb-march-april, and the glacier is looking quite full, I don't sweat it, esp if I have skis on my feet. But if it's early season or late, probably prudent to rope up and have the necessary extraction equipment.
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Guy
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Re: Mt Hood: Illumination Ridge

Post by Guy » August 22nd, 2018, 1:45 pm

Nice report Chip, we were on the upper south and north reaches of Yocum this past weekend.

Romann re the Mt Goat there has been one reported on Yocum for several years though there have been no reported sightings that I have seen this year. Last year in September we were up on Yocum and the USFS were flying a helicopter in the gorge below us apparently it was part of their annual Cascade Peaks Goat survey.

We didn't get to see the goat but Kevin & AnnMarie Cowley who we met on the way up had seen it and hour or so before we got there.
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Chip Down
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Re: Mt Hood: Illumination Ridge

Post by Chip Down » August 22nd, 2018, 5:01 pm

Indeed, this would be great goat country, especially considering humans rarely venture here (I saw no signs of human activity, and I've never heard of anybody doing this route...if I had to take a wild guess, I'd say less than 50 humans explore Illumination Ridge in a typical year). I saw what was consistent with a goat up on the rocky bulge where the glacier splits, but with binoculars I could see it was just a little patch of snow.

As surmised above, I've ventured onto Reid only to access Leuthold Couloir. When bare, the drop onto the glacier is horrible. I wouldn't even feel comfortable doing it roped, for fear I'd trigger a slide that could include rubble above me. I've written before that a ladder (not a rope ladder) is the best way down. Anyway, I tried to stay higher than normal, hoping I'd be on the headwall above the bergschrunds, but I now realize I probably wasn't. That was in June, many years ago. If there was no crevasse risk, I'd love to spend a day exploring that glacier, probably including an ascent to the crest of Yocum.

Guy, I did happen to see somebody high on Yocum at 8:30am Saturday, as documented in this ultra-high-resolution photo: [edit: it displays even worse here than it does when accessed directly from my file, which I don't think I've previously noticed here...so yeah, You'll have to take my word for it.]
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Re: Mt Hood: Illumination Ridge

Post by romann » August 22nd, 2018, 11:53 pm

Chip Down wrote:
August 22nd, 2018, 5:01 pm
I've ventured onto Reid only to access Leuthold Couloir. When bare, the drop onto the glacier is horrible. I wouldn't even feel comfortable doing it roped, for fear I'd trigger a slide that could include rubble above me.
Good to know, I hoped there may be a doable way over Reid to Yocum Ridge ;). Seriously though, this thing looks sketchy as hell and I'm not thinking about going there with no experience (I remember looking at it from Illumination saddle, and then two ice climbers walked up right to me - I didn't notice them below - and I was like, WTH). The reason I asked is, it looks from your pictures like there's a couple of relatively flat, crevasse-free shelves - but maybe it's just viewing angle.

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Re: Mt Hood: Illumination Ridge

Post by retired jerry » August 23rd, 2018, 6:42 am

You can walk up to about 7000 feet on Yocum Ridge, then it's pretty easy to walk about 0.6 mile south at the base of Reid glacier. That gets pretty close to illumination ridge, but there's probably a steep spot there that may be difficult.

On Yocum Ridge at 7000 feet looking up the ridge:
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Looking over towards Reid Glacier, you can see someone's tracks going up Reid. I believe someone was missing up there somewhere so someone went up the glacier several times looking for him.
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Re: Mt Hood: Illumination Ridge

Post by Guy » August 23rd, 2018, 6:54 am

Getting up onto the Reid and crossing it is probably getting harder than it used to be as it retreats and has more crevasse.

This would be the access point from the upper meadows on Yocums South Ridge, (Taken last Saturday):
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Re: Mt Hood: Illumination Ridge

Post by retired jerry » August 23rd, 2018, 7:46 am

Not so much snow in your pic. Mine was Aug 6, 2010. Probably more snow that year.

If someone wanted to cross over to illumination ridge, I bet it would be far easier if the slopes were snow covered. Maybe early July.

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Re: Mt Hood: Illumination Ridge

Post by Chip Down » August 12th, 2019, 6:57 pm

Why I returned: I wanted to take another look at the possibility of finding a high route to Yocum Ridge. If not, then continue descending Illumination to the Sandy River / Paradise Branch confluence, then back to lodge on Timberline Trail. If that didn't work out, try to explore down Paradise Branch, to the big fall. The really big one, just upstream from Sandy River.

Discouraging start: Breezy and damp at Timberline Lodge. Sucks hiking in the dark in sideways rain. But precip was light, and wind was mild, and the day was expected to get better, so I set off. Immediately, I stopped at the day lodge to inventory my pack. It felt suspiciously light, but it was all there. Nothing discretionary except rope (never needed), ethanol (of course), a couple bottles of milk (moo), and really more water than I needed, but you never know.

After Little Zigzag Canyon I went offtrail. By the time I reached [big] Zigzag Canyon, I was damp and discouraged, but I started to see glimpses of the far rim, and Mississippi, and by the time I reached the top of Mississippi I was above the clouds. Yay! I cautiously picked my way across ZZ Glacier w/o crampons, picked a sensible snow gully to descend back into the soup, and dropped into the void, on a new unknown route, just hoping for the best.

When I crossed over Mississippi Head I was running much later than my last trip, but this time I wasn't trying to stick to ridgecrest, and the difference was immense. I dropped down snow, fast, even though I still had to be cautious in the icy morning. Hit falls-draped cliffbands, deep gullies, crumbly moraines, fragile snow bridges, rockfall hazards, fun, fun, more fun, no idea where I was. I knew it couldn't end well, knew I'd hit a deadend of some sort and have to backtrack, so I sized up my options and picked a sensible route right/up towards Illumination Ridge. Very soon, I was in tilted parkland, where I got even more wet, soppy from mid-thigh down. Observed a tiered effect, and recognized it as a feature of Illumination crest around 6500'-ish.

Mirraculously, clouds parted a bit, enough to confirm where I was, enough to see bits of Yocum, enough to adjust course a bit, towards last-time's low point. But when I arrived I was swallowed in clouds again. I sat and waited, and hoped, and it started raining, and I got even wetter. When I felt the first hint of shivering, I knew I had to start back. I had hours of off-trail rugged alpine hiking ahead of me with virtually no visibility, and I knew I couldn't risk hypothermia on top of it all. In August?! But first I scouted down my moraine/ridge a bit, to see if it was possible to get past the crumbly knifedege crux. It soon faded, indistinct, deadend at a high point. I knew the crest continued, but in which direction? I wasn't going to mess with it, retreated. This was the emotional nadir of my hike, as well as the geographical low point.

I was ambivalent about my 5 minutes of clearing. It confirmed my location, which was comforting and satisfying, but I felt like the mountain was taunting me. I wondered if I'd get 30 mins upslope and it would clear again, tempting me to go back down. That's exactly what happened, but it only lasted long enough to spot an out-of-place coyote, and then back to grey. As I had been since my turnaround, I continued up a creek, the little brother to Paradise Branch. I wanted something new, but I also wanted the security of a distinctive feature, and this creek fit the bill. Like my descent, there was fun variety: cliffsbands and waterfalls, snowy gullies, flowery spots, dry stretches where it went underground.

My creek eventually faded, and I popped to the right and grabbed another, this one steeper. I came to a broad bowl, and as I approached it I assumed I had to be close to Mississippi Head. But I heard an immense creek to my left, and climbed to a ridgecrest to check it out. Even with horrible visibility, I could sense I was on the edge of a huge canyon. I could make out big streaks of white and black (snow and rock), and I could make out a waterfall. The only possible explanation was that I was back on Illumination Ridge, looking into Reid/Sandy canyon. That blew my mind. Twice I had deliberately chosen routes to the right, but ended up left. That means I must have traced a figure eight, which means the footprints I crossed below were mine. I had wondered about that. They seemed a bit old/faded to be mine, but who the heck else would be here?

Okay, so I was back on Illumination crest, and I realized that last snow gully I ascended was a creek when I was here in July 2018 [edit: it was clearly August, as documented in my TR above]. Skies cleared, and confirmed my position. I recognized every detail, knew exactly which snowfields and rockbands would take me home. But what a bore. Clouds returned, I could see squat, so of course I dropped back in and set a course for Mississippi.

I crossed a couple snow gullies, followed a steep crumby rib up, scaled a cute little cliffband with a waterfall, continued up and right towards the head. Seemed to take way too long, but I knew Illumination was left, and there was no way I could go too high or too right, so I stuffed my anxiety down and kept climbing. Just about the time I reached flatter terrain and crevasses, the clouds parted for maybe a minute or so, and I got my bearings. Once again, I had veered left, towards Illumination.

I reset course right, crossed alternating lines of rock and snow, on and on, until I saw, faintly through the clouds, something strange, something that seemed out of place. Realized it was a skilift. When did they put this in? No, of course it was Palmer, but I was higher than I thought. That means I had passed way above the top of Mississippi.

Clouds parted, I sat in the sun and relaxed. Checked Timberline conditions: "light rain". Ugh. I had to go back down into that again. Whether because of poor visibility or back luck, I picked a bad line, and many of my glissade routes ran dry. Even so, it was fun. It's a great part of the mountain; nothing can go seriously wrong, all routes are fun to some degree.

They say it's natural to get sucked towards Mississippi Head when descending the south side in bad weather. Funny that the second half of my trip was a futile hunt for MH!

This hike would have been better if I had elevation notes for various points. I had an altimeter, but that doesn't help if you don't know what you're aiming for. It was fun though, a nice challenge. I know some people would get lost/stuck/terrified where I went, so it was satisfying to pull it off blindfolded.

I guess there will be a part three. I'll make it a goldilocks day, not too hot, not too cloudy. June could be good, if I have the patience.

I didn't think this would be so long. Thanks for reading all that.
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Mississippi behind me, about to drop back into the soup.
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A quick descent. This is where I got smart and fought my way over to Illumination Ridge.
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Looking over at Yocum. That big clearing at upper right is the viewpoint at the end of the official trail.
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On Illumination Ridge again, much higher. Reid Glacier below to left (trust me).
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A brief clearing confirmed my location.
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I've seen a lot of helmets in the last few years.
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Another brief clearing, on Zigzag Glacier. A minute after this pic, I was swallowed up again.
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Descending to Timberline Lodge.
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This snowbridge doesn't look safe to cross.
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Suitable for Oregon hikers, per can. Label says you can take it when exploring the mountain.

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