Mt Hood Meadows to Cooper Spur, highest possible non-glacier route

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Chip Down
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Mt Hood Meadows to Cooper Spur, highest possible non-glacier route

Post by Chip Down » July 4th, 2019, 7:39 pm

I've done 90% of this in bits and pieces, multiple times, various seasons/conditions. I decided it was time to fill in the little gaps.

Cutting right to the chase: I followed the persistent snow gully that goes up the south crease where Newton-Clark moraine butts against Newton-Clark Prow. That put me at the top of the moraine (by "top" I don't just mean crest, I mean the west/high end of the crest, right at the N-C prow). From here I followed a gentle shelf that curves around the right/north base of the prow. (If you keep going, it ascends, and you can follow it to the top of the prow if the snow is continuous. It wasn't today, but that's okay, been there done that.) From that shelf, I could see what I thought I'd see: from the top of N-C Prow, you can't continue towards Cooper. It's a rugged glacier, not suitable for hikers. That's actually why I took the route I did; I figured I had to stay a little lower.

So from that shelf that curves around the right/north base of the prow, how can I get to Cooper? If I drop too low, I end up in Newton Canyon. Horrible idea, especially since climbing out just puts one on Gnarl Ridge (that's a lot of work just to end up on a trail, as I discovered one hot July day many years ago). So my challenge was to stay high enough to avoid the canyon, but low enough to avoid the glacier. In between, it looked like a big ol' heap of rubble, and I dreaded trying to find a safe way across.

As I pondered my options, I started by getting closer to see the icefall where N-C Glacier tumbles over a cliff. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it. Usually when a glacier tumbles over a cliff, the ice gets smashed to smithereens, and ends up at substantially lower elevation, so the little shards melt quickly. But this isn't a huge cliff, and the ice blocks actually accumulate at the base of the cliff, and roll down the mountain a ways, lined up on a relatively smooth snowfield. Really cool.

Well, as I crept closer, I noticed something: If I crossed the rubble zone way down low where it's moderately safe, I could possibly ascend on protected rocks that were solid enough to climb up easily, thus giving me safe close views of the icefall, and allowing me to continue north (towards Cooper) through pretty easy terrain.

So that's what I did. It worked out great, and soon I came to familiar ground. I now realize that the only substantial part this route I haven't done before is crossing under the icefall, plus a very short stretch on either side. Last time I was here going the opposite direction, I probably had just enough time to continue to N-C Prow, but I couldn't have known how easy it was. Anyway, on that occasion there was also some debris from collapsed Newton-Clark seracs between the icefall and Cooper, and that had me a little spooked (as did the boulder I barely dodged on the way).

At my success point, it was super early, so I ascended a little higher, got as close to the top of the ice cliff as I felt comfortable with, continued towards Cooper a bit, played around here and there.

On my return to Meadows, I took a chance and crossed over the ice rubble a little higher, so I could glissade down between the icefall danger zone on my left, and the rockfall danger zone on my right. A little reckless, but I bet I was out of the danger zone in 2 or 3 minutes.

Then, to get back to Meadows I returned to the end/top of the N-C Moraine, dropped into the snow chute, but halfway down I crossed under the prow on a little ramp, then crossed over below Super Bowl. As I was dropping down the ridge that divides the upper part of Heather Canyon, I heard a snow bridge collapse on one of the waterfalls that spills down the prow, and it dumped mini-fridge sized blocks of snow down across my morning ascent route. Wow. Funny that I was uneasy about that icefall on the N-C Glacier, but it was snow on the prow that came closest to taking me out.
Prominent feature on right is Newton-Clark Prow. Snow gully on right was my ascent route. At upper left, notice creeks spilling out of snow cave, feeding several tiers of cascades.
Ascending the snow gully alongside N-C Prow.
From the cliffs at center of pic, there's a seasonal snow gully to the left leading to the top of the prow, and of course the dramatic icefall to the right.
On the snow shelf that wraps around the north side of the prow, looking back at N-C Moraine.
I got a little closer than this, but didn't want to stop for pics, had to move fast.
Overjoyed to see this, because my gamble paid off and took me to gentle easy terrain, but also because I recognized this place, knew it was easy to get to Cooper from here.
Big-ass Boulder (marked with yellow X). Notice the braided creeks wandering through the nearly-flat basin below.
Happy Independence Day!
Bookending this set of pics with another look at the prow and my lonely snow gully to the right.

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Re: Mt Hood Meadows to Cooper Spur, highest possible non-glacier route

Post by mjirving » July 4th, 2019, 8:25 pm

Awesome work it.


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retired jerry
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Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm

Re: Mt Hood Meadows to Cooper Spur, highest possible non-glacier route

Post by retired jerry » July 5th, 2019, 5:11 am

yeah, nice, one of the riddles of the high route solved

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