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A Mountain Man's Bucket List

04/27/2017 | Hiking, Mt Hood Territory, Skiing, Waterfalls, West Columbia River Gorge

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Some goals in life leave me restless until they are crossed off my bucket list, no matter how many attempts or years it takes me to accomplish it. Mt. Hood was one of those.

Five years ago, while sitting at my computer in Utah looking through pictures of mountains to climb, I came across a photo of a rim-ice-encrusted rock monolith that pierced the sky like a giant dagger on a mountain side. That was when I discovered the formation called Illumination Rock, located on the escarpments of Mt. Hood, Oregons tallest mountain at 11,250 feet.

Years passed, life got in the way, but Mt. Hood remained at the back of my mind.

In 2016 my work as a photographer moved me to Washington, and with Mt. Hood so close I knew that it wouldnt be long before I made it up there. My climbing partners and I set a first date, but whiteout with strong freezing winds conditions had us turn back.

After religiously following the weather forecast, the mythical perfect weather window opened up a week later. The plan was to climb up the Reid Headwall on the west side of the mountain.

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Starting at Timberline Lodge, we followed the groomed runs up the mountain alongside the ski lifts. As we reached top of the ski lifts, the sky began to glow with the light of the coming sun, first illuminating clouds and the top of Mt. Hood, then the landscape around us.

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From the top of the ski lift we headed west, cutting across Hoods slopes to the striking Illumination Rock, the rock monolith that first drew my attention to the mountain.

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When we reached the saddle at 9,250ft, we left our skis there so that we could climb the mountain unencumbered. Continuing around the mountain to the west face we stared up at the daunting Reid Headwall. It was intimidating with 50-60 degree steep slopes, a gaping bergschrund at the bottom and rim-ice-encrusted cliffs that seemingly blocked our way to the summit. It felt like staring up at the walls of a beautiful, impenetrable castle of ice.

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Soon we found ourselves alone on the sunny summit taking in the views and relaxing with a cheese, salami and granola bar lunch.

The experience of climbing Mt. Hood, seeing Illumination Rock, and getting close up and personal with the wild rim-ice-encrusted cliff was an unforgettable event. All those years of waiting and dreaming, failed attempts and weather challenges made my summit of Mt. Hood even more rewarding. (Looking for a guide to help get you to the top of Mt. Hood? Check out Timberline Mountain Guides. They are able to instruct technique, movement, technical skills and, of course, lead your summit attempt on Mt. Hood.)

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The next day, I made a trip to hike the Eagle Creek Trail to Tunnel Falls. Out of all the trails in the area this trail is my absolute favorite, due to the length (12 miles round-trip), the pristine forest, beautiful waterfalls and fewer crowds then you will find in most areas along the Gorge.

After returning, I noticed that I had a few more hours of day light so I went down the highway to the Elowah Falls Trailhead and made the 1.4-mile round-trip to the falls. As far as short hikes in the Gorge goes, this one is just right. The waterfall is perfectly placed in the back of a small canyon that is enveloped in thick layer of green moss that covers all the soil, rocks and trees. It is a magical place.

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The next morning, I drove along the Historic Columbia River Highway toward my objective for the day, Munra Point. The drive was slow and relaxed as I stopped intermittently to admire the newly bloomed spring flowers and views of the Columbia River.

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Munra Point is a small rocky point on a narrow ridge, 1,800 feet above the Columbia River, and offers spectacular views of the Columbia River Gorge but it isnt for the faint of heart.

Ive visited many beautiful places and climbed many mountains, but my experience in Oregon left me speechless. The unique beauty, breathtaking views and variety made me fall in love with this state. Even if I can now cross Mt. Hood off my bucket list, I will continue to add more Oregon places to my list so I have more reasons to come back and explore.

I spent a lot of time up on Munra Point just sitting and taking it in until a small rain cloud started making its way up the river, coming straight at me. I knew it was time to make my way back down.

Written by guest blogger Jacob Moon. Check out his awe-inspiring instagram posts here. 


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