"Sunshine Route, Mt. Hood, June 12 2011"

I've had Sunshine on Mt. Hood on my repeat list (once I was a Mazama leader), since first climbing the route in 2000 with Bob Brievogel, and declaring it my favorite route on the mountain.

These days, the forest service opens the gate to Cloud Cap so late that to climb Sunshine in decent conditions you are almost always forced to hike in on the Tilly Jane trail, for a total gain of 7300 feet. So we started early, 11AM on Saturday, allowing time to lounge at our chosen camp at the Cooper Spur stone shelter. That's AT the shelter; the shelter itself was full of snow almost to the rafters, but there were deluxe tent sites and a bit of free water in the small snowless area nearby. The clear day afforded great views of the route we were to ascend the next morning.

As we arrived at camp, a hiker came up behind us, and reported (in his Aussie accent) having climbed Cooper Spur that day with his party, and being too frightened by the soft conditions to downclimb the route, had wisely descended to Timberline and hitchiked back to Cooper Spur, hiking back up to there tents. While that was our plan B as well (minus the hitchhiking), we were hopeful to avoid the extra trip and descend the north side, as I had done with Bob Brievogel in 2001, descending Cathedral Ridge until a safe descent to the Coe glacier permitted a traverse back to the top of the Snow Dome. More on that in a moment...

After our conversation with the Aussie, we agreed with him that earlier was better, and moved our wakeup time up to 1AM. So, at 2:15AM, we were off up Cooper Spur, until we saw a nice track traversing the snowy side of the moraine down to the Elliot Glacier. Although there were no crevasses to be seen, we roped up and crossed over to the snow dome. After some route guessing in the moonless early morning, I took a pretty direct line up to the snow dome, and was rewarded right away with our first substantial crevasses to end-run. By the time we gained the ridgeline on the snow dome, it was full dawn, and sunrise caught us approaching the top of the dome.

To be continued...

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