I was a senior staff trainer at Outward Bound for their Instructor’s Alpine Courses on Mt. Hood. We were finalising a week of training with a successful summit climb. But on the ascent, there was one of those moments, when learning from experience could have been painful but wasn’t, because the outcome was positive. We were climbing the Snow Dome, on Mt. Hood’s northwest side, on the final approach to the Sunshine Route. I had been leading and training staff on this route for a few years prior, so was relatively familiar with the route, crevasses and bivy sites.
We set out from high camp on the snow dome early on a cloudless sunny day, a crisp snap in the spring air, crampons crunched the snow underfoot. I decided to let the trainees lead out on ropes of four, with one trainer per rope team. There were three rope teams, and my team was in the back, with taking up the final position. It was easy ground, and once we got to the base of the steeper terrain at the start of the Sunshine route, we’d rearrange the order.
Before setting off, we first decided who would lead out. I then briefed him on the route, which generally followed the crest of the snow dome, but (more…)