Fast Times at Yocum Ridge

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The Cascades of North America are a beautiful and diverse range of mountains. These peaks, which range from sharp, granitic towers, to glaciated and crumbly volcanoes, extend all the way from southern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon - all the way to Northern California. And if you live in the Portland, OR area - there’s one Cascade peak that dominates the horizon - Wy’East or Mount Hood as it’s commonly known.

The mountain, which is a dormant volcano - is a literal playground for outdoor enthusiasts, from skiers, snowboarders, hikers - and of course, mountaineers.

Although Wy’East is climbed thousands of times every year up it’s easier routes, some lines offer a more challenging experience - like the Eliot Glacier, and Sandy Glacier headwalls. But no technical route is more sought after, and perhaps feared, than the Yocum Ridge.

First climbed in 1959 by Fred Becky and co., The west-facing serrated, knife-edge ridge - which splits the Reid and Sandy Glaciers, is a route for experienced alpinists - as it requires glacier travel skills, in addition to advanced snow and ice climbing techniques. The ridge is made up of 3 distinct gendarmes (or towers) composed of crumbly, volcanic rock. The top of the route is blocked by a massive, rime coated headwall, which is often skirted to the right or left.

Of the unique conditions needed to climb the Yocum Ridge, Jeff Thomas, author of Oregen High: A climbing guide, writes, “Rotten rock towers guard it’s crest. They cannot be climbed unless they are covered with a thick layer of rime ice.” He goes on to say, “Contrary to what common sense would dictate, rime ice is more solid than the rock on the Yocum Ridge. The catch is that rime is often impossible to protect. Take your ice tools, pickets, and other technology, but know that on this route the old advice still holds true; the leader must not fall.”

So it was with this mindset, that pacific northwest based alpinists Nick Sweeney and Kyle Tarry, set off to climb the Yocum in early March of this year. I recently got a chance to speak with Nick about the route - which turned out to be a significant, and once in a lifetime experience.
(Cover Photo: Kyle Tarry)

Music by Evan Phillips

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