One of the reasons that I decided to write a book about Mount Hood was because, surprisingly, there really aren’t that many books out there about the mountain.
There are plenty of coffee table picture books and hiking guidebooks, a few great ones on Timberline Lodge, but not many narratives or even history books. The one narrative I could find, Wy’East: The Mountain, was written by journalist Fred McNeil — the name behind beautiful McNeil Point on Hood’s west face — back in 1937. It is a good read and touches on many different aspects of the mountain. But so much has happened since it was first published and even since it was revised in 1991 that it’s definitely a look at the mountain from another time.
The other prominent book in the story of Mount Hood is a giant volume of mountain information, tales, data, photos, and minutiae compiled, written, and published by a man named Jack Grauer. It’s called Mount Hood: A Complete History.
When I first started researching my book, I bought a copy of McNeil’s book and then two of Grauer’s, one from its original publication in 1975, and then a brand new edition, published in January 2010. The amount of information in his 420-page book is staggering. It includes everything from early pioneer history and climbing stories to detailed biographies of some of the important characters on the mountain and long lists of members of various search and rescue organizations. Unlike my book, Grauer’s is more encyclopedia or reference manual than narrative, but it is an essential volume for anyone who really wants to know about Mount Hood.
The deeper I got into my research, the more I consulted Grauer’s book and the more I heard his name mentioned. Everyone I talked to seem to bring up Jack Grauer. So I finally decided that I simply had to meet him and talk about his book and his own experiences with the mountain.
We met at Home Town Buffet in southeast Portland last summer, and for a couple hours over salad and baked chicken and mashed potatoes, we talked about Mount Hood. Charming and sharp at 89 years old, Grauer told me how he’d first fallen for the Cascades after a stint in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. He started climbing in Seattle, then made his first climb of Mount Hood in 1947. By the time he stopped climbing the mountain for good in 1994, he’d hit the top 227 times.
Trained in journalism, Grauer told me he’d taken on his Mount Hood book in the early 1970s simply because nobody else had. The information in his book, the information behind the mountain, is important, he said, and it needed to be compiled and preserved.
Since its first publication in 1975, Mount Hood: A Complete History has gone through numerous revisions and editions. The one I bought in January of 2010 was the eighth edition, but Grauer continually prints new ones to keep up-to-date and to correct past errors. My version was printed on January 18, 2010. As of our meeting last summer, he was still printing them and binding them himself at his home in Vancouver.
At the end of our lunch, I thanked Grauer, shook his hand, and headed out. I felt glad that I’d gotten the chance to sit down and talk with someone who seemed to have such a true reverence for Mount Hood, someone who felt it was important to write about the mountain and share its story with other people. I felt like I’d talked with one of the mountain’s most important advocates. And I had.