The Book. The Mountain. Everything in between.


Meeting some mountaineering royalty

There was a chance that Stacy Allison, the first American woman to climb Mt. Everest, wasn’t going to make it to the kickoff event for this year’s Climb for Clean Air program last night. She was on her way back from Denver, and the timing of it all made it a little uncertain.

But she made it — in time to catch some pics from a Hood slideshow even — and added another notch to the list of pretty incredible people that we’ve met over the years.

Climbing for clean air on Mount Hood

Last year, a colleague of mine at the Business Journal, Cathy Cheney, climbed Mount Hood for the first time. She even carried a copy of On Mount Hood all the way to the summit.

Cheney on Hood

Cheney did the climb through a program of the American Lung Association called the Climb for Clean Air. Through that, climbers raise funds for the ALA while training and, ultimately, climbing Northwest peaks.

It’s a cool program and one that I recently wrote about for the Business Journal in a Q&A with Stacy Allison, the first American woman to summit Everest. She’s a Portlander and has been involved in the climbing program for years.

There’s a kickoff party for the hike leaders, assistants and past and present participants this Tuesday at the Lucky Labrador in Northwest Portland. I’ll be there with some climbing pics and tales (and, of course, a few books) to get people in the mountain mood.

While the Mt. Hood climb is all filled up for this year — you can still sign up for the wait list — there are spots still available for the Rainier and Baker climbs. Find out more at


The Best Mount Hood Sledding for 2017

We haven’t been up to Mount Hood for any sledding yet this winter, but a few inches a couple weeks ago made for some decent runs right here in the neighborhood.


All that’s gone now. But Hood is seeing some mammoth snowfall this year, and the sledding’s bound to be good. Here are some some of the best sledding spots on Mount Hood for 2017.

White River Sno-Park — About 4 miles north of US 26 on Oregon 35 just south of Mt. Hood Meadows, the White River Sno-Park is great for easy, fun and free sledding on Mount Hood with little ones. The closest hill is just a five-minute walk up the snowy road from the parking lot; bigger and better hills are just a little farther along. Because it’s also a popular skiing and snowshoeing spot, White River can be a touch crowded, but it’s expansive enough that there’s room enough for everyone. And with an incredible view of the mountain as backdrop, there’s little to complain about. (It doesn’t cost anything to sled here other than a Sno-Park permit. If you buy a permit from a DMV, they’re $4; most vendors that sell them jack them up a buck or two.)

Little John Sno-Park — At 3,700 feet just 30 miles south of Hood River on Oregon 35, this free Sno-Park (free sledding on Mount Hood except for the Sno-Park permit) is fairly low in elevation, so if it’s a low snow year the pickings can be slim. But when there is snow, the sledding looks like good fun. There’s also an old log warming hut. The Forest Service only allows plastic sleds and tubes.

Summit Ski Area — Mount Hood’s oldest ski area is also home to a tubing area. You can’t bring your own sled, but for $20, you get a tube from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. For weekdays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., it’s $15. frM-F; kids 48″ and under are $10. Summit is just east of Government Camp. Summit also operates Snow Bunny, a little Sno-Park next door, where you can tube (not sled) for $15 all day.

Cooper Spur Mountain Resort — A sleepy but quaint little resort on the beautiful north side of Mount Hood, Cooper Spur is home to a tubing park with a rope tow. Ten bucks for the morning or afternoon, which includes some great views of the north side of Mount Hood on the drive up from Hood River.

Mt. Hood Skibowl — The closest ski area to Portland is also home to a snow tubing area. Cost is $25 for adults for three hours, $19 for juniors; an all-day tube ticket is $50. The area includes a tube conveyor for heading back up the hill. In addition to regular tubing, Skibowl also offers Cosmic Tubing on weekend nights with laser lights, black lights, music and more.

Other Sno Parks and Areas — The Forest Service also lists Sledding and Tubing as activities at these other Mount Hood Sno Parks: Government Camp Summit Sno Park and Multorpor Sno Park. I’ve also seen reports of sledding opportunities at Trillium Lake, near the Hemlock Trail in Government Camp and elsewhere.

On Mount Hood — literally

Whenever I‘ve climbed Mount Hood, one of my goals with my pack has always been to go fairly light. Maybe a bigger camera, an extra layer or two for the weather, a little more food. But for the most part, the bare essentials usually has done me just fine.

Hauling a book to the summit? I don’t think it’s ever crossed my mind.

But that’s just what my colleague at the Portland Business Journal, photographer Cathy Cheney, did last month when she climbed to the top of Hood for the American Lung Association’s annual Climb for Clean Air.

In a post for the Business Journal, Cheney wrote about how the opportunity to climb Hood had come to her out of the blue, at a time when she was up for a challenge and ready to step out of her comfort zone. So she signed up, trained for almost six months, and found herself standing atop the 11,245-foot summit of Mount Hood — and raising $3,400 for the ALA along the way — in early June.

While she was getting herself in shape for the climb, Cheney also picked up a copy of On Mount Hood, which I signed for her and used to wish her well.

The morning after her successful climb, Cheney sent me a photo I never would have expected:

Cheney on Hood

Apparently she had room in her pack for the copy of the book. It made it to the summit with her, but 40-mile-an-hour winds prevented prolonged photo ops at the top, so this one’s from a little ways down from the summit.

Even so, I can almost guarantee On Mount Hood has never been that high on Mount Hood before.

Now it has. Congrats, Cathy!


Mount Hood — for a deal

There is no denying that North Drinkware’s Oregon Pint — and its second glass, the Washington Pint — is pretty sweet, especially if you’re a fan of Mount Hood and the Cascades.


But the now $45 price tag is a pretty big commitment. Not to discredit all the labor and craftsmanship and creativity that goes into each glass. I appreciate that and treat the glass I got this summer with great care. I love it. The price is, nonetheless, part of the equation.

This weekend, though, North is offering an opportunity to grab some of its fine pints, albeit in slightly different conditions, at a smokin’ deal — just $20 each.

The Portland company is hosting a two-day “When North Goes South” sale, which will offer 800 second-quality Oregon and Washington pints for sale for $20 apiece. According to the company, the glasses “may have slight imperfections such as being a little too heavy, having a wider or slightly wavy lip, bubbles in the glass, etc… and did not meet production standards to be a first quality glass.” Many of the imperfections, North notes, are hardly recognizable.

“I personally prefer the seconds, as the glasses have a little extra character from being handmade,” said North co-founder Leigh Capozzi in an email to me this morning.

For $20, it sounds like a deal to me.

The sale is happening from 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5 and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6 at 1219 Southeast Ivon Street in Portland. For more info, visit

A Mount Hood Q&A: Ric Conrad, author of ‘Mount Hood: Adventures of the Wy’east Climbers, 1930-1942″

Early in this new year, I exchanged Mount Hood books with Portland-area freelance writer Ric Conrad, who’d just announced the launch of his book, Mount Hood: Adventures of the Wy’east Climbers 1930-1942. His handsome book is a thorough journey through the adventures of some of the pioneering climbers who left their mark on Oregon’s tallest mountain during the era of the Great Depression.

Ric Conrad

Ric Conrad

Conrad’s book is much more detailed and longer than On Mount Hood,  so while I am still working my way through Adventures of the Wy’east Climbers, Conrad has finished my book and is no doubt onto some other reading. But before he got too far ahead, he paused to send me these kind words about On Mount Hood:

“Jon Bell’s personal narrative style is the perfect voice to introduce readers to Oregon’s most iconic mountain. Not only does Bell discuss Wy’east’s volcanic past, the present challenges it faces with population encroachment, but its potential future as well. On Mount Hood is essential reading for anyone with a love for the state’s highest mountain or a fascination with its natural history.”

Kind words, indeed.

Looking to find out a little bit more about Conrad’s book and the motivation behind it, I traded emails with the former member of the U.S. Navy. He sent me some of the super cool charcoal illustrations that he commissioned Lon Haverly to create for the book as well as a nice Q&A that shines a little more light on Adventures of the Wy’east Climbers. 

Enjoy, and find out more about Conrad and his book at 

Who were the Wy’east Climbers?

A group of young men in 1930, several of whom were members of the Mazamas and the Portland Trail’s Club, desired a smaller, more elite group of mountain climbing colleagues. They were particularly drawn to virgin terrain on Mount Hood and avidly set out to explore it.

What terrain on Mount Hood did they explore?

They made the first ascents of the Leuthold Couloir Route, the Sandy Glacier Headwall, and the Eliot Glacier Headwall. They also reopened some climbing routes and established some difficult variations.

1 Joe Leuthold

Joe Leuthold

What’s the difference between a first ascent of a route and reopening one?

A first ascent is attributed to the alpinist or climbers who made the first recorded ascent of a particular climbing route on a mountain. In addition to their pioneering first ascents, the Wy’easters ascended three routes that hadn’t been used in years: the Wy’east Trail, Cathedral Ridge and the Newton-Clark Headwall route. In addition, club members wrote articles about these nearly forgotten routes in order to help popularize them. They even took guests with them on subsequent ascents of these old routes in order for word of mouth advertising to spread through Oregon’s mountaineering community.

Your book references something called the New Year Laurels. What is that?

To be the first alpinist on the summit of Mount Hood in the New Year; this is the goal of individuals or climbing parties seeking the New Year Laurels. There are no trophies, no bronze plaques, no cash payments or commercial endorsements — no real recognition to speak of, but the goal has been sought after since at least 1916. The Wy’east Climbers, as well as some of the outlaws, helped popularize this annual winter race to the summit.

Who were the outlaws?

An outlaw was simply a description given to alpinists who weren’t officially members of any organized climbing organization like the Mazamas, the Crag Rats or the Wy’east Climbers. Gary Leech, Bill “Smoke” Blanchard, and Hubert North were three such examples. These were men who made first ascents, speed ascents, and shared a rope with the Wy’east Climbers on multiple occasions.

2 Russ McJury

Russ McJury

Why did the Wy’east Climbers form the Mt. Hood Ski Patrol?

With the construction of Timberline Lodge, and the subsequent surge in tourism, a marked increase in injuries caused great concern amongst regional climbers. The need for an organized and well-equipped first aid corps became apparent. As the Wy’east Climbers had helped assist injured alpinists in the early to mid-1930s, they were in a position to have their voices heard. Joining forces with influential leaders of the Nile River Yacht Club, they approached the U.S. Forest Service and, in time, formed the ski patrol that thrives to this day.

You have a chapter devoted to illuminations. What is that all about?

The Wy’east Climbers were regular supporters of the Winter Sports Carnival in Portland. Climbers used to put on flare trips high on Mount Hood. They employed these million-candle power magnesium flares. They didn’t last very long, but these pyrotechnic devices burned magnesium ribbon, which produced a brilliant flame up to a foot above the burning metal. Depending upon the specific type of flares, the magnesium would burn for a minute or up to six minutes. It was quite a show.

How did you reconstruct the fatal accidents that happened on Mount Hood during the Great Depression?

That came about by studying the Mazama Annuals, the Wy’east Bulletins, articles in The Oregonian and the Oregon Journal, the alpinists’ entries in the summit register, documentation in the Mazama archives and through interviewing surviving participants. Hank Lewis was instrumental in bringing to light little-known details concerning rescue and recovery operations.

Everett Darr

Everett Darr

How many climbers from the period did you interview for this book?

I had the privilege of interviewing Wy’easters Hank Lewis, Lu Norene, Russ McJury and Randall Kester. I also interviewed alpinists who climbed beside club members: John Carter, Charles Loveland, Robert Labby and Darrel Tarter. Their recollections and humorous anecdotes helped bring these stories of alpine exploration to life.

What do you hope people will get out of your book?

They’ll obviously learn a lot about the historic first ascents and memorable tragedies, but I think readers will simply enjoy the little-known tales of adventure that can be found in this volume. There’s the friendly rivalry between the Wy’easters and the Nile River Yacht Club, speed ascents, and vying to be the first atop Oregon’s monarch in the New Year. Avalanches, crevasse falls, brutal storms, and high-altitude, volcanic, subterranean adventures are all told by the people who were there — in the Golden Age of climbing on Mount Hood.