Coe Glacier as Winter Draws Near
With significant rain forecast for the northwest, I wanted to get back to the north side of Mt Hood to check out a few areas before more snow fell on the mountain. On this sunny morning at Cloud Cap Saddle, the outside temperatures were just a bit above freezing and the ground was frozen with patches of snow leftover from the recent low elevation snows. The trail was quiet; I didn't see a single hiker the entire day. From the campground I headed immediately down to the Eliot crossing. Last time I was here was early on in the summer as the high heat was shedding the snowpack above, and the river was a torrent, a couple feet higher in places and faster moving. Now I could cross on rocks and there were numerous spots where the flow was just ankle deep. The bigger hazard was the ice slick on rocks near the creek. The scramble out of the canyon was still puckering, although better paths have been developed up to the rim.
In the summer the stretch of trail that climbs up through the burned forest is a very dusty stretch, but now frozen in place (and much cooler) was a nice change. Further along, the trail more shaded, had stretches of frozen snow with a nice flat boot pack on it.
falls above the Eliot Branch crossing
Almost 3 miles from Cloud Cap on the Timberline Trail I headed up the ridge that separates the Compass Creek Drainage and Coe Branch. This area is the furthest the 2011 Dollar Lake fire burned up the slopes of the mountain here, and I was finding myself amongst some large but stunted, dense growing pines in the alpine environment. Shady areas had a good collection of snow on the slopes. I kept heading up the ridge and came to an open north facing field of broken plate like flat rocks. I cautiously ascended less than a hundred feet before deciding the increasing slope severity made things too chancy to press upward. It was like scrambling over a pile of icy dinnerplates.
So I headed down, and cut across to the valley between the ridge and the minor moraine just before the large moraine containing the Coe Glacier. In the belly of this valley was an easy ascent on patches of snow up to it's end at the moraine. There an expansive view of Coe Glacier and the upper extent of Ladd Glacier spread out, with Barret Spur looming above the Moraine to the west and the cliffs of the ridge to the east. Some thick clouds came and hung over the Eliot and Snowdome, filtering the morning sun. I spent a while fawning over the intricacies of the glaciers tortured sprawl down from Mt Hoods north face before heading back down the valley.
Coe, Ladd Glaciers, with Pulpit Rock prominent in the center
I followed the valley down, until a small saddle that climbed to and then up to a small high point on slopes above the Timberline Trail. This stack of resistant lava flow surrounded by the Dollar Lake fire burned trees felt like an ancient block structure and reminded of Tolkien's Weathertop. From there it was just down through the forest on the edge of a meadow to return to the Timberline Trail