Surviving Mt. Hood's Gnarl Ridge

Surviving Gnarl Ridge

Reflections from the most harrowing day on the trail.

The day we hiked Gnarl Ridge will live in infamy amongst the tenacious group that survived it. Easily the hardest day on Mt. Hood’s Timberline Trail, the crew battled rain, sleet, ice, and hellish winds to climb not one but two glaciers. We asked the crew to explain, in their own words, how they felt climbing the trail. Some were more poignant than others, but all of them captured the insanity of the moment.

What was going through my head on the Ridge? “Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo” -Kate

“Gnarl Ridge was so cold and so wet….it was the only place I’ve ever been where I could pee my pants for survival.” -Jordan

There was one point where I swear I almost gave up. There I was, trudging along with the WIND and the RAIN and feeling REALLY sorry for myself… And then we pass these old folks. They’re like 50 years older than me, with like…sneakers and dollar ponchos on, and they’re just marching their way up the mountain, all perky and smiling like “Hey Guys! How ya doing?!” And that point I knew. This “poor me” attitude was just ridiculous; I had to hitch up my big-girl panties and get the hell up that Ridge. -Jessica

Hall went ahead on the trail to see what we was in store for us….suddenly, he comes running back around the bend with his hands up waving them back and forth and says, “Ok, things are going to be a little rough! We’re in Gods video game and we’ve just leveled up! Once you hit the tree line it will get better…” Then he turned around and ran off! Leaving Peter, Kate, Kesler and I shaking our heads going “Well, we’ve only been hiking in the rain, uphill, for hours now….how much worse can it be?” But he wasn’t kidding…Sideway Rain, gale force winds, hail… That’s what Level 2 had waiting for us. For me personally while crossing The Ridge all I could do is just keep laughing and trying to walk straight hoping I don’t get blown over into the abyss…After crossing the ridge, I was just overcome with the feeling that I’m a superwoman and I can do anything!! -Tanya

Little did I know going into it, but that afternoon would totally shift my self-confidence. The group was split in two at this point, and I just remember coming upon Hall who was putting on good face, but certainly looked concerned. We all got completely soaked pretty quickly, so I got over that before I could let it even bother me…but that wind. THAT WIND. I remember thinking at one point, “I might quite literally die here.”   And laughing. I mainly just remember laughing and smiling the whole time. I found everything funny, wanted everyone to laugh, and was the perkiest I’ve been since I was probably a girl scout. I was either totally delirious from the cold and wind, on the verge of a mental break, or 100% in the moment and having the time of my life. I’m pretty certain it was a perfect combination of them all with a heavy dose of the latter.   The glaciers were my tipping point, or I thought they would be. Besides eels and a world without Ryan Gosling, my biggest fear is life is being ill-prepared in snow, and then BAM, glacier in front of my already water logged feet. Hall went for it, gave me no time to freak out, Peter and Kate told me I could do it, I looked back at Obi who was smiling and telling me to go for it, and thus I began a 20 foot journey that changed me.   Let me say this, there was not one but THREE glaciers we had to walk across…ugh, NEWBEGIN!! Once I got across that first glacier, I felt totally kick ass. And, to be honest, I’ve been feeling totally kick ass ever since. I remember looking down and being fiercely pushed by wind in that direction at the same time, and feeling so clearheaded. I just did it. I was completely vulnerable and knew Mt. Hood was in control and I just respected that. Something about that moment of looking down and not being scared made me feel so connected to this journey we were on, I had no reason to feel like I couldn’t and wouldn’t be able to do whatever I wanted to from then on. It sounds kind of corny, but it was totally my moment.  I have to do some of the most absurd and challenging tasks just tackling my day to day life and work in New York City and now, everyday, I’m like, “psh! don’t worry guys, I’ve got this. I survived Gnarl Ridge.” -Kesler