Portland Mountain Rescue volunteers monitor a Mt. Hood fumarole for toxic gases. Photo by Jan-Erik Maas

The peak of the Mt. Hood climbing season is here, and conditions have been stellar. But anyone heading up for the summit this spring should be fully aware of the risks posed by falling rocks and ice, large crowds of fellow climbers, and several ominously positioned fumaroles containing toxic volcanic gases.

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Asit Rathod demonstrates how to shred Mount Hood from the summit, as the photographer below prepares to get buried by heavy snow.

When you are standing on a steep ridge at 11,000-plus feet with your tips over the edge and the green light to hit it first, you really only have one choice about what to do next.

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Sven Vanekeybus climbing the 2nd-to-last pitch before gaining Cathedral Ridge. Photo by Cameron Brown

Normally the Sunshine route up to the summit of Oregon’s tallest peak is a two day affair. Our plan was to climb it in a single day. We decided to rip off the band aid as usual. It hurt.

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Michael Getlin reaches the ridge above Devil's Kitchen Headwall. Photo by Carlos Martinez

I've been wanting to climb the Devil’s Kitchen Headwall ever since I saw some dude high up on Mount Hood disappear into a small couloir as nonchalantly as he might have waltzed into his neighborhood coffee shop.

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Barry Galvin, Chris Pew, Jarod Cogswell and Luke Bradford on Mount Hood. Photo by Asit Rathod

“Dude, take off your pants!”

I'm not sure how this became a substitution for 'Cheese' before taking a photo with Mr. Chris Pew but we sure laugh like little kids at it.

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Jarod Cogswell on Mount Hood. Photo by Richard Hallman

A few months ago, when I interviewed Mt. Hood rescue climber Jarod Cogswell about his new FIT Academy in Beaverton, he told me a harrowing story about spending the night on the summit of Mount Hood during brutal white-out blizzard in 2003.

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Asit Rathod on the summit of Mount Hood. Photo by Blake McCoy

"Let the music blast. We gon' do our dance. Bring the doubters on. They don't matter at all. Cause this life's too long and this love's too strong. So baby know for sure. That I'll never let you go." — Justin Bieber

Some secrets are hard to admit to, but… I love boy bands!!!!  Whenever I am feeling scared before dropping into a line or I'm feeling sad I throw in some cheesy boy-band tunes to calm me. The simplicity of the lyrics and poppy beats make me smile and I start dancing. It helps remind me that life isn't so serious. In those moments I hear the sarcastic voice of my brother Shane McConkey yelling over the radio: "Hey Indian guy!! Stop stalling!  Go down there and jump off something, damn it!"

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jet-forceI spied an interesting image in a recent issue of Backcountry magazine: Professional skier Nina Hance wearing both a Backcountry Access Float avalanche airbag backpack and a Black Diamond Equipment Avalung II artificial air pocket sling.

Although wearing both probably lessens risk of injury and death compared with wearing just one, the practice of doubling up has not been widely adopted. Wearing both an Avalung and airbag backpack is a bit laborious: travel in tight or technical terrain can be problematic with a larger, heavier pack — and donning and doffing both can be laborious.

Enter the new Black Diamond JetForce avalanche airbag backpack: it is inflated and deflated with a battery-powered fan, which may obviate the need for wearing both devices.

The JetForce works to prevent avalanche trauma and snow burial like all airbag backpacks. In addition, great potential exists to delay carbon dioxide displacement asphyxia by creating an artificial air pocket underneath the snow after an avalanche.

Trauma and Burial

Avalanche airbag backpacks have been around in Europe for about three decades. However, adoption in North America has been fraught with difficulties.

The packs are costly and heavy. The compressed gas canister has been cuffed with import regulations. U.S. airlines prohibit flying with full canisters: replacing and refilling canisters is costly and time consuming. Multi-day trips may obligate a backup canister in case of multiple deployments.

Avalanche airbag backpacks work by two mechanism. First, given the large volume of cushioning surrounding the head and neck, airbag backpacks help minimize trauma, which accounts for 25% of avalanche deaths.

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Chris Pew skis from the summit of Mount Hood. Photo by Asit Rathod

Broday Sunday Funday rolled right into Manic Monday, and firing up my phone I wondered what is it that we are looking for on Facebook, Instagram, or whatever is the next social media platform. How often do we really see something that is sincere? How about a post that doesn't make us feel like we were in high school? That feeling of insecurity, thinking everyone's life is so much cooler and happier than ours. I'm here to tell you all what you already know: It's all nonsense.

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Asit Rathod and Zach Carbo on the summit of Mount Hood

Editor’s Note: Asit Rathod has skied all seven major descents from the summit of Mount Hood: Wy’East Face, the Newton Clark Headwall, Cooper Spur, the Sunshine Route, the Sandy Glacier Headwall, Leuthold’s Couloir, and the South Side Route. He recently climbed to the summit and skied down for the 200th time.

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