Featured writer: Kevin Brown
I’ve had this idea floating around my head for a couple years now, it started as a simple thought and grew into a mild obsession placed atop my bucket list. The thought was this, “wouldn’t it be cool to see the sun rise from the summit of Mt. Hood and then the sun set on the ocean the same day?” The idea came about after my first climb on Mt. Hood, where, as is customary in alpine climbing, we started out around 2am. To the unfamiliar this might sound reckless and stupid, but in actuality it is much safer than climbing mid day when rock and ice are more likely to break free. On that particular day the sun came up just as we were getting up onto the hogsback (a prominent ridge line located near the summit), and I thought it would have been cool if we had made it all the way to the summit before the sun rose. Climbers regularly leave a few hours early in order to achieve such a feat, so I figured maybe next time I would give it a try. It wasn’t until months later that I had the idea of teaming this up with a sunset on the beach. I don’t honestly remember what made me think of it, but the seed was planted. It’s not really that there is anything special or challenging about driving two and half hours to the coast for a sunset after a climb, but it was more the principle of the idea. Here are two of the most beautiful locations you can possibly watch a sun rise or set from, and I could have the opportunity to get them both in one day. There are only a handful of places in the world where this would even be remotely possible, so why not do it.
I talked to my buddy Jay about the idea and he agreed it needed to happen, so we began planning. The feat of course would be heavily weather dependent, any cloud cover on either end and the effort would be all for not. It was due to this that several potential weekends for the trip got washed out. Our first real attempt came about a year and a half after my original Hood climb, but difficult snow conditions slowed our ascent and we made it to the summit about 45 minutes after the sun had already rose. Disappointed, we headed back down the mountain, the wheels were already turning for our next attempt. It wasn’t long after that first attempt we started getting more ambitious, and the plan began to change. Rather than driving to the beach we thought maybe we could drive to our home in Corvallis, OR, and then cycle the remaining 55 miles to the beach. Somehow it seemed more fitting to arrive at both locales by human power.
The months pasted and soon it was time for another attempt. We discussed our options and decided on giving the bike ride a shot, figuring if we were too exhausted to ride we could always just revert back to the original plan of driving. There was however, another idea Jay mentioned we that entertained briefly, that was riding all the way from Mt. Hood to the coast, 160 miles. We were tantalized by the thought, but deep down we knew 160 miles was too much, we couldn’t make it, not after climbing non-stop through the night. So we settled back to riding from Corvallis. The plan was to meet up at timberline lodge (we were coming from different locations), a few friends would be joining us for the climb, and then Jay and I would take my car down to Corvallis and start our bike ride there. To speed up our descent on the mountain and give us some more time for the ride we were brought downhill skis as well.
It wasn’t until I was halfway to Timberline lodge (our starting point), that yet another thought popped into my head, something we hadn’t considered yet. I was still enamored with the idea of riding from Mt. Hood, but what if we relayed it instead? Take shifts between riding the bike and driving alongside. It wasn’t exactly the same, but at least it would be a continuous human powered effort from the summit of Mt. Hood to the beach. I quickly became exited at this new prospect, but seeing as both of us were already on the road I thought surely there had to be some detail that would prevent it from happening, so I began running through every conceivable problem. 20 minutes later I had only come up with three: #1, Jay is about 4 inches shorter than me and I didn’t bring an allen wrench to adjust my bike, his was still in Corvallis. #2, I had forgotten to bring any kind of a spare tire kit, and Jay’s was with his bike. #3, Neither of us had seriously looked into any kind of a route from the mountain, we would have to completely wing it. Not bad, they all seemed pretty easy to overcome. Let’s do it.
We left the parking lot at 10pm on Friday May 11th, there would be no sleep this particular evening, we wanted to be completely sure we would make it to the summit by sunrise. Fortunately the climbing was smooth, the weather was perfect and snow conditions made for fast climbing. We made the summit at 4:15am, a full hour and fifteen minutes before sunrise, and settled in to wait it out. Luckily there wasn’t much of a breeze, and watching dawn slowly spread across the Columbia gorge/Willamette valley made the time pass quickly. So far everything had gone perfectly, and after a mesmerizing sunrise, we began the descent at 6am.
With our skis stashed about a thousand feet below the summit we had only to down climb the steepest pitch at the top before we were home free and flying down the mountain. We made it back to the car at 7:30 am, ahead of schedule and still with a full 13 hours before the sun would set on the ocean. I had the first leg on the bike, so I hurried to change clothes, get the bike ready, and get some calories down. Finally I pounded a couple cups of coffee, threw back a few aspirin (my knee was hurting), and took off down the hill just after 8am. Meanwhile Jay had to return our mountain locator unit, drive down to our first planned transition 30 miles down the road in the town of Sandy, and most importantly, find a set of Allen wrenches before I arrived. We decided to shoot for 60 minute pulls on the bike; however, when I arrived at our pre-scheduled transition point 80 minutes into the ride, Jay was nowhere to be found. I didn’t want to waste time waiting stationary, so I went to plan B and keep on pedaling down the road. Thus began a 20 minute game of phone tag with a (*cough cough*) directionally challenged partner. When we finally met up 130 minutes after I had started, I had already covered a downhill aided 55 miles, not exactly in accordance with the 60 minute plan, but then again, the plan was essentially being made up as we went.
The next few hours went exceptionally smooth, we made it through Portland and continued on towards our decided destination, the small town of Oceanside, which we picked based on a combination of distance away and amount of traffic on the route. We finally settled into our planned 60 minute pulls which provided ample time to stretch out, eat and drink as much as we could, and recover for the next ride.
By the time I hit the rolling hills marking the final 4 miles to our destination we were both pretty cooked. Neither of us had slept in 34 hours, and this was only my third bike ride in the last year. My back ached, my neck was locked in place, and my legs felt like dead weights, but at 4:15pm I rolled into Oceanside, 8 hours and 15 minutes after leaving Timberline lodge. The weather was gorgeous, and we immediately celebrated by running full sprint into the chilly waters of the pacific ocean. We still had 4 hours to sunset, and the remaining time was spent relaxing on the beach; determined not to take a nap in fear that we wouldn’t wake up for sunset. It had been almost a full 24 hours since we started our climb up Hood, but we had successfully completed what we set out to do. Check it of the bucket list.
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