communion with ancients

A story of first ascents on the north face of Mount Hood.


8,800 – 9,000ft
Pyroclastic Heartbreak & Appointment in Samara
Grade III, WI4 R 
30 November 2019

For an ancient tribe, the world ended in fiery combat. Legend held that evil spirits lived inside the mountain. The sinister mass of Wyeast cast god-fear in its northern shadow. The angry spirits would intermittently throw stones wreathed in fire and smoke from the depths of the mountain onto the surrounding lands. The inhabitants had to scatter far and wide to escape the wrath of the spirits.

In those days the people grew tall as the trees. Giants of an ancient past. The tribe’s chief was the greatest among the monstrous clan. One night he was visited by the god’s in his sleep. A voice told him that in order to save his people he would have to destroy the evil spirits. He ascended the great peak, a lonely trip to the gaping crater at its summit.

The spirits raged up at him. The warrior chief hurled large stones down into the crater at them. In response the spirits bathed the stones in the mountain’s fire and hurled them back at the chief. They rose into the sky and landed far away. For days the battle raged on the summit of Mt Hood.

As the chief rested for a moment, he looked down upon the land. Terror bled through his mind as he gazed upon a land scorched, rivers dammed, forests demolished, animals fled and his people gone. The pyroclastic ruin broke the Chief’s heart. He fell to the ground and wept to death, buried in a torrent of the demonic spew.

Those of the people who survived eventually returned to the land. But the years of starvation stunted the growth of their children. They no longer grow to the size of their ancestors. This will remain until the prophetic rise of a chief great enough to defeat the demons of the mountain.

It is said that the face of the old chief can be seen on the north face of the mountain. A dark shadow profiles the fallen warrior’s head. The sorrow of his ghost is not diminished. But over the millennia his eyes have cried dry. Rarely, as winter sets in, the barren, frozen image awakes a crushing despair that brings a few tears to fall from his eyes and run down the face of the cirque below.

In most years the cirque is buried by November storms. But this year the chief wept and a dry cold visibly froze them to the wall with a small, dwindling window for access. Noah Kimmes’ discovered the flows in an aerial photo. We visited the lonely chief and climbed his frozen tears. The first human since the scourge to ascend the vertical paths to commune with the ancient giant.

First ascents in the Cirque of Tears:

Pyroclastic Heartbreak (WI4R 55m)

Appointment in Samara (WI4R 50m)

To the best of our knowledge these flows have never been climbed. We welcome any insight as to otherwise. Route names are derived from the native legend, “The Chief’s Face on Mount Hood,” as it is written in the 1953 publication, Indian Legends of the Pacific Northwest, by Ella E. Clark.