In the morning, I hit the road out of Portland about an hour before sunrise. After making a few stops for gas, snacks, and a sno-park permit for my car, I was in the timberline lodge parking lot by 8:00, suiting up for the trudge up Mt. Hood's south side. The first part of any climb from the south approach is just getting above the resort's upper ski areas. The lodge itself sits at 5960', but two lifts continue up the mountain from there, with the second topping out at 8540'. There were two ways to clear the ski area on this trip; paying to take a sno-cat ride up to the top of the Palmer glacier, or hiking up on foot in it's compressed tracks. Illumination saddle, at the base of the formation, tops out at about 9300', and although it is a nice glacial traverse to the west from the rest of the peaks (and the ski area), it would be impossible to justify knocking 2580' off a 3340' climb by hitching a ride up the mountain, so I chose to go by foot. It appeared that about half those on the mountain took the easy route, although most of them were just looking for access to the top of the ski area, and climbed no further.
When I finished eating, I unstrapped my ice axe, and began my own traverse across the glacier toward illumination rock. The first section was very slick indeed, and consisted of thick ice-coated rocks that were difficult to gain purchase on with my crampons or axe. Once over this rocky area however, the footing improved and I was able to move a bit faster. After a very short time, the topography settled into a more gradual slope and illumination rock came into full view in the distance. As I traversed this section, I experienced a few strong gusts of wind that came unexpectedly from the direction of the saddle. When the gusts came through, I drove my axe down hard, got low, and waited a moment for them to pass before proceeding. A good distance above me, another climber was also moving west toward the saddle. I observed him remove his pack for a moment to take a break when one of these gusts came through. It managed to dislodge some piece of his gear and sent it sliding down slope. I was far enough from the fall line to ever make out what it was, but its several thousand foot fall out of view served as a reminder of the consequences of losing traction on this icy surface.