Which Portland Newspaper Magnate Climbed Mt Hood First?

Portland’s most awkward collegial dispute ever rages on, more than 150 years later: who conquered the mountain?

By Rick Conrad November 23, 2015 Published in the December 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

Image: Shutterstock

Portland’s most awkward collegial dispute ever rages on, more than 150 years later: who conquered Hood? In 1854, Thomas Dryer, the Oregonian’s combative founder, proclaimed that he led the first Euro-American expedition up the peak known to Native tribes as Wy’East. Three years later, a team led by Henry Pittock—the paper’s managing editor and future owner—laid claim. Which explorer breathed rare air, and who spoke damnable lies?

“Captain [Travaillot] found the blood starting from the surface and was also attacked with a like dizziness, when he prudently declined going farther....” —Thomas Dryer

... if Mr. Dryer ascended to this point, why does he so misrepresent it? ... With regard to your bar-room slang and poetical blackguardism, Mr. Dryer, your character in that line has been so long established that your effusions have become an old song
without effect.”
—James Deardorff*

1215 dryer peoqa8


Readers in ’54 devoured the O editor’s gripping account. Problem: he claimed to see the Rockies from the summit (you can’t). And that tale of blood oozing from one climber’s pores? Cool story, bro, but medically unlikely. Some think Dryer’s climb ended a few hundred yards short.

( Dryer ultimately had to give Pittock ownership of the paper to pay off back wages owed. )


1215 pittock t14qja


Pittock stated that his own team first conquered the uppermost point of the peak. Pittock’s description of the Devil’s Kitchen region, the large fumarole, the summit ridge, and the view of two lakes north of the mountain—all landmarks and experiences that subsequent alpinists could verify—helped bolster his claim.

 ( *This calumny appeared in the rival Democratic Standard, written by Pittock expedition member Deardorff. )

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