Bennett Gets Mt. Hood Height Record Of 8500 Feet With Henderson

From the September 1924 issue of Motorcyclist magazine

Coincident with the first airplane trip to be made over Mt. Hood’s eternal snows, and during the annual climb to the summit made by the Hood River, (Ore.) Post of the American Legion, Wells Bennett, riding his Henderson, sought to be the first motorcycle rider to do likewise.

The airplanes were successful in their hazardous undertaking; a great many of the hundred or so foot-climbers succeeded in reaching the top; but the motorcycle? Consult the pictures! While several attempts have been made to approach the pinnacle of this popular mountain from the south side, via motorcycle (all of which have failed, by the way) Bennett is the only rider thus far, whose confidence in himself and his mount was sufficiently great to lead him to attempt to negotiate the North side.

The character of the slope on this side is such that, any attempt to run a two-wheeler over its surface for any distance at all is a large sized job, while to attain the summit of Cooper Spur, an elevation of 8500 feet, as Bennett did with his Henderson, is nothing short of a stupendous achievement, calling for the utmost from man and machine.

Preparations for the climb were under way three days before the date set for the Legion climb, special attachments having been fitted to the motor to permit the use of a rope during the last few hundred feet of the climb, which is over solid rock and ice and is nearly perpendicular. Originally, it was intended to fasten the 700-foot length of rope up above and, to bring the lower end down over a pulley placed over the handlebars, thence back under the saddle and wrapped once around the special rear wheel, which was constructed like the drum on a windlass.

A prolonged siege of hot weather several weeks prior to the climb, melted most of the snow off the glaciers, however, and made it necessary to abandon this plan and to put the motor as high as it could be run under its own power. Assisting Bennett in this work were Joe Walker, Ard Pratt and Roy Jones. It was the duty of these boys to clear some semblance of a trail and to assist in keeping the machine from rolling back down in case the motor stalled. Great credit is due them and Bennett accredits much of the success of his climb to their untiring efforts.

A single example will serve to illustrate this. On Sunday morning, after getting within a short distance of the top of Cooper Spur, Bennett sheared an engine sprocket key while tearing over a particularly mean stretch of rocks. A search failed to produce a duplicate of the special design necessary for the particular sprocket and the boys finally devised a key from the tang of a file. This lacked the necessary strength for the rugged work it was called upon to do and, Walker finally volunteered to make the long trip down to Homestead Inn to get another key. It is doubtful if those who never have tried mountain climbing can appreciate just what that arduous task amounted to. There are any number of persons who find their strength insufficient to climb Cooper Spur from Homestead, even after a good night’s rest and, yet, Walker , after working all morning in the rarified atmosphere where every movement is an effort, immediately hot-footed it down and up again in the heat of a noonday sun! The Fox News cameraman still was waiting when he got back with the key.

To enable the cameraman to secure some special pictures which he was anxious to get, the machine was taken over the side of Cooper Spur to the Newton-Clark Glacier, where several shots were taken on the snow and ice. Those who are fortunate enough to see the news reel in which these pictures are shown, will receive a forceful idea of the whole undertaking. Looming in the background and not far distant is the summit of Hood, partly swathed in clouds and certainly looking mild enough to the casual glance. An excellent idea of the proximity of the peak to Cooper Spur can be obtained also from the pictures accompanying this article.

Following the shooting of the pictures the motor was again run up on Cooper Spur and, thence back down and over Elliott Glacier to the American Legion Camp, where the party enjoyed a hearty meal as the guests of the Legion. From here the machine was ridden down the mountain, via Cloud Cap Inn and Toll Gate and driven to Portland under its own power. The machine still was in excellent condition upon its arrival at the agency and showed no effects of its rigorous journey, beyond a few exterior bruises from rocks and ice.

The performance of the DeLuxe drew forth much admiring comment from the foot-climbers who witnessed the feat. Bennett was delighted with the perfect performance of the motor and Zenith carburetor which, he stated, at no time failed to produce a perfect mixture, even under the trying conditions of the high altitude and the extreme limits of power which the motor was called upon to deliver at all times. With the exception of the special wheels and rigging attached to the frame, in contemplation of the last stages of the ascent and, which were not used, the motor was stock in every particular and is the same motor which Bennett uses in his everyday riding.

“This climb certainly has opened my eyes to the great advances made in motorcycle engineering within the past few years,” said Bennett, reflecting perhaps on those early hillclimbs when every easy grade called for “some slight pedal assistance,” and perfect carburetion was but a hazy dream in the minds of engineers. “This is the same motor which we ‘trapped’ at 100 miles an hour and, if these two extremes in the test of a motorcycle fail to demonstrate its ruggedness and absolute reliability, I wish they’d spring a new one on me and I’ll try that.”

Bennett and his Henderson at the top of Cooper Spur, with summit of Mt. Hood in the background
Bennett amid eternal snows at the edge of Elliott Glacier