Intro/StatsMt Hood, OR (11239')- highest point in Oregon
May 25-26, 2007
Lower 48 Prominence Rank- 11
7 miles RT, 5320' gain
via South slopes/Old Chute route
Participants: John and Renata Collard, Chuck and Janice Bickes, Dave and Chris Covill, Rob Cobb, Nickie Kelly, and Kevin Baker
With my state highpoint quest now coming down to the harder ones except for MN, I figured it was high time to climb mighty Hood. My relatives weren't exactly excited when hearing I was doing this given all the recent accidents and near misses that have occurred on Hood. With good weather and snow conditions though, Hood is a pretty straightforward climb via the easier routes on the south slopes.
My friend Dave Covill told me he would be taking his son up Hood sometime in May, so I decided to hook up with him since he had already been up it twice before. John and Renata Collard also joined us along with highpointer Chuck Bickes, his wife, Rob Cobb, and another woman whose name escapes me.
Dave's gang decided to ride the ski lifts to around 8800' and camp above the Palmer Lift. John and Renata would hike up the snowcat tracks, while I would follow by myself later in the day Friday as I was coming from Sea-Tac airport. We didn't make the greatest time through Portland on the way to Hood, but I still had plenty of time to get to camp before dark.
After registering at the backcountry office below Timberline Lodge and picking up a blue bag, I got my huge load of gear organized. I was prepared for the worst, so my pack weighed around 40-45 pounds for up to two nights on the mountain. I still don't have light backpacking down yet! This was going to be a grunt to camp because it was 3300' vertical in a little over 2 miles on soft snow.
The Slog to CampMy wife wished me luck and I was off at 4:05pm with a temp of 53 degrees. As expected, the snow was pretty mushy but was solid enough to keep me from postholing. I followed the climbers trail on snowcat tracks on the east side of the ski runs. The snowcat tracks were uneven and hard to walk over with the heavy pack, so I walked on patches of dry ground where possible as things were more efficient that way. I met a few climbers coming down, who looked like they had a long day. I was the only one going up, so it was cool having the mountain to myself other than occassional snowcat humming by grooming the slopes.
Video from top of Palmer Lift
When I ran out of dry ground, I traversed accross the firmer ski runs to the Palmer Lift and followed it to its terminus.
I followed boot tracks above the lift to a patch of bare rock, and when I crested it Dave was there to take the load off my back. I made it to camp around 6:40 at 9200'. John and Renata had a spot for me and I hastily set it up with the help of others. I didn't stake it down too well, but the forecast looked pretty good so I wasn't too worried about it. We met at Dave's tent to discuss our plans and decided to go with two rope teams of 5 and 4 with a start time of 3:45am.
To the Roof of OregonIt was a bit breezy and I didn't sleep much, but I wasn't too worried about it since we only had 2K' vertical to go. We didn't set off until 4:15am and it was quite mild with a temp of 36 and partly cloudy skies. We set a slow, steady pace to keep our large group together, heading up to a prominent bench at about 10100' near a giant fumerole. We put our crampons and harnesses on here as things would be pretty steep from here on out.
There were quite a few other parties on the route as expected on a holiday weekend, but not as bad as I feared. The next section is a mellow climb to the base of the Hogsback, a prominent ridge of snow that leads to the Pearly Gates.
We couldn't see too much of the upper route as early morning clouds were yet to burn off, but it looked like a conga line of climbers was backing up below the Hogsback. We had decided before the climb to take the old chute route to the left, which has now become the standard route on Hood as the Pearly Gates has turned into a steeper, icier climb due to the Hogsback shifting to climber's left.
We took another break at the Hogsback. The stench of the mountain was really potent as fumeroles were close by. You could see steam rising up, reminding us that this is indeed an active volcano! About 2/3 of the way up the Hogsback we broke to climber's left to begin the ascending traverse to the old chute as St Peter told us the Pearly Gates were full so head wide left. Here we began to run into climbers coming down and reporting good conditions, so that was encouraging. The snow was pretty firm, but soft enough to help with self arrest in the event of a fall. I didn't feel like I was going far if I fell, but I can see this section being very intimidating when icy as there is a huge fumerole below!
We did experience a few small pieces of ice coming down from the cliffs or climbers above from time to time. I put my sunglasses on in case I got hit in the eye because you really couldn't see it coming. As we were about to enter the chute, we all decided to go unroped to the top as everyone was comfortable with arresting in the excellent snow conditions.
John led the way up a firm staircase set by previous climbers and we topped out on the exhilirating west ridge. The clouds conveniently began to burn as we crested the ridge. There was a small cornice on this small saddle, so stay off the edge! From here, it's only about 400 ft horizontal to the summit, but there is a brief narrow section that will get your attention. The ridge narrows quite a bit for a short stretch, but there was a nice little sidewalk of snow from the traffic, so it wasn't too bad. A fall here would be bad news though. After clearing this, the true summit popped into view and a gentle stroll later we were there, topping out at 7:45.
Not bad for a large group! There were quite a few others on top, many coming up the Pearly Gates route. We could see Rainier, Adams, St Helens, Jefferson, and the 3 Sisters in the distance, although it was a bit hazy.
The DescentAfter many pics and kudos, we roped up for the descent. If I was to do this climb again in the same conditions, I would have done it unroped up and down as the chute never got steeper than 40-45 degrees. We left the summit at 8:25 and slowly made our way down the ridge. Things were pretty slow with two large rope teams and I got to stand on the narrow section for about 5 minutes straight! This is not a place to be when it's windy! Some of us faced in on the steeper part of the chute, but the snow had softened enough that I felt real comfortable facing out.
We slowly but safely made our way back down to the Hogsback, although we got a little annoyed with some skiers who were sluffing off chunks of ice with their hard turns. The views going down were incredible as the day kept getting better. Hood is such a beautiful mountain.
We unroped and delayered at the bench as it was really getting warm. From here, we enjoyed a sweet 900' glissade all the way down to near our camp. I called my wife to let her know that all was well at camp and we leisurely packed up. Dave's group headed down a little earlier to catch the lift and John, Renata, and I headed down the ski runs and caught a few more glissades. The snow really softened up, but the plunge stepping wasn't bad at all, nowhere near as bad as postholing in Colorado! Apparently they add salt to the snow on the ski runs so that it stays consolidated longer. It sure is easier to walk through than Colorado snow! I arrived back at Timberline Lodge at 1:20pm where the tourists were out in full force.
I would rate Hood as my 2nd favorite state highpoint so far behind Rainier, but if I were to do it again I would pick another route to avoid the crowds and dayhike it. Hefting the pack up such a short albeit steep distance wasn't worth it. We were blessed to have a nearly perfect conditions on an unforgiving mountain. Awesome place!