ApproachTake US Highway 26 (US-26) towards Government Camp, turning north at the well-signed Timberline Lodge access road about a half-mile east of Government Camp. Follow this well paved road north 5 miles to the Timberline Lodge where year-round skiing and snowboarding (and restaurants) are available. In Portland, you can connect with US-26 East towards Government Camp on I-5 or I-205.
Route DescriptionThis route is also known by the name "Hogsback".
Start at the Timberline Lodge (5800 ft) and walk up on the right (east) side of the ski trails (there should be a special trail for climbers). Climb two miles to the top of the ski lift (8,600 ft), passing the Silcox Hut (7000 ft). At the top of the lift, head up the ridge toward Crater Rock. Go into the crater and pass Crater Rock on the right (east) side, staying to the left side of Devils Kitchen and Steel Cliff. Once past Crater Rock, take the snow ridge (known as Hogback, at 10,600 ft) up to the bergshrund. If you can't cross the bergshrund on a snowbridge, head around either side. From here, head up the snow chutes to the summit, taking the gully between the rock towers (Pearly Gates). The largest rockfall danger here is on the right (east) side of bergshrund (which is the route most people take) and before the Pearly Gates. You can get caught behind slow parties in the Pearly Gates, so as an alternative, you can head to the west side of the mountain after climbing the hogback, and eventually get to a snowfield you can hike up. Soon you will hit the summit ridge that you head east on until you reach the summit. This variation is longer, but might involve less waiting and is considered safer from rockfall.
Descent (this addition courtesy of tbnelson)
Descend via the climbing route. It is essential that climbers know how to descend the mountain in poor weather. A frequent mistake is to follow the fall line which will lead the climber to the cliffs of Zigzag canyon. If caught in poor weather descend from the summit along the Hogsback to the left of Crater Rock, and then follow the magnetic south bearing which should take the climber near the top of the Palmer lift.
Since this route is on snow it sees changes from year-to-year. Some years the snow if more plentiful that others and the bergshrund can become less of an obstacle. Other years can allow ice to form in the Pearly Gates and cause that section of the route to become more exposed and might even require ice tools to ascend.
I've also been told that the Hogsback can shift left or right from year-to-year, which can cause it to be steeper (if it shifts left). Here is an example from tazz displaying this phenomenon:
Always check the Forest Service's conditions web site for the latest info:
Essential GearIce axe and crampons are essential. A headlamp is essential because most people start this route in darkness. Some people will want to rope up above the bergshrund. We even saw people being belayed through the Pearly Gates on descent. Take a helmet to protect yourself from falling rocks, ice, and other climber's water bottles :-).
Skis or a snowboard could be considered essential gear to some as you could burn down the groomed runs of the Timberline Ski area from 8600' down and save yourself some walking.
And then you've got your other essentials for winter weather hiking, like waterproof/breathable shell, gaiters, a down jacket, good gloves or mittens, etc...
Route StatsLength: 8 miles
Elevation Gain: 5300 feet
Average round trip time: About 9 hours
Route DangersThere are several dangers along this route. The major dangers are listed and discussed below.
During the spring/summer, rockfall is a danger on this route, but that danger is mitigated somewhat by getting an alpine start (starting anytime from midnight to about 2am). Starting early will help you get up and down the mountain before the sun comes out and the rockfall starts to occur. Likewise, in the winter and spring, icefall will start occuring when the sun comes out. Be sure to be prepared for this.
There are several areas where rockfall can occur. Some have reported rockfall and icefall on the slope below Crater Rock. The most common area to experience rockfall is just below the Pearly Gates, where rockfall debris is common sight during spring and summer. Get an alpine start to lower your chances of being on the mountain once it heats up and allows the ice and rock to start moving.
This route can get very crowded from about Memorial Day through June. This creates a whole new risk of other climbers slowing you down and potentially falling and sliding toward you. For instance, if a rope team above you slips above the bergshrund, then you might be entagled in the ropes and people and taken for a ride down the mountain with them. There isn't really a solution for this, but be prepared for that possibility.
AccidentsThe southside route has seen dozens of accidents throughout the years. In more recent years, these accidents have received a lot of media attention. Here are some examples below:
Summitposter John captured these images in an accident in which a climber fell on the southside route. Read his captions for information about the accident.
2002 Accident - The "Helicopter Accident"
This is the most famous accident on Mount Hood. Not only were several lives lost, but during the rescue attempt of those that fell into the bergshrund, a military helicopter crashed on the slopes of Mount Hood. See this CNN article for information, pictures, and even a video of the helicopter crash.
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