Myself and 3 others decided to climb Hood for the first time but wanted something more technical than that given by the South Side Route. The week prior, two of use went up the Cooper Spur to Tie In Rock to check out that route as well as the glacier for some mid-summer ice climbing. We found the Cooper Spur Route out due to the warm weather. The alternative: The Sunshine Route.
Our plan on this route was to bivy at 9700 ft. and finish off the next day. This route was a wonderful mix of steep snow, easy technical, route finding, and crevasse traversing. We left Cloud Cap Campground at noon on Saturday and headed up the Eliot’s south lateral moraine. The cairn to the trail that diagonals to the Eliot was easy to find. On we went to the Eliot where we roped up to cross in between the upper and lower ice fields. There were some small crevasses to cross in this relatively flat and unbroken area of the glacier. Once on the other side we decided to head straight up the side of the Snow Dome instead of meandering right to gain the ridge to ascend the dome. This increased the technical aspects of the climb. We crossed more than half a dozen crevasses up this slope. It was quite a site.
Now on the Snow Dome itself we stopped and spoke with some climbers from Texas who were ascending the same route. It was nice to speak with other fellow climbers instead of the non-prepared weekend picnickers playing on the moraine wearing cotton and leaving their water at the cars. We soon said our goodbyes and headed up. If I have not mention this earlier, the weather was phenomenal. The bluest sky and no wind. Not many times are you in the right place at the right time. We were golden. The higher we got the more consolidated the snow. Camp was set just under Anderson Rock. At 9pm we were settling into our snow trench filled with our bivy sacks and melting water and eating our freeze dried "Bag O' Food". The stars at night on Hood are quite a site to be seen. Truly there must be a God to create this kind of beauty. To sleep at midnight we decided to be up at three. This came pretty early.
Breaking camp was slow taking us 2 hours. Was 5am too late to summit? We decided to push on. We crossed the large bergschrund right of Anderson rock. This section is quite steep with 45 to 50 degree snow. Again we roped up and placed pickets, all six pickets, to cross back over left to ascend to Horseshoe rock. As we approached underneath this rock outcrop we encountered another bergschrund only this crevasse was twice the size. Icicles melting and refreezing hung from the top of the opening down into the black abyss. At the right of this opening is Cathedral Ridge, our goal for the summit. We decided to ascend straight up the pitch to the ridge. Another 45 degree slope to climb. Here we decided not to place pro due to the rough stair steps already created for us from previous souls looking for the same goal.
Once we gained Cathedral Ridge the snow turned to wind scoured ice. Pretty good for cramponning. Up and Up. One bulge and no summit. Another bulge and still no summit. Yet another and we could see our goal. We traversed across an ice and rock rib and high fived each other. We had made it. 10:30am. After pictures and some congrat’s we descended the South Side route. I could not believe the difference. There is a trail to the summit!? How nice would that have been? Well we wanted an adventure and got one.
We did see some rock fall coming down the South Side. A watermelon sized rock missed our team by 30 ft. That is close enough for me.
The conditions for this route were prime. It was not the same for the South Side descent. The South Side snow was getting pretty rotten and sloppy the farther down the mountain we went. Just past Crater Rock we found a glissade path. We can put that to work. We took several of these paths and were able to descend all the way to the top of the Palmer Ski Lift on our butts. Sweet!
I highly suggest this route to anyone wanting more of a challenge than the South Side can give. You may want to wait until next year.
As a note we did car shuttle for this trip. We left a car at the Timberline Lodge parking lot. Once we arrived there we drove back to pick up the other car at the Cloud Cap Campground. Also since we bivvied we carried our heavier overnight packs to the summit. Still this trip was worth it.