My family and I climbed Mt. Hood two days ago. It was a fantastic experience but one unfortunately tainted by tragedy. We have hiked extensively in the states and overseas, including Kilimanjaro, but this was our first true mountaineering experience. We hired Timberline Mountain Guides (who are excellent) and followed one of the traditional South Side routes up the Hogsback and through the Pearly Gates. While this route is undoubtedly easy for the experienced climber, it is a serious climb for the average person, requiring training, proper equipment, and a reputable guide.
On the day of our climb, the mountain was very icy due to a thaw the prior week and a sharp refreeze (common in the late spring). Four inches of new snow on the lower mountain the night we arrived did little to soften the conditions. Crampons were essential from the top of the Palmer Lift upwards and ice axes/ropes were needed starting on the Hogsback. The thought of anyone doing this without crampons is absurd, let alone in high heels, as legend would have it. We saw many climbers going solo without ropes but would advise against this for anyone but the most experienced. To underscore this point, a 32-year old climber slid to his death on the Hogsback the very day we climbed and only shortly after we descended. It sounds as if he was climbing without ropes and lost his footing. I recall thinking when descending the Hogsback that the slope was so steep and icy that an unrestrained slip could be fatal. Unfortunately, I was right.
Although we hired a guide service, had training, and used proper safety equipment, we still suffered a scare. Just a few minutes after crossing the Bergschrund, which was then just a hairline crack in the snow, we heard a thunderous roar and turned to see it open up into a gaping crevasse tens of yards long and several feet wide, almost swallowing the climber just behind us. Our guides expressed astonishment, one saying he had never seen that happen in the 14 years he had been guiding on the mountain. Rare but not unprecedented. After returning, we found a You Tube video reminding us of the 2002 accident in the Bergschrund that claimed the lives of 3 climbers, injured 9 others, and resulted in the crash of a Pave Hawk rescue helicopter.
My advice to prospective first time Hood climbers is not to be deterred by the risk, which is actually relatively low if you take proper precautions. Mt. Hood is a fantastic climb and a wonderful experience that is well worth the investment of time and money. The views are unparalleled both on the hike and from the top (where you can see Jefferson and the Twin Sisters to the South and St. Helens and Rainier to the North). It's a very strenuous but manageable climb if you are in reasonably good shape, with an altitude low enough that most climbers will not have a problem. That said, to fully enjoy the climb and, more importantly, stay out of trouble, you have to be smart. Hire a reputable guide service that provides training the day prior. Leave around or just past midnight to avoid rock and ice falls as the sun warms the mountain. (It was amazing how many people we saw just starting out as we finished up at 11:00 am. Really foolish.) And by all means, use proper equipment, including a fixed rope on the steepest sections. You should be mindful around the Bergschrund, but understand that what happened to us was apparently a freak occurrence, so very unlikely to cause any issues for most climbers.
Started at Timberline at 1 a.m.
Visibility low the first couple hours due to winds blowing new snow.
First light came when I was about 500' below Hogsback. By that time camera & cell phone died despite freshly charged batteries due to the cold. Luckily my GoPro soldiered the low temps.
Summited at 8:30 a.m. About a dozen people summited before me but I did have the summit to myself for about 10 minutes.
Pleasant descent; back to the car by 1:30. I am slow.
Attempted to skin up Hood with a few friends. Started at 3am from Timberline but due to weather we had to turn back at the top of Palmer. Snow was a lot on the crusty side.
03/31/2017 Via the Reid Headwall and down the South Side. Skied from Illumination Rock down w/ Thatcher S.
A friend of mine, Jon, invited me to climb Mount Hood by the standard South Side Route for the 4th of July. It was very icy going up Old Chute. This was the climb where I fell in love with Mount Hood and with mountain climbing.
easy climb up hood on a windy but nice day. hogsback did have a cool fairly steep section at top that required either down climbing on front points or rope.
Good weather, perfect snow conditions and no/low wind. Took the standard route and old chute. Lots of kids at ski camp on the way down.
Solo climb of the Hogsback/Pearly Gates route. Beautiful day, the climbing conditions were perfect, except for the crowds. But the number of people should be expected given how nice the weather was and that it was Memorial Day weekend.
I climbed Hood twice this year. The conditions and route were great in 2016. My second climb was a solo trip. But the definition of “solo” was seriously tested this day because of Memorial Day crowds and perfect weather. I think there must have been 100 en route to the summit. Luckily I was up there during a lull and only four other people were lounging around in the sun.
I started at 3am and was on the summit at 6:10am. I spent 11 minutes up there taking pictures and loving how small all the other hills and mountains look. After negotiating the crowds coming up through the Pearly Gates (both sides were open so that helped) and crossing the Bergschrund (see below), I was back at my car at 8:50am.
Today was a truly fun climb.
This was a fun one. Great start at resort. Nice use trail out to Pearly Gate. Steep snow with ice axe ascent. Summit not entirely clear but the whole mountain is very interesting. Cascades are really pretty, and give great views all around. Descended same route.
Summited via Pearly Gates, descended via the Old Chute. Wind and rain almost to the top of Palmer, clear from then on. Great conditions in the gates, beautiful day to summit! Only saw about a dozen other climbers or so. I left about 2:15am and summited just after 8am. Spent 30 min on top and made it back to Timberline in 3 hours. The warming temperatures really loosened things up on the way down. If I went again I would leave earlier knowing my pace.
Summited just before sunrise, and then stayed a few minutes while the sun came up. Four hours from car to summit, and another three hours to return. Perfect weather this day.
Ascended the "right chute". Lots of icefall and rockfall on the descent to the Hogsback.
Summitted with Timberline Mountain Guides. Cloudy all day.
Incredible day to summit Mt. Hood via the Old Chute. A logjam of people at the chute sent us through the steeper, narrower chute to the right on the ascent. Sketchy ice sent us back down the traditional route over the knife-edge at the top.
Couldn't have asked for better weather!
Quick climb via South Side/Pearly Gates route. Prime conditions at Pearly Gates, nice weather, great views.
Nice busy day on the mountain
A few things building up made this a slog-fest, so I turned around at the top of Palmer realizing although I could summit, I did not need to put myself in a hole one month before Rainier.
Be back this summer.
Link to some really crappy goPro footage of our trip:
Party of 3 setoff at 2am. Moonless night with a plethora of shooting stars. Weather was fantastic. Followed the cat track up to the end of the chair lift and put on crampons to continue up. Only one other group of 3 on the mountain. Pearly Gates had good conditions and was a blast. Spent some time on the summit and headed back down. Back at the car a little after 11am. What a fun mountain!