South Side (Hogsback)

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 45.37360°N / 121.6925°W
Additional Information Route Type: Snow Climb/Hike
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Difficulty: 45° Snow Climb
Sign the Climber's Log


Take 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 Description

This 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.

Route Changes

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 Gear

Ice 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 Stats

Length: 8 miles
Elevation Gain: 5300 feet
Average round trip time: About 9 hours

Route Dangers

There 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.

Other Climbers:
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.


The 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:

2001 Accident
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.

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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tbnelson - Apr 3, 2002 8:44 pm - Hasn't voted

Route Comment


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.

skicavs - Jul 29, 2005 9:09 am - Hasn't voted

Route Comment

Slow groups do not pose the only problem at the Pearly Gates. Quite often there will be dangerously ill-prepared climbers, no ice-ax, no crampons going either way on this path and they are at an extremely high risk of slipping and falling, likely right into you or your group. Here is one of these geniuses I speak of.

sendintheclowns - Jun 27, 2016 4:00 pm - Hasn't voted

Start Early, Bring a Helmet

I climbed this route in late June via the "Old Chute" variation. I was very surprised by how steep, exposed, and prolonged the steep climbing was. We started at 1:30am and were out of the Chute right about the time the sun cleared the headwall, meaning we/the chute had been in shade up until that point. By the time we got to the summit, enjoyed it for about 20 min, and came back, the snow was slushy and kicking in steps on the 45ish degree slope began to get dicey. It would have been worse even later in the day. Also, things started melting and falling off the mountain. Especially on the Old Chute variation it seemed like there were chunks of ice/rocks breaking off every couple minutes and you are directly in the fall line. Combine that with the fact that on busy days, you might be ascending/descending at a pace dictated by other climbers, things can get dicey. I was hit by ice several times. With that said, start early (in late season, absolutely before 2am, I wish we had started before 1), and bring a helmet. you will be down climbing the chute backwards with the top of your head facing the direction of softball sized chunks of ice whizzing down at 70 mph. Sounds obvious, but many climbers didnt have helmets.

keitasakon - Jun 30, 2020 4:03 pm - Hasn't voted

late june climb

climbed/summited on June 27th. It was probably the latest in the season that I've climbed but snow pack was OK, snow all the way down to parking lot still. it was a windy day blowing 20-40mph all day, perhaps that's why there were probably no more than 20 or so people climbing that day despite being on saturday. we left the climbers registration at 2:20 AM, and appeared to be the LAST group going up. Surprisingly, there was no bergschrund. We went straight up Hogsback then right to Pearly Gates. There were couple of groups coming down above the Pearly Gates but no one on the summit. We then traversed west to Old Crater, which by that time was in the sun, and as we descended the Old Crater I noticed a tiny crack where Schrund would usually be at, but it was about 30 feet in horizontal width, and the crack was merely inches wide, so it was very hard to see from Hogsback as it was on the downsloping side on climber's left. overall, it was a pleasant climb despite the wind.

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