Mount Hood has been on my list of peaks to climb for a while. The prime season for it is relatively short so every year keeps passing without attempting it. When my buddy wanted to hit a big mountain mid-week before he leaves for Colorado f or the summer, I knew this was my chance. We headed out Wednesday afternoon with the forecast predicting thunderstorms that night. Sure enough, when we got to Portland the rain started as we stopped at Subway for dinner. There were dark clouds looming over the mountain to the east of us.
We headed up in heavy rain, and the moment we made the turn off towards Timberline Lodge, the rain ceased and the skies were clear. I think it was a good omen. The three of us crashed in the seats of my little car in the parking lot at around 10pm, with alarms set for 1230am. After probably only an hour of restless sleep, the alarm went off and we woke up to a full moon and mild temperatures.
The route starts up behind Timberline lodge, roughly following the Palmer chairlift. We couldn’t find the designated climber’s trail in the dark but we just followed our bearing in the direction we needed. It was bright enough that we didn’t even need headlamps. Before we knew it, we passed the warming hut (locked) and the end of the chairlift. It started to get icy and windy here, so on came the crampons and the extra jacket.
Just as we neared the crater, the sun came up and we could see the shadow of the mountain over the valley. We could also see other volcanoes in the distance: South Sister, Mount Jefferson and Mount Bachelor. There was one other solo climber, and another group of three, plus a skier coming up behind us. We had seen two headlamps high on the mountain earlier. This equaled a total of 7 other climbers we’d see that day, pretty unusual for the second most climbed glaciated peak in the world! I guess the mid week day and the thunderstorm forecast scared everyone away.
Once we came around Crater Rock, we could smell the fumes from Devil’s Kitchen, and we got our view of the final 1000 feet of climbing: the Hogsback ridge and the ice cliffs below the summit. This was where I started to feel the altitude and my lack of fitness, and my energy really started to drain. Slowly but surely I made my way up the ridge. It made me feel a little better that the team in front of us was moving even slower.
From the top of the Hogsback there are two options, the Old Chute or the Pearly Gates. The choice depends on current conditions and personal preference. Both route were in right now. There is often a bergshrund here (a big crevasse that opens at the base of the rocks). Today it was still nicely filled in, so we chose the direct route to the Pearly Gates. The Gates are a steep chute filled with 40-50 degree alpine ice. Beautiful rime ice covers the wall, which can be treacherous for ice fall when the temps get too warm. Wear your helmet! We cut some steps for easier travel, but did not need a rope or technical tools. The section is pretty short and then it opens up and we were only a few steps from the summit!
It was cold and windy up top, but beautiful and clear with no clouds to be seen. Another storm was predicted to come at noon. We got to the summit around 9am, happy and pretty tired (at least I was!).
The way down we retraced our steps. We decided to protect our downclimb in the Pearly Gates with the rope and pro that we had brought and not used. It was good practice and extra security. My friend was brave enough to clean in and free climb down. The rest of the descent was HOT and the snow was slushy, but the stormy weather did not materialize. What a great day with good friends and no crowds!
Elevation Gain: 5300′
Distance: 8 Miles
Note: Mount Hood is a dangerous mountain and should be approached only with the proper training and skills. Due to it’s easy access, many amateur and unprepared people attempt this mountain every year. It claims lives almost annually. Please respect the mountain and approach it with the proper experience.