Climbing Mount Hood, Oregon

Finally, the long-anticipated nice weather came to Mount Hood on Friday morning. My friends Matt, Al, and I were able to get the day off to climb the mountain. This was Al and my first summit attempt of Mount Hood (I had previously been as high as the hogsback earlier this year). Matt is veteran mountaineer with six or seven successful Mount Hood climbs under his belt. We all met in Portland around 11:30 PM Thursday night to carpool to Timberline Lodge. We were going to climb the popular South route through the old chute to the summit. The forecast called for clearing skies after a few inches of new snow had fallen Thursday. The roads were fine until just before the lodge parking lot. Wind had created drifts of snow about six inches deep causing a couple cars in front of us to get stuck and block the way. We helped the car in front of us get going and after putting on chains, we finally made it to the packing lot.

Mount Hood South Route Elevation Profile

The temperature was about 15°F with light winds. We had seen rain and snow on the drive up, but the mountain was completely free of clouds when we arrived. We could make out the entire mountain just from the moon and starlight. After getting all our gear on and checking in at the 'Climbers Cave', we began our climb at about 1:40 AM. It is a little over three miles to the summit with over 5,000 feet of elevation gain. We were hoping to make it shortly after sunrise.

We decided against snowshoes to save weight, figuring the small amount of new snow wouldn't be a problem. Unfortunately this was an incorrect assumption. Wind had created snowdrifts 1-2 feet deep, slowing our progress at times. Luckily, it was not this way the whole route. We followed the snow cat tracks along the lift lines to the top of Palmer. At this point the snow was pretty consolidated and icy. After a few slips, we put on crampons and swapped our trekking poles for ice axes. Thanks to SMC, I had the opportunity to try out their Capra ice axe, which performed flawlessly.

As we approached the hogsback, the snow became deep again and the temperature dipped into the single digits. Fortunately, there were a few climbers ahead of us who had started a trail with snowshoes. We post-holed our way up to the hogsback just as it was getting light. After a short rest, we put our helmets on and started climbing up the old chute. Matt was gracious enough to lead the way making it easier for Al and I. We were able to turn around and see Mount Hood cast a shadow over the valley below as the sun was rising.

Mount Hood Shadow at Sunrise from Above the Hogsback     Mount Hood Summit Ridge

Soon we were atop the summit ridge. The wind had thankfully been calm until we hit the ridge. A short distance more and we made it to the summit. The sun was out, greeting us with its radiant warmth. I felt such an accomplishment making it to the summit. The views were breathtaking and worth every effort to achieve. There were barely any clouds in sight and we could see for miles in every direction. We saw the Columbia River Gorge to the North along with Mt St. Helens and Mt. Adams. To the South, we saw Mt. Jefferson and Three Sisters.

Matt and Al on Summit Ridge - Mount Hood, Oregon     View of Mt Jefferson and Timberline Ski Area from Summit of Mount Hood

We were the first ones to the summit Friday morning. It was about 8:00 AM when we arrived. We removed our packs off and took in the scenery for about 20 minutes. As other climbers made it to the summit, we decided it was time to head back down.

View of North Side of Mount Hood Looking Down from the Summit     View of Lakes and Mt St. Helens to the Right
Looking Down at Timberline Ski Resort     Matt, Al, & Jason on the Summit of Mount Hood
Mount Hood Summit Ridge     Jason on Summit of Mount Hood

Because it had been dark on our climb up, we were afforded many more photo opportunities on the climb down. It was neat watching other climbers make their way to the summit. We down-climbed face-in on the steep slopes. I quickly learned not to look up when other climbers would yell, "ICE!". It was a common occurrence climbing down to hear and see pieces of ice flying by. Fortunately none came close enough to hit us, but I was thankful to be wearing a helmet just in case.

Looking Down at Crater Rock     Rime Snow on Mount Hood
Looking Back up our Route to the Summit     Upper Slope of Old Chute Route
Looking to the East from Old Chute     Another Climber Traversing off the Hogsback
Fumaroles on North Side of Crater Rock     Mt Jefferson

Back at the hogsback, we took a longer break basking in the sun. We put sunscreen on and enjoyed a few snacks to re-energize. While resting I noticed a raven land on top of Crater Rock. He was probably hoping one of us would drop a few scraps.

Raven on Top of Crater Rock     Old Chute to the Left and Hogsback to the Right

By the time we left the hogsback, the trail had become more packed and quicker to travel. We were soon back down to the elevation of Illumination Rock. The snow was softening up and made plunge stepping possible. We began descending more quickly.

Steel Cliffs     Illumination Rock

Back down at the top of the Palmer chair lift, we took off our crampons. Now it was time for a little fun. We still had 2,500 feet of elevation to lose. I took out my glissade diaper sled and prepared to zip down the mountain the rest of the way. As soon as I lifted up my feet, I took off down the slope. It was exhilarating, yet wet and cold at the same time. Snow was flying all over me as I continued my glissade down the Palmer Glacier. I finally figured out what to do with my feet to reduce the amount of snow flying in my face and steer a little bit. I had soon lost 1,500 feet of elevation as I neared the Magic Mile chairlift. The terrain was not as step here and I ended up walking in between short glissades. In no time at all, I was back at Timberline Lodge around 11:40 AM. Matt and Al didn't have sleds, so they walked back and we met at the car.

After I removed my boots I realized my toes were blue. That explained why I couldn't feel anything. I had been wearing expedition weight socks over liner socks like I normally do. Unfortunately my outer socks slipped and were bunched up around my toes. I believe this reduced circulation around my toes leading to frost bite. Lesson learned. No more liner socks and possibly better insulated boots on my next winter climb.

Minor Frostbite

Before heading home we enjoyed brunch at Timberline Lodge. It was a great way to celebrate our climb and end the morning.


Tyler, Thu, 04/28/2011 - 08:34

Those are some great pictures! Looks like a fun time. At ~10 hours, how strenuous of a pace was your group setting? How experienced of a hiker/climber must one be to summit Hood?

jloomis, Thu, 04/28/2011 - 09:08

Thanks Tyler. Our pace was slower than we hoped due to deep patches of snow from the day before. Our goal was 1,000 vertical feet per hour on our our ascent to the hogsback, and we did a pretty good job of meeting it. After that it gets steeper and the going slower. We also took fairly long breaks at the hogsback (up and on the way back) and summit. When we started there were a couple groups ahead of us, but we ended up catching up to them at the hogsback.

The south route up Mount Hood through the old chute is not overly technical, but the conditions are constantly changing. As such, one should be an experienced hiker especially in snow conditions. Gear is also important (helmet, crampons, ice axe, compass, etc.). It is important to have familiarity with crampon use and especially ice axe use. I would not recommend a beginning group go up without an experienced member. Coming down can get tricky if the clouds come in and reduce visibility. The natural fall line is Southwest which is the wrong direction to head back. This is where a compass and GPS become necessities.

david t van ham, Wed, 02/21/2018 - 10:28

How did your frostbite recovery go? And did you need to seek medical attention? Or did it clear up with rest? What was the recovery time? Thanks

jloomis, Thu, 02/22/2018 - 22:15

See my post with pictures and full details on my frostbite recovery.


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