Climbing Mt Hood Cooper Spur Route

After poor visibility sent us home 800 vertical feet shy of Mt Hood's 11,249' summit last Saturday, Matt and I decided to climb Hood again on Sunday. This time we chose the Cooper Spur route which starts from the Tilly Jane trailhead since there is still snow on Cloud Cap road (near Cooper Spur Ski Area). The route begins at around 3,800 feet elevation on Mt Hood's Northeast side and gains more than 7,000 vertical feet over about 5.8 miles to the summit. The route follows the Tilly Jane Ski Trail #643 to Tilly Jane Trail #600A to Cooper Spur #600B to about 8,500 feet in elevation. From here the route steepens and heads straight up to the summit. The upper slopes of this route are up to 50°. Our plan was to climb up one side and down the other, returning via the South route to Timberline Lodge (approx. 3.3 miles from Mt Hood's summit), where Matt's wife Kara would be waiting with another vehicle to drive us back to our starting point. This route totals a little over 9 miles.

Cooper Spur Route Elevation Profile

Matt met me at my house around 12:30 AM. After getting only a couple hours of sleep, we were on the road by 12:45 AM and arrived at the Tilly Jane SnoPark around 2:15 AM. There was a local sheriffs vehicle in the parking area. As we geared up the deputy milled around his vehicle just watching us. When we finally got out he came over and let us know there was a search and rescue operation going on. Apparently two out-of-town snowshoers became lost that evening, but they had a pretty good idea of where they were. Just as we started up the Tilly Jane trail at around 2:40 AM, a Gator equipped with tracks came down the Cloud Cap Road with the two missing snowshoers. We were happy to see them safe and sound. It is very easy to get turned around in the snow if you are not prepared.

We started off hiking in the dark under cloudy skies, no wind, and a temperature around 37°F. There was only a couple feet of snow at the trailhead, but it quickly became deeper as we gained elevation. The trail was well packed to the Tilly Jane A-Frame cabin where we arrived in about 1.5 hours. From there we followed faint tracks to timberline. The wind really started to pick up as we emerged from the cover of the trees. We bundled up with more clothing and balaclavas over our faces before climbing on. Shortly before coming to the Cooper Spur shelter, Matt spotted a headlamp in the distance. Just as we came upon the shelter, we caught up to two ski mountaineers who were headed down. They had decided to turn back due to the questionable weather. The wind was howling and it appeared the summit might get clouded over. As it was still dark, we decided it was too early to make a decision and proceeded onward.

Soon it became lighter as the sun began rising. The summit was in clear view with only a few clouds high above. There were some ominous clouds to the East and South, but they were headed away from Mt Hood. We decided to proceed and enjoyed one of the most beautiful pink sunrises I have ever seen on Mt Hood.

Sunrise on Mt Hood Cooper Spur Route (Photo by 'Water' aka Matt)     Sunrise on Northeast Side of Mt Hood (Photo by 'Water' aka Matt)
Jason Climbing Mt Hood at Sunrise (Photo by 'Water' aka Matt)     Cooper Spur (~8,500') on Mt Hood Looking East

We took a break at what is know as the "Tie-In Rock" on the Cooper Spur Plateau at about 8,500' elevation. This large rock affords some protection from the wind which was a nice break. The temperature was in the mid 20's F and it didn't feel that cold out of the wind. We had nice views to our left of Broken Top, Three Sisters, and Mt Jefferson. To our right we could see Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier, and Mt Adams.

Broken Top, Three Sisters, and Mt Jefferson (left to right)     Mt Hood from 'Tie-In Rock' on Cooper Spur Route
Mt Hood and Eliot Glacier (right)     Matt with Three Sisters and Mt Jefferson in the Background

After our break at the "Tie-In Rock" our climb really started. Armed with ice axes and crampons, we climbed up the steepening slope toward the summit. The wind died down with only occasional gusts that set spindrift and small rock and ice chunks our way.

Upper Part of Mt Hood     Jason Climbing Mt Hood with Mt Rainier and Mt Adams in the Background (Photo by 'Water' aka Matt)
Mt Rainier and Mt Adams from NE Slopes of Mt Hood     Looking Down Cooper Spur Route
Jason Climbing as Spindrift is Blown Down Mt Hood (Photo by 'Water' aka Matt)     Ninja Matt with Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier, and Mt Adams in the Background

The weather continued to improve with mostly blue sky over Mt Hood. As the slope became steeper (around 50° at its steepest) and the summit closer, our pace slowed. It had been awhile since I last climbed steep snow and I had forgotten how much work it is. I am sure the elevation doesn't help either. The views were breathtaking the whole way. We stopped periodically to capture photos and take a quick rest (if you call hanging onto the side of a mountain rest!).

Clearing Sky Over Mt Hood Summit     Steepening Slope of Cooper Spur Route
Jason Climbing Steep Upper Slope of Cooper Spur Route     Steep 50° Slope on Mt Hood

As the summit drew nearer, so did the weather. At first it was sun that softened the slopes, but then it was clouds that crept over Mt Hood. Just as we summited the wind started howling again and we were greeted by snow blowing from above. We met another pair of climbers and took turns taking photos. It took us about 7.5 hours to reach the summit, but due to the weather we quickly descended after only a few minutes on top.

Matt Getting Closer to Mt Hood's 11,249' Summit     Jason About Ready to Climb Over a Lip onto the Summit Ridge (Photo by 'Water' aka Matt)
Mt Hood Summit     Jason and Matt on Summit (Photo by 'Water' aka Matt)

We descended down the "Old Chute" on the South side of Mt Hood. The wind died down and the snow was soft, which made plunge stepping our way to the Hogsback very quick. We met several other of groups climbers on our way down and at the Hogsback where we stopped to have a snack.

Jason Walking Along Mt Hood Summit Ridge (Photo by 'Water' aka Matt)     Hogsback and Crater Rock Looking South
Old Chute and Hogsback     Hogsback Below Summit on Mt Hood's South Side

After our rest we continued climbing down, stopping to look back as the summit disappeared into the clouds. Our timing was perfect unlike last weekend. We quickly descended down the Palmer Glacier where I took a slight detour to say hi to a couple buddies from work who were skiing. After running down the mountain and only tripping once, I almost caught up to Matt at the Timberline Lodge parking lot just before 1 PM. It was a great day and fantastic - albeit long - climb.

Mt Hood Summit Masked by Clouds     Looking South Towards Timberline Ski Area

After munching down a few more snacks and changing clothes, Matt and I met up with his wife and her friend for a few hours of downhill skiing at Timberline Ski Area. The snow was still good on Magic Mile, but was pretty wet and sticky down lower on the mountain where temperatures were in the mid 30's F. What a great way to finish the day. My Spring ski pass has really come in handy this year. Matt and I were both pretty tired by day's end, but very happy to have had good enough weather to safely summit Oregon's largest peak.



Dennis Hildebrand, Sun, 04/19/2015 - 23:52

I've made it to the tie in rock in the summertime but no further. Thanks for documenting the adventure.

DJ, Tue, 11/17/2015 - 16:22

Great post. Great pictures. As an out of towner, do you know any guides for a trip to the summit.

jloomis, Wed, 11/18/2015 - 20:15

Mina, Wed, 03/09/2016 - 09:35

The run-out looks pretty daunting.
is that what the snow climb is like after the Tie-in Rock?
And would you say it's pretty much 50-degree climb after the Tie-in Rock?


jloomis, Thu, 03/10/2016 - 16:03

It does get steeper after Tie-in Rock especially the closer you get to the summit of Mt Hood. It was maybe a max of 50-degree slope, but not the whole way. I remember slowing down that last stretch (to enjoy the view and catch my breath) and being reminded by my climbing partner that we needed to continue before the snow became too soft.

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