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On Saturday, Matt, his friend Al, and I went on a climb (non-technical) to Lookout Mountain. At 6,525 feet, Lookout Mountain is second in elevation only to Mount Hood within the Mt. Hood National Forest. The trailhead is about 4.5 miles Northeast of the Mount Hood Meadows turnoff on Hwy 35. The weather forecast was a mixed bag with rain showers predicted and a freezing level of around 6,000 feet. As it was still early spring, our 7.4 mile round-trip route was different from the normal trail due to the amount of snow above 4,500 feet elevation. We started just before 8 AM under mostly cloudy skies. We had almost 3,000 vertical feet of elevation gain to look forward to.
We had full packs with mountaineering gear, as we hoped to do a few exercises in anticipation of a Mount Hood summit attempt next weekend (weather pending). The first half mile of the trail was snow-free. After that, we tromped along in our mountaineering boots and gaiters through wet snow until it was deep enough to require snowshoes. We were able to follow the actual trail all the way to Gumjuwac Saddle. From there we followed Bennett Pass Road (3550) for about half of a mile before going off trail and climbing up the Southwestern ridge of Lookout Mountain to the summit.
By the time we hit the summit ridge, the wind had picked up, making it feel much cooler than 35°F. Once at the summit, we were in the clouds with very poor visibility. Unfortunately we couldn't enjoy views of Mount Hood, Badger Creek Wilderness, or the volcanoes of Southern Washington and Central Oregon. We quickly put more clothes on before hunkering down for a short lunch and victory beers atop Lookout Mountain. Soon we were all anxious to start back down, away from the cold wind.
On the way down the ridge, we stopped for a few minutes while Matt provided a demonstration on ice axe techniques. The deep, wet snow wasn't ideal, but Matt did a great job conveying the basics. Soon my toes started to go numb from standing still and we started back down the trail. Near Gumjuwac Saddle, we decided to stop again and practice roped travel. We found a gentle slope out of the wind where we able to harness up, practice tying knots, place snow pickets, and work on other roped travel techniques. Once again Matt was a great instructor.
Soon we were back on the trail headed down toward my truck. We made it back to the trailhead around 4 PM just as a light rain began. We had lucked out in the weather department, with the wind being our only real discomfort. I look forward to returning to Lookout Mountain during sunny weather. In the summer, there is a much shorter alternate route from High Prairie that climbs only 500 feet over about a mile to the summit.