Hiking Up Mt Hood During the First Snow Storm of the Season

The first snows of the season were predicted to fall at pass levels this weekend. I have snow fever and decided to go hiking up Mt Hood (11,249') Saturday morning even though it would likely be whiteout conditions. I planned to hike up the standard South route from Timberline Lodge (6,000' elevation) as far up as I could safely go (likely around 8,000' - 9,000' in elevation). Temperatures were predicted to be in the low 20's, dropping into the high teens with high winds and several inches of snow falling throughout the day above 4,000' elevation.

Mt Hood Hike Trail Elevation Profile

I left Portland just before 6 AM Saturday morning. I started seeing snow around Government Camp, just before the turn off for Timberline Lodge. By the time I was at Timberline, it was snowing pretty good with about 4-6 inches of fresh snow on the ground. Winds were about 15-25 mph and the temperature was 24°F. I put on my gear and started hiking up the mountain following the path that zigzags under the Magic Mile chairlift. Due to the high winds, there were plenty of places where the snow was not accumulating and others where it was over a foot deep. I tried to avoid the deep snow to make walking easier.

Trail up Magic Mile Chairlift on Mt Hood     Jason on Mt Hood

Once above the Magic Mile chairlift, I followed the Palmer chairlift higher up Mt Hood. The wind picked up as I climbed higher - about 30 mph sustained with gusts over 40 mph. The temperature dropped to 19°F. With the windchill, it was well below 0°F. I had hoped to climb above the Palmer chairlift, but once I hit 8,200'-8,300' in elevation the wind picked up even more and visibility was only a couple feet. I decided to turn around only a couple hundred vertical feet shy of the top of the Palmer lift, which was about 2.2 miles from where I started at Timberline Lodge.

Looking up the Palmer Chairlift     Looking down the Palmer Chairlift

The groomed portion of the Palmer snowfield was icy, so I stayed to the side closest to the chairlift on my way down. Once at the bottom of Palmer, I walked over to Silcox Hut to see if it was open. It was not. I continued my descent in the gully next to the Magic Mile chairlift where I was somewhat protected from the wind. I met three snowboarders from Seattle who were hiking up, hoping to get a good run in.

Toasty Warm in Near Whiteout Conditions     Silcox Hut

Back at Timberline Lodge I observed many more people out enjoying the first snow of the season. I am sure many others are just as excited as me. Snowmobiling, snow camping, and skiing are just around the corner. Before heading home I relaxed at the Ram's Head Bar in Timberline Lodge. I love the "Rustic Bread" they offer for just a few bucks.

Gear List

Osprey Variant 37 Pack
HighGear ATF8 Altimeter
Komperdell Powerlock Trekking Poles
Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe
Lifeline Aluminum Snow Shovel
Grivel G12 Crampons
MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoes
CamelBak Antidote 70 oz. w/Insulated Drinking Tube
Petzl TIKKA XP 2 Headlamp
Olympus Tough TG-1 Camera
La Sportiva Batura EVO Mountaineering Boots
Conform'able Pack Pro Set Battery Heated Insoles
Marmot Expedition Mitts
Head Outlast Waterproof Ski Gloves
Head Digital Sport Liner Gloves
Columbia Men's Triple Trail Shell Jacket
Triple Star Packable Down Hooded Jacket
Mountain Hardwear Transition Jacket
Columbia Men's Head Wall Pants
Marmot PreCip Full Zip Pant
Seirus Ultra Clava
Scott OTG Goggles
Columbia Men's Fast Trek Fleece Hat
First Aid Kit
iPhone w/NeoTreksGPS
Suunto A-10 Compass

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Disclaimer: You are responsible for informing yourself of the hazards of backcountry travel and taking the necessary precautions. Loomis Adventures may not be held liable.