Practicing Mountaineering Skills on Mt Hood's South Side

My friend Cari has been wanting an introduction to alpine climbing, so we decided to head up to Mt Hood for a day of training. My original plan was to take her to Elliot Glacier on the NE side of Mt Hood, but the road to Cloud Cap Inn is still closed due to falling tree hazards. Instead, we drove up to Timberline Lodge and hiked up above the Palmer ski lift to where the slope is steeper.

Mount Hood South Route Elevation Profile

We hiked past the groomed Palmer snowfield which was teaming with skiers and snowboarders. It seemed very warm out in the direct sun with little breeze even though it was only in the upper 50's. Above the ski slopes I had Cari put crampons on to get a feel for them. She instantly noticed how much more traction they provide, even on soft snow slopes like we experienced today.

White River Glacier - Mt Hood, Oregon     Crevasse on White River Glacier

It is amazing how much snow has melted since my climb last month. One could almost climb most of the way to the hogsback without walking on very much snow.

Cari with Mt Jefferson in the Background     Mt Hood

We found a snow-covered slope steep enough to practice self-arresting with an ice axe and got right to work. Cari was a quick learner after just a few slides down the slope. Next we set up and tested a z-pulley crevasse rescue system. I set up the first pulley with an ATC belay device to make the prusik self-tending. It worked better than using a bachmann knot and much better than using nothing.

First Pulley in Z-Pulley Crevasse Rescue System     Cari Pulling Me Up the Mountain with 3:1 Z-Pulley System

After roping up and walking around a bit to give Cari a feel for roped travel, we took a break for lunch. I packed up a bottle of In-Tents IPL from Base Camp Brewing Co. which we had chilling in the snow. It was delicious. The aluminum bottle is so cool.

While eating lunch, a ski mountaineer came up and we chatted for awhile. He was out enjoying the snow and planned to ski down from our lunch spot. While we were talking another climber came by. This time it was a European gentleman packing a snowboard. It was his first time up this high on Mt Hood and he asked us a bunch of questions about routes to the top. Hood is generally considered out of season climbing-wise this time of year due to potential rock fall off the summit. The guy seemed pretty determined to keep going up. We provided as much advice as possible, being sure to warn him of the rock fall hazards this time of year.

Cari with Mt Hood in the Background     Snow Cold In-Tents IPL Beer from Base Camp Brewing Co.

After lunch we decided to pack up our gear and climb up to the hogsback (about 10,500' in elevation, 800 vertical feet shy of the summit). Cari was game and at least she would get pretty close to the summit.

Illumination Rock     Lots of Bare Ground High on Mt Hood

As we approached the hogsback we saw the European man from earlier in the day. He was peering into the bergschrund.

Hogsback - Mt Hood, Oregon     Devil's Kitchen Headwall - Mt Hood, Oregon

After taking a couple pictures on the hogsback we turned back and headed down the mountain. I showed Cari the art of plunge stepping and before long she was cruising confidently down the mountain. Once we were off the hogsback we heard someone call to us from behind. It was the European fellow. He was snowboarding off the summit down the old chute. Apparently he made it to the summit safely.

Cari on the Hogsback     Jason on the Hogsback

We made good time down the mountain and were soon back at Timberline Lodge. It turned out to be a beautiful and productive day on Mt Hood. Cari is going to make a great alpine climbing partner and hopefully I'll learn a thing or two from her about rock climbing as well.

Lupine with Mt Hood in the Background

Gear List

Osprey Variant 37 Pack
Petzl Elios Climbing Helmet
La Sportiva Trango S EVO GTX Mountaineering Boots
Grivel G12 Crampons
CAMP USA Stalker Universal Crampons
CamelBak Antidote 70 oz. w/Drinking Tube
Komperdell Powerlock Trekking Poles
Sterling Evolution Duetto Alpine Touring 8.4mm Rope
Black Diamond Couloir Harness
MSR Coyote Snow Pickets
Mad Rock Ultra Tech HMS Screw Gate Carabiner
Mad Rock Oval Tech Screw Carabiners
Mad Rock Ultralight Straight Wiregate Carabiners
Petzl Oscillante Pulleys
Mammut Dyneema Contact Slings
Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe
SMC Capra Ice Axe
Petzl SUM'TEC Ice Axe Hammer
CAMP Corsa Nanotech Ice Axe
Foam Sit Pad
Hillsound Armadillo Gaiters
Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiters
GoLite Kenai Pertex 2.5L Jacket
Mountain Hardwear Transition Jacket
Columbia Sportswear Venture II Convertible Pants
Triple Star Packable Down Hooded Jacket
Head Digital Sport Liner Gloves
Columbia Men's Fast Trek Fleece Hat
Petzl TIKKA XP 2 Headlamp
Altice Venture Rx Glacier Glasses
Olympus Tough TG-1 Camera
First Aid Kit
HighGear ATF8 Altimeter
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.