Peak(s):  Mt. Hood - 11,249 feet
Date Posted:  05/22/2012
Date Climbed:   05/14/2012
Author:  Tony1

 Mount Hood - South Side (Hogsback)  

Who? Tony (me!)
What? Mount Hood - 11,249 ft.
Where? Oregon
When? May 14, 2012
Why? Because reasons.

Mileage: Rountrip 6-8 (I see between 6 and 8 everywhere... Prepared myself for 8 miles. Certainly felt more like 8 than 6. Is there an official mileage for this route?!)
Gain: ~5500'

I’d been eyeing Mt. Hood as a great adventure and first volcano for a while, and so in early 2012 I started to plan on getting out to Oregon for a few days and climbing the mountain when the best weather occurs.

Staying with a family friend in the Portland suburb of Beaverton, I loaded up all of my gear, triple checked everything, and was on my way by 10:30 PM towards Government Camp and Timberline Lodge. The forecast looked clear, calm, and wonderful!

Being unable to find a partner, I decided to try my luck in joining anyone else who was already out and about. The climbers registration box showed a couple of registered climbers for the 14th, so I filled mine out and started on my way, up the hill and to the right (east) from Timberline Lodge at around 1:15 AM.

I could spot a couple headlamps spread out quite a ways above me. A few minutes in, I encountered a Czech climber on his way down who said he just wasn’t feeling well enough for the climb. Bummer!

I hiked up the east side of the ski resort (marked by ropes and a snowcat trail) through the calm, sulfur-scented air with a few breezes here and there coming down from the mountain. To my left and near the top of the lower lift, a snowcat was fixing up the halfpipe and terrain park features. It provided some additional light to parts of the slope ahead of me when it would turn around, back up, etc.

This part of the climb was actually very spooky… All alone in pitch black darkness with nothing but my headlamp and the snowcat working off to the left of me, and calm air that smelled of sulfur every now and then (the breeze was coming down from the mountain). I could barely make out the silhouette of the monster that is Hood looming above me. It was walking up the ski area that I had a very low morale for the climb. No way would I go into the more technical sections by myself, and the others on the mountain were much farther up, or so it seemed.

I reached the top of the ski area where the snowcat trail suddenly banked left at 90 degrees and mellowed out to a nearly flat slope as it connected over to the top of the Palmer lift and its subsequent lift house. Here, I had gotten much closer to a pair of headlamps in front of me and decided I would try to catch up. I put on the crampons here and started up the Palmer Glacier above the ski area.

I shortly caught up with a pair of climbers from Portland who registered as a trio at midnight. I remembered seeing their paper. Their third guy was the Czech who was almost down when I started. He split off fairly early from them. They took me into their group and we continued up the glacier toward Crater Rock. To the left (west), I could see Portland in its entirety (still night out) right behind Illumination Rock, with the smell of sulfur in the air. It was a very surreal feeling. Also, by now my confidence of summiting had been completely restored!

Illumination Rock and the city of Portland.


Up, up, and up.

By the time we were traversing to the east of Crater Rock, it was light out but the sun had not yet risen. Once at the Hogsback, a large-ish distance had formed between me and the other two, and a solo guy who arrived at the parking lot the same time I did (and then pretty much just shot right up the mountain) was chilling around. Two more others who were ahead of me were making their way up the Old Chute roped together. From here and by this time, Mt. Hood’s shadow was fully visible. Truly beautiful!

First view of the Hogsback and beyond. Old Chute is to the left of center - you can see two climbers ascending.

The shadow of Mt. Hood.

Looking south during sunrise.

The solo climber explained to me how he was unsure about continuing all the way up the Old Chute because of the snow conditions – too firm, he said. Not wanting to waste time since the sun was now rising, I decided to go for it and gave some thumbs up signals to the midnight pair a little ways below me to try to communicate that I was going to continue up the chute.

The snow actually ended up being perfectly fine, and I slowly made my way up a good distance below the rope pair. For most of the way, there were kicked steps that I followed. About halfway up, I looked back to see that the midnight pair had reached the solo guy at the Hogsback and were discussing things. Looked like the solo guy was going to start to descend and the pair was going to continue up behind me.

Slowly but surely I made my way to the top of the Old Chute and onto the summit ridge. Very carefully I slowly put one foot in front of the other and used my axe as a cane as I walked along the trail a mere couple feet or so from the 1000+ foot drop-off that is the north side of the mountain.

I approached the summit around 6:45 AM and sat down with the rope team who were taking a good long break. The summit was fantastic. The sky was clear with only a little bit of haze and there were no clouds below. There was no wind either, and the sun had just come up.

The trail (looking back), and the edge...

Looking west along the summit ridge.


Looking down the north face of the mountain.

Mt. Jefferson

Mt. Saint Helens

Mt. Rainier

Mt. Adams

A cool shot looking back at the summit.

We chatted for a few minutes before deciding to head down – I’d go first back the same way. They opted for a more narrow chute just to the side of the Old Chute. Not quite the Pearly Gates, but not the Old Chute either. A good decision, since I got back to the Old Chute to see that the solo guy and midnight pair were making their way up the Old Chute. Get it guys! 8)

The ascending trio! The next 3 of 6 climbers to summit.

I started to descend and met up with them after a short while and gave them some info of the summit to help them along. The rope team was now making their way down the adjacent chute. Climbing down for me took longer than going up – I stayed facing in the whole time and the steepness was a little scary and intimidating for the descent. Little by little, I made my way down along the steps, listening for the sounds of little ice pieces rolling by.

On the summit, one of them who has climbed Hood many, many times told me of a safer way to descend back to the Hogsback – instead of traversing below the cliffs, descend straight down towards Crater rock and then walk between (not dangerously close) the fumaroles to the Hogsback. This avoided most of the rock and ice fall danger. He generously shouted directions for me as there was a good distance between me and the rope pair, and I didn’t want to stand around and become a target for any possible small chunks of ice or rock.

Back at the Hosback, I breathed a huge sigh of relief that I was finally out of the “zone”, and took a good food/water break before starting the steep hike down. By the time I started to traverse back around Crater Rock, the solo guy and midnight pair were then starting to descend the Old Chute.

Looking back at the upper part of the route from the Hogsback after descending.

The Bergschrund

Crater Rock and fumaroles / sulfur vents.

Another look back as I started to descend and traverse around Crater Rock.

On the way down!

Once back at the ski area, the snow had softened nicely, so taking large pounding steps down the mountain was comfortable instead of painful!

The lodge... it's so far away!

Illumination Rock during daylight.

The summit seen from the snowcat trail along the east side of the ski area.

I reached Timberline Lodge at 10:15 AM, got my stuff together, and checked in with the midnight pair who were still on their way down.

I was one of 6 climbers to attempt and summit that day (as well as 3 skiers ascending in the afternoon), and I'm glad we all had a sense to stick relatively close together past the Hogsback.

The mountain seen from Timberline Lodge. Done!

Mt. Hood from a pull-out along US 26. Beautiful mountain.

After getting back to Beaverton, showering, and taking a quick nap, my friend (who wanted to come for the road trip experience) and I hit up the Olive Garden lunch special. It was definitely well used!

Note to future climbers: The area past the Hogsback is not the only steep place on this mountain where I would recommend having your ice axe in your hands. Traversing past the east side of Crater Rock and down the mountain towards the top of the ski area are not mellow slopes. They are almost as steep as the Old Chute, and even though an un-arrested fall in these places would not be as bad as one past the Hogsback, you still wouldn't want to fall without your axe here. Depending on your comfort level, you may want your axe out shortly after leaving the ski area. Just some extra information that not a lot of other reports or route descriptions will tell you.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
Brian C

05/22/2012 12:40
Very nice report. Gotta love those Volcanos!


05/22/2012 14:13
Great report. Looks like a beautiful day. Hood has been on my list for years, I hope to make my way there soon.

Scuba Steve

Very Nice!
05/22/2012 14:33
Mt. Hood is on my list for next year.


would you?
05/22/2012 16:37
Would you say that Mt. Hood is doable for a solo climber without rope protection?


05/22/2012 16:51
Good work and nice pics!


Thanks, and Question
05/22/2012 20:25
Thanks everyone!

And sm0421, to answer your question, yes very. But it all depends on your comfort level and conditions. I had very good snow conditions and weather that day, and technically I was solo but not alone. Out of the 6 of us, two were roped. If you get a guide, you will probably be on a roped team.


05/22/2012 20:39
Loved my trip up there, I'd love to try one of the steeper routes next time, maybe Leutholds, Cooper, or Sunshine... Great mountain!


Your summit shot
05/23/2012 02:45
says it all! Congratulations. This is one beautiful peak.


Nice Report
05/31/2012 23:04
Thanks for putting this together. We plan to be there next week so appreciate the info.

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