Mount Hood

June 18, 2009

I first intended to climb Mount Hood back in July 2007 after climbing Mount Shasta, but abandoned the idea since the snow conditions were so bad on Shasta and promised to be similar on Hood at that time.  Hood seemed better as an early-summer climb, done sometime in June.  So when we decided to spend the summer of 2009 in Seattle, it seemed ideal to climb Hood on the way up.  I wanted Kyoko and Kyle to enjoy their time while I was climbing, so I booked two nights at the Timberline Lodge (at $225 a night) for the nights of 17th and 18th.  Aside from being a nice place to stay, the Timberline Lodge is where the standard South Side route up Hood starts.  The plan was to climb early morning the 18th, and although I should be back by checkout time and we could leave, it seemed better to have some time to rest and to allow Kyoko and Kyle more time to enjoy the area.  I originally thought Kyle could ski one or both days, but it turns out although the ski area is open year-round only intermediate and advanced slopes (the ones above the lodge) are open in the summer.

We left the Bay Area on June 16 and first drove to Lassen Volcanic National Park where we attempted to climb Lassen Peak.  A surprising amount of the trail was still covered by snow, but it wasn't very steep and could be climbed in normal shoes.  I had Kyoko and Kyle each use one of my hiking poles, and I used my ice ax, and this worked well.  Kyle got altitude sickness partway up the climb, and the weather was threatening, so they turned back midway and only I made it to the summit.  A mini trip report with pictures is available here.

We stayed the night in Redding, and on the 17th drove to Crater Lake.  I wanted to hike up to the top of the Watchman, but again the trail was covered by snow and was in fact closed.  It was very steep and would have required an ice ax.  We still were able to enjoy great views of the lake, although cloudy skies dampened the colors a bit.

We then continued to Timberline Lodge, arriving around 2pm.  I was shocked by the number of people there on a Wednesday, but it was clear this was my kind of resort--lots of skiers, snowboarders, and mountain climbers.  I had requested a mountain view room with 2 beds, and they told me they didn't have anything available--the best they could do was put a rollaway bed in as a second bed.  I wanted two real beds, though, and was willing to settle for a valley view room, when they said they could move something around and give us the room we wanted.  The room, 301, did indeed have two real beds, but it was on the end and didn't really have a view of either the mountain or the valley--rather the pool and the bottom of a ski lift.  So not great, but I was happy to have a good bed to sleep in and the view wasn't that important.

Mount Hood via the South Side route is supposed to be a fairly easy non-technical climb, and is also very popular with something like 10,000 ascents a year.  You travel partly on a glacier, but there are no real crevasses along the route except the bergshrund which is easily spotted and avoided, and most importantly no hidden crevasses.  This means I could do the climb by myself.  Strangely almost everyone does the climb in rope teams, and I'm not sure why except it seems to be part of the culture of climbing Hood.  It seems people associate rope with safety, even if they have no idea how it will actually help.  Indeed my feeling is that roping up can greatly decrease safety if you don't know how to use it correctly.  When I actually did the climb I found most of the rope teams (that day anyway) seemed to be guided, so presumably the guide had sufficiently practiced how to self-arrest well enough to stop an entire rope team.  Also some guides were belaying their clients up and down the steep chutes near the top.

Still a recent 2004 accident had involved a rope team falling and getting tangled with a couple other rope teams below them and dragging everyone into the bergshrund, killing some people.  I figured two keys to safety were to avoid the weekends, which are incredibly crowded, and to stay unroped so I would have a better chance of dodging anyone falling down above me.

Thanks to my recent trip to Colorado I had improved my snow climbing skills, and I was also in good shape so I felt ready for Hood.  The climb is 3.6 miles (according to the Timberline Lodge, and my own measurements support that) one-way gaining 5249 feet (6000 feet to 11,249); for comparison Shasta was 7 miles gaining 7242 feet to a much higher summit (14,162).  I figured I should have no altitude problems, and didn't think the steep chutes (35 to 45 degrees according to one guidebook) at the end should be too difficult compared to what I'd already done on Shasta and the Dragontail Couloirs.  My main worries were weather and routefinding.  I had two guidebooks with info on the route, but both were very sketchy.  It seemed you basically went up next to the ski area [trip report abandoned at this point]



Roundtrip distance: 7.2+ miles
Elevation gain: 5249 feet (6000 to 11,249)
Time up: 4:45 (1:31am to 6:16am)
Time on top: 0:04 (6:16am to 6:20am)
Time down: 2:39 (6:20am to 8:59am)
Total Time: 7:28