I don’t even know how to begin this post. It is surreal that this even happened. This isn’t on my Summer Bucket List. It’s on the Life Bucket List.
I have been wanting to climb Mt. Hood since before I even ever made Portland my home. I love that mountain. Nothing puts a smile on my face like being able to see the mountain on a clear day from the city. It never gets old to me. I can’t believe that I stood on the summit of Mt. Hood this past week. I pick hikes based on great views of that mountain and now I have seen what the view is like from up there.
It will take your breath away.
So before I tell you about my adventure, here is the disclaimer. This trip up Mt. Hood was done with a friend who is an experienced mountaineer who was willing to drag some beginners up there with him. The climb was HARD. I would highly recommend taking a class to learn to self-arrest and rope up. I think that would have made me feel more comfortable. This post is just about my experience. I don’t encourage you grabbing crampons and an ice ax and taking this on by yourself.
The most common route on Mt. Hood is the Hogsback Route. Due to the heat wave we’ve been having the last few weeks, the latter part of the route had a spot that is basically vertical blue ice (thus requiring real ice climbing skills that I don’t have) so we decided to take the Old Chute Route. Both routes follow the same path but Old Chute splits off to the left.
We left Portland around 11:30 pm hoping to get a 1:30 am start up the mountain and make it up for sunrise. We set off at 2 am in the dark climbing with hiking poles and headlamps following footprints of the climbers ahead of us. Due to all the snow melt, this first part was just climbed in our boots.
With some snack breaks we made it to the Hogsback right after the sunrise at 5:30 am. The sunrise was beautiful even with us not being at the summit. It was hard not to stop every 30 feet to take some pictures. By this time, Mt. Hood was reminding us about its volcano status with strong odors of sulfur.
After reaching the Hogsback, we took a little break before setting out to climb the last 1,000 feet at a 40 degree angle.
We put on crampons and helmets and broke out the ice axes for this part of the climb. This climb was tough but we kept a slow and steady pace turning the hill into a staircase and pushing up to the top.
At the top of Old Chute, we reached what I am calling the crux of the climb. At the top, there is a very (and I stress the very) narrow knife-edge ridge that separated us from the summit. To one side, a 2,000foot drop and on the other, 150 foot drop. I had to take some deep breaths and focus on my footing since crampons can sometimes get tangled if your feet are too close together.
After the 20 feet of sketchy ridge, I saw the summit.
It was surreal.
We crossed over to the top and then stayed there taking in the view. I didn’t want to come back down.
The way down was slow and easy coming off the steep hill back to the Hogsback. Once we reached the Hogsback, it was time to practice the best mountaineering skill as far as I’m concerned: glissading.
The overall trip took us about 10 hours with 6 hours for the trip to the summit.
Thinking about getting into mountaineering? Take a look at the Mazamas. They have classes and resources. You can take my approach and find an experienced climber to take you but just be ready for some challenges, both physical and mental.
I hope this encourages some of you to give mountaineering a go. I’m all pumped up for Mt. Rainier possibly next year!