Mt Hood April - May


Original Post
Aaron Mc. · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 10

Hello,

I am planning on heading to Oregon for a solo trip some time either late-April or early-May for some climbing and was thinking of adding Mt. Hood South Side Route to the itinerary. I looked up the route description and also some other sites that offer guided trips to the top of Mt. Hood that go by the same route. I don't have prior technical ice climbing or alpine climbing experience but based on the description on the MP page, it requires little technical skills.

How often would people attempt to do this route/hike assuming that they also have an extensive hiking and climbing experience (other than actual alpine/ice climbing?). I will be able to get a pair of crampons and snow boots but I just want to know everyone's opinion of doing this specific route around that time. Also open for any recommendations and comments about what to expect and prepare for for this specific route. Would I really need to hire a guide for this route or are there any other folks that climb this around that time that I can tag along with.

Thanks!

Allen Sanderson · · Oootah · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 1,115
Aaron Mc. wrote:Hello, I am planning on heading to Oregon for a solo trip some time either late-April or early-May for some climbing and was thinking of adding Mt. Hood South Side Route to the itinerary. I looked up the route description and also some other sites that offer guided trips to the top of Mt. Hood that go by the same route. I don't have prior technical ice climbing or alpine climbing experience but based on the description on the MP page, it requires little technical skills. How often would people attempt to do this route/hike assuming that they also have an extensive hiking and climbing experience (other than actual alpine/ice climbing?). I will be able to get a pair of crampons and snow boots but I just want to know everyone's opinion of doing this specific route around that time. Also open for any recommendations and comments about what to expect and prepare for for this specific route. Would I really need to hire a guide for this route or are there any other folks that climb this around that time that I can tag along with. Thanks!
The south side can be a fine route in good weather. Which is what entices many like yourself and what makes it often become a real shit-show of idiots when conditions are less than optimal. Even when conditions are optimal it can be a shit-show.

The last time I was up there after doing a different route and coming down we ran into a group that were having technical difficulties with crampons. I can not remember what exactly what were some of the issues but when one asked me for some minor assistance I initially offered to help because I though they were going to turn around - no they just wanted to me assist them so they could continue. At that point I declined to help because they were a shit-show and I was not going to contribute to helping them get higher on the hill. I was more than happy to help them get down safely.

Further down the hill we ran into other members of their party who were crampon less and were left sitting in the snow about to toss their cookies from the altitude. Here again rather stick together they split up. Not a wise decision. We also offered to help them descend but they were happy to continue to sit in the snow and puke. At that point we were out of there and descended a different way. Good times on Hood on a weekend.

So to answer your question - how often to people with similar experience attempt Hood? Frequently. Do you need to hire a guide? You do not need to do anything. But you might have a much better time as a guide all give you some instruction. Which might get you off on the right foot if you want to do other peaks.
Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 91
Edit: I did not realize that you never climbed snow at all when writing this. See my next post.

In April/May go up the Old Chute you'll probably be fine. A lot of people go up the Pearly Gates as their first time around, but if it's your first time on your crampon front points and you are solo, it's probably better to stick to the Old Chute.

As for getting a guide, well, that's totally up to how comfortable you are! Falling off the Old Chute would require you to be a pretty clumsy individual. Falling off the Pearly Gates is a possibility but unlikely. However, if you fall off, death is a real possibility. Be sure to watch for weather though, you don't want to risk a whiteout solo+new.
Aaron Mc. · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 10

Thanks for the response guys!

So it is possible to do the whole route solo. I'm reading up the description of the route and I guess I'm trying to figure out how to recognize the landmarks described on here vs what I will actually see or need to look out for when I'm actually there. Hogsback looks pretty prominent and obvious from the photos. Oh and I will make sure I know at least the basics of using snow gear before I head out there. I'm really stoked for this climb!

Max Tepfer · · Bend, OR · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 1,520

(full disclosure I work as a guide on Hood)

While lots of people without the requisite experience go up there, many of them shouldn't. Expect to be soloing firm snow and rime up to ~50º with the real possibility of dying if you blow it. (or get tagged by a piece of rock, ice, snow, person, equipment, etc...) Doing it that time of year it will be entirely cramponing, so the good news is that you'll get plenty of practice with what you're entirely unskilled in prior to the serious part of the route. The bad news is that the serious part of the route is what you're entirely unskilled in.

Another real concern that time of year is avalanche hazard. If NWAC is still forecasting (they usually stop right around then due to lack of funds) be sure to read it carefully. Hopefully you have the experience to understand where the forecaster is telling you to go or not go and what avalanche problems you're likely to encounter. The climbing routes are essentially double black diamond ski runs. If you feel comfortable soloing up and down that type of terrain, you'll be fine. If not, you should probably start with something a little friendlier like Adams, St. Helens, or the South Sister. (or hire a guide-you'll learn a lot more and have a higher margin of safety plus improved odds of success)

Calling it a hike is misleading. Most of the people I guide up there are freaked out by the steepness of the snow compared to their expectations and other things they've done. (usually something like Shasta, Rainier, Baker, St. Helens, Adams et al.) It's not really that steep, but if you're not used to that type of terrain, it can be pretty unforgiving and intimidating once you're in it. Granted prior rock climbing experience can help to mitigate that depending on who you are.

The last thing I'll say is that the most serious part of your day will be the first steps back into the steep terrain off of the summit ridge. You'll be doing something that you literally have never done before (descending steep snow) in the most difficult and consequential part of the route. Read up on snow climbing techniques, download helpful resources to your phone, and practice on the ascent. Specifically, at some point on the ascent, practice going down as it's usually where people struggle the most their first time up there.

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 91
Aaron Mc. wrote:Thanks for the response guys! So it is possible to do the whole route solo. I'm reading up the description of the route and I guess I'm trying to figure out how to recognize the landmarks described on here vs what I will actually see or need to look out for when I'm actually there. Hogsback looks pretty prominent and obvious from the photos. Oh and I will make sure I know at least the basics of using snow gear before I head out there. I'm really stoked for this climb!
In my original response, I did not realize that you have never climbed snow at all. You'll probably be better off trying an easier objective such as St Helens first. You can also check MP for partners. However, do realize that a lot of people looking for Hogsback partners here are in the same boat as you and will not increase your safety margin.

Regarding the route, print out the landmarks on a laminated sheet of paper. You can also grab a GPS to assist. The mountain is pretty frequented, and there will likely be a lot of people up there in front and behind you. In that sense, you probably won't get lost. (That is just a probably, I still recommend taking the print out and the GPS on your first time.) if there aren't many climbers out on the weekend that you are there, that's is going to be a sign that it's a bad day to climb. Obviously ideally you'd be able to recognize this yourself rather than relying on other climbers out there.

Again, really consider the consequences of going up their on your own as a first time climber. Some people will do it, but with a really thin margin of safety. You may want to consider taking some sort of seminar as well, I believe TMG runs a few things like this every year. Blowing it on the steep section can and very likly will result in the grave injury of yourself and others.
johndrico · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 0

I climbed the South Side route of Mt Hood with a guide in early May 2010. The previous day was a snow-school course in axe, crampon, and steep snow movement. Prior to that I had zero experience above the treeline.

Overall it was a fantastic experience and really set the trajectory for my climbing goals later on, but in hindsight I'm glad I paid for the guide and the training. At the time I just didn't know what I didn't know.

The route is pretty easy when you're doing it right, but without experience it's easy to do it wrong and the consequences of falling might very well be death. It would have been very easy to get in over my head had the weather changed or had I not had a guide there to sort out my shitty crampon technique. In my opinion, going alone on your first time out just isn't worth the risk.

On the positive side, if you pay for a guide and a bit of training, you'll a) get more a more enjoyable experience because you'll have an expert with you to help ease the burden of risk-management; and b) you'll develop skills and experience that will enable you select appropriate objectives and do them safely in the future.

Good luck!

Aaron Mc. · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 10

Thanks again for the detailed responses from y'all!

Yes, hiring a guide is an option I am really considering. I looked at the timberline guide website and their program looks pretty awesome. Will look into it a bit more.

Thanks!

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 91

Guided groups are also a great way to meet climbers with similar skill levels as you. I've met some good friends in guided groups and have continued to climb with them.

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 87

If you have never used crampons or an ice axe, I would definitely recommend not getting on that route solo.

It is "easy" and "nontechnical" by mountaineering standards. However, there are still places where a slip could be very dangerous or even deadly.

Think of it like 4th class terrain to rock climbers. A climber will walk (carefully) in 4th class terrain unroped, but sending your average person into an exposed 4th class scramble would be really unsafe.

Aaron Mc. · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 10

Yep, will definitely get a guide for this. Thanks for the great responses and suggestions!

Any one recommend a specific company/person? I'm leaning towards going with TMG seeing as they have a pretty good itinerary (1st day going through the basics of the climb + gear and 2nd day is climb day) but I'm looking to see if anyone had experience working w/ them and/or if anyone can recommend another guide

Thanks!

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 91
Aaron Mc. wrote:Yep, will definitely get a guide for this. Thanks for the great responses and suggestions! Any one recommend a specific company/person? I'm leaning towards going with TMG seeing as they have a pretty good itinerary (1st day going through the basics of the climb + gear and 2nd day is climb day) but I'm looking to see if anyone had experience working w/ them and/or if anyone can recommend another guide Thanks!
TMG is probably you best Hood option. They are the clear major player

I'd stay away for the "summit programs", as those programs tend to teach the minimum in order to get the climbers up and down the mountain with a guide beside them. If you can take a 3-4 day skills seminar (with an included summit) you'll probably get significantly more out of it.
Max Tepfer · · Bend, OR · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 1,520

Hey Aaron,
I work for TMG. We're pretty much it when it comes to guided instruction up there. Portland Parks and Rec as well as the Northwest School of Survival may still be maintaining their permits, but I haven't seen them use them in a few years. Any other guide service operating up there is doing so illegally. We're probably booked pretty solid at this point, but if you can schedule on a Monday/Tuesday, there's a chance you might be able to sneak onto the calendar. Your best course of action is to fill out an online registration form (timberlinemtguides.com) and call the office: 541-312-9242.
Cheers,
-Max

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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