Summit Mount Hood via a Southside Route (Old Chute, Pearly Gates, etc)

Rate this Adventure 6 miles 5289 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Ted S

While a summit is no easy feat, Oregon's highest peak, Mount Hood, is an iconic climb that should be on any serious adventurers bucket list.Even the most tame routes up the mountain are technical in naturing and include steep snow slopes of up to 45-degrees, knife ridges traverses in addition to passing right by active fumarole vents over the approximately 3 mile, 5,289' length of the climb. Views from the upper slopes of the mountain can extend far south into Central Oregon with Mount Jefferson, The Sisters, Bachelor and beyond all visible on a clear day. With a mandatory alpine start, climbers are also treated to superb sunrises, even the chance of watching the sun crest over the top of the mountain, which is quite unreal to experience.There's a reason why thousands come climbing each year!

While there are many routes up to the summit, most climbers approach the mountain from the Southside starting at the Timberline Lodge parking lot which is the highest road on the mountain (5,960'). With the risk of soft snow leading to ice & rockfall, avalanches, and unstable climbing conditions, Mount Hood climbs require an alpine start with groups typically leaving anywhere from 11pm until 2am. Before you head off, be sure to stop by the wilderness building located next to the ski center to get a (free) permit and register your party.

With your paperwork completed, start out by heading to the snowshoe trail located behind the lodge and follow the snowcat tracks up the mountain staying off the groomed ski areas as best you can. The first notable milestone and typical break spot is the Silcox Hut at around 1 mile and just under 7,000'. The hut is used as a private-rental cabin so while it makes for a great photo, it's best to break a short ways away. [Note: the map route is to the right of the ski area, along the ridge where you will usually find another snowcat track -- this can be harder to find in the dark but otherwise follows within view of this description though you won't meet up until above the Palmer Lift building.]

From here, the chairs of the Palmer Ski lift come into view and can be followed up to the end of the line (8,540'). This is a second typical break point and usually a good spot to put on crampons on as the building blocks most wind which can be fierce, especially in the early morning hours.

Above the Palmer Lift, the incline of the mountain really starts to pick up as you climb,Start navigating to your right slightly (but not so far as to hit the ridge!) and up the remainder of the Palmer Glacier. If the skies are clear enough, you'll see Illumination Rock to your far left, Crater Rock above you to the slight left and the Steel Cliffs above and to your slight right.

*For those who wish to make an overnight / two-day climb, most campers set their tent on this stretch of the mountain or over by Illumination Saddle which is more protected from the wind. *

As you near 10,000, the smell of the fumarole vent should alert you that you're closing in on the home stretch. Take a break outside the vent's range and then give it as much room as possible, climbing onto the Hogsback. This steep ridge will bring you up to the common summit routes and within a several hundred feet of the top.

The most common route to the summit is usually to cross left, off the Hogsback ascend via the Old Chute (above the second fumarole / hot rocks). This makes for a steep and sustained climb of around 600' but tends to be pretty straight forward. From the top of the chute, you will have to cross the catwalk (knife ridge) to reach the summit.

Depending on condition reports however, the Pearly Gates to the right offer a more direct route to the summit and can be more exciting climbing. Reaching the gates requires taking the Hogsback across the Bergschrund which typically becomes an unpassable crevasse later into spring. The gates themselves can also be extremely steep and icy often requiring a more technical, two-tool ascent (this is especially true of the left gate). Climb beta is incredibly helpful for route selection!

With either route, pay close attention to activity above you as chances are good you'll see plenty of ice and snow coming down as you ascend the crux of the climb. It's slow going but almost done at this point.

Completing your chosen route, approach the ridge, being careful not to get too close to the potential cornice edge and follow it (right) along until you reach the true summit (11,249'). Photo time!

While much of the downclimb is easy going (and epic skiing), it can be tricky getting down to the Hogsback and you should carefully consider your descent route. Two tooling down can make for a more comfortable trip down and it's not uncommon to see larger groups set a rapel to clear part the steepest part of the descent. Please be careful and avoid kicking ice on climbers below you. Also try not to walk on the uphill bootpath as you'll kick out the established steps.

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