South Route – June 29, 2016 (a Monday)
Conditions: 42 low, 55 high. Wind 5-10 mph. Sunny
Splitboard + all accessories (poles, skins, etc)
Boots: Scarpa Mont Blanc (overkill butdoubled excellent as snowboard boots)
Crampons: Blackdiamond Sabretooth Pro
Harness: Black diamond + ATC + PAS
1 snow picket each
What we wore:
Base layer top and bottom + hard shell top and bottom (packed a down jacket and only wore while I belayed).
Wool socks + outdoor research gloves
Julbo glacier glasses (brought goggles too but didn’t use)
Buff + beanie (always)
Mt. Hood can be broken into 7 steps:
Step 1: Following the dirt road from Timberline Lodge to the Silcox hut
Step 2: Skinning and dodging snowcats from Magic mile lift to the top of Palmer lift.
Step 3: No shit skinning, under the stars, tranquil, climbing to crater rock
Step 4: traversing the hogs back and picking your route
Step 5: Scrambling up the Chute to the summit ridge
Step 6: Coming down the chute
Step 7: Snowboard descent
Here’s how it goes:
Step 1: We slept in the car and woke at 0100 to begin the climb. I don’t think leaving at midnight is necessary. We took our sweet time getting up and still timed it perfect. Anyhow, the road up to Silcox Hut is gentle and fast. We reached the hut in about 40 minutes where we stopped to take care of our morning bathroom break.
Step 2: When I thought of climbing Mt. Hood I imagined a peaceful climb under the stars listening to my skins scrape against the snow…. Instead were listened to the snowcats groom the trails for summer ski season while occasionally getting caught in their headlights. We tried to avoid them the best we could but those guys have no pattern, they just zip around like flies. I imagine it’s a fun job.
Step 3: Above Palmer lift the incline increases a bit. Definitely doable without ski crampons but they would have been nice. We stopped skinning about 800 ft. short of Crater Rock because the occasional slip was getting annoying. Instead of carrying our skis to the rock we decided we were high enough and buried them, marking the spot on our GPS. We originally planned on dropping in from Crater rock where there is a nice flat area to store gear, but plans change. Maybe next time.
Step 4: In the Devils Kitchen you will see a steaming fumarole to your right and a saddle in between crater rock and the summit ridge to your left. Go left and climb the saddle. At the top of the saddle you have 3 choices.
Go right towards the Bergshrund and climb through the pearly gates, with the risk of falling and sliding into the bergshrund.
Climb to the bergshrund then traverse left and climb through the old chute, a good choice but there is a better one.
Or go immediately left, down the other side of the saddle, line yourself up with the old chute, and shoot straight up through the chute. I believe this is the best option because traversing steep slopes is sketchy. I’d rather go straight up or straight down.
Step 5: Mountain project and summit post say the max slope on this climb is 30 degrees. My Suunto recorded a max slope of 47 degrees. Don’t listen to those people they think everything is easy. They all crazy. The scramble to the summit ridge is the only part of the whole climb where you really need crampons, ice axe, and a helmet (2 ice axes each would be best). A team behind us roped up for this section but we didn’t want to waste the time. It was already 0600 and buy 0700 the sun would be knocking the ice loose around us.
At the top of the chute is the summit ridge. I’ve read reports of this being sketchy at certain parts of the year, but June 29, 2016 it was a 100m cake walk to the summit.
Step 6: Coming down is where accidents usually happen, probably due to people plunge stepping and/or not giving the mountain their full attention because they believe it’s all over. Either way coming down the chute is steep enough that you need to bear crawl backwards. It’s a slow process and one could easily slip. For this reason Alisha and I roped up. I stuck a picket in the snow, snapped in, and belayed her down the first 50m until I ran out of rope. She belayed me down to her and once we felt comfortable enough I coiled the extra rope and we climbed down roped together. The time was about 0730 and ice was falling all around us. I was hit several times, once by a good sized chunk in the groin. It’s important to keep your head down. You don’t want to look up when someone yells “ice!” and get hit in the face. That shit will end your day.
Step 7: Strip off your crampons and sling your axe. Snowboarding down the mountain is the best part of the day. There is a reason you can always see a line of climbers packing skis to crater rock on a clear day, it’s a damn good descent and mellow enough for any level of rider. Truth be told, I would feel comfortable snowboarding down from the summit via dropping in the old chute. Problem is the volume of climbers that take that route. It wouldn’t be polite to shred down their climbing lane. Maybe next time.
So some tips for the mountain:
1). Bring you skis/snowboard to make that 3-hour descent a 30-minute descent.
2). If you got it, bring 2 ice axes for the scramble up the old chute. It’ll make you feel more comfortable.
Here’s my Strava from the climb