The Pacific Northwest is home to some of the most exciting and challenging mountains in the United States, and as such it draws a lot of attention to the climbing community. Mt. Hood isn’t your typical walk in the woods hike up a mountain, and this climb can prove to be quite complex and even dangerous if you aren’t prepared.
Here are some key points for preparing for your climb to make sure you have a safe and fun trip.
The absolute most important thing you should do before a climb is to be aware of the weather before you head out. Most Hood can be climbed year-round, but most people choose to climb during the late spring and early summer months of May through June.
This is when the weather is not too severe and there is still enough snow where there isn’t a huge risk for avalanches or other complications with melting snow. In fact, the rockfall hazards can be so severe in late summer and early fall, that it is usually best to not plan on attempting the climb during these months.
Weather fronts can move in unexpectedly, so planning a climb a month in advance doesn’t work out. You must keep an eye on the weather until the moment you start climbing. If there is a front moving in within a 24 to 48-hour window of when you commence, it could likely disrupt your climb, which can be very dangerous.
Avalanches are a real risk on Mt Hood, so checking snow conditions is another vital step before your climb.
Time of Day
Even if you pick a time between May and June to climb, you still need to be aware of the time of day that is the best to climb Mt. Hood. Again, avalanches and rockfall hazards are big risks on the mountain, so you are best suited to climb when the sun isn’t shining on the snow.
Most climbers will start their ascent around midnight and climb by headlamp up the mountain. They will be able to enjoy a breathtaking sunrise and be at the top by about 8 am. Depending on your experience level, the climb will take anywhere from four to nine hours and the descent should take about half that time.
Some climbers will ski down and that will take even less time to get down. You should be a seasoned skier to even attempt going down the mountain that way.
As mentioned earlier, this climb is not for the faint of heart. This is not a walk in the woods and you will need special training and equipment for this hike.
There will be parts of the mountain that you will need to know how to use ice clamps on your boots. It is tricky and dangerous to walk on ice any time, but when you are walking up a steep incline, you really should have some practiced skills.
There are courses you can take around the area and in other parts of the world as well that will help you gain these skills. If you have an experienced friend who is patient enough to help you along, you may be fine. Just make sure that you are completely honest about your skill level so your friend will know how to give you enough direction.
There is not just one main trail up the mountain, there are several routes to go on and they all have different experience levels. If you are unfamiliar with the mountain, it will likely be worth your investment to go with a guide. If you are experienced, guides may still be a great route to take since they can take you along more challenging paths or show you an area that is new to you.
When you are hiking an intense hike like Mt. Hood, it is important to make sure you have all the right equipment before you get on your way.
No matter what time of year it is, you will come into contact with some snow on the mountain that you will need to climb. This can be the most challenging part of the climb and knowing how to use the gear will be vital to the success of your climb and to your survival.
Here is a list of the gear you will need on your climb:
Technical Climbing Gear
- Ice Ax
- Pickets or Ice Screws
- Climbing Harness
Though a GPS is easy to use and can be quite handy, you should never rely fully on it. It is always important to bring a compass and map with you and know how to use them. They will do you no good unless you understand how they work together.
Mt. Hood is a remote location, so don’t assume that medical attention is readily available. If something should happen to you on the mountain, help could be days out, especially in heavy weather conditions. This is why it is always important to pack extra food and supplies and a form of shelter.
There is no one monitoring the registration book to make sure all the climbers have made is safely back. That is meant solely for a resource in case it has been discovered that someone is in peril to find out what kind of equipment they have and how long they have been on the mountain.
To ensure your safety, tell a trusted friend or family member where you will be, what route you are taking, and when you are expected to return. It is never safe to hike alone, even if you are very experienced, so always go with a group.
Mt. Hood is a difficult climb, but it is a worthy goal for anyone who loves the outdoors and hiking. This mountain offers amazing views, challenges, and the opportunity to be out in nature. As long as you are prepared and take the necessary precautions you will leave Mt. Hood with an unforgettable experience.
Do you want to climb Mt. Hood? Why or why not? Leave a comment below!