One of the most recognizable and climbed mountains in the world, Mount Hood can be a relatively short climb, but climbers should definitely come prepared to spend a long day on the mountain, for severe weather that can happen at any time, and to avoid dangerous ice and rock falls.
Many routes are available to the highest point in Oregon, which is at the summit of Mount Hood at 11,239 feet above sea level. Most of these routes require some technical rock and ice climbs, but the standard route, known as the Hogsback or South Side Route, is a hike that starts at the Timberline Lodge and then leads to a short snow climb. Guide services may even make the trip shorter by driving groups up in a snowcat to beyond the lodge’s ski lifts. A persistent urban legend states that the mountain was even once climbed by someone in high heels.
While the standard route is relatively short, that does not mean “easy and safe.” Climbers must start very early in the morning (an “alpine start”) to avoid melting snow, dangerous falling ice, and hazardous loose rock. An area of active fumaroles known as the “Devil’s Kitchen” is near the summit and should not be approached because of the risk of suffocation. Due to the popularity of the Hogsback, a slow party may cause a traffic jam at various places with rising temperatures and increasing risks. Over 130 people have died on this mountain, some while rescuing others, like those in a helicopter crash in 2002. All climbers must carry a Mountain Locator Unit, or MLU, on their climb, available for rent at most Portland-area outdoor sporting goods shops for about $5.
Multiple companies in the area offer guided services up the mountain, and some train prospective climbers in using mountaineering equipment and techniques before the climb up one of the world’s most infamous mountains.
Know Before You Go
From the Timberline Lodge, hike and climb 4 miles to the summit.