FATMAP difficulty grade
This is the route that makes Mount Hood the world’s second-most-climbed glaciated mountain after Mount Fuji.
It’s climbed in all seasons but especially in late spring and early summer, when thousands of people go for the Oregon state highpoint.
If it sounds like a traffic jam, that’s because it often is.
But the ease of access and the quality of mildly technical climbing leave no better alternative for a summer mountaineering route in the Cascades. A handful of distinct features define this route through Hood’s crater to the summit.
The first is Crater Rock, which looms overhead for most of the route, and marks entry into the mouth of the volcano.
The second is the Hogsback, a permanent ridge of snow between the backside of Crater Rock and the crater headwall.
Then there's the Pearly Gates, which are twin chutes leading through the headwall and toward the summit.
The gates are so-called for the rime ice that often coats the rocks, making this narrow passage sparkle among the clouds.
At the top of the Hogsback and before the Pearly Gates, however, lies the infamous bergschrund––a gap marking the top of the Coalman Glacier, and a serious hazard that has claimed lives.
Depending on conditions, it may be bridged by snow or may be wide open, but it is always a factor due to its location in the fall line below the Pearly Gates.
The entirety of the route is Class 2 snow and glacier travel, though fall hazards are real in some places, especially if the snow is firm. For this route, all climbers should have crampons, an ax, and a helmet at a minimum.
Additional gear may be useful if icy conditions are expected.
Most parties do not use ropes, especially in the summer when the snow is soft.
However, more cautious groups or those with inexperienced climbers may choose to rope up for certain sections near the top.
Skis/snowboards are a popular addition for some parties to aid in the long ascent and descent below the crater.
Most people stash this gear near Crater Rock and use it to glide back down through the resort, but skiing off the summit may be an option as well. A very early start is always recommended (2 am or earlier).
In the spring-summer season, that means firmer snow and faster climbing on the lower slopes, then softening snow on the upper sections but getting through them before rockfall worsens in the warmth of midday.
The slog begins from Timberline Lodge Resort, in the trailhead parking area at the top of the road.
The Wy’East Day Lodge nearby is where you must pick up the free, self-issue permit before starting your climb.
There is a mountaineer’s trail that stays to the right of the ski runs, which you should try to stay on because the runs are typically used all summer.
Once past the top of the Palmer Express Chairlift, climbers can move about with no restriction on the mountain, but the general route is just straight up toward the crater.
In ideal conditions, this long hike up the lower slopes is all on firm snow, but it may be soft snow, or in late season there may be stretches of rock and dirt.
No matter the condition, it will likely take longer than you think. Crater Rock is the large formation in the center, which you’ll pass to the right to enter the mouth of the volcano.
Steaming and odorous fumaroles lie within.
You’ll pass these to the left to climb onto the Hogsback.
After that, the climbing gets steeper and potentially more technical.
Moving along the spine of the Hogsback is straightforward, but where to go from there is up to climber discretion.
There are two main options: The Pearly Gates or the Old Chute. The Pearly Gates variation is the most direct way to the summit, but it’s not always in good climbing condition, or it may be hazardous due to rock and icefall, or it may just be jammed with climbers.
Getting into the Gates also requires negotiating the bergschrund, which can be intimidating for some.
Once past the bergschrund, there are two possible routes through the Pearly Gates: the left chute or the right chute.
The left is typically lower angle and less technical than the right, but again this can vary.
The two are not far apart, so you may be able to scout each from the bottom then make the decision. The alternative to Pearly Gates is the Old Chute variation, which is much farther left.
To get there, you’ll still follow the spine of the Hogsback, but then move left before the bergschrund, without ever crossing above it.
Rockfall is still a hazard around Old Chute, but is typically less than in the Pearly Gates.
For these reasons, the Old Chute is actually preferred by many.
Once at the top of the chute, you’ll simply walk the ridgeline to the summit. You may want to descend by Old Chute even if you go up through Pearly Gates, in order to lessen traffic jams because there is no room for passing in the Gates.
Both Old Chute and Pearly Gates are mapped here, as either side of the loop near the top of the mountain.
Note that the ridge between the top of Old Chute and the summit has one section of moderate knife-edge, where you might have to wait on two-way traffic, and where some parties choose to rope up.
After hitting the summit and choosing your descent variation, the return from Hogsback down is the same as the ascent. Sources: https://www.mountainproject.com/route/105792904/south-side-route https://www.mountaineers.org/activities/routes-places/mount-hood-south-side