We checked the weather and re-checked before heading out of North Idaho on Friday toward Hood River. The forecast called for clear skies and 10 mph winds. When we arrived at Timberline Lodge that afternoon there were winds and blowing snow. We hunkered down for a short night with a dusting of snow to awaken at 2:00 am for the slog up the easy slopes in headlamps.
Landon Otis, Jeff Beeman, Cathy Schuller and I put on nearly all layers and headed upward. Just before sunlight we reached 8500’ – just above the top of the highest lifts. The wind was howling and we needed to put on our crampons. This took time as Cathy’s boots were lighter weight and the strap on crampons kept coming off. Her feet were cold as was Landon’s core so they decided to head back down. Jeff and I fully expected to turn around soon as well but we plodded on until we reached the Hogsback where there was a bit more protection from the winds. I felt weaker than usual but we just kept making our way until we reached the “Pearly Gates.” This time of the year this is no class 2 event. Instead, we found about 80’ of ice that required great caution using the front points of our crampons and a well placed ice axe. Once above this section, the summit was 10 minutes away.
We reached the top before 10 am to spectacular views of Rainier, Adams, St. Helens, Jefferson and the Sisters. The descent down Pearly Gates was methodical and tiring but once down the crux of the climb, we turned the corner to see 50 climbers heading up the Hogback. Why they were ascending so late remains a mystery. Hood is best climbed early – even in the spring. We made it back in time for dinner in Hood River and beer at Pfriem Brewing (highly recommended). If you go this early in the season, expect class 3 climbing up high.
By the numbers: highest peak in Oregon with 5,440’ of vertical over eight miles roundtrip.
Photo #1 – Mt. Hood from Highway 35
Photo #2 – Don Otis down climbs “Pearly Gates” at 11,000’
Photo #3 – Jeff Beeman and Don Otis on the summit.
Photo #4 – Landon Otis and Cathy Schuller before sunup at 8,500’