Mt. Hood via West Crater Rim

I was at the South Side of Mt. Hood again. I decided to climb up via the West Crater Rim route. It separates from the standard route about a thousand feet below Crater Rock. It traverses and then climbs up the West Side of Crater Rock, and then the West side of the Crater Rim. The climbing is steeper and more sustained than the standard route. I’ve heard the views are great, and there’s a knife-edge traverse to end the route with a grand finale. It was looking to be a great day.

The West Crater Rim has an east-facing aspect. It gets the first rays of the sun. A natural avalanche actually killed a large group of people here some years ago. So, I made sure to get an early start. And if for some reason it was late in the day, it would be trivial to traverse to the Old Chute.

Around 2 a.m., I started climbing by the light of my headlamp. It was a weekday and there weren’t too many people. About a dozen or so starting at the same time. I followed the Sno-Cat tracks for the first 2,000 feet to the Palmer chairlift.

After the Palmer lift, I continued going straight up. But, instead of going to the East side of Crater Rock to meet the Hogsback, I traversed over onto the Zig-Zag glacier.

Now, I was no longer on icy snow. I’d sink in ankle-deep with every step. I see why the Zig-Zag glacier is the preferred descent route — it gets the softest snow. Much to my chagrin.

Looking at Mt. Jefferson past the South Ridge of Crater Rock.

I continued up. As I started to cross Crater Rock, I could see that this part of the mountain is a terrain trap of rockfall. You’re exposed to rockfall from Crater Rock, and from the cliffs of the Crater Rim. The rocks bounce through this constriction, and it was a litter of debris. It was about 4 or 5 a.m. at this point, which was good. I wouldn’t want to be uphill later in the day. I made my way through this spooky section quickly.

After passing Crater Rock, the West Crater Rim is the steep snowfield, almost straight up. It’s the climber’s left-most chute that doesn’t pass beneath or through cliffs.

I started climbing up engaging 45 to 50-degree snow, and at a length more sustained than the Old Chute. A fun variation. It was about 6 a.m. now, which ensured the snow would be in good and safe climbing condition.

Looking down at Crater Rock from partway up the West Crater Rim. Note the constriction that channels all the rockfall.

I had a great vantage point of “ants” marching up the Old Chute.

Climbers on the Old Chute.

Soon, I crested the ridge. I was looking down into empty space on the North Face. The remainder of the route would be a fun, exposed knife-edge traverse. This was the highlight of the day.

Looking down the North Side of Mt. Hood.
Summit Ridge
Part of the ridge traverse.

I traversed and reached the summit. Someone I met in the parking lot the night before summited at the same time. We grabbed some summit pictures of each other.

Looking at the summit ridge from near the summit.
Summit shot. Mt. Adams in background.

Then, I descended via the Old Chute, following the well-worn bootpack the whole way.

Once I reached the Hogsback, I decided to glissade the rest of the descent. While the grade isn’t steep and there’s a double fall line, the snow was still icy. I could glissade without sinking in, and steering would be easy with the spike of my axe.

I started to glissade, and much to my surprise — I never had to stop! It was still icy the whole way down. Even with the low-angle slope, I was able to stay on my butt until 500 feet above the parking lot. I’d need to traverse a hundred feet here or there. But, I did 75% of the descent as a glissade, which doesn’t seem to be frequent on Mt. Hood. The conditions had aligned perfectly to let that happen.

I reached my car and changed. I discovered I’d ripped a few holes in the seat of my pants thanks to the icy glissade. Oh well. But, I reckon that’s an even trade. A few holes for a few hours saved.

Then, I drove to Government Camp to see if there was any reasonably priced food. Spoiler alert — there wasn’t. So, I grabbed a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos from the gas station and drove back to Bend.

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