While on a climbing tear back in 2017, Mt Hood’s Pearly Gates route was the only big mountain out of 7 that eluded me. I knew that wouldn’t last forever, and with the forecast clearing it seems time to give it a shot. I left right after right after work the drive down took a little over four hours.
In typical my typical fashion I folded down the back seat, threw out my sleeping bag and set my alarm. The temperature outside was at about -5F and conditions were looking perfect. I woke earlier than expected due to a few fellow climbers shining their lights into my window. Not sure why this is a regular occurrence when climbing. Either way I had to get up and start the climb. According to my car thermometer, the temp had dropped to -10F and I hopped on the trail at about 3:30 am.
The first section of climbing is easy as you follow the ski lifts uphill toward palmer glacier. From Palmer until Crater Rock, it is some steep snow and glacial ice. This time out the snow required snowshoes to keep me afloat. Once past devils kitchen and onto the Hogsback, the real climbing begins.
On this particular day the wind was gusting and driving the temperature down. The only bonus was that this was keeping anything from melting. While the cold (-20F windchill) was stinging my nostrils climbing in hard snow was welcome.
Once up to the pearly gates on Mt Hood, there was more blue ice than I would have liked to deal with. I only had my Glacier ax and not my ice climbing axes. It was tough to get it to bite in making for a tense 15 minutes as I worked my way up.
That last 200 or so feet after getting through the top of the pearly gates is nothing serious. But from this point on the wind got stronger with every step and the temperature continued to drop. At one point the thermometer that I was using fell to as low as -22F (-30C) when a gust of wind came. The summit stay was a very short moment due to the temperature, but one I will not soon forget. Being able to see so many other volcanoes (Rainier, Helens and Adams) that I’ve climbed felt like a perfect beginning to the climbing season.
With the amount of blue ice that was lining the pearly gates route, me and several other people on Mt Hood chose to use the old chute. Since it is more exposed to sunlight it makes for a better retreat. It also has less people coming up and more space too spread out. In case you need it, know where it is, and use it if necessary.
The way out was uneventful. The only thing I could not stand about hood was the hike back out. This was my first time completing a peak where you can see the parking lot from the top. It is impossible not to notice and you will be staring at it for 4 hours on your way back down. It makes the slog feel endless.