This climb is for beginners and intermediate climbers, and a high degree of physical fitness is needed for this climb. Much of the information in the media and on the internet is misleading on the technical description of the Southside Route on Mt Hood. The Southside route is best described as an entry-level technical climb. It is not a walk-up or nontechnical climb. This is an important distinction to make when deciding about whether to attempt this climb.
On the first day, after meeting your group and your guide, you can expect to spend a few minutes sorting and issuing gear, fitting boots and crampons, and going through logistics for the climb. If after reviewing the equipment list you still have questions about what to wear or bring on the climb, this is the time to ask, so please bring all of your gear with you. During this session, your guide will brief you on the current mountain and route conditions, weather, and the schedule for the rest of the climb.
After a gear check, orientation and dispersal of group gear, we’ll shoulder our packs, take ski lifts up the resort, and then hike to and establish base camp. The approach to camp takes approximately 1 hour depending on where we camp. Depending on the site we choose, the elevation of camp is between 8500’ and 9000’. After setting up our tents and eating lunch, we’ll review some concepts from the Basic Snow Climbing Course. This course usually takes until late afternoon, and covers everything you’ll need to know to climb the mountain with our guides. Topics include footwork in mountain boots, crampon and ice axe techniques, rope systems, and self-arrest.
Following the course, we’ll eat dinner and try to bed down early. We’ll get up early, sometime between 12am and 4am, eat breakfast and get ready to go.
From there, we’ll have to shoulder your pack and head up the mountain. Usually we’ll climb the Southside route and attempt the summit via one of many popular variations including the Old Chute and The Pearly Gates. Generally, you can expect to take about four to five hours on the way up, and three to four on the way down. After climbing, we’ll return to our tents, break camp, and head back to Timberline Lodge arriving by early afternoon. Any ascent of the Southside routes will include climbing on non-technical terrain as well as on steeper slopes of snow and possibly rock or ice.
Most of the climbers we work with are surprised about how steep and exposed the climb is. In addition, most people feel that the climb was more physically demanding than they anticipated. We mention this information because we want you to be prepared and understand what you are getting yourself into! Those who do participate are rewarded with an amazing experience on Oregon’s highest and most iconic peak. It will all be worthwhile!