The Sandy Glacier Headwall dominates the west face of Mt. Hood. It is a seldom-climbed route due to its remote location. Summer trailheads that access the route are typically still snowed in when the route is in its best climbing condition – usually in the Spring.
A Long Approach
We begin our climb at the Timberline Lodge, where the Palmer Ski Lift gives us a boost on day 1 of our overnight program. From the top of the Palmer, we aim for Illumination Saddle, then drop down onto the Reid Glacier and descend nearly 1,500 vertical feet, to find a suitable place to cross the Yocum Ridge. Here we find our first camping options, overlooking the Sandy with an excellent view of the climbing to come.
With a requisite alpine start, we’ll work our way up the glacier until we’ve reached the more technical climbing. Following a logical path of steep snow and alpine ice in multiple roped pitches, we work our way towards “the choke.” This is the narrowest climbing on the route, and can involve deep snow runnels, steep alpine ice, and even hanging belays! Hundreds of feet more of steep snow and alpine ice eventually give way to the Queen’s Chair. This massive throne-like feature gives us an incredible vantage of the Pacific Northwest from Mount Adams to Portland.
The steep, narrow, and exposed ridge still guards the summit. We’ll traverse this ridge until it widens, as we gain the summit itself. Already a big day, we still have the descent down the South side of the mountain. After descending through the steepest terrain on ropes, we’ll walk back down the Hogsback and the Zig Zag glacier, until we finally reach the Timberline Lodge.
Folks looking to take on this climb should have previous steep snow experience. A high degree of physical and aerobic fitness is also expected.