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What about climbing Mt. Hood?

Thank you for contacting us at about taking ten scouts on a climb to the summit of Mt. Hood next year. I understand that none of you has this type of climbing experience but that you do have a lot of hiking experience.

You ask if I am able to help you with this or if I can suggest someone who can help.

I am going to give you some free advice on your plan to climb Mt. Hood; I am not able to physically help you by joining with your group. I am in a different phone area code, in Bend, Oregon and I surmise you are in the Willamette Valley?

I suggest you contact the Mazama climbing Club in Portland for local help. I am a Member of this fine Club. Check their web from our Links Section. They offer classes for Members in many of the skills you should have before leading a group up Mt. Hood. One of their Members may be interested in meeting with you and your Scouts. 

You are wise to reach out for advice. Experience tells us that a climb to the summit of Mt. Hood can be a life changing adventure for a young person. Having several months to prepare is wonderful.

Experience also tells us that a climb to the summit of Mt. Hood is often trivialized and the mountain disrespected. The Episcopal School group disaster a few years ago is a well known case in point. The girls and boys and their leaders were not prepared and many died. They did not have the proper clothing and equipment and the skills to survive the storm. They were too goal oriented, hiking into bad weather because they were scheduled to climb and did not have the knowledge and experience to retreat to climb again.

Check our web for details on clothing and equipment, on boots, crampons, harnesses, helmets and long traditional mountaineering ice axes. Required clothing can come from an informed school wardrobe. Teenagers do not have money to spend on the equipment items, but they can be rented. Rent this gear early and make sure it fits. Try it out on an earlier trip. A individual’s crampons that fall off should abort the climb for the team.

Athleticism and conditioning are not sufficient to prevent a person from becoming disoriented in a white out and disappearing on the slopes and crevasses of the “Mt. Hood Triangle”. Having a map, compass and GPS and the skills to use them, a Cell phone and on Hood, a personal locator device, may violate some “wilderness minimalist ethic”, but the alternative may be costly. Search and Rescue volunteers are there to help and for the excitement of a good rescue, not to search for lost purists. Get the basic navigation gear and training and go Geocaching with your Scouts to sharpen their backcountry navigation skills. See our web for 11 PDF pages on using map, compass and GPS together.

The Scouts should have proper day packs filled with the Ten Essential Systems, which include important extra clothing options: wind protection, hard shell Gore-Tex rain protection, extra insulation, extra hats, a butt pad, three quarts of water (six pounds) and ClifBars or fig-newtons. See our web for lists and photos of this gear.

The upper reaches of Mt. Hood become very steep. The skills of roped travel and ice axe arrest should be learned during the period of preparation for such a climb. These skills should be practiced again and again, on easier slopes with a clear run out. The condition of the snow at the moment of passage is the key to a dangerous, too icy or too soft condition, that warrants a cautious return to base. The slip of an inattentive, ill equipped boy in Alaska, caused a fatal fall for a student group down a steep snow slope a few years ago.

Specifically, Mt. Hood is “in condition” in the spring, dangerous and out of condition in the summer and fall and technically difficult to climb in winter due to unconsolidated snow and storms. The heavy snows of winter make the upper slopes less steep in the early spring.

Do not make the mistake of scheduling the climb and sticking to it. Be flexible. Look for a period of good weather. If the weather is bad, do not go! Perhaps climb on a weekend with your Scouts or at the first of a week. The climber’s track will be technically easier.

Keep your group together! Have your scouts discuss my Essays on Climbing Together and Following the Leader. You should have a practice climb with 5,000 feet of elevation gain with the group so you can assess the speed of the slowest member. Of course, it is the elevation gain that is difficult, and at increasing altitude. Will the faster members voluntarily help the slower by carrying part of their weight? Adventure Racers do! Specifically, your group will not be able to go faster than the slowest member. Climb South Sister before the snows come this fall in preparation for your Hood adventure.
--Bob Speik, Webmeister
Copyright© 2005-2009 by Robert Speik. All Rights Reserved.


Here is the "downside" of a simple slip and fall on the "easy" South Side Route on Mount Hood

"Two climbers died from a combination of crushing head, neck and chest injuries, and the third died from asphyxiation. All three appeared to be properly equipped, according to the state medical examiner."

"It appeared that Ward and Read died quickly from their injuries. The nature of Biggs injuries mean he may have been conscious for a short time before succumbing to the broken neck and chest fractures."

"Read died from a fracture at the base of his skull and crushing chest injuries. Biggs died of a broken neck and crushing chest injuries that included a torn left lung and fractures. Ward died of asphyxiation, which appears to have been the result of being crushed beneath a 300 lb block of ice or beneath other climbers who fell on top of him."
--Source not known.








Read more . . .

Mount Hood - climbing accident claims three lives -Final Report and our Analysis 
Notable mountain climbing accidents Analyzed 
Mount Hood - Solo hiker drowns while crossing Mt. Hood's Sandy River
Mount Hood - Solo climber slides into the Bergschrund and is found the following day
Mount Hood - The Episcopal School Tragedy
Mount Hood - experienced climbers rescued from snow cave
Mount Hood - a personal description of the south side route
Mount Hood - fatal avalanche described by Climbing Ranger
Mount Hood - avalanche proves fatal for members of Mazamas climbing group
Mount Hood - snowboard rider dies on Cooper Spur
Mount Hood - fatal fall on snow, Cooper Spur Route
Mount Hood - fatal fall on snow from the summit
Mount Hood - climb shows the need for knowledge
Mount Hood - climb ends in tragedy
Mount Hood - rescue facilitated by use of a VHF radio

Winter mountaineering hazards - streams and lakes
Is long distance backpacking part of "traditional mountaineering"?
How long is the traditional alpine mountaineering ice axe?
What about climbing Mt. Hood?
What is a good personal description of the south side route on Mount Hood?
What should I know about travel over hard snow and ice?
How can I learn to self belay and ice axe arrest? 6 pdf pages 
What should I know about snow caves?
What should I know about climbing Aconcagua? 

  About Alpine Mountaineering:
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