Mount Hood is one of the most climbed glaciated peaks in the world, second only to Japan's Mount Fujiyama. A landslide of climbers descend upon the south route every year with their sights set on the summit of the tallest mountain in Oregon. Beginning at tree line under the starlit sky, the climber's trail ascends the Palmer Glacier up to the top of the adjacent Timberline ski area. By the light of a headlamp you'll ascend the ever steeper mountain face as the path is guided by the silhouette of Crater Rock above and the city lights to the west.
As footprints from climbers ahead grow clearer and the stars above fade into the dim blue hue of the morning sky, you'll see Hogsback ridge as it comes into view leading your eye up to the sheer cliffs and snow chutes on the crater wall. Once you reach the spine of Hogsback you'll notice puffs of smoke spewing from the fumarole areas near Crater Rock, and catch an occasional smell of sulfur.
Two options present themselves at this juncture. Head straight up the spine through the Pearly Gates or traverse to the west up the more popular Old Chute. In late season the bergschrund (horizontal crevasse) opens up, forcing climbers up Old Chute. The climb becomes technical as the slope reaches 40 degrees, at which point many climbers opt to rope up for safety. A strong push up the icy chute and along the snow covered ridge leads to the heart stopping panoramic views; you'll see Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Mount Jefferson, the Three Sisters, and Timberline Lodge below. Exhaustion is mitigated as the thrill of reaching the summit energizes even the most fatigued climber.
Be sure to sign the climbers register at the climbing center before your climb begins and sign out on your way off of the mountain. For this route, any time of the year, all climbers should have at least a headlamp, helmet, ice axe and crampons. The headlamp is necessary to start your ascent early in the morning (closer to midnight than sunrise) in order to reach the summit and begin ascending before conditions become more hazardous (after approximately 10 a.m). All climbers should also be comfortable with self arresting prior to taking on Mount Hood, as there are numerous injuries each year due to falling/sliding climbers.