Mt. Hood South Side Ski

Mt. Hood South Side Ski


Selina Sekulic and I traveled to Washington intending on summiting Adams and Rainier in early May. We found winter like conditions on the volcanoes, and decided to shoot for Adams. This time of year the road to the trailhead for the standard route on Adams is typically unmaintained, and we found some snow my rear wheel drive truck didn't want to go past, adding too many miles to an already long day.

Neither of us were feeling it so we drove down to Mt. Hood for an easy win before Selina had to fly back home.

The standard route up Mt. Hood ascends next to the ski resort until wrapping around Crater Rock and into the upper cirque. The terrain stays mellow here, but the consequences become more serious with exposed fumaroles. Most people go up the Hogsback into the Pearly Gates, until late season when a bergschrund compels most climbers west into the Old Chute. We ascended up and down through the Pearly Gates, putting on skis and board at the base of the Gates.

Weather & Conditions

We got amazing weather and conditions. After a few stormy days, we got the second of two bluebird days in a very short weather window. The upper cirque of the south side route was in prime winter conditions, with nice powder, and plenty of rime ice. We ascended through the Pearly Gates, and it was a mellow grade, with packed powder.

The forecast was for low 30s at the base, with upper single digits at the summit. We sweated all morning on the way up until we were actually in the Gates, when a nice breeze had me throw my shell on.

The sun was brutal coming off the snow, and one day I will learn to actually cover everything that's exposed. I got a nice sunburn under my beard and on my septum.

Elevation, Mileage, and Timing

We got to the Hogsback in 3 hours, which was great. Round trip time for the day was just under 6.5 hours. The mileage was 7.78 and the elevation gain was 5,614 feet. The Strava recording is here.

Lessons Learned

  • One day I will remember to cover every bit of skin with sunscreen on a snowfield. I got a sunburn under my beard and on my septum.
  • I had about 2.5 L of water, and 4-5 gels, plus two Spring SpeedNut gels, and one protein bar. I loaded up my water with Nuun tabs including a few caffeinated ones.
  • The upper cirque had great powder, the Palmer snowfield had hardpacked powder with some variability, and the bottom was straight slush
  • We had strong sun the whole day until exiting the Pearly Gates on the way down. Intermittent clouds rolled in reducing visibility to just a few feet and slowing our descent considerably. This would be hard to forecast, but even with how benign this route was we should have had a map downloaded. The cloud cover firmed up the snow as well, making our afternoon ski not quite as sweet as we had hoped.
  • I was very glad to have skin wax in my bag, when I tried to drop in on the whiteout it had cooled the wet snow and froze large clumps of it to the bottom of my skis. A quick application of wax had me going in what would have otherwise been a nightmare to get down.


Looking up at the slog
Crater Rock to the left, Devil's Kitchen Headwall Center
Headed up the Hogsback. Pearly Gates in the center, Old Chute to the left
Nearing the Pearly Gates entrance
Working on my sunburn
Selina ascending to the left, and a random climber descending to the right
Looking down at the clouds starting to do weird stuff
Moderately uneventful summit plateau, with Adams and Rainier visible in the distance
Starting back down, looking at Crater Rock and the Hogsback
The whiteout rolled in very quickly, Selina booted down farther to retrieve her splitboard and I transitioned here
Bad visibility as I got ready to drop in
More white out conditions as Selina assembles her jigsaw puzzle