Trip Report: Climbing Mt Hood (Cooper Spur) & Mt Adams (Crescent Glacier Route)

Over a long weekend, August 30 2004, Alex Frankel and I attempted to climb Mt. Hood and Mt Adams.

The Hood climb was a bust. 

We had planned to climb the most popular “South Side Route“. We did some basic route planning such as consulting a few websites and reviewing the guidebook “Climbing the Cascade Volcanoes” by Jeff Smoot but this wasn’t enough. We arrived in the evening at the Timberline lodge and went to the climbers information center where we found only cobwebs. There was a sign that looked like it had come through an 80’s Xerox machine that was dated mid-July (we were there late August) which said that climbing was closed for the season due to high rock fall danger. A bit crestfallen, we searched for anyone that might have information on the climbing to see if we could learn more about the dangers on the main South Side route. There wasn’t a single climber to be found. We even went so far as asking some of the wait staff at the bar in the Timberline—nobody knew anything. Where were all the climbers?!

Being the conservative climbers that we are, Alex and I discussed finding a different route. We picked the “Cooper Spur” route and thus decided to travel to the east side of the mountain and camp at the “Cloud Cap” Campground. We pulled into Cloud Cap very late and hit the sack. 

We woke early (5am or so) and got on the trail to Cooper Spur. The weather was clear and warm. After hiking above the treeline, we quickly realized that the Cooper Spur was not climbable. The upper snow slopes had completely melted out leaving only steep, bare rock… not what we planned.

We decided to follow our backup plan which was to drop from the Cooper Spur ridge to the Eliot Glacier, cross the lower glacier and follow the Eliot Glacier/Sunshine route. Dropping off the ridge was sketchy as it was a long, loose, steep scree field, though we made it without problem. Once on the glacier, the mountain started coming alive. Rockfall, icefall and other thundering sounds began to echo through the valley. We took a break to examine the line we would follow. The route wasn’t totally clear and the only way we saw took us under what looked like a lot of rockfall. After a bit of debate we decided we weren’t comfortable with the conditions and to abandon the climb.

In hindsight, had we called the local Ranger station, we might have learned that the South Side route was hazardous because of rockfall and decided to either pick something else or return to Hood another year, earlier in the season.  

We descended and drove to Mt Adams.

We camped at the Cold Springs campground where we learned too late that there was no water. (Actually, I think we knew this but screwed up and forgot to refill.) Anyhow, low on water, we did our best to conserve.

We left the Cold Springs Campground at 6AM and ascended Mt Adams via the “South Spur Route” on the south side of the mountain. The weather was perfect, clear and sunny. We didn’t bring a rope, and never even needed to pull our crampons out of our packs. The sun had warmed up the snowfield just enough to kick our toes in to get purchase on the snow. The climb took 4.5 hours from the campground to the top. Pretty uneventful climb, but very worth it—great views.

Here are some personal notes for future trips:

  • Bring a camelback
  • Pop an advil on the top of the summit to avoid the inevitable headache upon descent
  • Would be great to have some mini-crampons to fit on leather hiking boots (rather than heavy mountaineering boots)
  • A new lightweight 9mm rope would be great
  • Next time call the ranger station to get up to date info
  • GPS & altimeter would be great for navigation. 

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