If you’re planning on summiting Mount Hood sometime in the future, making sure you’re adequately prepared for the climb is crucial.
Failing to do so can lead to your being stranded on top of the mountain, which can become dangerous quite quickly. You also run the risk of having to turn back before you reach the summit, which will put a damper on your visit and force your climbing group to choose between staying with you and making it to the top.
This article will explain exactly what you need to do to get ready for a climb up Mount Hood. In particular, we’ll talk about three key areas that require ample preparation:
- Physical fitness
- Necessary equipment
- Climbing knowledge
While Mount Hood is technically considered a beginner level climb in the mountaineering community, you shouldn’t underestimate the considerable level of physical fitness you’ll need to reach the summit. A beginner level mountain is still a mountain ‒ and at 11,250 feet, Mount Hood is a pretty big one.
Assuming you have a good base level of fitness, attempting Mount Hood requires a minimum of 6 weeks of specialized training. And when I say specialized, I mean it ‒ even the easiest paths up Mount Hill have significant inclines over long stretches of the hike.
If you aren’t in decent physical shape, the difficulty you’ll face in climbing Mount Hood will range from pretty difficult to downright impossible. No matter how much your mind wants to conquer this 11,250 foot mountain, actually climbing it is a task you’ll need a capable, trained body for.
Also, when I talk about being in decent shape, I’m really talking about your ability to walk or climb long distances without collapsing or taking frequent breaks. If you’re able to do that, you should be in good enough shape to begin the specialized training routine that will prepare you for Mount Hood.
There are plenty of resources to help you get into decent shape, so I won’t cover that in this article. If you do need guidance in this area, these articles should be able to help:
Once you have a good base fitness level, you can begin specifically training to climb Mount Hood.
The very first thing you should incorporate into your training regimen is hiking at a significant elevation gain. The absolute minimum you should be doing is 5 miles of hiking per week, with at least 2,000 feet of elevation gain in those 5 miles.
While doing the absolute minimum should be enough to get you enough the mountain, I strongly urge you to do more in terms of both the distance you hike and the elevation you climb during the hike.
The elevation gain you’ll face at Mount Hood measures over 3.2 miles. And much of that won’t be mere hiking ‒ if you want to reach the summit, you’ll be scaling glaciers with ice climbing gear. While the next steps in this specialized training regimen will prepare you for that, a higher level of elevation-focused cardio fitness will only make the process easier.
The best way to get your elevation training in is to find a small mountain near you and hike up to the top. This might not be feasible depending on where you live, so a good alternative is walking up a treadmill at a steep incline for a few hours. Using a stairmaster is also a solid idea.
Hiking up Mount Hood without some weight on your back is a pretty terrible idea ‒ so you should be training for the climb wearing at least some of the weight you’ll have to bear when you attempt it for real.
For starters, the thin clothing you’ll probably be wearing when you train won’t be enough to keep you alive when you reach the frigid higher altitudes. You’re going to need something warmer and thicker to wear when you reach the snow-covered portions of the mountain.
Now, if it’s warm near you, I am absolutely not advocating that you hike in the heat wearing a full set of mountaineering gear. That’s a surefire way to overheat yourself, which is both dangerous and detrimental to your goal of completing a 12-week Mount Hood training regimen.
But if you can wear something a little thicker, I suggest doing so. The more you can make these training sessions seem like the real thing, the better.
You should also consider carrying a weighted backpack when you go out on these training hikes. The weight of the pack doesn’t have to be anything crazy ‒ 15 pounds should be more than enough. This will simulate the burden you’ll have to carry when you attempt the summit.
The easiest way to do this is to fill your pack with the gear you’ll be carrying when you climb Mount Hood. If you don’t know what you’ll be bringing yet, skip down to the section on required gear for a complete list.
Unless you encounter a yeti, you probably won’t be doing much running on Mount Hood. That doesn’t mean running has no place in your training regimen though. A habit of going on extended runs is one of the best ways to build up your overall stamina and prepare you for a Mount Hood climb.
Running on an incline is ideal, but it isn’t necessary if you live somewhere without many hills or mountains. Using a treadmill on an incline is always an option, but I personally think treadmills take all of the joy out of running. Remember, you’re not training for the Olympics ‒ this whole process is supposed to be fun.
While Mount Hood is a climb for beginners, it’s not exactly a walk in the park. Successfully getting to the summit will require a backpack filled with food and climbing gear, as well as
The amount of gear you’ll need to bring depends on how fast you plan to climb the mountain. As Mount Hood can be climbed and descended from in a single day. This means you may not need to bring a tent or other camping gear.
This list of necessary equipment assumes you’ll be sleeping on the mountain overnight. If you won’t be, you can just remove the items used for camping.
- Softshell jacket
- Softshell pants
- Shell pants
- Shell jacket
- Insulated jacket
- Wool hat
- Sum hat
- Wool socks
- Synthetic underwear
- Food ‒ at least 1 pound per day of climbing
- Two 1-liter water bottles
- Glacier glasses
- Ski goggles
- Sun block ‒ at least SPF 30
- Lip balm ‒ at least SPF 15
- Toilet paper
- First aid kit ‒ should contain antacids, aspirin, ibuprofen, bandages, moleskin, and any personal medications you need.
Required climbing gear:
- Crampons ‒ should be 10 or 12-point. They also need to be steel ‒ aluminum crampons aren’t usable in the Cascades.
- Ice axe ‒ between 50cm and 65cm long.
- Climbing pack ‒ between 25 liters and 45 liters.
- Climbing harness ‒ needs to be alpine-style.
- Carabiners ‒ you’ll need one locking and one non-locking.
- Climbing helmet
Okay, so you’re in solid physical shape and have all of the necessary gear. The final thing you’ll need to scale Mount Hood is instruction in some basic ice climbing techniques.
I could describe in painstaking detail how each of the following techniques works. However, I think we both know that ice climbing techniques are something best taught by video ‒ there are some things that mere words simply cannot convey fully, and ice climbing instruction is one of those.
So instead of producing an explanation, each section will instead have a video that will teach you the ice climbing basics you’ll need to climb Mount Hood.