PORTLAND, Ore. — In this week's Let's Get Out There, we dive into what it takes to climb Mount Hood safely and responsibly, starting with proper climbing gear.
It's important to note this mountain is not a walk-up, despite stories you've heard or preconceived notions you may have.
So if climbing to Oregon’s highest peak is on your bucket list, what goes into it? Where do you start? And how do you do it safely?
Now, it may come easier to expert climbers, but that doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park. For many who set their eye on Wy’east (Mount Hood's original name given by Native Americans), it’s important to prepare and acquire as many relevant skills as possible before you attempt to summit.
If you’re a beginner (like me), let’s not get overwhelmed and first focus on the gear you’ll need. We start at The Mountain Shop on Northeast Sandy Boulevard in Portland. They can outfit you for just about anything.
“We’ll rent downhill skis, cross-country skis, backcountry skis, snowboards…snow shoes, we have tents, sleeping bags. We have mountaineering gear, boots, ice axes, crampons. We have paddleboards in the summer,” said rental manager Jeremy Ray.
Ray really knows his stuff.
“We're really trying and willing to educate people the best we can,” said Marcus Stephens, owner of The Mountain Shop. “So we encourage people to use us as a resource and we'll be honest.”
The Mountain Shop offers several mountaineering rental packages. They all revolve around the same gear.
- Mountaineering boots
- Ice axe(s) or ice tool(s)
“Mountaineering boots. They're important for two reasons,” said Ray. “One is they're a lot stiffer, so if you're kicking steps and wearing crampons, it's going to give you a much more stable platform to stand on.”
Crampons are steel spikes you strap onto footwear to give you needed traction on steep ice and snow. An ice axe or ice tool gives you another point of contact in addition to your crampons. Many climbers find two ice axes or tools are essential (one for each hand).
“It would be for self-belay and self-arrest,” said Ray, demonstrating with an ice axe. “Self-belay is when you're plunging the axe into the snow. That way if you slip, you have something to hold on to. And then self-arrest is if you do slip, it's catching yourself.”
Icefalls and rockfalls are common higher up on the mountain. A helmet offers protection from overhead hazards. No matter where you rent gear from, it’s going to be cheaper than buying it all. If you purchase all the gear mentioned above, you’re probably looking at anywhere from $800-$1,000 for new equipment. My rental package was a little more than $30 for two nights.
“Obviously you’re still going to need jackets, a backpack, food and water, all the other essentials,” said Ray. The staff at The Mountain Shop will give advice on gear and make sure everything fits properly. It’s the responsibility of the user to know how to use it, and that's a completely different lesson.
“A guide service is a great way to go to when you're beginning to learn the skills necessary to get out there and enjoy it, and the biggest message is safety,” said Stephens.
Check back in next week as we head to Timberline Lodge. We'll learn proper snow travel techniques with Portland Mountain Rescue and how to properly use our gear. Hopefully Wy’east is within reach for you, and you will learn as much as you can before setting out to climb it.