Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Route Profile: Mt. Hood, Reid Headwall (II, AI2)

Alex Parker mashing up the Reid Headwall in moderate snow conditions (Photo: A. Stephen)

Mt Hood, an 11,250' volcano located an hour and a half from Portland, is a beautifully aesthetic mountain which boasts easy access and some great climbing routes. From basic mountaineering routes to challenging and sketchy ice climbing, Hood has a good selection of routes for climbers of any ability. I have climbed many routes on the Hood, but my favorite so far has to be the Reid Glacier Headwall Route.

The Reid Glacier Headwall, shown in green.  The orange is the Leuthold Couloir,
and the magenta is the approach from Illumination Saddle. (Photo Credit: Brian Jenkins)

The Reid Headwall is located on the Southwestern aspect of Mt. Hood, and hangs above the Reid Glacier, which is known as one of the most heavily-crevassed glaciers on Hood.  The best access point for the route is from the saddle that separates Illumination Rock from the mountain proper.  After dropping down a steep slope, traverse high towards the berguschrund which marks the start of the route.  

 Looking up at the first couloir from the start of the route (A.Stephen)

The climbing can vary quite a bit depending on conditions, but it is always guaranteed to be  between 55 and 60 degrees, with short steps which are closer to 80 degrees.  The climbing can range from bulletproof ice to hard-pack snow and powder.  

The coolest part about the route are the awesome towers of rime ice you weave your way through. These can also be a major objective hazard if you climb too late in the day, or don't hit conditions right, but if its cold and clear, most of the rime ice will stay in place.

Alex Parker following a traverse into another block of awesome couloirs (A.Stephen)

The final couloir before the summit ridge (A.Stephen)

Topping out! (A.Stephen)

The Reid Headwall is a great route for climbers looking to push their way into steeper snow and ice climbing.  With easy access and 2500' of climbing to the beautiful summit of an iconic volcano, what's not to be psyched about?  

--Andy Stephen, AAI Instructor and Guide

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