Mount Hood: Illumination Saddle Routes

A high elevation moderate scramble and three ice climbs on Oregon's Mount Hood. Illumination Saddle is a moderate scramble, and is the jumping off point for the Leuthold Couloir, Reid Glacier Headwall, and Sandy Glacier Headwall climbing routes.

getting there

Drive I-5 to approximately 15 mi north of the Oregon state line to I-205 bypass around Portland to US 26. Travel east on US 26 for about 50 mi. Just past Government Camp turn left at Timberline Lodge turnoff. Drive 8 mi and park in lodge parking lot.

Illumination saddle

Approach & ascent

snow scramble, snowshoe, 6.0 miles round trip, 3,300 feet of elevation gain, 9,300 ft high point

From Timberline Lodge, proceed up the ski slope to the top of the Palmer Chairlift (8,600 ft). Stay off the groomed ski surface. Use the climber's tracks on the right boundary of the groomed runs and to the right of the chairlift. At the top of the chairlift, make a west-northwest rising traverse towards Illumination Rock. Illumination Saddle (9,300 ft) is a good camp.

mount hood/leuthold couloir

Ascent route

grade III, intermediate ice climb

Ascend to Illumination Saddle. Descend onto the Reid Glacier and traverse toward Yokum Ridge. Turn right at the steep wall on Yokum ridge and enter Leuthold couloir. Ascend the couloir to its end. Then climb easy, open slopes to the summit ridge. Climb the ridge to the summit.

Mount hood/reid glacier headwall


intermediate ice climb

Ascend to Illumination Saddle. Descend onto the Reid Glacier. The Reid Headwall lies directly above the glacier. There isn’t one specific route up the headwall but a "choose your adventure" array of options. All of the variations start out on moderate slopes that steepen, narrow, and thread through snow and ice-covered arêtes. The left-most lines eventually reach the gentle slopes above the Queens Chair that lead to the summit ridge. The center and right lines top out onto the upper West Crater Rim, which can be taken to the summit.


Trailhead to Camp 3-4 3,300
Camp to Summit 3-5 2,200
Summit to Trailhead 3


Glacier travel gear, avalanche gear (transceiver, probe, and shovel), helmet, pickets, ice screws, second ice tool.

Mount hood/sandy glacier headwall

ascent route

intermediate ice climb, Grade III, class 3-4, AI 1-2

Ascend to Illumination Saddle. Descend northwest onto the Reid Glacier. This descent can be simple or technical depending on the snowpack; it may need to be protected with pickets. Make a descending traverse of the Reid Glacier, cross over the toe of Yocum Ridge at 8,600 ft and descend onto Sandy Glacier. Make a rising traverse (north) toward the center of the glacier, then climb moderate slopes (45°) up the center of the headwall, through a narrowing gully (the “Hourglass”) and up to the top of the Headwall and Yocum Ridge, the Queen’s Chair. Climb upper Yocum and Cathedral Ridges to the summit ridge.




Ascend to the Illumination Saddle, descend to and cross the Reid Glacier, then cross the Yokum Ridge at the lower point (7,800 ft) to get to the Sandy Glacier. Traverse the Sandy Glacier. At its far northern end, a moderate 35°-45° snow ramp starting ~7,800 ft gains the Cathedral Ridge at 8,900 ft at a good camping spot. Getting to this point will likely take the full day.

Move climber's right to the southern slope and traverse that slope under a rock tower that sits at 9,200 ft. Use two tools for this traverse; the slope is only 30°-40° degrees, but is avalanche-prone, and with a bad runout across a 200-foot cliff. Regain the ridge at 9,300 ft and continue upwards until reaching an elongated rock band that starts at 9,700 ft. This is the crux, and a point beyond which a safe retreat later in the day may not be possible. Assess the conditions, and retreat or commit to carry over the summit. Traverse to skirt the gendarmes on the climber's left, then regain the ridge by climbing a few pitches of a steep 50° snow ramp. Continue on a knife-edge ridge, possibly with running belays, to easier ground at ~10,050 ft. From there, continue on easy ground to the summit, passing the end of a bergschrund at 10,600 ft and joining with the Leuthold Couloir route at 10,900 ft.


Trailhead to Camp full day 5,100
Camp to Summit 6-9 2,400
Summit to Trailhead 3


Glacier travel gear, avalanche gear (transceiver, probe, and shovel), helmet, pickets, second tool.


illumination saddle

Descend the route.

Leuthold couloir, reid headwall, sandy glacier headwall

Descend the Mount Hood/South Side route.


  • The climbing routes can be done in one or two days. Illumination Saddle is a good place to camp for two-day climbs.
  • Climbing parties are required to pick up a self-issued wilderness permit from the climber’s registration area on the lower level of the Wy’east Day Lodge. There is no fee.
  • To reduce the dangers from avalanche, rock fall, and ice fall, climbers should plan to summit in the morning, well before the sun reaches the western slopes.
  • Guidebook: Mt Hood: Climber’s Guide by Bill Mullee (Sharp End Publishing 2014).
  • Guidebook: Best Climbs: Cascade Volcanoes by Jeff Smoot (Globe Pequot Press 2012).
  • Difficulty: Snow Scramble, Strenuous 3, Technical 2, Intermediate Ice Climb
  • Length: 6.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 5,235 ft
  • 11,235 ft
  • Green Trails Mount Hood Climbing No. 462S
  • USGS Mt Hood South, OR
Trip Reports

This is a list of titles that represent the variations of trips you can take at this route/place. This includes side trips, extensions and peak combinations. Not seeing a title that fits your trip? Log in and send us updates, images, or resources.

  • Illumination Saddle
  • Illumination Saddle (Mount Hood)
  • Mount Hood/Leuthold Couloir
  • Mount Hood/Reid Headwall
  • Mount Hood/Sandy Glacier Headwall
  • Mount Hood/Cathedral Ridge

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