Trip Report    

Intermediate Alpine Climb - Mount Hood: Illumination Saddle Routes

We climbed Leuthold Couloir and moved to climber's right for the last 500 or so feet of the Couloir, so more into the Reid Headwall area. Conditions cold with high temp around 15F and moderate winds. Downclimbed the Old Chute to the Devil's Kitchen and walked down from there.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Weather was clear, cold (high temp around 15F) and breezy at times. The route above the Palmer chairlift had knee-deep snow up to the steep sections of the couloir which were a mix of snow and ice. Once near the summit ridge snow was firmer and walkable on the crust for the most part.

    We spoke with other climbers who recommended the Old Chute for the down-climb vs Pearly Gates. This worked well. 

    The entire route could have been done un-roped in these conditions. The climb from Palmer chairlift, over the Illumination Saddle and to the Couloir proper were done in knee to thigh-deep snow which made progress more difficult, especially in the climb to the couloir.

    Snow assisted the down climb in the Old Chute.

    Below the Devil's Kitchen, snow depth still noteworthy but a firm crust layer below about a foot of softer snow allowed for decent rate of travel back to the developed ski area where snowcat tracks were followed back to the parking lot.

We followed a snowcat track to the top of the Palmer Chairlift and booted from there. Stowed snowshoes here as well, which we did not use. We broke trail the entire way after that with knee deep snow for the traverse to the Illumination Saddle and for the route up to the start of the Leuthold Couloir proper. Difficult progress in this area. Once in the couloir, we encountered ice and snow mixed conditions. All used two ice tools or one axe and one tool for the climb. Roping up was not necessary, but we did so for a climber who was less sure of their skill/was having some health issues here. Once we topped the couloir, three of us remained roped to assist the climber who was struggling. We worked our way over to the summit and back to the Old Chute for the down climb. 

We encountered a number of other climbers who had ascended the Pearly Gates to the summit and who down-climbed with us via the Old Chute. Most of these did the down-climbing un-roped as well. Snow was fairly deep here and self arrest would have been effective if needed. 

We remained roped to assist our struggling climber down the route. 

Conditions overall were favorable to climbing the route but the untracked and fairly deep snow to the couloir made progress somewhat more difficult. We were 14 or so hours on the mountain, which should have been 10 or so without dealing with slow progress due to health/nutrition/hydration issues.