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Assaulting Mount Hood.

Assaulting Mount Hood

The ascent begins in the middle of the night. From Timberline Lodge, the treeless flanks of the 11,235-foot volcano stretch up into darkness. Two teams of five climbers follow skittering flashlight beams up the increasingly steep slopes.

Conversations lag as breath comes deep and in rhythm with each step in the thin air at this altitude. For the next 8 to 12 hours, the pace will remain steady but slow. Barring a sudden change of weather, breakfast will be on the summit of Oregon's Mount Hood.

Some 60 miles east of Portland, Mount Hood offers a rare chance for inexperienced climbers to bag one of the West's major mountain peaks. (One 13-year-old member of our group had little trouble keeping up with puffing adults.) Now through mid-July conditions are best, although many guide services continue to offer climbs through September.

While the route is not technically difficult, it is steep: you gain 5,300 feet in just 3 1/2 miles. Because a climb requires some basic mountaineering gear and fundamental climbing skills, beginners should attempt it only with a qualified guide.

The hike starts near Timberline Lodge, where you'll meet a guide the day before the climb. You'll be outfitted with boots, crampons, and ice ax, and spend a half-day on nearby slopes learning the ropes.

Groups of four are roped together to practice hiking and climbing as a team. You practice falling and stopping yourself with the ice ax, and glissading (snow sliding).

After a very early dinner, it's time for bed--you'll be on the trail by 2:30 A.M. Most groups are back before noon.

This season, five guide services hold Forest Service permits for Mount Hood. For a list, write to the Zig Zag Ranger Station, Rhododendron, Ore. 97049.

Only one firm is stationed at trailhead; its program is similar to most. Costs are based on number of climbers per guide: a full group of four would run $55 per person for the actual climb. Add $25 for the half-day orientation and another $10 for equipment rental. Write to Timberline Mountain Guides, Box 464, Terrebonne, Ore. 97760; (503) 548-1888.

Lodging, camping. Classic old Timberline Lodge has rooms starting at $47 a night double; call (503) 272-3311. USFS campgrounds near Government Camp have unreserved sites for $3 to $6 a night.

Photo: Jagged peak of Mount Hood loonms a mile above climbing team during practice session

Photo: First glimmer of dawn beckons climbers heading for the distant summit

Photo: We made it! Proud trio hams it up after signing official log at the summit
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Title Annotation:Oregon
Date:Aug 1, 1984
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