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Wy'East Gear and Experience Requirements: Should I climb it?


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I am planning a climb up Mt. Hood via the Wy'East route. My fiance and I have climbed several mountains in the PNW, most notably we have made several attempts up Mt. Adams, climbed St. Helens a few times, and South Sister as well. The technical requirements have been minimal, requiring only helmets, ice axes, and crampons. So, I am looking at Wy'East as a route to progress our skills. In a nutshell, I am looking for advice from folks as to what gear is required and what level of expertise is required for the "easiest" variation (cross white glacier and follow ridgeline up to summit) I have read many reports and it seems that depending on which variation you decide, Wy'East can be more technical requiring ice climbing or less technical requiring only glacier travel across White Glacier and then 2 steep pitches (50-60 degrees) requiring a simple snow anchor set-up.

I am thinking this route may be too advanced and I might be better off looking for a mentor/climbing partner to take us up rather than learn the required skills on my own. But, any information you can give would help inform my decision. Thanks!

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Have you climbed the south side route on Hood?  I've always thought climbing a new (to me) peak by the standard route was a good way to get familiar with her and develop some confidence.  

I haven't climbed the Wy'East route but from reading its description, it's pretty exposed and probably more difficult to bail off, especially if you don't have confidence in anchor building. https://www.summitpost.org/wy-east/157708

Hope that helps!  

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Agree with @Bronco, if you haven't climbed the SS of Hood that would be a better next step (although I haven't climbed Wy'East for a direct comparison). 

I've always been impressed by the steepness above the 'shrund on the south side, still not a gimmee, or a route to be taken too lightly for the up and coming climber!  A good chance to practice some running belays and steep snow foot and axe work.  Just watch out for busy days in early summer.  The gong show is legendary!

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@Bronco and @JasonG thanks for the advice. I am thinking you are right. Although each mountain is different, I have started becoming less excited about standard routes and essentially "walking up" with only an ice axe and crampons. But, safety is key and you make a good point. It is probably a good idea to first clime the standard route and get a lay of the land. I am hoping to connect with someone more knowledgeable to show me the art of glacier travel and snow anchor set-up. I can teach myself most of these skills, but I am reluctant to apply them in the field without a more experienced climber to observe and critique. 

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Wy'East route is a good route but as said the the rocky area might be more than you want. An alternative is the Mazama (aka West Crater Rim) route. Not really off the beaten path but away from the typical south side clown show. It can have some any danger. If you were going with some more experienced climbers then the Wy'East  would be worth considering. 

Also study the descent off Hood for white out conditions. 

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While much of the Wy’East route is essentially just walking up a long snow slope with an axe and crampons, the crux is often very exposed and can involve some actual climbing and committing moves to get around the rocky gendarme—whichever way you go. 

Bailing from here means either walking all the way back down the way you came, or rapping down the second variation of the Devil’s Kitchen Headwall or down Flying Buttress. (Sometimes both are down-climbable, but there are often undercut rime steps.) 

One reasonable alternative might be to climb up Flying Buttress, as it can be quite moderate when conditions are right, and a picket or two might offer you a chance to protect or build a belay anchor. Then you would have a familiar descent route ready if you don’t like the gendarme.

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1 hour ago, GranolaEater93 said:

essentially "walking up"

I'm sure there is a range of opinion on this, but I think the SS of Hood is definitely not a "walk-up" for a beginning climber, judging by the amount of carnage it has wrought over the years from people falling down it.

Long before I ever tied into a rope I gained valuable experience climbing scramble peaks in the shoulder seasons.  Especially early season, these objectives are good at making you comfortable on steep, snowy ground with an axe and crampons.  A great foundation to build technical skills on, esp. if you plan on mostly climbing in the PNW.  Lots of snow travel! 

And, if you are looking to learn snow travel and crevasse rescue from an experienced hand, the guide services and local (depending on where you call home) climbing clubs offer a lot of options. 

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On 11/30/2020 at 1:52 PM, JasonG said:

I think the SS of Hood is definitely not a "walk-up" for a beginning climber...

Agreed, SS of Hood is definitely a step up from Adams, South Sister, Helens. If that feels comfortable and easy for you then consider Wy'east.

Also, worth finding some steep snow with a big flat area of soft snow beneath it and building some anchors in that and practicing your skills. Try different things and try to make your tool placements and pickets fail. Realize that snow is super variable, but despite that this will give you a great idea of what you can/can't get away with. 

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