October 10, 2006.
Access to the Barrett Spur is via a combination of official trails, unofficial trails and herd paths.
The hike up to treeline was easily graded, through a pleasant forest. The trail was much rougher and rockier than the perfectly trodden paths that I’ve gotten used to out here, so I enjoyed it right from the start. I also had some company for this trip, which was a nice change from the usual.
After about 2 miles we entered some pretty alpine meadows, crisscrossed with tiny streams and dotted with low plants reddening in preparation for winter. The ground was frozen in spots and the air was comfortably chilly. The sun shone strongly and the wind picked up the higher we climbed.
As we approached the spur, the terrain became very rocky, much steeper, and was devoid of plant life. We passed snowfields and caught a glimpse of the glaciers ahead. The wind really started blowing and I adjusted my layers accordingly. Scott pushed up ahead of me as I took many breathing breaks along the way. We kept looking back to ooh and aah at the views of Mt. St. Helens, Ranier and Adams. Eventually we found a nice, sheltered spot to have a snack and admire the summit of Hood.
This side of the mountain is characterized by dramatic cliffs, giant glaciers and impressive views. I had only explored Mt. Hood from the other side, and it looked rather benign from there. The mountain here looked much more rugged and impressive. It’s no wonder most climbers approach it from the south.
After a long break, we scrambled up the last bit of rock and stopped at the foot of the glacier. The drop-off to the right was extremely sharp and dramatic. The rocks were crumbly and small, with the exception of one giant rock perched precipitously on the ridge. The geology of the Northwest is all new to me, so Scott explained a variety of the features in the area that were in clear view. We could see for quite a distance, even with the glare and haze.
We moved quickly on the return trip, passing the occasional hiker and dog. Before long we’d arrived back at the car. Total hike time was about 5.5 hours. This hike got me thinking about whether or not it’s a good idea to divulge route info for bushwhacks. Some of the meadows were fairly destroyed from humans trampling every which way. An official trail up here would definitely concentrate the impact rather than spread it all around the area. This hike is mentioned in many places online and in print. In some places there is a clear herd path, in some places the route is flagged, and in others there is no trace of a path. Since there is no official trail, and more traffic will only continue to destroy the area, is it a good idea to keep publishing route info?
Until I figure that out, you won’t get a route out of me 🙂