Doug and i summitted Hood yesterday morning. The snow is very soft. There was nothing resembling a boot pack or trail for most of the upper route...things are melting too fast. The bergschrund is wide open and impassable. Some people ahead of us couldn't negotiate it and decided to turn back. Doug and i watched them do this and we were trying to figure out if it was safe to skirt the 'schrund to the west, when a solo softspoken climbing angel passed us by and started to kick steps up a different route...basically from the Hogsback due northwest up a different and steeper snow chute. He did mumble something to me as he passed by: "haven't been up here in a couple weeks" so that was enough to inspire our confidence...we followed him up. It was a great call...it was steep and scary but with only one smaller crevasse to get past and no worse rockfall lines than there would have been trying to skirt the bergschrund. Hopefully the steps of him, us, and about 8 or so people that followed behind us, all basically trusting that the person in the lead knew what he was doing...hopefully those steps will hold form for any of you going in the next few days. it was a great route...the ridge walk was amazing, and we were up there just a few minutes after the sunrise...i think it was all reasonably safe. that said, safe climbing season is definitely coming to a halt on Hood, fast.
the first day i walked up without Doug (who opted for the midnight snowcat ride) and camped at 8700'...it was a slog, but a good chance to stare at and memorize the mountain in daylight. sunset up there was amazing. the winds almost blew my tent off the mountain...i gotta learn how to guy a tent better. it didn't get below 40 degrees at any point in the night. weather was perfect.
my climb times were 2:30 hours to camp at the top of the Palmer lift, the next day 4:30 hours from there to the summit, and 4:30 back down to the parking lot, including a long break to repack at camp.
25 HP's completed with prominence...i'd pop some champagne if i weren't so tired.
p.s. after writing this report, i read that a few days later a climber fell and was seriously injured and hospitalized from climbing this same route variation. please be careful and climb entirely at your own risk.