Corie: Andy and I had been talking about heading up Cooper Spur for months. With the weird weather we’ve had in the PNW this year, getting up on a new route on a distant mountain proved challenging so we started looking for new-to-us, less standard routes on one of the giants in our backyard. Cooper Spur seemed like it fit the mold and we reached out to friends and did a bunch of reading online to get beta on the “deadliest” route on Mount Hood. A good weather window was in place so, Friday night, we readied our gear and went to sleep at 7pm, totally psyched about our 12midnight alarms....
Tilly Jane TH was nearly empty when we pulled into the parking lot. We grabbed our packs and started hiking up the trail, getting to the Tilly Jane shelter in just over an hour. We hoped to find snow sooner rather than later since the skis and boots on our backs were doing nothing other than adding training weight. By the time we reached the Cooper Spur shelter, we found ourselves in a sea of suncupped snow. Optimistic, we switched to skis and skins and began making our way up toward the ridge. Sadly, the snow was NOT very skinnable and our skins gripped the snow with hardly any more security than our boots had. Once we gained the ridge, we ditched our skis and switched over to crampons.
Skinning up horrible snow on the approach.
Looking up at the route, it didn’t look that bad. The first section of snow was relatively low-angled and our biggest objective hazard was rockfall. After the first man-killer came screaming down the chute in front of us, we decided to climb in shifts: one person climbing at a time and the other person with eyes-up, looking for tumbling rocks. Our strategy worked and, despite the quickly-warming (and, in places, very rotten) snow, we were eventually able to gain the upper section of the ridge and get out of the line of fire.
Gaining the Cooper Spur.
Once we were in the "safer-zone," we took a quick lunch break. The rotten snow had required more throws with my tools than I had anticipated and my shoulders and arms were feeling pretty worked. We quickly ate food while leaning against a tiny platform we dug out and watched as clouds started rolling in. We had maybe a hundred feet of good visibility in all directions which obscured the entirety of the lower part of the route.
One of the steeper sections of climbing.
Luckily from here, we were faced with lower-grade climbing on mostly good snow so the shrinking visibility wasn't much of an issue. The summit cornice was not in place so pulling up and over the edge was cake. We drank it in.
With visibility getting worse and worse, we decided to bail on our planned descent- the Sunshine Route. Instead, we down-climbed the Pearly Gates and found ourselves face to face with a budding bergschrund that was beginning to block direct traffic to the gates and which was also stretching its way across the old chute. Good luck, late season Hood climbers....
Together, we skied down from the kitchen and had 4,000′ of perfect, prime, amazing corn. Both of us were pretty worked at this point but we managed to enjoy some sweet turns. We managed to snag a ride back to the Cooper Spur turn off on hwy 35 and another up the road to where we were parked.
(BIG thanks to the wonderful people who helped us back to our car)
Down-climbing through the Pearly Gates on the way down.
Andy: As of May 28th, Cloud Cap Road was closed at the parking lot for the Tilly Jane Trailhead. If the road opens, it's possible to drive up to the Tilly Jane Cabin and cut about 2.8 miles and 2,000' of elevation gain off the approach. Patches of snow became more frequent after passing the cabin, and after a mile the snow was continuous. We briefly lost the trail in this section, but the trees are not dense and the trail follows a distinct ridge (the beginnings of the Cooper Ridge) so navigation is straightforward. About a mile after the cabin, the Tilly Jane Trail crosses the Timberline Trail and becomes the Cooper Ridge Trail proper. As Corie mentions, we began skinning from here, but the sun cupped snow made it very unpleasant.
Even before reaching the "Tie-In Rock" at around 9,000', the route is obvious. It follows a giant snowfield up the ridge that narrows between large rock outcroppings near the top, terminating in multiple chimneys about 500' shy of the summit. There are several variations possible here, but we moved to the climbers right, joining some of the upper slopes above the north side routes. We encountered steep snow ranging from 45-55*, but the main crux was quickly warming temperatures which softened the snow immediately. We alternated between clearing the slush off the top to find firmer snow below and using the shafts of our tools for purchase. I can easily see how climbers have slipped off this route, even in better conditions. A fall from up high would certainly be disastrous. In the future, I'll only repeat this route with much colder conditions, which likely means earlier in the season. That said, this route was super fun and very engaging.
Equipment List- Cooper Spur
- 2 liters of water each
- 1st Aid Kit + various other essentials
- Map and GPS
- Ski poles
- Ice axes and crampons
- Rope + Crevasse rescue gear (didn't use)
- Hiking shoes for the approach
Detailed maps, PDF prints, and GPX files can be found on View Ranger.
Starting Elevation: 3,866'
Final Elevation: 11,250'
Elevation Gain: 7,384'
Lower Tilly Jane TH to Summit: 6
Summit to Timberline: 3.5
Lower Tilly Jane TH to Summit: 11 hours
Summit to Timberline: 2.5 hours
Total: 13.5 hours