I had the opportunity to climb Mount Hood, my #1 personal goal this year, a few weeks ago with a couple of good friends. Considering the unknowns involved with this climb (the fact that none of us had ever done it; we were starting before sunrise with no moonlight for navigation; and we went unroped and therefore were unsure if this would prevent us from getting up the crux of the climb) I was surprisingly not nervous. This might in part have been due to the fact that my girlfriend had climbed it the previous day with co-workers in a guided ascent, and she proved invaluable with route beta. The climb started out extremely cold (below freezing) and windy (30+ mph headwinds) as we followed the snowcat tracks up the side of the Palmer Snowfield. This at least made navigation easier for us until sunlight started peaking up around 5am. As we got closer to Crater Rock, the winds died down considerably, and temperatures started to warm. After having a snack at the Hogsback, we donned helmets and ice axes to finish out on the Old Chute, the main route on the mountain.
From the Hogsback, you descend a little bit into a chute before turning back up onto a steeper slope. As we started climbing up again, the slope steepened considerably, making good footwork and axe-handling essential. The last 100 feet of the pitch steepened even more, reducing me to a near-crawl as I slowly switched off between using the French technique and front pointing. The top of the Old Chute was a welcome relief, and we moved the final couple hundred of yards to the true summit for our celebration. The descent was slow and uneventful, other than me catching a crampon spike on my opposite gaiter strap, causing me to trip head-first in front of a mountaineering class. . .
My final thought on this climb is in regards to the debate in forums such as the ones on Cascade Climbers about whether the Old Chute route requires roped travel. Climbing veterans on the forum will say no for the most part, and in one sense, this is true. If you have experience and confidence with your footwork and handling of an ice axe, a Spring/early Summer climb up Mount Hood is certainly doable and straightforward. If not, then short-roping with a guide or experienced climber is probably necessary to bail you out in case of a fall.