in the Villages of Mt Hood
Oregon is a climber’s haven. Not only is Mt. Hood a popular climb that attracts visitors from around the world, but there are tons of hidden rock climbing spots around the area. A few are well-known and easy to get to, but some take a little energy and creativity.
French’s Dome is a popular climbing area located on the lower west side of Mt. Hood. This andesite crag offers 14 climbing routes, with heights ranging from 80 feet to 160 feet. The most popular climb is the Giant’s Staircase, rated a5.6. Most of the routes are fixed with bolts, while some require the occasional natural pro placement. Hidden amongst a canopy of evergreen trees, French’s Dome is located 6.2 miles up Lolo Pass Road from its junction at U.S. 26. Due to snow, this point is only open for summer and fall climbing.
Another climb accessed via Lolo Pass Road is the Razorblade Pinnacle, sitting at an elevation of 5,800 feet. Reaching this hidden climb is an adventure in itself. For this daylong trip, you have to travel on gravel road, take a hike up the Top Spur trail and onto the Bald Mountain Trail. Eventually you will reach the Sandy River Basin, which you follow until the canyon grows steep. A multi-pitched climb is the Gillette Arête, rated a 5.10a. You can rappel from bolted rappel anchors, slings and a single rope. There is potential for new routes on the south face while the north face is a 350-foot overhang, which would be extremely challenging.
The Salmon River Slab is located just south of Zigzag, 5 miles up Salmon River Road. Near the Salmon River you’ll find a black slab that’s 80 feet wide and 50 feet long with several developed routes rated between 5.7 and 5.11. There is potential to develop several more routes for free climbing. Just across the street from the Salmon River Slab is a refreshing still water swimming hole on the Salmon River, which is perfect for cooling down after an afternoon of climbing.
Swine Butte is another local favorite, but can require some work to get to. At an elevation of 2800 feet, the 30+ routes on this 80-100 foot tall ridge are rated from a 5.10 and up. Popular climbs at this spot include Pig’s Nipples, Swine of the Times, and King of the Mos. The basalt crags have established routes with top anchors, but there is plenty of room to explore. You can reach Swine Butte by heading up FS Road 27; ask locals for the specific directions.
The Kiwanis Camp Wall is perfect for hot summer days, located along Kiwanis Camp road in a shaded dell along the Little Zigzag River. There are 8 short bolted sport routes, about 50 feet high, rated between 5.7 and 5.11 with anchors at the top of all routes. This is a local’s favorite for beginners and kids to practice and learn or for seasoned veterans looking for a couple of hours of climbing in the afternoon. Drive a couple of miles up the Kiwanis Camp Road, park on the right in the shade next to the river. The approach is a one-minute walk up a trail from your car.
Illumination Rock is a true alpine climb, resting at an elevation of 9,500 feet on the southwest face of Mt. Hood. There are many extreme routes here including smooth faces and steep dihedral crack climbs, with some technically challenging routes. In the winter you can test your skills on the ice climbing found at this elevation.
A new rock wall has been added to Government Camp, the Mt. Hood Adventure Rock Wall. This world-class climbing wall is 32-feet high and is a great place to learn how to climb. Professional instructors are on-hand to help you through the various routes, from beginner to expert. One climb costs just $6 or you can climb three times for $15. After improving your skills on the wall, you can head across the street and climb on natural rocky outcrops at Multorpor Mountain or Mirror Mountain.
There are rock climbing options for everyone in the Mt. Hood area, whether you are looking to get into it or are an experienced pro. Whatever the case, be prepared to get creative and have the adventure of a lifetime.