The Book. The Mountain. Everything in between.

Mount Hood questions — and answers

Every time I give a slideshow or presentation about On Mount Hood — the next one’s coming up on Saturday, Nov. 19 — I get some questions near the end. A lot of them I have answers to; some take a little more digging, and still others find me punting altogether or simply admitting that I have no clue.

My ultimate goal is to be able to answer any question about Mount Hood or, at least, On Mount Hood, that comes my way. That’s a steep goal, considering just how much material Mount Hood, the mountain, encompasses. But to me, it’s also a fascinating goal worth pursuing.

A few questions from recent events:

Q: What does Wy’east mean?

A: The mountain’s modern name, Mount Hood, comes from an Englishman, Samuel Hood, who never saw the mountain and who actually fought against the United States during the Revolutionary War. William Broughton, a member of an expedition under the command of Captain George Vancouver, is credited with naming the mountain after admiral Hood in 1792. But for hundreds of  years before that, many Native Americans who lived in the area supposedly called the mountain Wy’east. Lewis McArthur’s invaluable Oregon Geographic Names, says that Wy’east does not appear in any available books on on native dialects of the area, but the term nonetheless found its way into Native American folklore. Nobody seems to know exactly what the word Wy’east means, but according to the lore of the Klickitat tribe, who lived along the north shore of the Columbia River, Wy’east was one of the mythical sons of the Great Spirit. He got into a massive and fiery fight with his brother, Pahto, over a beauty named Loowit. Their battle scorched the land and so infuriated their father that he turned all three into volcanic peaks: Loowit is Mount Saint Helens, Pahtoh is Mount Adams, and Wy’east is Mount Hood.

Q: What’s so bad about the fact that the glaciers on Mount Hood are shrinking?

Courtesy of the Mazamas

A: In the very near term, maybe not much. But if global warming continues on pace and the scientific models play out they way geologists suppose they may, glacial shrinkage on Mount Hood could have some very noticeable effects. Shrinking glaciers mean less water to irrigate orchards in the Hood River Valley. The ice that currently blankets the mountain also helps cement its unstable volcanic mass together. Less ice holding Hood together means more landslides, erosion and flooding, which already comes into play whenever Highway 35 washes out on the mountain’s east side. Mountain maps are already highly inaccurate because they depict glacial coverage that simply doesn’t exist anymore, which can be challenging for climbers and other folks working their way up or around the mountain. And as the temperatures rise, so do the snow levels. Eventually, Hood’s renowned ski and snowboard industry could feel a mighty pinch.

Q: What kind of skis do you use?

A: Rentals. (See the “Down the Hill Chapter” of On Mount Hood.)

Q: What’s the latest on the Cooper Spur land swap?

Cooper SpurA: At present, the Forest Service is reportedly moving slowly through the process that will likely approve a swap of 770 acres of land owned by Mt. Hood Meadows on the north side of the mountain for about 120 acres of developable property in Government Camp. The swap, which is dependent upon environmental reviews, appraisals and other considerations, will ultimately protect the acreage on the north side of the mountain from development and will give Meadows the opportunity to develop land in Government Camp. The original timeline for the process appears to have extended past its deadline, but last I was told, the process is still moving forward, albeit slowly.


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