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On Mount Hood: A Biography of Oregon's Perilous Peak

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On Mount Hood is a contemporary, first-person narrative biography of Oregon's greatest mountain, featuring stories full of adventure and tragedy, history and geology, people and places, trivia and lore. The mountain itself helps create the notorious Oregon rains and deep alpine snows, and paved the way for snowboarding in the mid 1980s. Its forests provide some of the pure On Mount Hood is a contemporary, first-person narrative biography of Oregon's greatest mountain, featuring stories full of adventure and tragedy, history and geology, people and places, trivia and lore. The mountain itself helps create the notorious Oregon rains and deep alpine snows, and paved the way for snowboarding in the mid 1980s. Its forests provide some of the purest drinking water in the world, and its snowy peak captures the attention of the nation almost every time it wreaks fatal havoc on climbers seeking the summit. On Mount Hood builds a compelling story of a legendary mountain and its impact on the people who live in its shadow, and includes interviews with a forest activist, a volcanologist, and a para-rescue jumper. Jon Bell has been writing from his home base in Oregon since the late 1990s. His work has appeared in Backpacker, The Oregonian, The Rowing News, Oregon Coast, and many other publications. He lives in Lake Oswego, OR.


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On Mount Hood is a contemporary, first-person narrative biography of Oregon's greatest mountain, featuring stories full of adventure and tragedy, history and geology, people and places, trivia and lore. The mountain itself helps create the notorious Oregon rains and deep alpine snows, and paved the way for snowboarding in the mid 1980s. Its forests provide some of the pure On Mount Hood is a contemporary, first-person narrative biography of Oregon's greatest mountain, featuring stories full of adventure and tragedy, history and geology, people and places, trivia and lore. The mountain itself helps create the notorious Oregon rains and deep alpine snows, and paved the way for snowboarding in the mid 1980s. Its forests provide some of the purest drinking water in the world, and its snowy peak captures the attention of the nation almost every time it wreaks fatal havoc on climbers seeking the summit. On Mount Hood builds a compelling story of a legendary mountain and its impact on the people who live in its shadow, and includes interviews with a forest activist, a volcanologist, and a para-rescue jumper. Jon Bell has been writing from his home base in Oregon since the late 1990s. His work has appeared in Backpacker, The Oregonian, The Rowing News, Oregon Coast, and many other publications. He lives in Lake Oswego, OR.

30 review for On Mount Hood: A Biography of Oregon's Perilous Peak

  1. 5 out of 5

    jeremy

    some fifty miles east southeast of portland lies the highest peak in the state of oregon: mount hood, a 700,000 year old stratovolcano. the fourth tallest in the cascade range (some 11,240 feet high), mt. hood is currently rated fourth by the us geological survey (usgs) in terms of "size and potential damage of an eruption." there is, of course, far more to hood than its latent explosive power, as jon bell's intriguing book on mount hood: a biography of oregon's perilous peak makes abundantly cl some fifty miles east southeast of portland lies the highest peak in the state of oregon: mount hood, a 700,000 year old stratovolcano. the fourth tallest in the cascade range (some 11,240 feet high), mt. hood is currently rated fourth by the us geological survey (usgs) in terms of "size and potential damage of an eruption." there is, of course, far more to hood than its latent explosive power, as jon bell's intriguing book on mount hood: a biography of oregon's perilous peak makes abundantly clear. light on the science and heavy on the personal anecdote, bell's often charming book explores nearly every facet the mountain has to offer. on mount hood's brief chapters cover everything from the peak's geological history, its glaciers, the storied timberline lodge, its pronounced effects on local weather, the history of its early summits, and details about its many climbing fatalities (nearly 140 since records have been kept), amongst other topics. bell also dispels some of the long-held myths regarding mt. hood, most notably that portland's drinking water is fed by the mountain's glacial runoff (in fact, none of the city's drinking water originates on the mountain- nearly all of it comes from the nearby bull run watershed). jon bell's affection for the mountain is rather evident, and his enthusiasm for its wonder and beauty is easily shared. on mount hood is a great general interest book on one of oregon's most recognizable (and influential) landmarks. from its foothills to the timberline to its snow-capped summit, bell provides an interesting first-hand glimpse of hood's many striking characteristics. whether hiking or climbing or skiing or camping on it, gazing longingly at it from an office window, sipping a pale ale with its countenance on the label, enduring the rain it wrings from the air, following a story about climbers lost on it or massive trees about to be cut on it, hood has a story that inevitably becomes a part of your own. the mountain's presence is undeniable and iconic, always there, whether you can see it or not. it is a paragon of alpine beauty, but also in its entirety much more than that. mount hood is sunshine and storms, forests and fauna; it is snow, ice, and water; it is history and tragedy, mystery and glory.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Maron Anrow

    This is a quick, informative read. It explores Mount Hood from a variety of angles: its geological history, recreational opportunities (hiking, skiing, climbing), regional significance (e.g., water), and need for protection and conservation. I read the book in two evenings, and I appreciated the variety of Hood-related information it provided. Although the subtitle refers to Mount Hood as "perilous," in my mind it's a friendly mountain. It pops out from behind the clouds to say hello when you're This is a quick, informative read. It explores Mount Hood from a variety of angles: its geological history, recreational opportunities (hiking, skiing, climbing), regional significance (e.g., water), and need for protection and conservation. I read the book in two evenings, and I appreciated the variety of Hood-related information it provided. Although the subtitle refers to Mount Hood as "perilous," in my mind it's a friendly mountain. It pops out from behind the clouds to say hello when you're on the Washington side of the Gorge (say, driving along 14). The familiarity of its distinctive peak gives you a warm feeling from wherever you see it (whether it be from Portland, Silver Star, or driving north from Bend). I haven't been any higher on Hood than McNeil Point--and after reading the chapters on climbing the summit, I both want and fear to climb it--so I suppose it makes sense that I see it this way.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mihai

    Good overview of the most dominant mountain in Oregon. I picked up at the book at Powell's in Portland while on a trip to climb Mt. Hood. Read about half of it in the hotel room while waiting for a break in the weather to make the attempt. The book is a good blend of the author's personal experiences and the history of human interaction with the mountain - including first climbers, the historic Timberline Lodge, development of recreational opportunities through the years and the modern high-prof Good overview of the most dominant mountain in Oregon. I picked up at the book at Powell's in Portland while on a trip to climb Mt. Hood. Read about half of it in the hotel room while waiting for a break in the weather to make the attempt. The book is a good blend of the author's personal experiences and the history of human interaction with the mountain - including first climbers, the historic Timberline Lodge, development of recreational opportunities through the years and the modern high-profile incidents on the mountain. It also provides an informative explanation of the natural setting for Hood, complete with its geologic history, its rivers, glaciers and forests. I felt I got to know this landmark mountain a lot better through this easy to read 'biography.'

  4. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This was an interesting read because I have spent a fair amount of time hiking on Mount Hood and visiting Timberline Lodge. The book reads more like a series of feature articles about the mountain, and the writing style sounds like newspaper journalism (which makes sense, since the author is a former Oregonian reporter). However, I learned new things from the book and have added some trails and destinations to my lists of places to see.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Melody

    Enjoyable flyover of Mount Hood. There was a little too much focus on climbers lost, disasters and the never-omitted-when-it-could-be-mentioned tragic OES trip. Stil, I liked the parts about the Timberline Trail, and I dug the bits and pieces of history that Bell wove in. His voice is warm and engaging, and I learned some things. Now I have to look for the book I somehow expected (though, given the title of this one, I have no idea why), which is a guide to all the hikes on Hood.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

    Such an interesting read! For those of us who have lived near Mt. Hood for a while, this book emphasizes how important "the mountain" is to various parts of our lives - from being a visual icon in the distance (when it is "out") to providing our pristine water supply. Written with fun and reverence. Such an interesting read! For those of us who have lived near Mt. Hood for a while, this book emphasizes how important "the mountain" is to various parts of our lives - from being a visual icon in the distance (when it is "out") to providing our pristine water supply. Written with fun and reverence.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    I love Mt. Hood and anyone who comes to visit me in Oregon is getting a tour of this astounding place. The author of this book did some cool research...a lot of his chapters were about things I already knew or just common sense stuff, but other parts of the history and geological science is pretty cool.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ari

    Makes me want to climb it... Well, until I got to the section about all the accidents. Maybe not.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chrisbaker811

    Great local history on an Oregon natural icon.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Justin Kent

    Great quick read on the history of Mt. Hood and surrounding areas and what makes it so special to Portlanders and Oregon natives

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    I've been wanting to learn more about Mt. Hood's geography, history, and reputation. This book satisfied my need very well. I've been wanting to learn more about Mt. Hood's geography, history, and reputation. This book satisfied my need very well.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Travis Callender

    Does not hold up well enough for people who are not already in love with the mountain.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Junkfood

    A wonderful collection of the history of Oregon's highest mountain and the author's own experiences with the mountain. A wonderful collection of the history of Oregon's highest mountain and the author's own experiences with the mountain.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jason Jaworski

    Great reading for anyone with an interest in Mt Hood.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Taylor

    I learned a few interesting things in this book and it was a nice, easy read. The format was way too chaotic though. Each chapter has a focus, which was fine and makes sense when you're telling the history of a landmark or area. But the interspersed anecdotes were often presented without preface or context, so I wasn't sure when the story took place or who was involved, etc. So the sloppy organization of the book wasn't ideal, but it was still a good little read about a beautiful place in the wo I learned a few interesting things in this book and it was a nice, easy read. The format was way too chaotic though. Each chapter has a focus, which was fine and makes sense when you're telling the history of a landmark or area. But the interspersed anecdotes were often presented without preface or context, so I wasn't sure when the story took place or who was involved, etc. So the sloppy organization of the book wasn't ideal, but it was still a good little read about a beautiful place in the world.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Robert Meade

    I am not going to say this is a great book but it was pretty good. I have never climbed Mt. Hood but have definitely thought about it. They say it is one of the most popular mountains to climb in the whole world but then there have been plenty of people who died and plenty of accidents and search and rescues on Mt. Hood. It gives good explanations on the different routes taken to the summit and also a good history of Timberline Lodge.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    It could be good but the sentences are so long and insufferable.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kate Dunn

    This guy reads like a bit of a tool but there's lots of good nuggets about the mountain to gnaw on. This guy reads like a bit of a tool but there's lots of good nuggets about the mountain to gnaw on.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    For those of us lucky enough to call Oregon home, Mt. Hood shapes our lives both to the good and the bad. On the plus side, Mt. Hood helps feed us, provides us with the best drinking water in the country, and provides more accessible hiking, camping, skiing, fishing, and climbing opportunities than anyone could expect. To the bad, Mt. Hood keeps us under clouds and rain (on the west side) and bone-dry (to the east) and, on occasion, kills one of us. And so we love Mt. Hood for reasons far more co For those of us lucky enough to call Oregon home, Mt. Hood shapes our lives both to the good and the bad. On the plus side, Mt. Hood helps feed us, provides us with the best drinking water in the country, and provides more accessible hiking, camping, skiing, fishing, and climbing opportunities than anyone could expect. To the bad, Mt. Hood keeps us under clouds and rain (on the west side) and bone-dry (to the east) and, on occasion, kills one of us. And so we love Mt. Hood for reasons far more complex than George Mallory's famous explanation for climbing Mt. Everest, "Because it's there." Jon Bell's "On Mt. Hood" is his love letter to the mountain. Don't be afraid - this is not some touchy-feely New Age paean to Mother Gaia. Bell writes with a journalist's insight on all facets of the mountain, from its geology to its history to the people who love it. "On Mt. Hood" would do for the enjoyment of Mt. Hood was Chris MacDougall ("Born to Run") did for barefoot running . . . that is, if millions of people didn't already love Mt. Hood. While Bell gets into the hard science of Mt. Hood's formation, volcanic nature, glaciers, earthquakes, and water runoff, he treads lightly and never gets bogged down into scientific arcana. This is not a PhD treatise, but rather a well-informed love letter. While Bell is a Mt. Hood fanatic, he respects the mountain's lethal power. Some of the book's best passages involve lethal climbing mishaps, including the blizzard that killed several local high school students in the 1980s and the world-famous rescue helicopter crash that had a 'copter rolling over soldiers on a rescue mission on live TV. By the end of the book we see Bell and his wife refuse to cross a seemingly-passable but raging stream that crosses their path on the Timberline Trail, and we instantly agree with their decision. But despite the killing power of the mountain, Bell makes it clear why so many of us need to trek back up the mountain so regularly. In this relatively short book, Bell will have you second-guessing any decision you've made that has kept you off the mountain. If you have always thought about taking a trip here and decided against it, please read this book and update your vacation plans. Highly recommended.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gail Katz

    I moved a few years to Oregon/ I fell in love with it when first entering the eastern side of the State on a very long road tour. I was escaping from Hurricane Ivan that hit my home in Navarre, FLorida and a relationship that was falling apart. Ah Oregon, it just got better and better. I had grown up in a totally industrialized steel city in the Midwest. And lived many years in the South's most bustling city. And the Gulf of Mexico where I was living was plagued during that time with hurricane' I moved a few years to Oregon/ I fell in love with it when first entering the eastern side of the State on a very long road tour. I was escaping from Hurricane Ivan that hit my home in Navarre, FLorida and a relationship that was falling apart. Ah Oregon, it just got better and better. I had grown up in a totally industrialized steel city in the Midwest. And lived many years in the South's most bustling city. And the Gulf of Mexico where I was living was plagued during that time with hurricane's. Additionally, when one turned around from loving the incredible snow white sugar sand -- the intensely turquoise waters-- there was the panhandle of Florida. Think of it as South Alabama with waves, sigh. Time to move on.... Mount Hood transfixes me. I am not a backpacker, hiker or even a camper now days. Age, bad knees and inertia has taken its toll. But viewing Mount Hood no matter what distance is incredible. John Belle, the author, is a fellow flat lander from the Midwest. A news reporter by trade, this book reflects that style of writing. It is more an essay with some history interwoven in its short under 250 page book. I think you would enjoy the book more if you had at least seen the Mountain in person. The hypnotic effect lingers. And you end up wanting to share the experience with someone else. Bell does a pretty good job of sharing.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Roy

    This book by Jon Bell gives us the perspective of a journalist and one who appreciates the outdoors. Like so many people who have settled in the area around Portland (Oregon), Bell has an affinity for this mountain that dominates the landscape and the dreams of the people in the region. It has that attraction for those who want to climb it and an awe for those who know they can't. Bell brings that sense of attraction and awe, as well as a solid (if brief) history of the mountain and its role in This book by Jon Bell gives us the perspective of a journalist and one who appreciates the outdoors. Like so many people who have settled in the area around Portland (Oregon), Bell has an affinity for this mountain that dominates the landscape and the dreams of the people in the region. It has that attraction for those who want to climb it and an awe for those who know they can't. Bell brings that sense of attraction and awe, as well as a solid (if brief) history of the mountain and its role in the region -- both past and present. Whether in anticipation of your own climb of this magnificent mountain, seeking the opportunity to learn more about the mountain and its influence on the region, or remaining an armchair traveller, this book is highly recommended. It is a pleasant and comfortable -- and, at times, very personal -- reflection of a mountain.

  22. 4 out of 5

    (a)lyss(a)

    "But seeing a snowy Mount Hood on the horizon for the first time was truly entrancing - a sight that brands your perception, marks your memory, nearly sends you careening off the road." Since I grew up in the shadow of Mount Hood, I was curious about the history and was interested in this book. While I liked that the author took a personal approach in sharing their climb of the mountain, I actually found that to be the least interesting part of the book. I was hoping for more history of the mount "But seeing a snowy Mount Hood on the horizon for the first time was truly entrancing - a sight that brands your perception, marks your memory, nearly sends you careening off the road." Since I grew up in the shadow of Mount Hood, I was curious about the history and was interested in this book. While I liked that the author took a personal approach in sharing their climb of the mountain, I actually found that to be the least interesting part of the book. I was hoping for more history of the mountain and how it's shaped the communities around it. It shares a lot of information I didn't know and it has a light narrative that ties everything together so it was a good read. Not quite what I expected, but an interesting story.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gregory Lamb

    This non-fictional story of everything about Mt Hood was a quick read. Bell writes in an easy to digest journalistic style and presents a history of nearly every aspect of mankind's interaction with the mountain. From saving the Eagle Creek forest in the Bull Run watershed from destruction to the political deals cut to preserve the natural landscape of Mt Hood's Cooper Spur area, every Portlander could learn a little something from reading On Mount Hood. This non-fictional story of everything about Mt Hood was a quick read. Bell writes in an easy to digest journalistic style and presents a history of nearly every aspect of mankind's interaction with the mountain. From saving the Eagle Creek forest in the Bull Run watershed from destruction to the political deals cut to preserve the natural landscape of Mt Hood's Cooper Spur area, every Portlander could learn a little something from reading On Mount Hood.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Interesting information about Mt. Hood's history and challenges. My only hike was into Paradise Park through Zig Zag Canyon - and the memory of an incredible lenticular cloud over Mt. Hood. Interesting information about Mt. Hood's history and challenges. My only hike was into Paradise Park through Zig Zag Canyon - and the memory of an incredible lenticular cloud over Mt. Hood.

  25. 4 out of 5

    SA

    Credible writing, though I was truly there for the subject matter; it was fun to read anecdotes and history of a volcanic peak I see so often (though not at all with these winter skies).

  26. 5 out of 5

    Joel

    adds to McNeil and Grauer's books about Mt. Hood with some newer info adds to McNeil and Grauer's books about Mt. Hood with some newer info

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gregory

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Setzer

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Kinley

  30. 4 out of 5

    Charlie Boling

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