The Tilly Jane area is the sole jumping off point for the many adventurous options on the North side of Mt Hood. While the area itself is quite moderate, it is very approachable and affords excellent views of Mt Hoods more precipitous and impressive North face and the Eliot glacier below. The longer approach uses the summer trail and starts at an altitude of around 4000′, so in early or late season, some dirt-walking may be required. Still the approach travels through a large burn-area, and in the spring it can be quite magical to wander through blooming wildflowers before skiing corn under the shadow of Mt Hood.
The Tilly Jane shelter itself is a two-story wooden structure which used to be open to the public but which is now operated by a forest service concessionaire. It is possible to book an overnight stay in the hut, but be aware that reservations are now required and the casual weekender can no longer drop in. For the more adventurous, a depression area stone shelter exists around 7000′ on triangle moraine. This is a common bivy spot for North face climbs, and anyone planning to stay here should also plan for winter camping. You may have to shovel out the door to make use of the shelter.
The skiing above the Tilly Jane shelter offers space for a few tracks near tree-line where the snow is more sheltered. The rest of the skiing is above tree line and subject to considerable wind-effect, and so it can be more enjoyable in the springtime. The huge number of similar drainages below triangle moraine aren’t described in detail here (this area is sometimes referred to as Pollalie), but I encourage you to tour up to the triangle moraine on a sunny day and revel in exploring the numerous options. You will almost certainly find yourself unaccompanied by other skiing parties.
Drive up Cloud Cap road from Cooper’s Spur road until you encounter the winter gate and a small parking lot. The approach trail begins directly uphill and is well-signed. Follow the trail straight upwards through a burn area, generally following the edge of a valley to climber’s left. As the forest greens up again, the trail moves into the woods and you’ll find yourself arriving at the Tilly Jane Shelter.
Skin uphill directly above the shelter, erring to climber’s left. The summer trail follows the climber’s left edge of the valley to the Southeast, and travelling upwards along the edge of the canyon is a good way to avoid becoming disoriented in the nebulous evergreens. Any route taken uphill will eventually reach treeline, and here you should take note of some sheltered but limited skiing options.
Continuing uphill above tree line, travel generally towards the summit of Mt Hood. In a group of boulders dotted by the last of the highest tries lies the stone shelter. From the stone shelter, continue uphill, now following the edge of the moraine over the Eliot Glacier. Another 1400′ above the stone shelter, the edge of the Eliot moraine and the ridge of Lambertson spur converge in a large triangular face that gives Triangle Moraine it’s name. This is the upper limit of the skiing on this aspect, but climbing to the peak of the triangle you will find numerous options beyond it to the South.
The descent follows the line of approach, skiing either the broad meadows and valleys above tree line or the limited tubular ski run near tree line. The most frequent line of descent is marked on the map, but any variation clockwise from the line around triangle moraine is similar and feasible. Just be aware that any of the other lines will not lead back to Tilly Jane, and all of them eventually break into a steeper canyon less suited to skiing. In spring conditions, this enormous area offers lots and lots and lots of corn skiing.
When returning to Tilly Jane shelter, avoid going too far to the East (skier’s right) into Pollalie Canyon, and too far to the West (skier’s left) which will descend towards Cloud Cap. The Cloud Cap shelter is the home of the Crag Rats, the rescue group for the north side. It is not open to the public, not even to the nosy and irreverent skier trying to seek shelter. Any skier who skis too far to skier’s left on the descent will miss Tilly Jane but will hit the road that connects Cloud Cap and Tilly Jane. Simply follow this back East to find the line of ascent.
Skiing down the summer trail through the burn area can be either pleasant, or dangerous for the ligaments. Thankfully, you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into, having looked at it on the approach. Just remember that you can always walk down once the snow thins.