Mountain #2: Mount Adams

September 7, 2014

Corie: In what has become the typical fashion for us, we decided to push the envelope and do Adams in one push.  Because why not? Despite my newness to mountaineering, I felt really motivated to check this mountain off in one day so we decided to meet our two friends, Ty and Kristen, at the lunch counter, where they would be sleeping the night before. This climb also happened to be my first experience using an ice ax and crampons- I was pretty psyched but the fact that I was going to need tools (or weapons as I so lovingly referred to them during this climb) to stay ON solid ground was a little freaky.


Besides learning about self-arresting and becoming acquainted with high speed transitions, the things that stuck out the most during this trip were a, accomplishing car to summit in under 6 hours and tasting the air at 12,000’+ for the first time ever, and b, the following tale about my first ‘glissading’ and down climbing experience:


I was slightly terrified by the time we were halfway down the first glissade chute though since not only had some random dude nearly glissading RIGHT ON TOP OF ME, but a grumpy old man rudely informed me that the alternative of walking down with crampons would be incredibly dangerous (Ty and Andy were already down the tube and Kristen was loading up at this point) and that some girl had just been life-flighted off the mountain because she didn’t self arrest at the bottom and ended up on the rock pile at the base of a chute.  So, I elected to walk down a steep section… stupidly.  Having no clue how to walk down hill in snow without crampons, I was on the verge of tears after I slipped, fell, and self arrested with all of my might.  Andy, savior of mine, coach, adventure partner, speed climbed up the slope to me and walked me through walking downhill in the snow.  



For my first “real mountain,” Mt Adams was incredible.  I feel so incredibly thankful/fortunate/lucky to have had the climbing partners I had with me on this trip and even more thankful to have had Andy there, patiently coaching me when I needed it, and playfully pushing me when I wanted it. 



Andy: I was psyched to do this mountain after having it on my “To Do” list for a while. The South Spur route on Adams isn’t necessarily steep or complex, but you do need crampons and an axe, it’s about 12 miles round-trip, and it’s a massive volcano. It’s actually the second most voluminous volcano in the Cascades, coming in right behind Mt Shasta. With Corie onboard to try it in one day, we set to work slimming down our packs to only the bare necessities, in an effort to climb as light and fast as possible. This tactic worked well, and we carried very light packs, even stashing water about 3 miles in from the trailhead to retrieve on the way down. 


The only snafu we came across was missing a key turn that made a hard left and took a much easier route up gentle switchbacks, about 1,000 below reaching the lunch counter. In the dark, we totally blew by this turn and instead hopped our way up a steep (and loose) talus field. Luckily this detour did not put us off route too much and we connected back into the standard trail after half a mile. In retrospect, this might be a shortcut distance-wise, but probably cost us some time as the traveling was more precarious, and likely slower than the switchbacks.


Overall, this was an awesome summit with great conditions and great friends. I’d like to return in the spring sometime and ski off this thing, as the terrain is crevasse-free and the decent would be fast and fun. It’s definitely an early season skimo objective though - at this time in September even the upper slopes were very sun cupped and the skiing would have been horrendous. 



In Summary…

“You’re going to climb Mt Adams in ONE DAY?” was the response we received whenever we told anyone about our plan to summit Washington’s 12,276’ mountain in one push. Maybe it should have seemed a little crazier to us but the idea of packing sleeping bags, pads, water, and food up to the 9,400’ lunch counter and finishing the climb the next day seemed even crazier.  So, we let our climbing friends know that we would meet them at their campsite sometime around 6am, pitched a tent at the trailhead, crawled into bed around 8:30pm, and set an alarm for 1:30am. Doing Adams in one day makes for one, long, day. BUT! It’s worth it to avoid the crowds, to carry super light packs, and to move quickly and freely along the trails. For reference, we summited in around 6.5 hours, and with approximately an hour of rest breaks, this ended up being about a 12 hour day. If this climb is split over two days, the lunch counter is the typical spot to pitch a tent.


Although we did this climb in late summer, there was still a fair amount of snow on the trail once we hit about 8,000 feet, making crampons and an ice axe extremely helpful for safe and efficient travel.  Late summer makes for the least amount of snow travel but many of the glissade chutes are still in good condition.  Although the snow pack is typically at its shallowest depth during this time of year, caution should still be exercised when attempting this summit; Mt Adams is a challenging, long climb and should not be considered without adequate research and preparation beforehand.



Equipment List - South Spur Route (for summer climbs, for a one-day push)

- The standard climbing kit (food, water, layers, ten essentials, etc [See South Sister]
- Ice axe
- Crampons
- Trekking poles are helpful, but not necessary

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