Monday, July 21, 2014

Mt. Adams, Washington. July 15-16 2014.

12,267 foot tall Mt. Adams is Washington's second highest peak and boasts over 6,000 feet of elevation gain.  While it is possible to do the climb in one long day, many opt to break it up into two days and camp at the Lunch Counter the first day, and climb to the summit and descent the next.  I estimated a one day ascent would likely take me 10-12 hours and while tempting, I had planned my climb to camp at the Lunch counter. The intriguing thing about that option is that it kind of simulates a climb of Mt. Rainier.  Other than the fact that climbing Rainier adds another 1,000 feet per day, of course.  I had the chance and wanted that experience since climbing Mt. Rainier has been a long standing goal of mine that I hope to realize next year.

I was without partners for this trip and made the marathon drive to Trout Lake, WA the day before the start of the climb to attain a climbing permit with only 3 stops.  That's a lot more windshield time than I care for for, but at least I was there.

Mt. Adams as seen from Trout Lake, Washington.

After stopping at the Ranger Station it was apparent that there were going to be a lot of people, despite it being a weekday.  Now I was worried that Cold Springs Campground would be full and I would be forced to deviate from my plan.  There were probably 20-30 people at the Ranger Station so I made it a point to high-tail it up the road before they did.  I arrived at the camp ground to find a lot of people already there, and only two vacant camp sites of which I took the smaller one.  It wasn't long after that when the last remaining camp site was snagged by a group of 4.  There were a lot of people driving up and turning around because the camp ground was at full capacity.  I figured this would also mean tough competition for a spot at the Lunch Counter, so I planned an early start hoping to get there about the time others were headed down.

This area burned in 2012 during the Cascade Creek fire, so the camp ground is not in the best shape, but not the worst.  It was a very noisy night with many cars driving though the camp ground which in addition to the very warm temperatures made for a fitful night of sleep.

When my alarm went off at 6 the next morning, I had contemplated sleeping in but quickly abandoned that idea.  It was already borderline uncomfortably warm and I was anxious to head up the mountain.

However, first things first and breakfast was on.  Gotta have some coffee!

After the final packing and checklist, it was only a short walk from my camp to the trail head.  I felt a little anxious but was super stoked to finally be here.  It reminded me of when I had done Mt. Borah a few years ago.  Wow, I'm actually here and doing it!

Its such a good feeling when finally setting off on a journey that has been long in the making.  It seems to provide an energy that just isn't found elsewhere.  Due to my lack of decent sleep, this additional energy was more than welcome.  I was on the trail at 7:30am and the day was already getting warm.

The South Climb Trail is wide and pleasant with a fairly mellow grade. 

 There is also this very good reminder of the risks involved.  Sometimes we get away with it, sometimes we don't get to far...

It wasn't long before the views of the upper mountain opened up.  A few climbers trickled down the trail as I worked my way up.  I passed a group of maybe 20 people just before reaching the junction of the Round the Mountain trail.  

Following the South Climb Trail and looking back, I could see two things.  One was Mt. Hood, which always looks very cool from the north, however the other thing was the haze from wildfires burning in Oregon and Washington.

Mt. Hood barely visible in the haze 

Wildflowers were in full bloom with incredible colors. Unfortunately, as usual, the photo does not do it justice.

Nearing the upper reaches of the trail, wood poles mark the way. This was the second to last one before hitting snow for the rest of the way.  I was two hours in and the day had heated up considerably so I pulled off the trail for a break in the shade with the Lunch Counter in view. 

Working my way up from there, several climbers heading down had various reports of wind and snow conditions based on times they went for the summit.  The one thing we were all sure of; it was way too hot out!

The last bit of the snow field before the Lunch Counter. 

With a heavy pack, it was slow, but steady going to the LC and I made it up before the crowd from the Camp Ground.

They must call it the Lunch Counter because you get here at lunch time!

Arriving early, I was fortunate to score a great tent site near the top of the LC.  The occasional cool breeze was welcomed as I got to work on melting water.

There was actually a small amount of running water at the LC, but it looked to be sparse and only existing in very shallow streams.  I kept to my planned method that has served me well over the years. As I watched droves of other climbers roll up to the LC and tent sites fill up, I was glad I had gotten an early start despite the heat and nonexistent shade.  I encountered a few younger guys wearing jeans and hoodies who walked past my site that were having some trouble finding their's.  They looked wet and tired.  

I offered assistance, but I was no good since I didn't know where the orange tent was.  After that, there was a frantic lady who said she had lost her partner who left her below Piker's Peak at 12:30pm to go for the summit and hadn't returned to get her.  It was now after 5 and she was headed down to Cold Springs in search of her missing buddy.  I was about to go knock on my neighbors tent doors and affect a search and rescue, but she was headed off before I could get my boots on.  

That's cause enough for moderate concern...

Likely scenario is that he had glissaded past, didn't see her and was headed down himself.

The evening had cooled off just a bit and as I ate dinner, I heard a distant rumble.  I looked up half expecting to see rockfall or an avalanche, but it was an F/A-18 Hornet flying in to buzz the LC. 

Wow, super cool!

Too bad it had flown past before I could get my camera out.
My neighbors and I reveled in the event and the noise as we watched the fighter jet loop Mt. St Helen's before disappearing to the north.

As the sun was setting, there were still a few guys meandering around the LC looking for their tents.  There was also a large group that had shown up and camped just below me that were rather loud and energetic. 
Several exclamations were delivered that night, though they were all the same one:  1-2-3, Ooh-Rah!

The Boy Scouts, as they would later be dubbed by several other climbers the next day, kept that up well into the evening and long after I retired into my tent for some Z's.   It had been an interesting day, but I was tired and ready for a few hours of good sleep.  I hoped that everyone had made it to their tent, or down safely.

My alarm went off at 4am the next day.  The sun was just barely coming over the horizon and I could already hear tent zippers and see a few headlamps heading up the slope to Piker's Peak.  

It was just light enough just before 5am when I left my tent that I didn't need my headlamp.  It was also warm enough that I only needed a light jacket, and even that seemed to be a bit much when I started moving.

Looking back on the Lunch Counter from low on the slope to Pikers Peak.

There were a lot of people out so I tried to keep my photos to 'ups and downs' meaning I kept a steady pace with only the occasional pause to take pictures looking up, or down the slope.  

 Looking up Pikers Peak.

 Looking down over the LC.

After cresting Pikers Peak, the actual summit is finally in view. Maintaining the same steady rhythm, I kept my toes pointed toward the summit.

From here, the route spreads out with some people going up the the right snow slope, the scree slope in the center and some taking the snow slope just to the left of that.  Since I'm not a huge fan of scree, I took the finger of snow to the left, which looked very direct, was boot packed and mostly easy going.

 Taken just below the summit, looking south and back on the route.

At just a couple minutes after 8am, I hit the top and this is what I saw; Mt. Rainier.  Ya-hoo!  There was only a slight breeze but the air was noticeably colder.  There were about 15 climbers sharing the summit, so I kept my photos limited and tried to make them count. 

 Looking south from the summit.

 Mt. St Helen's.

 Mt. Rainier over Goat Rocks.

 On the old lookout building on the summit.

 Mt. Hood peaking up on the horizon.

I asked some fellow climbers that I had been next to most of the morning to take my picture and they kindly obliged.  We all laughed and joked about having already taken several pictures of each other all morning.  The groups that had summited before me were headed down and I kicked back, enjoyed the views and got my munch on. After about 20 minutes numerous people were about to top out, so I packed up, skirted around them and began my descent. 

 Cornices breaking off into the Mazama Glacier, also known as "The Edge of the Abyss".

The descent was uneventful until the top of Pikers Peak, where the legendary glissade chutes are.  From here, I could hear the familiar cry of "The Boy Scouts".  Several people remarked on the less than pleasant noise as I put my cheap rain/glissade pants on.  On the way up, the slope had been quite icy, so I was glad to find the chutes already soft and ready to ride.

I dropped over 2,000 feet in about 20 minutes, which had taken 2 hours to climb.  I zipped back down to camp so fast that I was a little bummed it was over so quickly.  There were also two more flybys from an F/A-18.  

They must be having some fun!

My camp with Mt. Hood in the distance.

I was back in camp and mostly packed up by a little after 10 and back to my car at Cold Springs about 1 with the temperature registering 87f .   During the whole trip, the wind never really picked up and I hardly wore more than a light jacket at the coldest of times.  Maybe the weather had been a little too nice...

While largely uneventful, this was a milestone trip for me in planning my long term goal of climbing Mt. Rainier.  I was glad things had gone well and if all goes as projected, I'll get my chance at it next year.

A goal without a plan is just a dream.  

- Granola, out

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