These directions are for the Takhlakh Lake or Divide Camp Trail trailhead.
This is a big area and a forest map will be handy to get to the trailhead. The first objective is get to Takhlakh Lake on the west side of Mt Adams. Takhlakh Lake can be approached using Forest Road 23. FR 23 goes south from the small town of Randle on Hwy 12 to the small town of Trout Lake about 50 miles away. Trout Lake is where the popular ranger station is located if you are climbing the “South Climb” route. This FR 23 is long crooked, lots of dirt and dust, but any 2WD vehicle should be able to drive it if it is not snow covered. The Trout Lake Ranger station should be able to provide you with a map if you need one.
Once you locate FR 23 on your map, head north from Trout Lake or south from Randle. This is a long drive. Keep climbing and when the road gets to its highest elevation (about 4,300 ft) watch for a turn off to the east that is for Olallie Lake and Takhlakh Lake. It is marked but not well. Set your trip meter to 0.0 at this intersection. At 0.8 miles go right and at 1.2 miles stay right again. At 1.5 miles the road down to Takhlakh Lake will be on your right, continue straight ahead unless you want to camp there for the night. At 3.7 miles you reach the trailhead on your right. Elevation here is 4,719 ft and there is parking for several cars. If you are early in the season, don’t get stuck in the mud.
There are other trailheads for Skamania CoHP, including the PCT, Horseshoe Meadows, and Cold Springs Campground and I will leave it to the reader or other SP’ers to provide those details.
The Divide Camp Trailhead is located above Takhlakh Lake at elevation 4,719 ft. There is plenty of parking here for at least 15 vehicles. The road in the parking area is a little muddy, so be careful where you drive. There is nothing technical about this route, so ropes or rock protection are not required. Divide Camp Trail goes southeast from the trailhead for about 3 miles to where it intersects the PCT at about 6,020 ft elevation. This is a good trail and easy to follow unless it is covered in snow. When we used the trail on July 5, 2009 the trail was virtually covered with snow the entire distance and there were some spots where we had to search around to find the correct path. A GPS or compass would be handy if the trail is snow covered.
Once at the PCT that is marked with a couple wooden signs, you will have a great view of Mt Adams directly ahead. You will also be able to see the west ridge of Mt Adams where the Skamania County Highpoint is located. It is the prominent ridge outlined against the skyline that is coming off The Pinnacle on the west side of Mt Adams. Since the PCT was still covered with a couple feet of snow when we visited, we ignored the PCT and headed directly towards the highpoint with the aid of my GPS. If the PCT is clear and can be used, follow the PCT south about 2.5 miles to Sheep Lake and then turn east directly towards the west ridge of Mt Adams. The PCT has to be a lot better footing than the rocky slopes of the moraines on the west side of Mt Adams.
If you go early enough in the year where the route is snow covered, you could ski or snowshoe most of the way to the west ridge. Once you reach the PCT from Divide Camp Trail and the route is snow covered aim for a spot on the west ridge of Mt Adams that is at elevation 8,000 ft. It is best to have this preset in your GPS. After your cross several rocky rounded moraines, you will get to the toe of the Pinnacle Glacier. There is no ice fall like the Khumbu ice fall on Everest, instead the Pinnacle Glacier is quietly melting away and blending into the rock covered moraines. Hike up the Pinnacle Glacier. We used crampons once we reached the Pinnacle Glacier because it was icy. Ropes are not required because there are no known crevasses on this part of the glacier. One of my pictures shows 3 pyramid shaped rocky deposits that will lead you to the correct area. Stay to the right of the pyramids.
After you hike up the glacier, continue towards the west ridge of Mt Adams. If you correctly aimed for the 8,000 ft level of elevation, you should be able to easily get off the glacier and onto the ridge. If you go too high the walls of the ridge are vertical and dropping rocks down onto the glacier. You want to be low enough on the ridgeline to avoid this rockfall. When you reach the ridgline, this would be a good place to drop your skis, snowshoes, or crampons and pick them up on your way back down.
Once on the ridgeline, it is a process of moving upward about 1,000 ft in elevation to the highpoint. This isn’t always easy because the ridgeline is a huge pile of rocks. Some of these rocks move at the most inopportune time. As soon as you step on them they seem to want to move. Be careful and step with caution. We didn’t start any rock landslides, but some of the rocks did tumble down the slopes. There is a rockfall hazard from other climbers on the ridge. Pay attention and try not to kick rocks down on your partner. We continued up the ridge to the 9,000 ft level to make sure we got to the highpoint. Any discrepancy in our altimeter or GPS should be nullified if we climbed beyond the highpoint. There is no marker, flag, brass band, or Starbucks to mark the highpoint. There are just a lot of rocks on the edge of the ridge.
Return to the trailhead the same way you came up. Our total hike was 13.4 miles, gained 4,300 ft, and took just under 10 hours.
Crampons and ice axe in the early season, or skis, or snowshoes.
The 10 essentials are always required or my list of these 25 things: Common Sense, Map, Compass, Flashlight/Headlamp, Extra Food and Water, Extra Clothing, Sun Glasses, First-Aid Kit, Pocket Knife w/Tools, Waterproof Matches, Firestarter, Water/Filter/Bottles, Whistle, Insect Clothing/Repellent, Sun Block & Lip Balm, Cell Phone, more Common Sense, Watch, Emergency Blanket/Bivy Sack, Mirror, Duct Tape, Extra Socks, Gloves, GPS/Extra batteries, and most importantly Common Sense.