Stats and Gear needed for this mountainMount Adams South Spur
Elevation Gain 6700 ft
Mountain Elevation: 12,276 ft
Time up: 8 hrs.
Time down: 5 hrs.
Start time: 4:15 am
Summit time: 12:15 pm
Off summit: 1:30 pm
Trailhead: 6:30 pm
Equipment used: Ice axe, crampons, trekking poles, 1 gallon of fluids (I went with Gatorade due to calories and electrolytes and Jason when with a combo of water and electrolyte drink)
Mount Adams is not a popular September destination due to the fact the glissades are pretty much gone and there a number of sections on the South Spur that are of undesirable volcanic sand and scree. But if you have a good weather window and are prepared for the massive elevation gain and change and have the equipment, Mount Adams is not a bad destination to choose. I wrote this trip report to show what a typical good weather September ascent is like.
Me and my friend Jason from work, who is also registered on this site but he is just getting started trying figure out how to post, decided to end our summer on a high note. Taking a guided trip up Rainier or Baker was too expensive and going without guide when we had no cravasse training was not an option, so we decided on Mount Adams instead and saved Rainier and Baker for next year.
Getting to the trailhead
Jason and I decided to head down to the Cold Springs Campground the day before. We checked into the ranger station at around 3 pm. (They are open 8-4:30 pm), bought our passes ($10 weekdays us; weekends $15) and then went to the town of Trout Lake. There we went to the Burger Cafe located right next to the Cheveron Station. Burgers are actually pretty good there. We then headed up to the trailhead (South Climb 183) and slept in the parking lot. The trip almost didn't happen due to the fact I was almost attacked by some mid-sized animal I could not see in the woods while using the restroom. Later on a mouse entered in the trunk where I was sleeping searching for food. I managed 4 hours of sleep while Jason seemed to managed less due to the fact that we excited about the trip. We were restless because we knew the next day was going to be a big day.
The Climb Up
At 3:00 am we were awake and by 4:15 we we on the trail. About 10 minutes into the trail Jason realize he forgot the Volcano Pass on his pack and had to run back and get it. That delay did not stop the trip though because I grabbed his pack and pressed on slowly while Jason got the volcano pass. Within 20 minutes later he was back and we pressed on. I kept the pace moderate because the South Climb Trail is at times very hard to follow at night and we had to get used to having less oxygen. Still despite the lower that average pace we were on target for a 1:00 pm summit. Once sunrise came up we could see the progress we had made. There was Hood in the background showing it colors and the trail was about the end and the adventure was about to begin.
Going up we became annoyed with the rock and scree and annoyed by the slow pace it caused. We found a permanent snow field to the right of us and decided to give it a try. THIS WAS A GOOD MOVE!. The snow was at a low angle and Jason's boot stuck to it like glue. I wasn't as lucky so I put on crampons. We continued on at a much better clip. At times the ice field alternated with rock but it was still faster going than the of scree crap. When we hit the main steep snow area we put on the ice axe, did about 3 reps of self arrest without crampons and two with crampons in order to refresh how to raise the feet in the air to avoid injury in case of real self arrest. We continued up the snow field but now we were going slower due to the fact that the altitude was kicking in.
At 10,700 feet the snow ended and the fun climb to the top of Pikers Peak began. We opted for more of the boulders because the sand field straight was one of those one foot up two steps back deal. This 900 foot scree/ boulder climb nearly took an hour due to the lack of oxygen and it took a lot of energy to go through this section. But we knew this was going to be the toughest section and once we out we were resting on Pikers Peak looking at the true summit of Adams. I have heard from different accounts of people saying Mount Adams looked far away when they hit that area but to me it actually looked a little closer than it was.
We crossed the ice field and I decided to take the volcanic sand boot path while Jason was going to go up the snow on right side. He went up a little and saw that it wasn't the best route due to the steep snow and a number of crevasses in the snow, and then joined me on the volcanic sand boot path. Once we got to volcanic crater Jason went up to the little broken down shed while I went to the true summit. Once up on the large round summit I had a hard time finding the true summit due to the fact the area was large and rather flat. But I found the survey marking and stood on all of the cairns to make sure I had reached the true summit and called over Jason from the hut. He came by quickly to find the survey marker.
Six Volcano Action
As for the views, it was not including Mt. Adams itself 6 volcano action. Baker, Glacier Peak, Rainier, St. Helens, Hood and Jefferson. It wasn't as intimate as some of the other mountains I have climbed but it was very impressive in a different sense. You really did feel like you were on top of the world. It was strange looking at Mt. Stuart, which looked like a hill. It was the summit of Adams, so you knew it was going to be cold and very windy and the wind on the summit was about 40 mph with temps maybe 35-40 degrees. But that is very mild and tame compared to 99% of the other time on this mountain. After about an hour and 15 minutes it was time to head down due to the fact that I was cramping up not because of fluids (I had a gallon plus I drank almost two liters before I hit the trail) but due to inactivity. Maybe altitude played a role but actually Jason and I didn't really feel the affects of altitude sickness here.
On the way down Jason and I opted to go down the bootpath in which very good time could be made. I thought my knee would be in pain but actuality the volcano sand comforted my feet and my knee joints. Though I was quick Jason was by far quicker here. He practically ran down the path. Once on past Pikers Peak we opted for the volcanic and scree again and again it was good move. It was one foot forward; three feet forward. Soon we on the ice fields again. We hit the steep snow field and at first though there was no glissade because it seemed like the snow was too hard. But though it was not the 2000 foot glissade I hear about in June we managed 400 feet of decent on a number of mini glissades. We stayed on the snowfields basically all the way down to top of Crescent Glacier, where we saw a large dropoff. We scrambled back maybe 300 feet to the South Climb Trail.
From there it was the longest 1 1/2 hour I ever felt back to the car. The 2700 feet (We were at 8300 feet) felt like forever and every minute felt like an hour. We actual ran into one guy who was planning on climb Mount Adams with no trekking poles, ice axe or crampons. He was actually going to camp the night up at the Lunch Counter. Good luck, because the snow is the most gentle way to go. We finally made it back to the car and rushed to the cafe and had another burger. It is funny because even with all the food we ate on the mountain, we had to stop three times for food. I can only imagine the calories burned on that mountain.
This was a great trip. Planning here was really the key. Both of us did hours of research and preparation before going for this peak. That goes a long way when doing any sort ascent like this. For Jason and I this was the tallest mountain both in elevation gain and in total elevation gain we had ever done. I got a couple of monkeys off my back and feel comfortable pressing on for even better stuff. Everything went perfectly on this mountain. I tried to include as many details as I can in this trip report in order to help fellow hiker and climbers who want to do this peak in September or off glissade season. Some will say that this peak is no good to due late season but though you don't have the large glissade the good weather that comes in most early Septembers in the Pacific Northwest opens a great opportunity on this mountain. A six volcano view day is always a good day.