7 years ago?Time is flying my friends, really flying. While looking through my pictures the other night, I came across the album of pics that brought back vivid memories of one of the highlight hikes of 2003. While not much has changed on Mt. Adams, a lot has changed for me. Of course I am now 7 years older (and hopefully wiser) but I have since retired from a dental practice in Kennewick Washington and moved across several states to the state of Utah where I am now involved in the education of dental hygiene students, a wonderful way to share my knowledge and experience with up and coming professionals. I am also living in a state that is loaded with mountains and things to do. As I approach my 70th year, I still feel young and vibrant and much of this I owe to my friends who I have developed over the past 7 years. Lucky is the man who has friends like Bob, Dennis, Rick, Bill, Kadee, Greg, Mike, Eric and the list could go on and on. No need to put last names here, you know who you are. Many many thanks. I dedicate this trip report to the guy who started it all, SP member Bob Bolton. To you Bob, I offer my finest salute and thanks. And of course, a special thanks and salute to my wife, without whose understanding and support of my mountain passion, none of this could have happened.
One more note: This hike was toward the end of my first major season of hiking and climbing and had many many special events and climbs but this one
is worth highlighting because the pictures do it so well for me.
A long day on shaky rocksBob Bolton: "We got the asterisks off our lists by becoming the last known county highpointers to visit the new Skamania County highpoint who had previously climbed pre-eruption Mt. St. Helens. To all of you who compared the Skamania situation to the change in the Michigan state highpoint, fahhgetaboutit - there is no comparison! We did a very reasonable route for a one-day attempt, and even then it was at least 17 miles RT, with nearly half of that being off trail, with much of that on mobile boulders and/or Mt. St. Helens ash scree. Second, this route had a total elevation gain of just over 5,000 feet. There were three other routes with very similar total elevation gain (including the one from Cold Springs - by the time you consider the ups and downs on the Round the Mountain Trail, it would have been very close to 5,000 feet but with considerably more mileage). To put it mildly, this is a major effort no matter how you slice it."
Bob described it well in a report written for the cohp.org website. I for one will never forget this hike as it had a little of everything but best of all it had the companionship of a good friend, Bob Bolton. He was the one who introduced me to county highpointing and a bit later on, to prominence peaks, so it was one of many adventures we shared together. I had just done several other county high points (Clark) with Bill Jacobs and another by myself but this one was the highlight of a great weekend in southwest washington.
After finishing Pacific county, I made my way to Vancouver and Bob joined me for this one and we drove our vehicles to the trailhead to spend the evening and get an early start from. When we got to the Stagman Ridge trailhead on Saturday evening, the only other vehicle in the parking lot was one from Wisconsin. We immediately thought "county highpointer" - who else from Wisconsin would be at this trailhead? We had hoped to encounter the owner of the vehicle, but alas it's a big place up there, and where there are no trails, it would be very easy to miss each other. By the time we got back to the trailhead, the car was gone.
We slept in our vehicles on Saturday night, and got up in time to start hiking at just after 7 AM. The first trail junction was at about 3 miles. We turned left toward the Pacific Crest Trail. The trail climbs sometimes rather steeply to its junction with the PCT. When we reached the PCT, we turned right onto the PCT, and in about 0.4 mile is the junction to the Round the Mountain Trail. Walk a few steps on this trail and turn left, cross country, into Horseshoe Meadow. At this point you can pretty much pick and choose your route. With Bob using a map of the area, he determined the best way to go and I was happy to follow. So we climbed the little ridge to the north of the meadows, then to the east of "The Bumper", then on toward the north-northeast, heading toward the west ridge of Mt. Adams.
Snow is a big help in avoiding the scree and moveable talus, however this late in the season there was too little snow, and it was rather hard. My boots didn't have a sharp enough edge or tread to provide adequate traction where the snow was somewhat steep and so I made a note to myself, wear different boots next time. The talus moved all over the place and was a major hindrance on this climb. Several times upon stepping on a seemingly stable rock, the boulders on the hillside above stated sliding down toward us, a very disconcerting sensation to say the least. Visions of starting a landslide and having the rocks bury us were best kept from our minds but I remembered a guy on a mountain in utah that was buried by this same type of junk. He had climbed that mountain at least ten times before but maybe the 11th time was not a lucky number for him.
Thanks to GPS technology and spending time with the map, we pretty well covered all of the area that would've been a candidate for the highest point (or highest rock). Again, it was unnerving to have the rocks move under you in such a way as you just felt the whole slope was unstable. It turned out that a couple years later, Paul Klenke was in this area and his pictures seem to indicate that the rocks had indeed shifted or slid. Ugh.
Others have mentioned that this area would be best done when there is snow cementing the rocks together and I am one who really wholeheartily agrees.
Bob made this note in that cohp.org trip report: "While we were at and just below the HP, we were able to see the upper reaches of the Pinnacle Glacier just northeast of us. The glacier is covered by rocks and dirt all the way from the top to the base of the steep part of the mountain. There is a constant roar over on that glacier. It is reminiscent of the wonderful sound in the North Cascades of water tumbling from high snow and ice fields down the steep hillsides to the roaring stream at the bottom. But this wasn't water, it was constantly falling rock, and lots of it. I suspect that as the sun came around to the west far enough to warm the ice, the junk that had been held in place by that ice would give way as the edge of the ice became too weak to hold it. I'm sure there are other explanations. We couldn't even see it - we could only hear it. Not sure if it was simply out of sight, or if it was too far away to see it with the naked eye. Incredible! That is a VERY unstable mountain, as are all of the Cascade volcanoes."
We had great views of Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens from our rocky viewpoint but I will add that you definitely earn it. Once again I will mention that Bob and I covered the whole area of the 8920 contour and also allowed for above and below elevation correction. We did not ever want to come back (although Bob has since re-visited the highpoint liner area from a different trailhead)
Bob summed it up well by stating: "In short, this cohp is a bear. Most folks would probably choose to backpack this one, but we didn't see any water up there. Earlier in the season with snow melting and snow to walk on, this might actually be a rather enjoyable backpack. But you probably won't be able to avoid at least some of the talus and scree, so it would still have its down side. If you're not planning to complete Washington due to other challenges like Rainier or Bonanza or Olympus or Adams or several others, I would suggest avoiding this one. I would especially warn against soloing this highpoint as it would be very easy to injure yourself on this unstable mountain, and there are very few visitors to the west side of Mt. Adams above the trails. "
Our return to our vehicles went relatively fast although we ran into the remains of an old aircraft that had crashed. Bob reported the wreck site to the sheriffs department after we left the area and we found out later on that the wreck had been logged and recorded by the FAA. When we were just about back to the trailhead, it was dark (shorter days in September) and we were spooked by some large crashing noise that came from nearby. Most likely an elk that was spooked by us. The drive home was spent dodging elk and deer on the highway that leads back to the Columbia Gorge.
Overall: 17 miles, 5000' elevation gain, 12 hours of hiking. (not including the hour we spent for lunch and searching the liner area).
I could sum up the liner area for this county very succinctly: "This area makes me nervous"