Why Mt. Adams? A friend of mine suggested to climb Mt. Adams early September ’07 on Labor Day weekend. Unfortunately I already had things planned for that weekend but it aroused my interest for another Cascade adventure. I had an awesome time last year on Mt. Shasta and it looked like this could be another great alpine experience. I quickly rescheduled an unused ticket to Portland for July 28th as it looked like conditions were deteriorating fast as a result of a low snow year.
As the weekend came closer, I felt a little underprepared as work had left me tired and somewhat unmotivated. Last year, as a preparation for Mt. Shasta, I hiked the 22-mile Fish Creek trail up Mt. San Gorgonio (11,500ft). This year I only did a small hike in the local San Gabriel mountains as I felt too lazy to do anything more significant. At the last moment I quickly ran some stairs at night to save the day; my poor neighbor probably had no idea what happened next-door :) .
Saturday July 28th – Flight and hike in
I woke up at 4am to catch my flight in LAX to Portland. My stomach wasn’t feeling so great as it seemed to have issues from last night’s meal from our local pizza place. Oh well, I had to move because I didn’t have a ton of time to get to the airport. I pretty much rushed through security and could board immediately. On the plane, my stomach revolted more and I was afraid an unpleasant restroom stop was coming up. Unfortunately I had to wait till the plane took off and I also managed to get a window seat next to a guy with Agoraphobia (=phobia of crowds). As soon as I sat down, he apologized in advance if he were to be rude or bitter in any way; that tends to happen as a result of his illness. Luckily he was ok with me asking him to get up and I felt a lot better and relieved once the cramps subsided.
The rest of the plane ride was pretty uneventful but the guy indeed became bitter and started criticizing pretty much everything going on in the world. I guess it was somewhat entertaining in a weird kind of way.
Anyway, soon I was in Portland and after getting my rental, I was on my way to the small town of Trout Lake, WA. That’s where you’ll find the ranger station to buy your $15 climbing permit. Much of the drive happens on I-84 along the Columbia River Gorge. This is a really scenic and beautiful area where glacial floods carved the 1200-mile long river thousands of years ago. I was amazed by how green and lush everything looked; I guess there is an upside to all the rain in the Pacific Northwest (right?). Once you reach the town of Hood River, you cross the narrow toll bridge and proceed north on the 141, which is a small two-lane road taking you to Trout Lake. You pass through forests and fields where all of sudden, you will see snowcapped Mt. Adams looming in the distance. The massive volcano looks somewhat out of place in this landscape.
Once in Trout Lake, I picked up my permit at the ranger station and I was on my way to the trailhead. Getting to the trailhead is quite interesting. You travel through thick forest for several miles over a 1.5 lane road, much of which is unpaved and slightly rough towards the end. Now I understood why the rental car company was offering me a free upgrade to an Outlander; they don’t seem to like paved roads all that much in WA.
By the time I started hiking, it was about 1:30pm and the sun was definitely beating down. I took my time and passed a lot of returning parties on my way up and was quite amused with the sort of ‘gear’ people had chosen.
Mt. Hood as seen from the South Spur route up Mt. Adams. July 28th 2007.
Although half the mountain is melted out, there were still a bunch of people who thought it was a great idea to wear heavy plastic boots to descend loose volcanic rock. On the other hand, you had the kids with baggy pants and sneakers who confused the beach boardwalk with Mt. Adams; they looked like they had just returned from war! I’m sure it felt that way after walking a whole day with cold and wet feet.
When I arrived at the 8000-foot level, I decided to camp there instead of the much more popular Lunch Counter at 9250 feet. I’m confused why people want to haul all that weight higher up; the same phenomenon seems to happen on Mt. Shasta where everybody heads to Helen Lake instead of 50/50. I was pleased with my decision as there was only one other party left at my campsite, which was quite surprising as the Ranger Station claimed there were 200 people on the mountain! Guess the word had spread fast that this summer’s climbing season was going to be a short one.
After getting some water and cooking dinner, I decided to settle for an early night so I could wake up at 2am and hike up under the full moon! The temperature was quite pleasant and I was actually a little hot in my sleeping bag. Outside the wind had picked up and it was pounding the tent, making it hard to fall asleep. After an hour orso, I was a little worried if I secured the tent well enough, so I got up and used some rocks to fill up my snow anchors I always carry with me. Back in the tent I found my earplugs and hoped to soon fall asleep. That didn’t happen as the wind picked up even more! When 2am came, I was still awake and obviously tired. The wind was still there and I decided to wait it out as the wind on the summit could possibly be fierce making it really cold.
Mt. St. Helens in the early morning as seen from 8000 feet on the South Spur route on Mt. Adams. July 29th 2007.
I also figured I might miss out on the fun glissade as it would still be too icy upon my return. 3am and 4am passed by and I was still awake. It was only around sunrise the wind completely subsided. That was great as the climb was on but also frustrating as I was finally planning on some sleep. Oh well, sleep could wait till Sunday night…
Sunday July 29th – Summit day
After convincing myself I was not crazy to get out of my sleeping bag to haul myself up a mountain after a sleepless night, I shoved down some breakfast and was soon on my way. My head was still asleep but I didn’t feel too bad physically. Only after a few minutes I reached the snowline. As it was firm and sort of icy, I decided to put on my crampons. To get to the false summit would approximately be 3500 gain and I planned on stopping twice to get some food. I quickly made it up to the Lunch Counter, which was a little over 1000 feet above my camp.
Looking back on the way up to the Lunch Counter on Mt. Adams. July 29th 2007.
Above the Lunch Counter, the slope up to the false summit consists of two steeper sections separated by a short stretch of more moderately angled terrain. The sun was high enough to start reflecting of the snow and I put on my glacier glasses making my surroundings look painted in happy colors. My first break wasn’t until halfway up the slope where I mainly had some shotblocks with some gatorade. I continued up the slope pretty much hugging the glissade chute I was longing to take later in the day. After suffering up the last steep stretch I was atop the false summit, which normally coincides with Piker’s Peak at 11627 feet. The route was shifted a little bit to the west, as the snow coverage was better there.
Approaching the false summit on Mount Adams. It's quite a bit steeper than this picture suggests. July 29th 2007.
Glancing over to the true summit is somewhat demotivating as it still looks pretty far away and you need to drop down a bit before ascending the last - almost 1000 - feet again. I had another snack and was quickly on my way as the wind chilled things quite a bit; I also decided to put my gloves and jacket on.
The last stretch up Mt. Adams from the saddle just past Piker's Peak. July 29th 2007.
The last part was a little more slow going but pretty uneventful and I could soon see the summit with the remainders of an old hut on top; pretty much only the roof was showing as the whole thing was filled with snow. The view of Mt. Rainier is quite impressive and you only get to see it from the summit, making it pretty unique.
Mt. Adams summit with Mt. Rainier in the background. July 29th 2007.
Other easy to spot mountains are Mt. St. Helens to the west and Mt. Hood to the south. I snapped a good amount of pictures and prepared to head back down. Now that I’m writing this trip report, I realize I completely forgot about signing the summit register (if there even is one?).
I was excited I had made it to the top of Mt. Adams but was just as much looking forward to the glissade! I remembered how much fun it was last year on Shasta and couldn’t wait to do it all over again! I love mountains but going down is probably one of the things I dislike the most. So, the Cascades are a perfect fit for me!
The start of the glissade chute looks somewhat scary as you can’t see where it goes; it’s sort of the same view when on top of a rollercoaster right before heading down. The snow was softer now than in the early AM, so I wasn’t worried about it at all. There was no one behind or in front of me, so ‘the track’ was all mine!
This is the top of the glissade chute leaving from the false summit on Mt. Adams. July 29th 2007.
Off I went and the glissade was pretty quick, although I noticed that some rocks were almost coming through the snow in certain area’s, making me slow down a bit. About halfway down to the ‘Lunch Counter’ I had to stop and get in another track to make it down the other 1000 feet! I was definitely having more fun than some hikers that were still heading up under the warm afternoon sun on soft snow. No thanks!
Once I made it to the Lunch Counter, I cleared my pack and pants of any built up snow and tried finding my way back through the maze of rocks and campsites. After a few wrong turns, the final snow slope towards my campsite was in sight and it only took minutes to get down. By now it was nice and toasty at 8k and I took a short rest break in my tent while drying most of my clothes. I made a quick call home as I conveniently had cell phone reception in that area and starting packing up. I still enjoyed the hike down and by the time I was ready for it to be over, I was at the trailhead! I loaded up the good ol’ Malibu and headed down the long dirt road, trying not to bang up my precious rental car too much :) . Before I went on the hunt for a good dinner, I stopped at the ranger station in Trout Lake to mark on my permit that I safely returned. Another adventure was over!
Some final thoughts
Mt. Adams is a great Cascade with wide-open views and a fun ride down! If you want to do Mt. Shasta but for some reason you can’t go, Mt. Adams is a wonderful alternative!! Unless you like camping and spending time on the mountain, this could definitely be done as a day hike given the relatively low altitude.
If you want to see more pictures, they can be found by clicking HERE
The next day I had some spare time and drove to St. Helens and its Johnston Ridge visitor center. I didn’t expect too much from it but it was actually quite interesting and you stare Mt. St. Helens right in the face! I would recommend a visit if you have some time to kill.