Some pictures from Friday and Saturday. I’ll try to keep this selection fairly subdued (I took roughly 100 shots over the weekend). Wonderful, wonderful outing. Beautiful weather for the most part (great views of Rainier, St Helens, Hood, Jefferson and Sisters) with some real violence up near the summit (check for the grimaces in the self-pictures). I will add a full account of everything later this week. (Edit: Okay it didn’t end up very subdued. Take that bandwidth!)
Day 1 (Hiking trailhead up to 9000ft):
In hindsight I suppose I should’ve made it clearer to Mary that I was actually planning on climbing Mt Adams this past Friday (as opposed to casually mentioning on Friday morning “Hey, I’m thinking about going up Adams today” and then leaving a cryptic note on the kitchen counter while she was at work). It was a bit of a spur of the moment trip as I had taken advantage of a dandy of an online coupon at REI the previous week and my brand new ice ax had arrived on Wednesday afternoon. Even Friday morning though I don’t think that I was sure what I was planning. I just kept shoving my hiking gear into my pack “just in case”, just to give myself the option if the weather continued to forecast clear for the weekend.
So at 1 pm I found myself heading down Highway 97 with a full tank of gas, a handful of Clif Bars, Gatorade, and other snacks, and an air of adventure. The drive down from Yakima to Trout Lake went quickly, particularly between Goldendale and Trout Lake as the road curved picturesquely around mountain sides overlooking the Klickitat River and I enjoyed sneaking peaks at Mt Adams, growing larger and larger, through my windshield.
In Trout Lake I poked my head into a little climbing shop where you can rent crampons and ice axes where a duffer was regaling a couple of shell-shocked looking customers with stories of how he’d been a “tough son of a bitch” back in his army days. I wandered out quickly and located the Ranger station about a half mile down the road, where I paid for my $15 fee to park at the trailhead (no other camping/hiking fee). The ranger there asked me if this was my first time up and then warned me that there was some rough weather coming in. I was a bit caught off guard by this as the weather forecast I thought I had looked nice when I left Yakima. I thanked her for the tip though and accepted the proffered map from Trout Lake to the trailhead at Cold Springs Campground.
The drive up the Forest Service roads was much more straightforward than I had expected with clearly marked signs and well-maintained dirt/gravel. Unfortunately the Focus was not in a cooperating mood and began to sputter and groan as it pushed up some of the steeper sections of dirt. I downshifted and downshifted and tried to baby her up, but she’d had enough. As I rolled to a stop off the side of the road five miles from the trailhead, I had a dilemma on my hands. An unfamiliar car issue far from the nearest decent-sized town, but so tantalizingly close to my intended destination. My first thought was to leave the car where it was parked and hike up to the trailhead, figuring I would still have a full day on Sunday to deal with whatever was wrong. I also considered rolling it all the way back into town. Or hitching a ride. Finally, I did what I usually do in these situations and just ignored the issue. I let the car sit for about fifteen minutes, then started it back up and drove the rest of the way up without any further issues. Strange.
My initial plan had been to camp at the campground at the trailhead, then to wake ridiculously early the next morning, pack light, and do the entire climb in one day. But as I began to unload my car, I considered this option and considered the three hours of daylight that I still had and considered who my neighbors would be at the campground, and I decided to hike as far as I could get before the sun set. I quickly and inefficiently packed my hiking pack with my tent and other overnight gear then headed off on South Climb Trail No. 183
The first few miles of trail were very well delineated, marked by logs or rocks and full of footprints. Wildflowers were still blossoming, though when I later talked with a ranger on my return trip, she told me nearby Bird Meadows was the place to be for that sort of thing. Here’s an early look at Adams. So far to go…
And here’s an early non-weatherbeaten look at me. If you look behind me off to the right you can see a wooden post. As the slope became progressively rockier, the official path became less clear (multiple smaller options), but as long as I headed toward the posts I felt reasonably confidant that I was heading in the right direction. By the picture on the right, the posts were gone, but my options were also somewhat limited by the narrowness of the ridge I was hiking.
Further up the ridge, makeshift shelters started to pop up, providing some relief from the wind for campers. You can see Mt Hood off in the distance in the picture on the left.
Even without crampons it was definitely easier/faster going up the snow than going up rock. The late afternoon sun kept the snow melty enough to be able to kick steps on the way up and I kept closing the gap and overtaking hikers in front of me and had that somewhat narcissistic pleasure of feeling like I was “winning” the hike.
Further up the snow, as the sun started to set the temperature dropped rapidly and I decided that this was my stopping point for the day. This turned out to be the popular “Lunch Counter” area with tons of sheltered sites to choose from. I picked the one with the tallest rocks and tucked my tent as close to the rock as possible.
I really like the light on the slopes in the righthand picture below. This was the view from the door of my tent at about 8:30pm.
A couple more views from my campsite. The moon in that left picture kept the night sky plenty bright for much of the first half of night. On the right: Mt St Helens and sunset. Lovely.
For the life of me, I could not fall asleep. I was plenty warm and my body plenty tired, but the wind began to pick up and every time I started to drift off, my rainflap would start loudly flapping against itself. I finally dozed for about an hour sometime between 10:30 and 11:30, waking to some tent shaking gusts and brilliant moonlight. I poked my head out of my tent and was immediately cold, but was also confronted with one of those starry skies that you can only find way up on a mountain in the middle of nowhere. Still keeping just my head out of the tent, I rolled onto my back and spent the next half hour looking for patterns in the constellations and watching shooting stars zip past.
Eventually I did sleep, but it was fitful at best and when I woke for good a little before 5 am, I had probably slept less than five hours.
Day 2 (9000ft to 12278ft summit then back down to trailhead):
At about 5 am I snapped on my headlamp and began breaking down camp. When I looked up Mt Adams I was surprised to see a small light moving down the slope in the dark. Holy smokes, how early did they head up? By 5:45 I was on the move as first light began to spread over the slopes.
Much steeper going today than the day before. The wind was also blowing at a steady and impressive clip, enough to make me glad that I had thought to wear longer pants for the early hiking. I was partially shielded by a ridge then and by the time the sun poked into view, the shorts returned. I felt like I was making great time and had the slopes in front of me all to my lonesome.
At 7:30, I reached the false summit (11,600ft) and was immediately slapped in the face by what I can conservatively say were 40 mph winds (I later read that Rainier was blowing at 60 mph and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what these were). It was stunningly cold. I pulled my hat low and shielded my face as much as possible, but in the end the only relief I would find was when I would scamper behind a large boulder or pile of rocks, crouching as low as I could go. Later, talking with a group of climbers, I would find out that the pair who had been responsible for the light I saw so early in the morning had reached this point and been turned back (giving me the first ascent of the day, huzzah!)
The picture on the right is a view looking south from the false summit. Again, Mt Hood on the horizon. You should also be able to see Mt Jefferson and the Sisters peaks.
Left: Self-picture near the false summit, with the real summit behind me. Right: A look back at the exposed saddle that I literally ran across before reaching the final climb. I noticed on the saddle that the wind would blow in one nostril and blow snot out of the other. Out of my control. Crazy.
I took the picture on the left as I crouched behind my last piece of shelter before running to the summit. In the right picture you can see what I was crouched behind and a dilapidated shack off in the distance.
And finally, the summit. Topped out at about 8:30 am. Rainier pictured. Also a closer look at the shack and some summit shots of Mt Hood and Mt. St Helens.
Below: Pictures from the way down. A crevasse on the east side of the saddle. A couple shots of Lunch Counter. And some wild flowers. The return trek, losing some 6000ft, went very quickly. I was able to glissade a little on the glaciers (though they were awfully frozen still), which was amusing, then basically just retraced my steps from the previous day. At the car by 11:45 and home by about 2:30.