Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mt. Adams Climb 6/28/2009

Mount Adams is potentially active stratovolcano and standing 12,281 ft (3,743 m) tall, it is also the second highest mountain of Washington State. The massive of this impressive mountain is formed by several overlaping cones that together form an 18-mile (29 km) diameter base.

After we climbed neighboring St. Helens last year, Adams with its non technical route was the natural choice for this year. Most people attempting to summit take 2 days for the climb, camping at Lunch Counter at about 9500 ft; however we decided to conquer the mountain in just 1 day.

The drive down was long but fortunately very pleasurable, especially after we left the grey I-5 corridor and continued on smaller highway along Columbia River where greenery and blooming pink flowers lines the road and slopes around us.

During a mandatory stop at the Ranger Station in small town of Trout Lake, we learned that over 400 climbing permits were sold this weekend already, the Cold Springs campground at the trailhead is packed, and there is no solitude to be expected on the mountain.

So we quickly grabbed our permits and blue bags and drove off to see if we can get spots at Morrison Creek Campground located just about 3 miles from the trailhead which was our backup plan anyway since we kinda sorta knew if won’t be easy to get the rock star trailhead campsites. We found Morrison Creek semi-taken and easily fit the 9 of us in.

Few of us spend the evening training for upcoming Baker climb which is technical and knowledge of crevasse rescue is essential. While we played with Z-Pulley assembly and simulating fall into a crevasse by tying a rope to a horizontal post of a shed nearby, the other members of the trip chilled out by fire where we later on joined them. It was close to 10:30 p.m. when we finally drifted into our sleeping bags.

It was not too much fun when my alarm clock went off at 3:00 a.m. but knowing we all are in the same boat, I got up and joined the rest of our climbing team at the breakfast table. Everything went according to our plan – we left the campground at 4:00 a.m. and started our climb at 4:45 a.m.

It was amazing to see the mountains awakening into a new day when the first rays of sun rose from the horizon and filled the air with soft warm light.

The route took us above tree line fast. Soon we started making our way up through talus and scree slopes. With elevation gained glimpses of surrounding volcanoes came in view. First Mt. Hood, then Mt. St. Helens and the spectacular views stayed with us the whole way.

At around 9:30 a.m. we arrived to Lunch Counter, the place where most people spend the night before their climb. Here the snow started. We took few minutes to gear up and with help of our cramp-ons and ice axes started to earn our way up the relentlessly steep slope. Step after step the slope seemed to be getting steeper and our pace was slowing down equally to that. It’s always good to exchange few words with fellow climbers, especially on a steep slope in elevation, so we took couple breaks to do just that. There were plenty of climbers around who just like us appreciated the few moments to pause and catch their breath.

The excitement really started to show once we got closer to Pikers Peak, the false summit. We knew it’s only about 600 more feet from there and all imagined this nice little walk up to the true summit. Then the mountain threw us a surprise… As soon as we peeked over Pikers Peak, we stood frozen by a sight of a giant mass of a mountain in front of us. It was the most intimidating 600 ft I’ve ever seen in my life.

Once again step by step we proceeded up hill. The wind picked up and it started to get chilly but not to the point it would be bothersome. Exhausted but extremely happy we reached the summit at 12:30 p.m.

It was a very interesting experience. It didn’t feel like a top of a high volcano – it reminded me more of a very busy marketplace. We took our summit shots, looked around and then the chilly wind chased us down.

The great thing about climbing Mt. Adams at this time of the year is that there is still enough snow for glissading down and we took our full advantage of it. All together we descended about 3000 feet this sliding down with the longest slide being 10 minutes long. How much more fun can one have in the mountains!

It was easier to take the summer route down which was under snow nearly to the last mile, making for an easier descend than going down the talus field we used on our way up plus this route provided few more sliding opportunities.

We arrived back at the car at 5:00 p.m. – tired but at this point not all that exhausted anymore and excited to have summited.

One volcano of the list – now we only have 3 left in WA state!

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