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Saturday, July 23, 2011

June Mount Adams Climb in Winter Conditions

At the end of this June, I led three friends up a south side route of Mt Adams. Only one of them had climbed a glaciated peak before and towards the end of our first day approach, I was worried that this climb might kill them and I would lose a few friends. Luckily, everyone adjusted on the 2nd day and we all made it to the false summit at 11,600 feet. Two of us summited. Their difficulties were probably driven by the fact that this was the first time they had backpacked up elevation in the snow. I think that our bodies have an initial defense mechanism to prevent us from doing that by creating extreme muscle fatigue.

Despite the end of June date, we had to do the winter route of the south side of Adams since there was that much snow on the ground. That included hiking an additional 3 miles to the parking lot which contributed to the excessive first day for all. It wasn't even a leisurely 3 additional miles as it involved some trail finding, setting compass points, and snow whacking.

Prior to leaving, we also had a lively discussion about whether to bring snow shoes or not due to soft snow in the late afternoon. We did and were very happy since we were on the soft snow in the late afternoon. If a group can make good time and get to their destinations while the snow is still firm, then snow shoes would not be necessary.

In the summer, the south side route typically is west of Crescent Glacier. However, from the photo below on the left, one can see how the enormous cornice (aka overhanging shelf of snow) made that route too dangerous. Therefore, we took the route from the photo on the right which was east of Crescent Glacier up the unfortunately named Suksorf Ridge.

The route up Suksdorf ridge was fairly straight forward and one can see the boot tracks in the photo. It ends at the Lunch Counter (9,000 feet elevation) just like the typical south side route. However, we camped at around 8,100 feet of elevation at a wonderful spot that had a flat area for 2 tents and 1 kitchen area. There were numerous quiet campsites on the way to the Lunch Counter which provided a rest from the additional 3 miles on the snow covered forest road.

The next day, we left camp at 6 am and headed up the south route. We were extremely fortunate that the snow conditions preserved a pristine set of steps all the way from the Lunch Counter to the False Summit. We made it to the False Summit by 10:30 and it then took two of us an hour to make it to the last 600 feet to the top (pictured below):

That's Mount Rainier in the background.

1 comment:

Classy Career Girl said...

Looks like an amazing trip! How beautiful! Would love to go there! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

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