Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Climbing Mt. Adams - Day 1

I’m burnt. Climbing glaciated mountains on bluebird days without wearing adequate sunscreen will do that to you. But the experience of climbing Mt. Adams for the first time completely eclipsed the side effects. Jonathan and I have climbed St. Helens and Hood, but last Saturday morning, we had the privilege of standing on Adams’ summit at 12,281 feet — the highest we’ve ever climbed.

Living in the Cascades, we have Mt. St. Helens virtually in our backyard. Mt. Hood is visible from all over town, especially as you near the Columbia river, and Mt. Rainier may be seen almost any time you reach a few thousand feet in elevation with a view to the north. Mt. Adams, on the other hand, is comparatively shy and likes to hide behind Silver Star and the neighboring hills so we don’t see it very often. In fact, full views of the mountain were hard to come by even in Trout Lake, the “gateway” town right at the base of the mountain!

The climb was Jonathan's idea, and he managed most of the planning. Last weekend, as predicted, the weather was beautiful and by about 1:30pm on Friday we were cruising down Highway 14 toward the Hwy 141 cutoff which would lead us up north to the trailhead. We reached the town of Trout Lake by about 3:30pm, bought our permits and a few gallons of gas, then headed up Mt. Adams Rec. Rd. toward Cold Springs Campground — the starting point for the south climb route. Unfortunately, I missed a critical turn which set us back by about 20 minutes. The road up to the campground was pretty bumpy and required a great deal of care and not much speed, but we finally made it. We had to park about 1/4 of a mile from the trailhead since the campground had begun to fill up fast.

After changing into our climbing clothes and gulping down a few last blueberries (picked fresh that morning), we donned our 38lb+ packs and hit the trail around 6:00pm. The first half mile was virtually snow-free, but soon we began hitting light patches of snow, and it wasn’t long before the snowpack was sufficient to strap on skis and crampons.

Jonathan taking a quick breather

The climbing that evening was fairly uneventful. The snow was pretty soft but still decent for climbing. We could see both Piker’s Peak (the false summit) and the true summit for much of the climb, but eventually we were only able to see Piker’s Peak looming above us at 11,700 feet.

Destination in sight!

At about 8:30pm we decided to call it a day. I was wiped out and starving, and Jonathan was in similar shape. We found a sweet campsite on a moraine at about 8,100 feet, set up camp, cooked supper and enjoyed a beautiful sunset with great views of Mt. Hood to the south and St. Helens silhouetted to the east. For me, supper consisted of my very own "Bland Potato Casserole" with plenty of cayenne pepper and salt, and a mug of tea. You have no idea how good such a basic meal can taste when you've been climbing for a few hours!

I love Mt. Hood from this angle! That's Mt. Jefferson peaking out on the left.

Stitched Panorama

St. Helens to the west

This was our first time actually camping on a mountain and it went surprisingly well. We were bracing ourselves for the possibility of a lot of wind, but that evening was completely calm, and though I got a bit chilled in my 35 degree bag it wasn’t awfully cold and I was able to catch a few hours of sleep — at least, I think I slept. It’s hard to know for sure when you wake up the next morning at 4:00am!

Just for kicks, here’s my journal entry for that evening (yes, we were tired):

Forgot bone-saw [inside joke], but haven't needed it just yet so we're OK. Tired but satisfied; had a good supper. No big-foot sightings so we're kind of on edge. The fact that we don't see them doesn't rule out the possibility of them seeing us. They like coffee so we're keeping it in the tent tonight where they wouldn't dare take it.

To be continued...

No comments: