Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 5-8, 2011 - Almost Mt Adams

Friday - Monday, August 5-8, 2011 - Almost Mt Adams


Mt Adams, at 12,300', is the second highest mountain in Washington State, but it has the virtue of having a glacier-free snow scramble all the way to the summit. It is an easy route, routinely climbed by sub-teenagers (with their parents), dogs and Boy Scouts. Who have a lot easier time than us old codgers, I might add (grrrrr). There are 12 glaciers on Mt Adams, and it is possible to go up other routes which require very advanced Mountaineer skills, going up crevassed glaciers and scaling massive ice walls.  But we are blessed that the second highest mountain also has a beginner's route.

Our four day trip scheduled us to travel to Mt Adams on Friday, climb to the Lunch Counter and camp on Saturday, climb to the summit on Sunday, and return to the car camp, and on Monday, drive home.  We accomplished all this excepting we all fell a bit short of the true summit.  Again, we "almost" made it.

I think we have been dubbed the "Amost-R's", a play on the word "almosters", adjusted because each of our names begins with "R":  Roger, Robert and Ron. I think each of us is rankled in our own ways because we KNOW we could have summitted, just like the 9 year old, the Boy Scouts and the dogs did, if we had just been more efficient and coordinated.  Maybe we'll try again.

This trip ends my attempts to climb Mt Adams this season, but the trip is only another chapter for Robert Smith, who is now on his way to Cuzco, Peru. You can read his version of these hikes, and his further adventures in Peru on his blog here:

    Day One - Friday

    The three "R's", Robert Smith, Ron Brothers and myself (Roger Matthews), loaded up Ron's Honda Element on Friday, and headed off for the 5 hour trip to Mt Adams.  It is an interesting route, heading for Mt Rainier, then turning right passed Ashford across the Nisqually River towards Morton, and ending in Randle on Highway 12, where we had the traditional "Mt Adams" lunch at the appropriately named Mt Adams Cafe.  Then we headed for a 2 hour cross-mountain trip into the hills on Forest Service route 23, a very narrow and winding road.  About a third of the way to Trout Lake, we ran out of asphalt and were on gravel road. The last third was gratefully on gravel again.  Part way through the route, we saw some spectacular distant views of Mt Adams.

    We stopped at the Mt Adams Ranger Station for our Cascade Volcano Passes, which cost us $15 apiece.  We were blessed with a plastic and paper bag system to manage our human waste. Ugh!

    The Mt Adams Ranger said there were over 200 people on the mountain this day. Since we mostly were on snow, there was a veritable roadway of foot prints, which made route finding simple.

    Click on any picture for a larger image.

    Our first glimpse of Mt Adams from part way through the mountains. 
    The steep north wall of ice was easy to see, but way too advanced for us.

    Further down the road is this spectacular side view of Adams, looking East.
    Our route will be roughly up the right skyline.
    We got to camp, set up our tents, had dinner, and shared a beer around a roaring fire.

    Our tent site, next to a bit of snow.

    Day Two - Saturday

    The next morning we were up, and on the trail by about 10am.
     The sign says, "South Climb Trail No 183".
    Robert Smith, Roger Matthews and Ron Brothers.

    A ways up the trail, Mt Adams comes into view. A ways to go :).

    Taking a brief break while on the trail.  We have reached snow.

    Another break on the trail. A nice person took all of our pictures.
    Notice the foot prints of the other 200 people also on the mountain this day :).

    Here's Roger and Robert on the snow trail up to the Lunch Counter.

     We were passed by a group with three dogs. I have often seen dogs on the climb to Mt Adams, definitely all the way to the summit. I've even seen skiers with dogs at the top ski down, with their dogs chasing them, and having a ball.

    Here is Roger and Robert approaching the first "lip" leading into the Crescent Glacier basin.
    A "lip" is a short steep section of snow leading up to a flat spot.  
    We "go over the lip" to get to the flat spot. I felt it was important to practice this technique 
    here lower down, as a slightly scarier "lip" is at the false summit at the top of the 2500' slope.

    You can see the snow getting steeper and steeper in the next three photos, until Robert and I get up and over the lip. While it looks steep, we kick steps, so it is like climbing stairs, easier than it looks :).
    I'm almost over the lip, with Robert close behind.

    Finally, we are both safely over the lip, 
    with a sense of relief and gladness the rest of the way is on a much gentler slope :).

    After several more hours of trudging up the endless snow slopes,
    here's Ron finally finding a camping site at the Lunch Counter.
    Amazingly, in these rocky piles are some pretty nice campsites
    with rock walls and sandy floors.

    Here are both our tents set up behind a rocky wall on a flat sandy floor. It's not very large, but is large enough. Notice the stunning view of Mt St Helens in the distance, about 40 miles away.  Notice the snow slope isn't really very steep here.
    Here's Robert scooping up some snow for the stove. 
    We melted snow to produce water, which we then boiled for dinner and breakfast.
    Here's a domestic scene at camp, where Robert is focused intently on something, while Ron is getting his bedding prepared.  A couple of other young men occupied the site just next to us, and are visible in the background.  Notice the aluminum foil wind shield around the cooking stove. That turned out to be a REEEAALLY  BAAADD idea!
    This is a view of the false summit, and the long steep 2500' slope leading up to it. 
    You can see dots which are people either going up, or glissading down.
    Here is Mt Hood across the Columbia River in twilight

    Here is Mt St Helens in the twilight

    Sunset on the Lunch Counter, with Mt St Helens on the horizon.

    Day Three - Sunday

    Well, our summit attempt day began with a bang, almost literally. We had filled our water bottles the night before, at least most of them, and were heating water for breakfast, when the stove, overheated by the confines of the aluminum foil, caught fire.  I shut off the stove (with pliers) and when it kept burning, tossed it onto some rocks, where it flamed for about 5 minutes and then burnt out.

    Our Burnt-up Stove.

    The 2500' slope to the False Summit, as seen from Base Camp.
    There are already lots of people heading for the top.

    Here's a closeup of the bottom of the slope. Lots of people already heading up.

     And here's a closeup of the slope near the top, lots of people already near the False Summit at 11,000'.
    Notice the dramatic ice blocks on the right skyline, the head of the Adams Glacier.

    A SKIER carrying his skis to the top. Hard way to go up, but what a grand way to go down!

    Nice view from half way up, showing location of Base Camp, with Mt Hood in distance.

    Sidways view, showing how steep the slope is, and showing a person descending via sitting glissade.

    Group of Boy Scouts from Issaquah Troop 636.  Others further up near the False Summit.

    Getting very close to the lip of the False Summit at 11,000'. 
    The glissade paths (grooves) are clearly visible on both the right and left.

    Now we have a four photo sequence of me coming up over the lip of the False Summit at 11,000', 
    and the TRUE summit quickly coming into view.  Here's the First Photo. 
    Notice the snow steps up, just to the right of the deep glissade groove on the left.

    Here's the Second Photo, showing the tip of the True Summit, at 12,300'.
    It's the little pointy bump on top of the glissade path.

    Here's the Third Photo, showing much more of the "bump" of the True Summit.
    It has taken two days to get to this point, where the True Summit comes into view!

    Here's a Fourth Photo, with me in the foreground, and the True Summit in the background.
    It isn't very far away, 1/4 mile across a flat, and then up a last 800' pitch.
    But I was out of time, it was 2:30pm, and I should have been here at 11:00am,
    to have been on a more decent schedule. It would have taken an hour and a half at least,
    to cross over, climb up the last pitch, rest, and then return to this point.  Didn't have time.

    Here was another couple, walking around at the False Summit.
    They did go on to the top, by the way.
    They were much younger, and by the way, had climbed Mt Rainier the weekend before.
    What dynamic young folks!

    A last look at the True Summit, so close, yet so far away!

    The same picture, with lines showing the hiking trail, and where exactly the True Summit is.
    Although the summit of Mt Adams is 3 miles across, it is nice that the actual summit is
    on the near side. It looks like this year that the Fire Lookout is fully covered with snow.

    A wide angle view of the Lunch Counter from the False Summit at 11,000'.
    The Base Camp is a tiny bit left of dead center on this photo.
    Here's a look down at the Lunch Counter from about half way down from the False Summit.
    I am in a sitting glissade, and took the photo down over my feet.
    You can see my glissade path below me, that I am following.
    This glissade is the MAIN REASON for climbing Mt Adams.
    3 hour up.  10 minutes down.  Yiippeeaiii Yaaaayyyy, Cowboy!!!
     Ron Brothers on the descent.
    Further down, near the bottom of the Crescent Glacier Bowl.
    This is a glissade path down the same lip we climbed up the day before.
    Robert is missing, and is a snow ridge just out of view to the right.
    When we reconnect with him, we come down the path just on the right edge of the photo,
    by the rocks.
    Here is Robert Smith, contemplating a small crevasse before jumping over it.
    Thankfully, he did not disappear into its depths.
    Wait, it was only a couple of feet deep, but still a bit spooky.
    Ron Brothers has already crossed, and is watching Robert's crossing.
    Here we are, following the footsteps of the other 200 people who were on the mountain this day.
    Ron Brothers is in front, followed by Robert Smith.
    Here is a last longing look at the summit that we almost made.  Almost.
    Robert Smith and Ron Brothers are taking a break on the trail back to the car.

    Finally off the snow, amidst the wild flowers.

     Back at the cars at 9pm, after which it quickly became dark.
    Ron Brothers is contemplating the cold beer that we quickly quaffed!

    Robert Smith is checking out the tents we had quickly put up.
    We are ready for our last night on the mountain, here at Cold Springs Camp.

    Day Four - Sunday

    On Sunday, we awoke early, and packed the car to the BRIM!
    Had to hold everything in place while we shut the back door.

    We stopped for lunch at the traditional Mt Adams Cafe, in Randall. Yummy!
    Here's a last photo, celebrating the many many many hours we all,
    Robert Smith, Ron Brothers and myself, Roger Matthews,
    spent on SNOW, SNOW, SNOW over the last several months :).
    The photo, taken by Robert, shows Ron and I, starting out
    from Mt Adams base camp with our crampons showing.
    This summer has given us some experiences of our lives.
    Perhaps we can reprise Mt Adams next year,
    and actually make it to the summit.
    Or perhaps not.  Time will Tell.
    Thanks to Robert Smith and Ron Brothers
    for your great companionship and spunk!
    Climb On!