July 24, 2012 | Posted in:Snowboarding
Upon returning from Yosemite, I was having a hard time focusing at work. I made it almost two days before my mind started to wander to what my next adventure should be. The weather was fantastic and it had been a few weeks since I had last snowboarded. It was Wednesday afternoon when it hit me, Mt Adams. I had been talking about climbing Adams for a while, and now seemed as good an idea as any. I shot off a few texts to friends, and before long I’d found someone interested in a last minute trip up the second highest mountain in Washington.
Finn, Tristan and I set off Friday afternoon, getting in to camp late at night. The campground was overflowing, mostly because the road in was still covered in snow and most people didn’t want to try dealing with getting through it. Finn wasn’t deterred by a little snow, so instead of trying to wedge our car into makeshift parking spots down the road, we found ourselves digging out his car so that we could get it into an open spot while narrowly avoiding sliding into a tree. The good news was our campsite was right at the trailhead.
We woke up early and got started bright and early (well, 6:45 seems early to me). We hiked through off-and-on snow for nearly half an hour before the trail turned to solid snow and we could switch to skins. From there, it was a long, slow slog up to the summit. Adams, like the other volcanoes in Washington, is just an endless snowfield of nearly a constant pitch. It makes for a thrilling climb as the scenery stays amazingly constant the entire way to the top, or at least to the false summit.
We knew there was a chance of adverse weather and had already encountered brief showers near the beginning of our climb. Joking around, Tristan informed us, “you know what to do if you start to feel tingle-y right?” We looked at him curiously, “what do you mean?” Tristan continued, “Well, when your are about to get struck by lightning, you will build up with static electricity. Your supposed to kick off your skis, throw your poles, and make yourself as small as possible on the ground.”
I looked at him laughing, “Well that sucks for me, I can’t kick my skis off nearly as fast as you.” While the thought of lightning was a possibility, we clearly weren’t too concerned about it. Besides, as the forecast we briefly glanced at had said, after the first drizzle, the clouds were starting to part.
The false summit stays looming above nearly the entire hike. We made good time to Lunch Counter, where we stopped and each enjoyed a section of Finn’s giant Safeway sandwich. (Who carries a pound of sandwich up a mountain anyways?) It was a nice supplement to Tristan and my Euro-style lunch of bread, salami, and cheese.
Unsurprisingly, the false summit was still a long ways off. After lunch, we continued our slog to the summit. We were greeted with some welcome weather. Slowly but surely, we were making progress. The closer we got to the false summit, the harder the climb got. It had already been a long day, and as we were hitting the 10,000’ mark the elevation was starting to become noticeable.
Unfortunately, by the time I dragged myself to the top of the false summit, I caught a fleeting glance of the true summit off in the distance before the clouds rolled in and visibility was reduced to no more than 20’. We took advantage of the weather to take a break and discuss our plan. I was pretty well exhausted and the weather was not cooperating. We had reached the Southwest Chutes, and I was the only one in our group who had never summited. Thankfully, Finn pushed that it was worth it, and we had already come so far. The cloud pushed through and we had a nice break. There was the summit, looking much larger and further away than I was really hoping.
Despite the disheartening size of the final push to the summit, we set off. Not long after we began climbing an ominously dark cloud appeared around the corner. We started hearing the feint roll of thunder coming from the cloud. I couldn’t help but think back to what Tristan had told us earlier. At least now I knew what to try to do in case of impending lightning strike. We stopped to figure out the best course of action. We were about level with the cloud, and it looked like it was heading straight over the false summit.
We really didn’t want to spend any more time around the storm cloud than we had to. We decided the best course of action was to just keep pushing on, getting above the cloud as far away as quick as possible. It was much closer to lightning than I ever really desired. Thankfully, the cloud passed and we were able to enjoy the summit for a few minutes. I was surprised from the top how small Rainier looked in the distance. From any other viewpoint, Rainier looks like a monolith rising above all other peaks in the area. From Adams, Rainier seemed dwarfed in size and no larger than the peak we were currently standing on.
As we got ready for the descent, another ominous cloud rolled in. We decided to hurry. After a brief hike back to the false summit, we were at the top of the Southwest Cutes. 3000’ of continuous, steep corn skiing. I looked over at Finn and Tristan and let them know I would see them at the bottom. I was exhausted, but adrenaline helped fuel me into making turns from top to bottom. The snow was still smooth and the sun had warmed it up nicely. I can say without a doubt that those were the best turns I have ever made in July.
Once we all made it down the chutes, we navigated our way down the bottom of the snowfield, getting in a few more good turns as we went. Eventually we hit the trail back, and began the long traverse back to camp. Finally, we made it back at around 6pm. With a car full of beer, fried chicken, pasta, and various other snacks, we opted to enjoy the evening, spend the night and wake up early Sunday to drive home.
All-in-all, not a bad day. Over 7000’ climbed, over 3000’ snowboarded down, and some interesting weather.