Mt Adams South Climb

Report by: Jan Zarella

What an adventure!  This was summit #7 of Mt. Adams, and definitely the longest of possibly any Mountain climb I have ever had!  What started out as a 2-day leisurely adventure ended up as a 20 hour test of perseverance! It was my friend Meghan's first climb of a real Mountain and she was eager to adventure with me!  And adventure we did....We arrived at Cold Springs trailhead at 10:00 A.M. on Thursday, July 30th only to find the weather predictions of a High of 72 at this elevation were WRONG, and were met with 85 degree temps at 10:00 A.M.  The cooling off that was supposed to happen the previous night did not happen. Having 2 furry creatures with me, I could not subject their feet to the Fire Sand, so after contemplating for a few minutes, decided our only option was to do what I had always said I'd never do:  Climb the Mountain in one go without camping at the Lunch Counter! This meant that our plan for the "standard" Mt. Adams South Climb: Leisurely hike to the Lunch Counter on Day 1, set up camp, go to bed early, get up and hit the summit trail by 6:00 A.M. on Day 2 was completely derailed!
 
So, after conferring with my friend and explaining that our only option for summiting was to do an overnighter, we headed back down the road to chill in the creek for the majority of the day.  We eventually tried to catch some sleep around 7:30 P.M. and began our hike at 1:00 A.M. on Friday morning.  We were making amazing time and feeling great, until around 3:30 A.M. when a windstorm materialized out of nowhere at the precise moment we gained the ridge above Morrison Creek!  This windstorm, which had been "predicted" 8-11 mph winds with gusts as high as 20 mph was more like sustained 20-30 mph winds with gusts of 50-60.  The sand felt like needles against my legs and we lasted all of about 3 minutes in the wind.  We ducked down over the ridge and found a magical spot that was almost 100% out of the wind so we could wait out the storm at least until daylight when we could reassess our situation. Later we found out this wind knocked some substantially sized folks to the ground and was experienced everywhere on the Mountain, from the Lunch Counter all the way down to the trail head!  Those who were camped at the Lunch Counter told me they thought they were going to blow away with their tents, and one tent was even shredded by the wind!
 
The wind began to subside around 6:00 A.M. and we forged on.  We managed to get in a bit of a catnap in our little wind shelter, but for me it was my only hour of sleep since waking up on Thursday morning!  We proceeded to the summit with no further issues.  The bootpack trail was in good shape, the last section up to Piker's was decently intact and we could see a clear glissade chute the whole way up, letting us know that the way down was going to be much faster and fun than our ascent!  Unfortunately, the trail past Piker's was melted out and we had to hike the dreaded (dreaded by me anyway) scree field just below the summit.  There is a nice, clear path leading to the scree field and a rather steep, but travelable trail up it.  Then, the final push to the top was a lovely snow-covered ascent, with the hut from the old Sulphur mine waiting to greet us at the "top". (although the True summit is actually a few hundred yards to the East of the hut).
 
After a brief summit break we began our descent.  Happy to glissade all the way back down to the Lunch Counter in soft, wet snow, taking a break here and there for our backsides to thaw out! We even ran into Mountain Shop's own Ranger Ron and had a lovely chat with him! We took our time getting down and eventually made our way back to the car around 9:00 P.M.!

Mt. Adams from just below Morrison Creek
Mt. Adams from just below Morrison Creek


Ascending the Lunch Counter

Lunch Counter morning views
Lunch Counter morning views

Ascending the first pitch up to Piker's
Ascending the first pitch up to Piker's


Final summit push

Biggest cornice I've ever seen!
Biggest cornice I've ever seen!

Topping out on the scree field
Topping out on the scree field

 Looking down from near the Summit
Looking down from near the Summit

Enjoying the summit view with dog-tired pups!
Enjoying the summit view with dog-tired pups!

Happily descending the Mountain!
Happily descending the Mountain!

Glissading all the way down from Piker's.  Still worth the approx 3,000 ft vertical for the ride down!
Glissading all the way down from Piker's.  Still worth the approx 3,000 ft vertical for the ride down!

The main take home message from this adventure is: Always be prepared!  Be prepared for unpredicted/last minute weather changes, always have a backup plan, an emergency plan and a bailout plan!  Have extra gear and emergency gear, water filter, food and water!  Ironically, our discussion while packing in the 95 degree heat included my "Always pack a puffy" rule! We were both VERY happy we packed puffies, wind gear, hats, gloves, water filter, extra food, first aid, etc. 
 

GEAR

  • Patagonia Houdini Air jacket
  • Wind pants
  • Arc Teryx Konseal FL GTX shoes
  • Stubai Universal Crampons
  • Black Diamond Raven Ice Axe
  • Petzl Meteor Helmet
  • Arc Teryx Norvan 14 running pack (used as Summit pack) with 3 L of water
  • Sawyer Mini Water Filter
  • First Aid Kit
  • Emergency blanket
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm with sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat with brim
  • Human and dog waste bags
  • Cliff Shot gels and blocks
  • Trail Butter