Yakima County High Point Trip Report

Mount Adams (12,276 ft)

Date: July 4-5, 2000
Author: Edward Earl

Mount Adams, the second highest peak in WA, is an icy volcano with over 8100' of prominence. It is covered by glaciers on most sides, but the south ridge is just an ash-and-rock scramble that gives way to snow and ice at higher elevation. There is no crevasse danger on this route, but the usual ice gear (ice axe, crampons, and gaiters) are highly recommended. With 6700' gain, this route is a slightly watered- down version of Mount Shasta and is usually done in two days, which is what I did.

I got the required Volcano Pass for climbing above 7000' in the Mount Adams Wilderness at the Gifford Pichot National Forest ranger station in Trout Lake WA. For those who show up when it's closed, a self- service station is available. I started my hike up to camp amid mostly cloudy weather, but there were occasional breaks through which there were good views of Mount Adams. I did not make very good time here and I have no idea why; I couldn't attribute it to the altitude or the weight of my pack. I was eventually compensated for the seemingly slow progress when I made camp and found that I had climbed a few hundred feet higher than intended. My camp was at 9400' in a very good windbreak.

Overnight the weather cleared and set off for the summit at the crack of dawn. There was not a cloud in the sky and I was treated to wonderful views of Mount Hood and, when the angle permitted, Mount Saint Helens. A blanket of fog covered some of the valleys far below. I could occasionally smell sulfur. The summit is at the W end of a broad ridge that "Tees off" the south ridge. There was very little wind and I had sweeping views of all the Cascade volcanoes from Mount Rainier to Three Sisters.

By the time I left the summit, though, a few clouds were starting to churn up around Mount Adams and Mount Hood and some cloud decks began moving in below. I slid on my behind down some chutes in the snow and vanished into the clouds at 11,000'. (As a pilot, it felt like making an instrument approach!) After sliding for a while more at a pretty rapid rate, I knew I must be getting close to my camp, but visibility was about 50 meters and the only ground I could see was a white snowy slope disappearing into the fog in all directions. I was concerned that that chutes would take me off to a wrong camp several hundred feet below mine. I had already been following my compass to make sure I was headed in the right direction. I began making S-turns on the descent to hopefully intercept the cluster of rocks where my camp was, but after seeing nothing but snow I realized I had only one choice left: to whip out my GPS.

The GPS showed that I still had a ways to go to camp but the elevation was rapidly approaching camp elevation. I continued downward in the GPS-indicated direction, constantly checking my compass. At one point I was alarmed when the GPS elevation showed that I was 1200' BELOW my camp! Fortunately that was an error, and as I waited more for the reading to drift, checking and re-checking myself for possible errors I thought I may have made in plotting my position of the map, I continued down. Finally the expected cluster of rocks appeared in front of me, and I found my camp therein.

I took a good dozing rest in my tent, hoping to continue down when the fog lifted. Later, though, it began to snow and it was still snowing when I began to feel pretty well rested. I realized that it would be a while before the weather let up, so I might as well start down now. In my haste to pack up (in the falling snow), I accidentally ripped the tent stuff sack while trying to stuff the tent in it. It wasn't too bad except that on several instances when I slid down on my behind the tent began to spill out and the gains I made by sliding were lost in restuffing the tent. I finally stuffed the tent loose in the main compartment and returned to my car by mid-afternoon.