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Mount Adams South Climb

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Mount Adams South Climb — Sep 14, 2013 — IBHiking
Issues: Water on trail | Snow on trail
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Round two: Just hiked this mountain a few weeks prior. Boy, does a few weeks of snowmelt make a dif...
Round two:
Just hiked this mountain a few weeks prior. Boy, does a few weeks of snowmelt make a difference!

Well, my friend and I arrived at the Ranger Station pre-noon. We quickly filled out our forms with help from the friendly staff. One tag you fill out is for your vehicle and your pack, the other long form is for the party (who’s going, who’s your emergency POC, etc.). Passes are $15 bucks. We skipped the burger shack at the Chevron (although I highly recommend it) and headed to the trail head. The trail head is about 15 miles from Trout Lake and takes under 45 minutes to get there. Parking is hard to find on busy weekends, but go ahead and travel all the way up to see if a spot has opened up (found one last two times).

The trail head to the first ridge is a gentle incline leading to a decent sized stream. Although it is well travelled watch out for ankle rolling obstacles because they are prevalent. You may stop and get water here but who burns through that much water in the first 45-60 minutes? There is plenty of water on the mountain but this area makes an ideal place to take 5.

Your first ridge is more like a tiny little spur that comes off your first real ridge. You may travel up this tree filled ridge on either side, although I recommend the well beaten one on the right. At the top of this ridge is a small valley, and where you stand is a trail marker on flat even ground with a lot of man-sized boulders on it. This is an excellent Kodak moment with Mt Hood to the south or Mt Adams above you. Looking up the valley you see your destination and will be inclined to head straight up the valley and eventually pick a place to scramble up the ridge on your left. Hold that thought, and look to your lookers-left (looker’s-left/right is facing uphill, mountain’s left/right is facing downhill). Look down over the shelf you just climbed up to and you will see a trail going back down to the mountain’s-right, and then back up onto and around the ridge. This is the actual trail. By all means scramble if you are so inclined. The actual trail is much faster and easier.

This ridge is also covered in trees however, they are no taller than a person, and will open you up to the wind. I found this wind to be very welcome as I had just completed the scramble I wish I could have avoided. As you continue up this ridge you will eventually begin seeing camp sites in the trees to your left. Another 200-300 vertical feet and the first rock-built wind breaks will start coming up on each side of you. If it is a busy weekend, these will all be filled, and so will all the ones on the main flat-top peninsula that has roughly a dozen campsites on it. Keep going, this is not your destination. Although you are now about the summit of Mt St. Helens, your destination is roughly another 1,000 vertical ahead of you. You will cross a small stream ideal for filling up, but there is plenty of water at Lunch Counter.

Not too far after the water crossing is the first real snowfield. As long as it isn’t completely iced over, you can walk right up this in tennis shoes and ski poles (crampons are unnecessary), just make sure you make a “shwoot, shwoot, shwoot” sound as you go –this is a plug at those guys I always see wearing those cute florescent boy shorts, with a water bottle fanny pack, and sunglasses. Thank you for the entertainment. I digress… take this snow field up, up, and up some more. When you can’t see over the next snow ridge, just head for the center and you will come out at the right place. When you get to the end of this first snowfield Lunch Counter will be right in front of you, you should be out of breath, and ready to take 5. I recommend skipping break time and finding a decent camp site before they all get taken up. Then take 5. Water is directly south of you in a small creek. Don’t fall in, the bank is steep and you may be tired.

Congratulations day one is almost complete and now that you can see to the west it is the perfect time to get out your camera and take a zillion pictures of the sun going down right behind Mt St Helens. It might be a good idea to split up tasks at this point; someone to get water, someone to set up the tent, someone to start cooking, etc. In any case, relax and have a cold one if you brought one ;) tomorrow will be demanding.

The Pikers Peak (false summit) hike is what it is, steep and demanding. Oh, and you are starting out at 9,300 feet so start filling those lungs all the way with each breath. This part of the hike is the hardest segment of the hike. Once you get to the top and see the summit, don’t worry what it looks like, what you just did was much harder. By the way this is probably the most inopportune time to handle your “business” but if you must, this is the only place where you might be able to find some privacy behind the rock pile hint, hint.

Anyway, from here on a clear day you can see Mt. St. Helens to the west, Mt. Hood, Jefferson, and one other to the south (can’t tell if Mt. Bachelor or the Sisters) all in a row just to the left of each one. Now that you have rested and feel like you can charge up to the summit, go ahead and continue on any of the paths leading that general direction (they all go the same place). If you are like me your final charge lasts about 15 steps and then it’s back to the slow and steady slog at 11,000 feet.

You will cross a small snow saddle between Pikers Peak and the base of the summit. After that just head straight up  This part of the hike has switch backs but it doesn’t matter, you will be tired and feeling sorry for yourself. Chin up. Keep going! Finally, the last 400-500 feet the summit (the wooden cabin structure) will be staring at you and telling you to “suck it up buttercup” –or those could just be the voices again. In any case, seeing the summit gave me more motivation to get to the top.

Once you arrive at the cabin you have made the destination. My first summit, but the time I made it I was sour and could care less about savoring the moment. I was ready to go home and be warm and lazy on the couch. I recommend taking the time to follow the ridge to the east side and enjoy the glorious view as I did this time. We did catch some of a pretty large storm that came up on us very quickly. We decided that safety was a concern and headed back down. On a sunny day you can see Baker, Rainier, Olympus, Helens, Hood, Jefferson, Bachelor/Sisters, and that flat open area east of the Cascades… I think Stuart also.

Going down. Sunny days with soft snow = fun glissades on the way down. Cloudy days with cold hard as ice snow = bruised hips, elbows, knees, and a sore shoulder from your ice axe trying to yank your arm off when braking… guess which one I had? Either way, there is no faster way down the mountain… well you could jump I suppose, but I enjoy living. If it takes you 4 hours to get up from Lunch Counter, it will only take you 45 minutes down if you glissade, and on a nice day is a lot of fun!

Have a plan before you leave in the morning for the summit. When you get back you may be wet and want to pack up and hit the trail. Your friends may want to put some sweatpants on, do their hair, and roast some freaking hotdogs before taking two hours to get packed up and back on the trail. Can you tell which one I was??? Haha. Anyway, take the snowfields all the way down. I step skied all the way down and made really good time. There is also an opportunity to follow the glacier to the left and down another glissade to the valley I talk about at the decision point. If not take the trail you came up on, as it is a known path.

The rest of the trail becomes a monotonous blur. Just take your time, follow the path, don’t take shortcuts, and protect those knees. Most people get hurt on the way down. Take it easy, and arrive at your car on your own two feet.

This hike can be done with no crampons in September. We hiked/climbed the rocks up Piker’s Peak. I wouldn’t recommend doing this while there is still snow all over them though.

Thanks for reading
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Mount Adams South Climb — Sep 11, 2013 — jch725
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail
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Thought I would offer a write-up even though the summer season is drawing to a close. I would divid...
Thought I would offer a write-up even though the summer season is drawing to a close. I would divide this climb into 3 sections, the first being an easy couple of miles through a partially burned out forest, the second a subalpine area of mostly rocky ridges and scree fields, the third being the steady incline up the snow cone to the top. If you do attempt this climb as a day hike in summer weather conditions be advised: the snow will get very soft and slushy by mid-day and make the climbing much more difficult. I started before 6 am and could feel it softening as I went up so I pushed myself to get up as fast as I could. Got to the top a little after 11 am, fighting the altitude the whole way up the snow field one step at a time (4 steps then stopping for deep breaths) by staying focused on the goal visible above me. My microspikes and ice axe were very helpful in providing additional traction and stability going up. I highly recommend them (or crampons). There is quite a bit of melt out this year so you have the option of choosing the scree/rocks instead for quite a ways up, but this is also loose and slippery at this degree of incline. The snow is definitely faster if you have spikes/crampons.

I found the “trail” a bit hard to follow at times and saw few people along the way being a Wednesday but generally headed north towards the summit, using boot tracks up as much as I could follow them. When you get close to Piker’s Peak (the “false summit”) you will come around the corner and see a partially collapsed old fire lookout behind it. That is your true destination. When I saw the hut I could’ve cried out with joy if I’d had any extra breath. I could not find the official GPS marker despite circling the summit, and I also was alone except for one guy hanging out by himself at the hut, so I didn’t get the obligatory summit self pic. Bummer.

Now, going down was surprisingly difficult. I know a lot of people comment about having fun glissading but I found it very difficult to control the glissade, particularly coming down Piker’s Peak where it was quite steep. Even with my ice axe as a brake it was mostly the mountain and gravity deciding when and where I would stop – same scenario trying to walk it down. At one point I lost grip on my ice axe and had to climb back up to get it, which is how I can’t imagine people were managing to go UP in the slush after noon.

So long story short, Mt Adams is totally doable if you are an experienced hiker/inexperienced climber with a few caveats: I recommend an early start, as early as you can make it, like 1-2 hours before dawn and use headlamps for the relatively easy section below timberline. Or of course, climb up and camp to acclimate if you have the willingness to carry a pack up a few miles. Second, bring some gear even if you think you don’t need it; you’ll be surprised at how useful that ice axe is! Don’t go up in tennis shoes unless you like sprained ankles. Third, take care glissading and note how close you are to the rocks before your momentum is taking you right over them. Also, secure all your supplies and gear before you start the slide. One other item of note: although I got up the forest road in a Prius, I'd recommend a high clearance vehicle as the road is badly rutted for the last 3 miles.
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Mount Adams South Climb — Aug 30, 2013 — stephen.alvarado
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail
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My first climb on Mount Adams! While there was a potential for snow in the forecast the day we went,...
My first climb on Mount Adams! While there was a potential for snow in the forecast the day we went, the weather turned out better than expected. We hit the trail around 5:30 am and made it up to the false summit around 2:30. Unfortunately, we didn't go beyond that point since we were pretty tired by then and just wanted to get to the glissading part (after all, it is the most fun thing about climbing Adams).

Like others have mentioned, the snow melt was pretty good this year and there were lots of routes heading up to the top on the rocks. We still used our crampons for most of the way up until it got too slushy. I think next time we'll camp overnight at the Lunch Counter and get an earlier start in the morning so the snow is easier to walk on.

Check out my blog post on the hike for more photos. Thanks for reading![…]/

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Mount Adams South Climb — Aug 24, 2013 — Waterproof
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Snow on trail
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Drove in Friday night from Seattle and camped at the South Climb trailhead (Cold Springs campground)...
Drove in Friday night from Seattle and camped at the South Climb trailhead (Cold Springs campground). Arriving around 11PM there were still plenty of camp spots. Note that there are no climbing permits available at the trailhead; you have to pick those up at the ranger station on the way in. On the way to the trailhead we made the mistake of following the signs to Adams from Trout Lake, which makes you take several miles on an unnecessarily rough road. Nevertheless, our low-to-the-ground Honda Insight made it up the road with no trouble; it took less than an hour to get to the trailhead from Trout Lake, where we set up camp quickly and fell asleep even more quickly.

We left the trailhead shortly after 6AM Saturday and were treated to a spectacular sunrise view of Mt. Hood behind us. On the way up the "main trail" is sometimes hard to follow because it occasionally splits into several smaller trails that tend to join up, so don't worry.
The trail is non-snow-covered most of the way up; most people were doing the last few thousand feet to the false summit up a snowfield, but as I had only my yaktrax and light hiking shoes making progress up the steeper snow was tough. It was hard to find a good set of pre-kicked steps.

Eventually I made my way to the talus on the left of the snowfield and went up the rocks, where I easily kept pace with the members of our group who remained on the snowfield with mountaineering boots and crampons. For this reason I'd say crampons are unnecessary for the climb. I was happy to have an ice axe (for the glissades; we'll get to those) and wind-resistant gear though.

Approaching the false summit the winds started to pick up, and were probably around 35-45mph. Not enough to make it hard to stand, but enough so you really felt it. We talked to several people on the way up who had turned around because of the wind. The false summit was a great rest spot as it served as a windbreak from the westerly wind. From there to the true summit was longer than I expected, and included a difficult section up a scree pile (look for the trail to your right; it makes it a lot easier). The trail takes you right to the summit hut, which, as it turns out, is not located at the true summit. Keep following the trail to the right, and you'll find the worn USGS summit marker and a geocache on the rocks. I think the snow at the summit hut was actually slightly higher than this spot, but I'm guessing this is the official summit since it's the highest rock. We hit the summit at 1:30PM and had a 360-degree view of the inside of a cloud.

The glissade on the way down was better than I expected; the start of the biggest chutes had bottomed out on the rock, but further down the chutes were in good shape and rock-free. The glissades were not as long as they are fabled to be earlier in the season, but still plenty of fun with several bobsled curves. After the first few long glissades there wasn't much; the few additional chutes we came upon were too sticky this late in the day. So from around 9,000 feet we walked down snow and trail back to the trailhead, which we hit at 6:30PM - 12.5hrs trailhead-to-trailhead.

Overall, a fun hike; I definitely felt the altitude on the top thousand feet, probably largely because I didn't give myself time to acclimatize. The glissade is one of my favorites, though I might have to come back sometime earlier in the season to see just how long it can get.
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Mount Adams South Climb — Aug 18, 2013 — A1gunner
Issues: Mudholes | Water on trail | Snow on trail
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This hike is a slog!! We chose to overnight this one to acclimatize to the altitude. We started late...
This hike is a slog!! We chose to overnight this one to acclimatize to the altitude. We started late on the 17th… 5pm… got to the camp site before sunset. The trail starts off very gradual and is well maintained. We set up camp at the edge of the glacier and topped off our water which you will find plenty of in the creek or within any of the exposed rock with snow above it. Since it was warm both days, we were consuming water like no tomorrow. With that said, don’t forget eye protection and sunscreen. The snow reflects the same dangerous rays from the sun. That night the wind picked up but was not as much a bother as some would make it out to be.

The next morning was beautiful and we were amped to summit. We set off after the larger groups have already departed to avoid any bunching up. Now the remaining 3000’ was grueling on the legs but well worth it. We strapped on the crampons though most of the time you could probably get by without them. Better to have sure footing then to brag about not needing them and taking a fall. If you don’t mind trekking over rock, it is possible to skirt much of the snow and ice over the loose rocks adjacent to it. But be wary of loose dirt and rolled ankles. As we continued up to 11000’, the thinner air became noticeable. No sweat… just exhale hard and breath in deep brothers. The final push after the false summit looks much more intimidating from a distance but as you close on it you won’t notice a difference from what you already been thru. So, on the summit you will find the abandoned wood building and the years of abandoned headbands. But the point of it all is a view that is outstanding!! It was a clear and warm day and you could see Hood, Helens and Rainier together. Look closely to my panorama and you will see all three from left to right.

Now, the route down was very fast, fun and wet. We glissaded most of what was steep enough but with the snow melting you are going to get soaked somewhere. Otherwise be safe, use your axe correctly and pack away your crampons. The time returning back to camp was a fraction of the time spent climbing. We quickly packed our belongings and returned back to the truck.

A little FYI for any newcomers…
Bring a portable water purifier and know your water sources so not to carry tons of water. Don’t skimp on calories, plan out your meal pattern according to the amount of calories you will be burning. Take one tent and spread out the pieces among friends. Your sleeping bag and clothing should be layered for the weather. Don’t duplicate equipment, meaning do an inventory together well before the day of your hike. If it is not a ten essential item, safety equipment specific to the area you’re in or an emergency need, don’t bring it! Anyhow, good luck and God bless.
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View of summit from near top of Piker's peak, dotted with climbers. Photo by ann..jpg
View of summit from near top of Piker's peak, dotted with climbers. Photo by ann.
Mount Adams South Climb (#183)
South Cascades
Roundtrip 12.0 miles
Elevation Gain 6700 ft
Highest Point 12276 ft
Mountain views
Established campsites
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