Washington Cascades: Mount Adams!

On the summit of Mount Adams with Mount Saint Helens in the background

Auction Day: On the summit of Mount Adams with Mount Saint Helens in the background

I must admit an error. When I reposted the “Special Auction” post the other day, I was working on my phone, from a free campsite on the flank of Mount Adams and I neglected to remove the paragraph about this being my 24th auction. I didn’t make it home for the auction this year. I was back east for the first two weeks of September, traveling from Maine to West Virginia, visiting friends and family. But I couldn’t leave my dogs with friends in Seattle long enough to stay for the auction and so I missed it; only the second auction I’ve ever missed. On auction day I didn’t want to be sitting around, pining for whoopie pies so I made some pretty epic plans: I climbed Mount Adams!

At 12,280 feet, Mount Adams is the second highest point in Washington, after Mount Rainier. The route is 13 miles round trip, gaining over 7,000 feet of elevation. Above 9,000 feet there is no trail; you must pick your way up vast snowfields and endless scree slopes to the false summit at Piker’s Peak and then slog up another 1,200 feet of switchbacks to the top. The effort requires an ice axe, crampons and constant route finding. It’s not really a mountain I’d want to tackle solo.

Driving up to Mount Adams through the aftermath of the September 2012 Cascade Fire, started by a lightning strike.

Driving up to Mount Adams through the aftermath of the September 2012 Cascade Fire, started by a lightning strike.

Lucky for me on this trip I had partners: the Silagy Brothers! I met Mitchell and Ryan on the summit of Mount Thielsen a few weeks ago and after I beat them both up to the summit and almost beat them back to the parking lot, they invited me to join them on Adams. “You set a pretty fast pace,” Mitchell told me. “We always pass everybody and we never caught up to you!”

The Silagy Brothers & Me on top of Mount Adams

The Silagy Brothers & me on top of Mount Adams. Twins!  I could only tell them apart by their boots!

Mitchell and Ryan just caught the mountain bug this summer. Both avid rock climbers and competitive boulderers, they hoofed it up Mount Saint Helens this spring and then summited Mount Hood and have spent all their summer weekends since tagging high points in the Cascades. They climbed Adams in July, but wanted to take a training run up the mountain before tackling Mount Rainier.

I met the brothers at a free campsite the night before. We set our alarms for 4am and carpooled up to the trailhead in their Jeep with AC/DC blasting Highway to Hell. We got on the trail by 4:45, still full dark. I found my pace behind Ryan and ahead of Mitchell and switched off my headlamp, my good night vision making due with the ambient light from the brothers’ lamps.

First light, Sliver Moon

First Light, Sliver Moon

We reached Lunch Counter, a shoulder with many semi-circular rock shelters where most Adams climbers spend the night on the way up, just after dawn. Most of the tents we passed were still occupied. So much for their Alpine starts! The Silagy Brothers really do pass everybody, even the people who sleep on the mountain!

The Lunch Counter

The Lunch Counter

Here we split up: Ryan, who didn’t have snow spikes, headed up a shoulder of loose rock to bypass the snow while Mitchell and I strapped on our crampons and wielded our ice axes and started up the first of two long, steep snowfields.

Crampons are fierce-looking spikes that lend some traction on icy snow fields.

Crampons are fierce-looking spikes that give traction on icy snow fields. Dio has his own built-in crampons and he didn’t have any trouble on the snow.

Crossing this scalloped snowfield was totally exhausting.

Crossing this scalloped snowfield was totally exhausting.

By the time I made it across the second snow field, I was beat. Ryan was waiting for us at the edge of the rock and Mitchell assured me I was over the icy crux of the climb: the rest of the way up was on rock. Rock sounded better than ice, but then it turned out to be loose scree: for every step up, I slid half a step down. I took to hopping from one boulder to the next, trying to pick rocks big enough that they wouldn’t roll underfoot. I thought a bit about quitting but every few minutes, Mitchell and Ryan would holler encouragement to me, waving their ice axes like wild mountain men. By the time I reached the false summit Piker’s Peak, I had caught a third wind.

Ryan and Mitchell waiting for me at Piker's Peak, pointing out the final summit push.

Ryan pointing out the final summit push from Piker’s Peak.

This rock was struck by lightning on August 21, 1923.

This rock was struck by lightning on August 21, 1923.

You're a Piker if you stop on this summit!

You are a Piker if you stop on this summit! Don’t crab. The mountain was here first. Arthur Jones, August 1923. Carving on the false summit of Piker’s Peak.

Crossing the final snowfield

Crossing the final snowfield

Dio tanking up at the edge of the summit glacier.

Dio tanking up at the edge of the summit glacier.

The summit of Adams is marked by an old mining shack. Apparently they used to bring mules up here?! The crazy things people will do for shiny rocks.

The summit of Adams is marked by an old mining shack. Apparently they used to bring mules up here?! The crazy things people will do for shiny rocks. Notice Mount Hood in the background.

Summit! We climbed up on to the roof of the shack.

Summit! Yep, we climbed up on to the roof of the shack.

The Silagy Brothers on Mount Adams

The Silagy Brothers on the roof of Mount Adams

Looking west towards Mount Saint Helens

Looking west towards Mount Saint Helens

And north towards Mount Rainier.

And north towards Mount Rainier.

Mount Adams D.O.G. with Rainier. Dio did just fine up and down Adams- he's been higher (up to 14,440) but I wouldn't recommend the route for most dogs. All that ice and rock is tough on their feet. Dio was a little footsore, but fine by the next day.

Mount Adams D.O.G. with Rainier. Dio did just fine up and down Adams- he’s been higher (up to 14,440) but I wouldn’t recommend the route for most dogs. All that ice and rock is tough on their feet. Dio was a little footsore, but fine by the next day.

We looped around the summit crater past the Adams Glacier and then headed back down

We looped around the summit crater past the Adams Glacier. That’s the shack at upper right.

Overlooking the Adams Glacier, the second largest glacier in the lower 48.

Overlooking the Adams Glacier, the second largest glacier in the lower 48.

Dirty snow just below the summit. The dirt is from wind blown dust and air pollution. Yuck!

Dirty snow just below the summit. The dirt is from wind blown dust and air pollution. Yuck!

At the summit, the bad news is that you’re only halfway home. The good news is that it’s all downhill from there. Between skiing down the scree slope on our boot heels and then sliding down the snowfields on our butts, we had a blast on the descent! Adams is famous for its glissade: a snowy chute over a mile long! You slide down on your butt, using your boot heels and ice axe as a brake.

Why hike down a mountain when you can slide? Ice axe and boot heels are the brake.

Why hike down a mountain when you can glissade?

P9209497

Mitchell glissading down Adams. This chute was over a mile long! Wheeee!

We got back down to the Lunch Counter by 2 and back down the trailhead by 3, making for a 10 hour day on the mountain. If only I had a whoopie pie waiting for me at the bottom!

I do enjoy the challenge of keeping up with mountain men. Read about my January climb up Santa Fe Baldy and my very first mountaineering epic The Suffer Fest.

*Update- Mitchell and Ryan climbed Mount Rainier the Monday after our hike up Adams! They figured they were acclimatized to the altitude so they might as well take a crack at it. They summited via the Disappointment Cleaver route. Congrats!

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in Big Sky, Montana. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
This entry was posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, Photography, Road tripping!, Teardrop Trailer, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Washington Cascades: Mount Adams!

  1. Melissa Shaw-Smith says:

    What an epic day trip–envious as ever, but enjoyed taking the hike vicariously. Thanks!

  2. Upriverdavid says:

    Thanks again for another trip with fantastic views…I waited too long myself, the ol bod can’t do it anymore.
    David

  3. Box Canyon Blogger Mark says:

    Bravo! A summit reward suitable for the effort.
    Box Canyon Mark from Lovely Ouray, Colorado.

  4. janelyon369 says:

    Love this account of your adventure! Such beautiful pictures! Inspiring!!

  5. That is really quite amazing! Way to go!!! Great photos, as always. Best to you, Carol

  6. Pingback: Climb On Smith Rock, Part 2: Monkey Face! | Travels with the Blonde Coyote

  7. Pingback: Washington Cascades: Mount Saint Helens by Moonlight | Travels with the Blonde Coyote

  8. Pingback: Winter in the Mountains | Travels with the Blonde Coyote

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s