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Mount Adams, South Route

"I can't believe someone would teach a seven year old how to climb mountains," Benjamin kept saying, when he wasn't saying, "It's beautiful." Peter climbed his first mountain, the South Sister, last year when he was eight. Now nine, Peter helped carry some of the gear, about five pounds including the Game Boys and spare batteries. I carried everything else, seventy-seven pounds on the first day of the trip, less as we consumed food and stove fuel.

DAY ONE: After hiking up from the Cold Springs Campground we came to the Crescent Glacier moraine. The moraine is crossed from east to west while gaining altitude. A traverse on snow up the west bank holds the first exposure of the south route. Benjamin and Peter had practiced self-belay earlier using the ax pick as there was a hard ice crust. On the traverse, they looked like old hands. Benjamin had trouble putting his feet in the kicked steps and fell several times as a result. The ax held him each time. I was concerned we would slow down the people behind us. Instead we were held up by a herd of twelve ahead of us. Mazamas, I thought. When the group successfully got through the first exposure by gaining the west ridge, they formed a prayer circle, which not just slowed but blocked the trail at a full stop. The overheard prayer that struck me was, "Tighten what needs to be tightened." A number of possible meanings immediately came to mind as well as a curiosity as to why, "loosen what needs to be loosened," did not precede or follow the request. The Mazamas were innocent this time. "Help us to forgive the self-absorbed who block our path," I prayed. We retreated down the west ridge a short distance to camp for the night at timberline.

DAY TWO: The Lunch Counter at 9,400' was the objective, which is clearly visible from the nearly-flat snow field just south of it. Both boys, seeing the goal, raced ahead of me to the Lunch Counter. Peter made it first and chose a campsite for us. When I dragged in I was so tired from trying to keep pace with the boys, all I could think about was how I would feel better when I got the pack off. I got the pack off but still could barely move. I was keeping Leslie informed of our position by telephone. Still breathing heavily I got Leslie on the phone and told her we were at camp two. "Oh, everything is going great then," she said. "Yeah," I lied. After some rest I was restored and made camp.

DAY THREE: Pikers Peak, the false summit, is visible from the Lunch Counter. Once again the boys raced ahead. But this proved the most difficult day of the trip, five hours of hiking instead of the four hours and three hours of the previous two days. We were caught in the middle of something we had never seen before, a butterfly migration. Hundreds of thousands of butterflies crossed the snow for most of the time we were on the pitch. Both boys were encouraged that others on the pitch were turning back in exhaustion, but they were able to keep going. The lengthy rest stops provided for the most enjoyable conversations of the trip. Benjamin, no longer having trouble putting his feet in the kicked steps, reached the summit first. When Peter and I pulled in together we were more than happy to let Benjamin find a campsite. We set the tent up with the rain fly for the first time. It was windy and cold on Pikers Peak, 11,600'.

DAY FOUR: After we finished breakfast, and were just about to put on footgear for the trip to the true summit 600' above us, it began to rain. It rained and hailed for three hours, the time allotted to get to the summit and back. The boys made their summit telephone calls to friends and family from inside the tent as we waited out the rain. After cooking lunch we broke camp and headed down without attempting the summit. I reversed my earlier opinion about tent windows. They are not just stupid gimmicks. Peter accused me of staring out like a zombie. The glissade runs, two of them, were nearly continuous for the entire 2,200' descent to the Lunch Counter. In some places they were as much as four feet deep. Peter especially wanted to have a go at the glissade runs, but I showed them how to do a standing glissade instead. They gave that a try, liked it, and once again beat me back to the Lunch Counter by a considerable margin. They were, however, both wet by then from spills. They wanted to make camp. I asked them to push on to the end of the snow below the Lunch Counter. We camped at the top of the Crescent Glacier about fifteen feet in from where it no longer is necessary to walk on snow. Both boys retreated to the tent, changed to dry clothes, and spent about an hour in the fully zipped tent. It must have been 100 degrees in there. Then they appeared again in good humor. We had hiked three hours.

DAY FIVE: By day five my pack felt light. We followed the dry trail down, once again took slowly the snow traverse, then high tailed it for the car through the forest. The only people we saw on the mountain on that day, a Wednesday, were two volunteer rangers of retirement age. We hiked three and a half hours.

Both boys want to climb again, some day, as long as that day does not come too soon. In retrospect we should have added a sixth day, spent two nights at Pikers Peak and used the extra day to summit and return to Pikers Peak. And so I'll advise you all to tighten what needs tightening. If you do not know what that means, then I'll advise you not to store worn socks in the same pack compartment as clothing still to be worn. I'll repeat that just to be sure it soaks in:  do not store worn socks in the same pack compartment as clothing still to be worn.

Last year I climbed twelve mountains, usually in one-day trips. The days spent on Mount Adams were worth at least five of those trips, maybe more. It was a grand adventure and a pleasure to share with the kids.


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