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Mount Adams, Adams Glacier Route

This is a trip report for the June 28-29 SAC climb and successful summit of Mt. Adams via the Adams Glacier, which descends the mountain on its NW side (Photo 2). The climbing team consisted of Sacsters Gregg Huld and Kipp Bajaj.

Our approach involved a moderate ascent via a line that approximated the Killen Creek trail. A bivy camp was established just below a prominent moraine on the lower Adams Glacier at ~7700'. The afternoon was spent surveying our intended route (Photo 1), napping in the shade of a tarp, rehydrating, and drinking in the extraordinary panorama of views that enveloped us from the west, north, and east-Mt. St. Helens, the Olympics, Mt. Rainier, "Doug & The Goat Rocks," and the North Cascades.

The Adams Glacier has an active icefall along its eastern flank. We witnessed at least two separate massive sarac releases and several smaller ones during our first afternoon on the glacier. After light meals of soups, smoked salmon, cheese, chopped vegetables, and a small wedge of chocolate with a cup of tea, we settled into our bags to watch the sun descend into the west.

We awoke by 1:30 am and were upon the glacier, navigating the crevasses by headlamp at 2:30 am. We were at the base of the route proper (~9,000')-where the actual climbing began-by 3:45 am. Snow conditions were superb for solid foot/axe placement. Average steepness of the route was ~50-55 degrees, with a maximum of ~65 degrees when we ascended a 50+ foot mote using two tools, below the first of two major bergschrunds we had to cross. After about two hours, a headwind picked up as the earth warmed with the emerging sun, and stayed with us all the way to the summit. (Gregg later measured a top speed of 38 mph with his anemometer while on the summit.) We topped out at ~9 am to greet friendly hordes of people (and one very frisky dog) scattered over the summit.

Our descent was via the North Ridge, and I would not recommend it to anyone-up or down. Steep, rocky, and long-"North Sister times three," was Gregg's observation. Stable in some places, unstable in others. Our knees and feet were definitely hot and achy by the time we reached the lower Adams Glacier again. After a short traverse of the glacier, we were back in our bivy camp to toast our accomplishment that day with a cold beer each.

Our biggest adventure was still ahead of us-our hike out. About one-third of the way back down the Killen Creek trail, we encountered a large snowfield and lost the route. The previous day's boot track we were following had melted out with that afternoon's sunlight. After several attempts to relocate the trail using map/compass, we opted to descend via a drainage trending N/NW, watching our altimeters, realizing that at some point (~4,600') following a 'path of least resistance' down we would intersect with the Forest Service road we needed. We tried to navigate as best we could the network of animal trails that roughly paralleled the waterway. This path offered plenty of resistance, however, and required approximately three additional hours of persistent bushwhacking through dense understorey and blowdown. The whole of this time we were mobbed by hungry mosquitoes. Suffice to say, this drainage eventually merged into Killen Creek, and we did indeed find the road. From there it was a short ¼ mile hike west to the trailhead parking lot and the car, a little before sunset. This put us back home in Portland at a time that was rapidly approaching the wee hours of the morning of June 30.

I've been interested in the Adams Glacier for the past two years, since the time I first viewed the upper part of the route from above, after a summit from the standard route. Timing is everything with this route. Really, there seems to be a three or four week window to successfully ascend it, once the road access to the TH is clear. I attempted the route last year in mid-July with fellow SAC members Kari Friedwald and Mary Fry, and we had to turn back because of its degenerated condition. This climb is one of my favorites because of its beauty, wildness, and for the diversity of technical challenges it presented. Gregg has noted it as his "best climb yet." The climb was interesting too for the variety of wildlife we encountered, which I will detail below. When you are on that side of the mountain, it can feel very wild.

Wildlife Encounters:

Photos Courtesy of Gregg Huld

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