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Mount Adams, South Route

Kathy and her son Sean joined my kids and me for the climb. Sean is nine years old. My boys, Peter and Benjamin, are ten and eight years old respectively. We took two days to get to the Lunch Counter at 9,200'. On day three we established a high camp on the ridge at 10,800'. On day four we reached the summit in two and half hours, then returned to the high camp for a second night. On day five we hiked down to the cars and, most importantly for three picky eaters after five days of backpacking food, to a pizza parlor.

Challenges to reaching the summit were plentiful. The night before summit day, I lay awake convinced we would not make it. The kids, each with effective veto power over the whole thing, all had doubts about their ability to get to 12,276'. None of them had been that high before. Earlier that day, the wind on the way to high camp made for an incredible chill factor. We were climbing in full sunlight with goose down coats. Earlier this season Peter had turned back on Mount Hood due to a cold wind and I could see that decision coming again. Once high camp was established the wind grew strong enough to threaten to knock on their butt anyone outside a tent. The wind during the gusts pushed chill straight to the bone. The kids, however, were spared from the higher winds. A stove was going in the tent to melt snow for water. The kids were inside, warm and oblivious to what was going on outside. Kathy and I (mostly Kathy) were the ones leaving the tents to fetch snow for making water. While Kathy and I both feared failure, unknown to us, the uninterrupted warm comfort of the tents also left uninterrupted the kids' optimism.

Next morning, on summit day, the wind was still there and still cold, but calm and steady, no longer gusting. Benjamin surprised me by saying he had climbed in the wind the day before and was not going to let the wind keep him from the summit. Once Ben says it will be done, it will be done. Peter nodded. He was in. Kathy reported Sean was gung-ho. So up we went into the wind. I kept the breaks short. It was impossible to stay warm without moving. On the summit we grabbed some photos but departed hastily to make the summit phone calls back in the tents. An hour or two after we returned to high camp the wind died away almost completely. Without the wind, high camp was a different place, warm and comfortable. The second night I could not sleep again. I was so surprised the wind had let up just enough. I was so pleased the kids decided to tough it out and then made good on their decisions. Kathy too, the next day remarked she could not believe we reached the summit.

On prior, warmer trips above timberline, I have been impressed by the versatility of a three-to-four-season convertible tent. Open up the zippered flaps and it's as cool and airy as sleeping under the stars. Zip everything down and it's as hot enough to warm water for a shower while you are away during the day. The strong, cold and gusting winds of this July secured my devotion to this class of tent, even if it is the heaviest type.


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