Saturday, June 23, 2007

Mt. Adams

Today was one of the most physically challenging days of my life.  After I dropped my mom off at the airport last night I drove two hours north across the Columbia River to the South Climb trailhead of Mt. Adams.  I organized as much as I could, set my alarm for 3am, reclined my seat back as far as it would go and fell asleep at around midnight for a 3 hour nap before climbing the third highest volcano in the lower 48 at 12,276ft.
    I woke up at 3am and after packing and eating some left overs I was able to hit the trail at 4am.  I had forgotten my Forest Pass but luckily didn't get a ticket for it.  I filled out a climbing pass at the register and with my 20lbs of downhill ski gear strapped to my tiny Mountainsmith Day pack I headed up the mountain.  The guidebook says it takes 6-8 hours to climb the mountain and I was hoping to make the summit by noon because weather reports said the weather was going to turn nasty by mid-day and I wanted to be headed down at that point. 
    The south climb trail turned to all-snow at around 7,000 ft and by 8,000 ft I had put 619846903_adf729f622_bon my crampons permanently to the summit.  I started off in the dark but by 5am I was able to take off my headlamp and could see dawn shining on Mt. Hood to the
south and Mt. St. Helens to the West in a reddish620553572_e5586d2573_b
glow.  By the time I hit the lunch counter rock area the sun was fully out and I had put sun tan lotion on my scars and face (missed my left side apparently as I'm now so sunburned that my nose is blistered).  The route to the summit from here was a steep climb up Crescent Glacier.  Many others were already on the climb because they had stayed overnight at 9,500 ft to become acclimatized to the altitude.  I on the other hand was not used to 619855009_bd81445ccb_b
the altitude and it really slowed me down as I got above 10,000 ft.  I was running on nearly no sleep, carrying 20 pounds more than anyone around me and was not acclimatized at all so I was really struggling.  I ended up climbing with a nice guy named Rob for that section who also had skis but by the time we got to Pinnacle Peak, the false summit, he decided to bail and ski down some chutes from there as I kept going towards the true summit.  I was hoping that the sun would soften up the snow but it was about 20 degrees and very windy at the top leaving the snow pretty much boilerplate ice.  I had promised myself that I would ski from the summit though and that is exactly what I intended to do. 
    I got to the top at 11am just in time to see a couple getting married at the summit (seriously, with a priest and witness).  I was able to snap a few pictures of them and get some video at the top while I took a much needed rest.  To my great619860599_47e8b9c633_b
dissapointment all of my video from the summit and pics of me at the top got erased from my camera but one picture of the couple at the top with Mt. Ranier behind them was preserved thankfully.   I'm not too upset though because I know that I'll definitely be back to the summit again once I get a more lightweight ski mountaineering set up next winter.   
    At over 12,000 ft my head was beginning to throb from the altitude and I was feeling a little dizzy so I geared up, strapped on Chris Holm's helmet cam, squeezed my cold feet into my frozen downhill boots and headed down the sheet of ice I had just climbed.  From the summit I had to cruise down and then slightly back up the619859831_1a3e01fe0a_b
shoulder of Pinnacle peak to head back down Crescent Glacier.  This required some speed and speed required balance and strength on top of sharp glacial ice and my legs were already rubber.  I took a few moments to rest then pointed em' down the face of the summit into the saddle and then up the shoulder of Pinnacle peak reaching a max speed of 40mph (according to my GPS) which took all the strength I had to maintain my balance.  From there I carefully made my way down the sheer ice face of Crescent Glacier all the way to the lunch counter rock area using all the strength I had in my legs to not fall down.  If I had fallen at the top it was a good quarter mile slide all the way down to jagged volcanic rocks at the lunch counter below.  Check the picture with the clouds below to get an idea of the height and distance I had to ski down. 
    When I got to the bottom the snow became pitted with too many "sun-cups" for me to ski it so I changed back into my plastic mountaineering boots for the descent.  I ended up hiking the rest of the way down with two older men Doug and Ken (twins) back to trailhead.  I got a few more pictures on the way down that unfortunately got erased somehow as well.  If I ever find them on my computer I'll make sure to post them here but it doesn't look good... I guess I'll have to wait until next year.  By the time I got to the parking lot my knees were beginning to really hurt and my shoulders were so numb with pain from supporting all the weight of the ski gear on the way down that it was extremely painful to even lift the cell phone to my ear to call my mom and let her know I was ok.  It was a 13 mile trip with 7,000 feet of elevation gain and my first ski descent of a cascade volcano.  Can't wait to go back!


No comments: