Sunday, October 13, 2013

Killen Creek Trail - Mount Adams

On Sunday Emily and I went on a truly amazing hike on Mount Adams with Leo.  We encountered over a foot of unexpected snow but the clouds cleared for us and we has some really amazing views.  On the way home Adams lit up with alpenglow at sunset brighter than I've ever seen a mountain before.  Leo had a great time testing out his new backpack with us as well.  Click below to read on and see more pics.

After a really fun day biking yesterday, Emily and I found ourselves again in the Gifford Pinchot Wilderness of Washington, but this time on a hike to the base of Mt. Adams.  In the morning I had debated between wearing shorts or zip-off pants and decided on the pants as we would be starting at 5,000 feet and it might be cold and windy.  We left Salmon Creek around 10am after stopping at Burger King for some breakfast sandwiches.  Our route was out I-84 to Hood River, then across the bridge and up into Washington to Trout Lake where we would catch Forest Road 23 deep into the woods.  I was worried about what the forest service roads would be like with the Prius but we found them to be mostly paved.  With some quick driving and Leo holding on in the back of the car we were able to get to the trailhead by about 12:40pm.  

On the drive in to Killen Creek we found ourselves driving over patches of snow about 2-3 inches deep and at the trailhead we could see snow in the woods.  I was definitely glad I chose pants over my shorts and had packed some warm layers in the Mountainsmith waistpack I took with me.  We geared Leo up with his new pack and hit the trail by 1pm.  Although it was cloudy when we started our hike the sky soon began to break up and we had to drop a few layers.  The warm sun was a good trade off for the deepening snow we were encountering on the trail.  By the time we got up towards the PCT crossing the snow was about 8-12 inches deep and we were all sinking in deeply every couple steps as the hard crust on top softened under the sun. 

By the time we hit the PCT the clouds were just pulling away from the summit of Adams providing us with some amazing views.  While we were taking photos we were suddenly surprised by a loan hiker who approached behind us and thanked us for breaking trail.  His name was Anderson and he recently moved from Virginia to the Dalles and was out alone for the day and was clearly happy to see fresh footprints ahead of him in the deepening snow.  We chatted for a bit about work and the outdoors before Emily and I made a big decision to continue onward and upward to the high camp on the north side of Mt. Adams.

From the PCT we could see a large ridge of rock in front of the Adams massif.  It was clear that if we could make it to the top of it we would have an amazing, up-close view of the most rugged side of the volcano.  The questions were whether the crust of the snow would hold us, if we could pick our way through a boulder field, if Leo could make it up the steep slope, and most importantly, if we had enough time.  Since we had expended a bunch of energy to get here, and because the fresh coat of snow over the peak was amazing, and because we had a little spare time and it was only a mile further (it looked really close) we decided to go for it and simply turn around if it was too tough or the view became obscured by clouds.  

It was fairly easy going for the first half of the approach on the high camp trail, occasionally spotting cairns to point the way as we picked our way through the trees and then the rocks above.  It was becoming increasingly difficult for Leo who’s short legs were sinking deeper and deeper into the snow but I kicked a deep track with my feet as best I could for him and urged him on as he pulled himself from footprint to footprint behind me.  Half way up we took off his pack and left his pack harness on him (it is a two part pack).  

We continued upwards but as it began to get steep I could tell Leo was getting a bit nervous behind me so I took out his leash and clipped it into his harness on his back.  I think this gave him a sense of security being physically tethered to me and he continued pulling himself along into my footsteps on the way up.  As we crossed a steep traverse my legs were burning from kicking steps all the way up but I pushed on to get us all safely on top of the ridge.  

As we topped out we were blown away with the view as the entire rugged north face of Adams stretched before us and only a thin layer of clouds hung in the middle.  We broke out water and treats for Leo who, as always, bravely followed me wherever I go (for some reason Leo prefers to follow me rather than Emily - he stays between us keeping an eye on both of us).  We only stayed up there for about 5-10 minutes for some photos and snacks before I checked the time and decided it was time for us to get off the mountain before dark.  I clipped Leo back up to me and careful walked us down the steep slope with him above me on the slope (he knew to do this himself actually).  Once past the steepest point it was actually a fun to cruise down through the snow back to the PCT.

By the time we got back to the PCT crossing our feet were soaked from the snow that had found its way into our boots and socks from our little mountaineering adventure.  We were all tired but following our tracks down the last 3 miles would be easy and the further down in elevation we got the less snow we would be in.  It had taken us 3 hours to get from the trailhead to high camp and it was 4pm when we left the ridge.  We had 3 hours before the sun set but cruising downhill was super fast and we made it out in less than 2 hours.  I urged Leo on with sausage links along the way.  We were all happy to find dry ground on the last half mile back to the car.

Back at the car we took Leo’s pack and our boots off and hopped in the warm car for the long drive home.  We had made it out just in time to get a few really amazing sunset alpenglow shots of the north face of Adams which was lit up amazing in reds and pinks.  I tried to drive us to a lookout point to get some really clear shots without trees but it took longer than I thought and the sun had set by the time we got to it.  We had an amazing day on the mountain with a lot of unexpected snow but some of the best views of a Volcano I had seen.  This hike was rated a 10 for views in our guidebook and the author was dead-on with that rating.  Emily and I are going to continue our “10” hikes fro the same guidebook as everyone has turned out to be amazing.  

A quick word about Leo - although this post sounds like we tortured poor Leo that’s not the case at all.  He loves these trips and we can tell he is happy with his waggy tail the entire trip.  Parts that make him nervous like log crossings or steep slopes on the way in seem trivial to him on the way out as he overcame his fears.  Although we take him to places that require leashes in the wilderness I refuse to put one on him because he literally never leaves the trail between Emily and I and doesn’t care about other animals (he didn’t even care about the grouse we scared up on the approach).  He will follow me anywhere I go, even if he is a little when I urge him on and he always keeps an eye out for where each of us is on the trail.  He truly is the most amazing hiking companion besides my beautiful wife.


Gwen + Anderson = Gwanderson! said...

Great blog on your adventure, guys! I think this was my first cameo in someone else's adventure blog, so I am happy to get a shout out! Keep up the good work and hike on! Leo is a rock star! -Anderson

Gwen + Anderson = Gwanderson! said...

Great blog on your adventure, guys! This was my first cameo in someone else's adventure blog, so thanks for the shout out! Leo is a total rock star, in the literal sense of the word!

Keep on adventuring - until next time, Anderson