This weekend I joined climb leader Lori Freeman and nine other climbers to explore the South slopes of Mt. Adams. When we left the trailhead at Cold Springs Campground Saturday morning, little did we know that about one mile south an unexpected surprise was simmering.
While the South Side of Mount Adams is not a technical climb, sudden whiteouts, altitude sickness, and a safe glissade down are major concerns. Our group got some great practice ascending a steep snow slope by climbing in balance with an ice axe. As we hiked upward we were treated to views of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood. I found it comforting to see Hood to the south, a familiar landmark looking after us. We settled at a great camp just below the Lunchcounter, that offered plenty of tent sites, running water, and good access to the climb route. After dinner and a pre-climb meeting, we were treated to a very nice sunset.
After a quick review of Ice Axe self arrest, we started our ascent about 5:20am. The weather was favorable for our summit day. Looking south we could see Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, the Three Sisters, and Broken Top. We could also see a column of smoke rising. As we ascended the fire grew. It was not long until we saw air tankers dropping fire retardant.
When we reached 11000 feet we were at the top of the false summit. In the distance was the true summit, about another 1200 feet higher. This was also new territory for me. I'm sure I was not the only one wondering how they would fair at a higher elevation than Hood. As we ascended the final distance I noticed a slight headache, which I shared with the group. We arrived at the summit about 11:10am. In the distance were the Goat Rocks, Mt. Rainier, the North Cascade, and Mt. Baker.
We reviewed proper glissading technique and then I took over and led the descent. We had avoided an earlier departure time to allow a descent when the sun had softened the snow for a safe glissade. While the snow was soft, there were a couple of hard bumps, which I still feel and I type this report.
We were concerned whether the Cold Springs fire had cut off our way home. At this there was little we could but return to base camp, pack up, and head out. We found out that the cars were fine and that we could leave with a the Forest Service escorting us past the dicey parts. We were quite impressed with how well the Forest Service was organized.
This climb was a milestone in my development as a climb leader, as it was my third Assistant Climb Leader experience in Leadership Development. However, by no means is it the end of my apprenticeship. Not only do I have more assists scheduled this summer, education is a lifelong endeavor.