Climb: Adams-Adams Glacier
Date of Climb: 7/3/2005
Psychological Protection - Newbies on Adams Glacier, 7/3-4/2005
OK, I admit, we're not complete newbies. I've been climbing for a few years now, but previous highlights of my career were routes like Leuthold, Wy'East, and DC on Rainier. And Brad's experience is even more limited. So Adams Glacier was a definite step up for us.
Short story: It's a great route, it was in good shape, we had a blast!
Long story (in chronological order as I remember it):
Late June: Brad and I have been talking about trying to get in a good mountaineering route over the July 4th weekend. DC, Emmons, and Fuhrer Finger on Rainier came up as options, but my wife has heard about too many fatalities on the big one, so she's not very happy about approving even a relatively easy route there. And Brad's wife works in the news industry, so he can't ever hide an accident story from her...
Jefferson sounds interesting, but eventually we settle on Adams Glacier, and for some reason a more technical route on Adams goes over better with my wife than an easier route on Rainier. We try for another partner or two, but no luck so far.
6/29: I get a call from my neighbor Rob - he's in. So we have a team of 3, and Rob has a lot more technical experience than Brad or I. Only one problem - he's pulling out the axe and plastics for the first time since he had kids. Not even a slog up the Palmer to warm up with. We'll see how that goes...
7/3, 7 AM: Rob and I leave Newberg, meet Brad in Tigard, and head for Trout Lake for permits. The Divide Camp trail drops us onto the PCT, and soon we head cross-country up toward the glacier. Walking over the glacial moraine, we aid erosion in its appointed job until we can find handy (and environmentally friendly) snow fingers to climb on up to ~7700'.
4:30 PM: We've pitched camp and pulled out the binoculars to survey the route. Rob is already feeling pretty beat and wondering how tomorrow will go. We decide to wake up at 2, planning to be climbing by 3. The weather is beautiful, with only occasional clouds obscuring the route, and nearly no wind.
7/4, 2 AM: The alarms go off, evoking much murmuring and dissent amongst the troops (well, mostly from me, if the truth be told...) Our snow-camping skills are clearly not up to par - it takes us 2 hours to organize, cook breakfast, discover we don't have enough water, melt more snow, rope up... We leave camp at 4:08, over an hour behind our planned schedule.
5:00, 8800': We're making good time. We see one other party on the route ahead of us, taking approximately the same line we're hoping for. But Rob's already realized he's not really in shape for this, and begs out. We're still on very mellow ground, and he feels comfortable tracing our footsteps back to camp unroped. We tell Rob that if we summit, we should be back around 4 PM. Brad and I continue, knowing we'll be faster as a 2-person team, but well aware that we've lost Rob's experience and thus some of our safety margin on technical terrain.
6:00: The group ahead of us is moving fast, and has disappeared from view. But we come across their footprints, and we're certainly not too proud to 'borrow' a little of their routefinding. If you're out there, guys, many thanks! You made our lives easier.
Somewhere around 9800' we come to the first major obstacle - an 8' wide crevasse with a short vertical wall on the other side.
Me: "That's big"
Me: "And once we cross this, we're pretty much committed"
Me: "On Belay"
Brad: "Belay On"
Me: (As I start to lead across the ramp of ice and snow that seems to be where the previous team crossed.): "You know Brad, this isn't the smartest thing we've done this week"
Brad: "(Laughing) I suppose you're right..."
I try to set a screw in what turns out to be more packed snow than ice...that won't work. I find a spot to hammer in a picket instead. It makes me feel better... (Our first instance of phsychological pro). I feel good to top out of the little vertical step, onto a slope of maybe 55 degrees and set another picket and an axe to belay Brad up from.
Soon we're back on more moderate terrain. We follow the footsteps of the team ahead of us where we can find them, but lose them occasionally in harder snow and ice, or possibly due to simple carelesness as we tire. I get pretty sketched on 50-55 degree ice covered in snow, and stop to set a screw in what appears to be nice solid ice, but which cracks terribly with every half-turn. Again, purely psychological, but again, it makes me feel better. We set pickets occasionally as running belays as well, and trade off leads for the next ~2000' whenever one of us hits a dead-end in the seracs.
10:15, 11,700': After a somewhat sketchy crevasse crossing, we're off the technical terrain and onto the summit plateau. We drop in the snow and shove down some food before we head off across the snowfield for the summit. Only here do we encounter any of the 'stiff winds' we'd been warned about - the north side was nearly calm the entire day.
11:00, 12,276': We did it! A real glacier route! Pictures, celebration, congratulations from a couple jealous teams of South Spur climbers. We're certainly not world-beaters, but we felt reasonably happy with our time of just under 7 hours. Snickers, Gu, etc...and off to the North Ridge for the descent.
Nobody in their right mind would want to climb this route! (Or climbers either, for that matter)
We'd seen a team or two heading that way earlier, and there are fresh footprints, so there have obviously been people on the route today, but we can't imagine why. Patches of sloppy snow with significant exposure lead to loose scree and talus scrambles (with the same exposure). We're trying to get back to our camp on the lower Adams glacier, but we clearly must have missed the easy route there (assuming there is one). Many hours later, we find a relatively safe scree slide down onto the Adams and return to camp. It took us as long to come down as to climb! By now, we're 2+ hours overdue, so Rob's VERY relieved to see us. And to top it off, I lost my second tool (Quasar Compact) somewhere along the descent. I love my Lowe Ice Fang, but I'm learning to hate tool tubes. (of course, it's also possible I just set it down at a rest stop somewhere and walked away)
6:30 PM: A couple minutes of sitting in camp, and we decide that a burger sounds a lot better than freeze-dried and another night on the mountain, so we pack up and head down. Of course, by the time we reach civilization, Taco Bell is the only option, but none of us are complaining by then. And bed feels wonderful at 2 AM...
Glacier Crampons and axes
3 pickets (used them all)
~5 screws (too many, needed 1 or 2)