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marknjenny

Late Season Adams Glacier Trip

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Despite my initial plan to spend the weekend riding swell in the cool Columbia river, I ended up doing another mountaineering climb this past weekend. My climbing parter, Chris Riedener, had been set on doing this route for the last three years and this seemed to be the last possible weekend where the route would be in. <editors note: in Nelson's guide, Adams Glacier is recommended May-July and is 'not a good choice for late season climb.' Since conditions in NW this year are more like September for a normal year, we got to find out first hand why <<abundant crevasses>> this route is better suited as an ealy-season climb.>

We blazed up the approach over some trail, rock, scree and even ice to find a camp spot in the center of a large basin about 0.5 mile from Adams Glacier. We estimated about an hour to get to the base of the glacier and set out at 1:50am. 1st attempt (as shown in guide book) took us into huge labyrinth of crevasses that became impassable. So we backtracked and started up to left, almost to base, before being stymied by huge gaping (and hungry) crevasses. Finally, we headed far right and managed to cut back left to reach the base of climb at about 3 hrs after leaving camp. At least my headlamp was working.

We headed up glacier, frequently skirting around large crevasses and even scaling a 10 ft vertical section that was moderately exposed on all sides to reach a belay stance. The miniature 3rd tool began earning its $89 price tag. The next lead section required several screws and a hammered-in picket. Moderately steep ice w/ layer of 6" on snow allowed frontpointing and good ice screw placements on the ice underneath. A few more protected leads took us to less steep terrain. It felt good to get past the crux (as described in Nelson's guide) and to know that gentle open slopes would lead to the summit. Wrong.

The next part of the climb was the most difficult (mentally, technically, unknown whether route was even passable, more crevasses than Ranier w/ lots of steep 2-tooled traverses and climbs) of my somewhat limited mountaineering experiences. We "knew fear." Uncrossable bergshrunds to the left forced us to shoot up the middle, instead of the way depicted in guidebook. The crevasses were gigantic, often barely snowcovered on edges w/ very few snow bridges. At one point the steep ice traverse was abandoned in place of doing a tightrope walk on the bergshrund edge for a full rope length. We placed every screw (4) and picket (2) we carried. Weaving through giant (house size seracs) and schoolbus sized crevasses there was maybe one way through the maze. Somehow we managed to be on probably the only line through the maze. Lots of relief at the top as we crossed over to descend the rocky North Ridge.

I heard some stories about people climbing the Adams Glacier and having to bivouac on N.Ridge descent after a marathon session. The N.Ridge was non-technical but slow w/ rocky scree. It took us four hours from the top of Adams Glacier to descend the miserable N.Ridge. We also 'enjoyed' another hour of scurrying up and down rocky scree to find our tent. Chris got on his hands and knees to try and suck some water out of a 1/3" trickle of water at edge of glacier. A long thirsty hike out brought us back to the safety of the jeep (after a long 16 hour effort) and we gave the local mosquitoes a long thirsty meal that they did not deserve.

All in all, an outstanding climb - although I would do it much earlier in the year. For the 'Brad Petersen hardman' types, there was a 1000ft line of hard ice (first 150ft waterfall ice) going up to the right of glacier. I have never seen such a long, steep ice line anywhere. Chris is an avid photographer and he took many pictures of the route to possibly become a slide show some day. Back to work and hoping to play on my windsurfer next weekend...

-Mark

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Wow, sounds like one helluva trip. Glad to hear all went well. It's amazing how significantly things changed in two weeks. The folks that did it then described it nothing like you did.

Good job.

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Nice TR, Mark. Sounds like quite an adventure.

A few weeks ago a friend and I were testing the alpine ice season (still early, but you are right, closer to August than June conditions) out on that lower icefall on the glacier, "huge labyrinth of crevasses that became impassable" you called it. I'm pretty good at this type of climbing (the Khumbu awaits! Yeah right. JK!) but it was quite the challenge to get through it then. I would think that whole lower area would indeed be totally impassable now. Just getting around the lower icefall and to the main route, like you did, leaves me impressed.

That whole glacier, bottom to top, is absolutely wild. Great that you were able to meet it all head on.

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