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Mt Adams, N Face NW Ridge

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Trip Report: July 10, 2010


Ski descent, Mt Adams Northwest Ridge, North Face


It all started with Adam Roberts calling me last week saying “hey man, wanna do something roudy this weekend?” With a tentative response I said “uhh, SURE!”


The objective: Climb the North Ridge seen left center, summit, top out the West Peak, and drop the line directly right of center. North side of Mt Adams, seen from Randle, Wa.


And a full truckbed:



A few years ago I began to encounter a recurring problem. You see, I’m a passionate alpine climber, but I am also a diehard snowboarder. Generally speaking the snowboard industry is pretty much funded by an abundance of overhype and gangster baggy pants. This means that for those of us who call ourselves splitboard mountaineers, the lack of communication between climbing companies and the snowboard world has forced us to be a bit more creative. Because of a relative lack of snowboard wankers who enjoy slogging, the vast majority of my outings are with those who consider themselves truly hardcore and dedicated: skiers. I guess this is okay…


Adams Glacier Icefall:



The good news is that within the past 10 years the discipline of splitboarding has undergone fantastic evolution with the beginning of Spark R&D (.com) and the mainstreaming of rider-built splitboards. Despite these great advances, a few of us are still wanting more. Namely soft-boot binding stiffness and responsiveness, touring edging performance, and as light weight and sexy as possible. I mean, skiers get Dynafits, and splitboarders need something as revolutionary!




Enter Karakoram (.com): “Innovate, Ride, Explore”. What else could be sicker than designing and engineering your very own splitboard interface, only to take it to its physical limits in the most demanding and beautiful places on Planet Earth? That’s right, NOTHING is sicker than that. At least in my biased opinion.


So when Adam called me wanting to get “roudy on Mount Adams”, it seemed like a great chance to try and destroy some prototype bindings (thanks Bryce and Tyler). The plan was to climb the North Ridge, summit and traverse to the West Peak, then descend the North Face of the Northwest Ridge. I believe it was first completed by the Hummels in the late 90’s, although there is a rumor that the late Doug Combs skied the line in the mid 90’s and never told anybody. The Hummels: http://cascadeclassics.org/MountAdams/North/Spring03/NFNWR/NFNWR_Spring03.htm


As the weekend began to take shape, I got a voice message from Liz Daley. It essentially said “I’m needing some knar right now”. Okay, so she’s coming too; and her buddy Reed Pervis, who had recently skied the Fuhrer Finger on Rainier. A team of 4 seemed pretty solid!


Slogging began late Friday evening (around 6:30pm). We made tree line around 8:45 and decided to set up base camp before total darkness ensued.



A nightmare several nights before about falling over 500 foot cliffs into a crevasse and dying a cold lonely death had me a wee bit on edge. This injected a twinge of nervous restlessness all week long, and had me awake by 3:45 in the morning. After melting snow for 30 minutes I made the decision that this party needed to start. That Liz Daley chick was bivied out under the stars looking rather cozy, and so I chucked and ice ball at her. With an exceptionally cute sounding and high pitched “YAAAALP!” she woke the other two wankers as well. I thought to myself “geeze, that worked great! Just get Liz to squeak and everybody is up!”


At 5:00am it was official, we were slogging again.




We gained the North Ridge Proper around 7:00am. Lava Headwall seen on left.





Adams Icefall



The line: pictures from this angle do not do it justice..



Despite the usual Adam Roberts complaint of “having a headache and feeling like shit” he still managed to look pretty darn sexy. Just look that that chest!




The Lava Headwall: who in their deranged mind would want to ski this thing? Oh yes, the Hummels… Those silly tele skiers and near death antics… (http://cascadeclassics.org/MountAdams/North/Spring02/LavaHeadwall/LavaHeadwall,Spring02.htm)





I believe we took 4 breaks total on the way up and were crossing the summit ice cap by (I think) around 11. The Adams Glacier Headwall and icefall were looking rather phenomenal.


Lower ½ of Lava Headwall:


The NW Ridge, and Adams Glacier:





The summit was a nice break.




On the way to the West Peak: Legs started feeling it here…


That Liz Daley is so hot right now!




Adam Roberts on the West Peak:




How do you say 45-50 degrees with a scary as hell rollover?






The snow was “near perfect”. If you weren’t careful with your sluff, it would build into a ball under your board/skis and make you slip. Also, a firm icy layer underneath made it bumpy in places and added a twinge of seriousness to each turn. Overall however, the corn was a perfect combo of firmness that wouldn’t slide big, but still soft enough to edge well.



Despite good snow, the fall line was HUGE… Both Adam and I described feelings of vertigo:




The thing about riding steep, big lines, is that each tiny motion of your body takes on the utmost significance. I found the prototype Karakoram Bindings to deliver a very high degree of responsiveness and support, and in all honestly am not sure I would have felt comfortable riding this line with my Spark Fuses. They just don’t offer the same degree of fine board control.



About halfway down I found myself thinking “I need to make it off of this think so I can go kiss my mom and girlfriend again.” To say the least I was practicing a very high degree of caution with each turn.







The crux and exit of the route were the most fun for me. I could see myself living once again, and so my movements became looser.


Reed seemed to be the most comfortable and skied the most normally out of all of us. Adam and I on the other hand seemed to be scared shitless and did significantly more side slippage..




The exit is very interesting traverse underneath cliffs, followed by a quick point over a crevasse bridge. Once back on the Adams Glacier it becomes pretty straightforward, but you still need to be conscious of 100 foot glacial cracks.




Sometime in the previous days a huge icefall came down….





Once off the mountain the line reveals itself in entirety, however, photos rarely do justice to the steepness and exposure, or to the emotional toll of accomplishment.




We were back at camp by 5:00pm, and skiing out by 6:00pm. We had plans of swimming and drunken stupidness, but coming across a hiker with a fractured ankle delayed us to well after dark. All in all, 16 hours of continuous movement had us feeling pretty psyched on life.



The next day was spent swallowing ice cream and napping at Adam’s house. Before heading back to Seattle I managed to get a “cooldown” tour up to camp muir. Laying out full-speed turns on mellow slopes felt amazing. No longer was the fear of death looming in my brain. Stats for the weekend were 12,600 feet of elevation gain, with nearly exactly 12,000 feet of snowboard descent. Not too bad!


It always amazes me how much BIGGER, and more MASSIVE Mt Rainier is than everything else… There simply is no mountain in the lower 48 that rivals its mass or degree of glaciation:




Nisqually Ice Cliff:



Next project??







Thanks Adam, Liz, and Reed for killer companionship! And thanks Bryce and Tyler, for the opportunity to pound on the bindings!



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Awesome. Thanks for the report and pictures.


And let Liz know I'll help her find knar...

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Very good. Reed likes to freeride the gnar. Liz needs no help finding gnar. She might take you along if you ask nicely.

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