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ShadowTiger

[TR] Mt Adams - North Ridge (solo) 6/10/2013

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Trip: Mt Adams - North Ridge (solo)

 

Date: 6/10/2013

 

Trip Report:

This is my first trip report so bear with me here…

 

Day 1: Parked at Keenes Horse camp because the road further south to the usual parking area at Killen Creek trailhead was still blocked with snow (This would add over a mile on the front and tail end of the journey. I later read off my GPS that my round trip was 24 miles). As I started out at 8 AM, the temp was 38F, skies were clear and there was no wind. Hiked down the road and started on trail 113 (Killen Creek trail). Trail was a little bit of a misnomer because in less than a mile it had disappeared and I was forced to wander around trees, snow drifts, and tree wells. Snow line was 5000 feet. I cached my snow shoes at ~6800 feet because I hadn’t needed them and the snow was still firm. I made my way up towards the lake at 7500 ft, where I refilled my water bottles. There were beautiful views of Mt Rainier as I looked back north, and Mt Adams in front of me.

IMG_03813.JPGIMG_03801.JPG

I set up camp at 8000 feet on a flat area at the base of the North Ridge.

IMG_03941.JPG

During my ascent it had warmed to mid 50s and the skies had remained clear. I watched some mountain goats on the adjacent ridge for a bit. I then got things ready for in the morning and laid down. The sun was beating on the tent and I was sweating. Around 8:30PM I drifted off, but awoke at 10:30 PM freezing cold and layered on a bunch of clothing.

Day#2: I woke up at 1:15 AM to beautiful stars and no moon (New moon was just 2 days earlier). Temp was 34 F, skies were clear and there was a 5 mph breeze. I put on my crampons and set off by 2:30 AM. I was soon on the ridge. Initially by headlamp it was easy to negotiate the ridge, however this quickly changed. I had read on previous trip reports that climbing the north ridge in the dark is not recommended and I completely agree. At about 9000 ft it became trickier to find the right path and I had to double back several times. The rock towers in particular slowed me down. I just couldn’t seem to find the right way around them. At various times I was on rotten rock, scree or snow. The snowy sections were in great shape.

 

Eventually it got lighter, then dawn hit and this made route finding much easier. I next climbed a steep, narrow section of snow on the East side (climbers left) of the ridge. This exposed area gave me fantastic views of the Lava glacier down below. I occasionally needed to dagger and front point on this section as I kicked steps and tried not to think about the long fall only a few feet away to my left.

The route continued to alternate between snow, rock and scree. The snow gave the best climbing surface. The rock continued to perform as expected, that is to say break, crumble and fall.

Above approx 10,500 ft the route opened up and I was able to enjoy some nice traversing on excellent snow.

 

Looking directly back yielded great views of Rainier, and St Helens was visible on my right. I rounded what I thought was the last rise only to discover that the true summit still lay more than a kilometer away. I slogged on and made the summit at 9:50 AM. Temp was 23 F, with winds of 20 – 25 and clear skies. I had the summit to myself (In fact I never saw another human the entire trip).

summit13.JPG

At 10:30 AM, after hydrating and eating, I headed back down. The snow had softened and I was able to make excellent time plunge stepping. Then I got back onto the crumbly rock on the ridge. At this point I was starting to get tired and the rock was annoying. I found a section that led to the South American glacier on the west side of the ridge and made my way down. Soon I was again plunge stepping in nice snow. I noted the rockfall on the glacier – some of it a mile or more down the slope -- and made a mental note to pay extra attention and not linger. I had hoped it was still early enough to avoid most of the expected falling rock . Shortly thereafter I heard the first ‘crack’ and watched a softball-sized rock fall and then get punted up in the air in a long, high arc that would have earned high fives for most NFL kickers. It was now 1 PM and I needed to move quickly down the glacier because it looked like it was the opening act of the RockFall Show.

As the slope eased, I found a 3-foot tall boulder to stand behind as I made a quick GPS check. As soon as I looked down at the screen, I heard another ‘crack’. I looked up to see a basketball-sized rock bouncing down the slope right at me. I could have hidden behind my shelter but chose to move 10 feet to the right. I watched from a safe distance as the projectile plowed right into my previous shelter. Adams gets an A for accuracy.

I now had one last slope to cross. Halfway to safety I heard another ‘crack’ and looked up expecting to see another rock, but found half a dozen projectiles gleefully bouncing down the slope towards me. These were scattered across the width of the slope, almost like the mountain was attempting “shotgun bowling”. I quickly noted the 2 closest and was able to see that they would pass harmlessly to either side of me.

My detour off the ridge had definitely saved time, but put me a little below camp and I next had to climb up about 150 feet. During the last 15 minutes it had started to snow and now it was blowing hard. I made it back to camp at 2:25 PM.

The trip out from camp started at 430PM and I eventually made it back to the car at 10 PM. It snowed, or rained at lower elevations, all the way out. I was wet and miserable and my gear was heavy from the additional water, but I was really happy to have had such great conditions for the summit. My first solo trip had gone really well and although I was zombie shuffling the last mile, my brain reminded me that this was most likely type 2 fun and I would probably feel like celebrating in the near future.

:rocken:

 

 

Gear Notes:

Crampons

Ice Axe

Helmet

 

Approach Notes:

Cowlitz Ranger station gave excellent advice about drive to TH. Trail vanished after about a mile and I had to wander drifts, and tree-wells

climb9.jpgGOPR0970.JPGGOPR0666.JPGGOPR0331.JPGGOPR0400.JPGGOPR0307.JPG

Edited by ShadowTiger

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Thank you! This was a marathon (well..a few miles shy). It really was a lot of fun and the route was in excellent condition :-)

Edited by ShadowTiger

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Great TR- thanks!

 

I haven't been on this route before, but am interested in doing an 'up and over' down the south side. My party includes some strong hikers, but with limited ice axe / crampon experience.

 

I'm curious what you think the snow sections might be like now- how long, exposed and steep are they?

 

And, would it possible to use a 30m rope to protect those spots. I don't want to put these guys into a committing and dangerous spot.

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Great TR- thanks!

 

I haven't been on this route before, but am interested in doing an 'up and over' down the south side. My party includes some strong hikers, but with limited ice axe / crampon experience.

 

I'm curious what you think the snow sections might be like now- how long, exposed and steep are they?

 

And, would it possible to use a 30m rope to protect those spots. I don't want to put these guys into a committing and dangerous spot.

I am not sure what conditions are like now and what the best protection options are. I am new to the sport, having only been on 6 previous cascade volcano climbs but I'll share what I can. I am sure there's more rock, scree on the 9000 - 10000 ft section currently vs 7 - 8 weeks ago. From what I've read in other trip reports this section of the route can vary considerably during the season and the best line may wander onto the East or West side of the ridge. The steeper snow sections, on the East side (climbers left)of the ridge when I climbed were intermittent, not lengthy -- but were narrow (6-10 feet wide) with a sharp drop off to the left -- and were ~45-48+ degrees (I definitely felt the fear a few times). They were in good shape then, but I don't know what they are like now. Previous climbing with crampons and ice axe is a must here.

 

A traverse descending on the South would have been a nice option had I arranged the logistics. I guess the trade off is a heavier summit pack but a nicer, shorter descent ;)

Hope this helps and good luck.

 

(I just sent you a PM, also).

 

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