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[TR] Mt. Adams > St. Helens > Mt. Hood Link-Up - Volcano Trifecta in a Day (...well almost) 6/12/2013

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Trip: Mt. Adams > St. Helens > Mt. Hood Link-Up - Volcano Trifecta in a Day (...well almost)


Date: 6/12/2013


Trip Report:

There have been a few creative volcano trips posted recently and thought I’d add another more obscure approach to making these common slogs a slightly different adventure. Admittedly our trip was much more carbon intensive than the bike missions (props fellas!). Three good friends and I recently linked up the standard south face lines of Adams, St. Helens, and Hood. We intended to do this within a 24 hour window for all three, but things got complicated on St. Helens; amazingly enough given how straight forward the route is on this peak. We ended up completing this car-assisted eruption enchainment in 26 hours plus change.


Weather was a bit of a factor and under different circumstances it would have been obviously wiser to align with a clearer window. But two in our party were from out of town and we were all to be in the same spot for a wedding the following weekend, hence our availability was locked in. Once we saw the NOAA forecast turn to 80% chance of precip the day before, we all just muttered a little before embarking anyways. Guess we figured it would increase the memorable factor.


No need to go into specific conditions nor route beta as the snowpack has been iso-thermic for weeks and these routes are well documented as they represent the volcano 101 tour of PNW. But if you are one of the three people who read the title of this TR and immediately thought “that sounds like a fantastic time!”, here is a quick play-by-play in hopes our chronology might help another party’s bid on a similar link up with these peaks:


Wednesday, June 12th.

After folks rallied the drive from SEA and PDX, all four of us met up in White Salmon to caffeinate, do a duffle shuffle, and jump into my Sooby.


11:25am: Arrived just short of the Mt Adams Cold Springs trailhead. Luckily the road just reopened from the 2012 fire work this spring.


11:45am: Departed trailhead in slowly building clouds but still and mostly clear skies.


3:40pm: Summited Mt Adams via Standard South side route. Fairly sunny and t-shirt temps made for ideal spring skinning conditions.


4pm: Departed summit and skied the southwest chutes (aka "3-3-3" chutes) in buttery corn. Quick upward booting traverse let us regain the climbing route. Which we promptly lost and ran around in the burn area for an extra 30 mins re-finding the trail’s initial switchbacks.


5:45pm: Arrived back to the TH and cracked road sodas. Clouds blanketed the western skyline.


6:05pm: Started driving south, slightly slowed by road work on the burn. To Bingen for pizza, then Windy River toward St. Helens.


9:15pm: Arrived in heavy drizzle at St Helens SnoPark for the winter route. Climbers bivy was not open yet, which adds a few miles of trail and about 1200' vert. For us this was about an accumulative 3 hours extra; though it would obviously be less for faster parties.


9:45pm: Departed with headlamps in the rain for St. Helens’s winter route. Proceeded to get lost around 11pm (missed trail hitting a ridge to left, and went too far climber’s right). Corrected mistake and traverse until we found bootpack. Likely lost 30 mins here.


Thursday, June 13th

1:15am: Summited St. Helens in a whiteout with blowing snow; started descent promptly. Missed the correct fall line due to the new snow covering uptracks for the top 1500’. We ended up too far skiier’s right with a challenging broad and crumbly talus ridge to traverse to correct it. Then decided to commit to the fall line and ended up ~2 miles off-route to the West.


2am: Doffed skis at ~4500’ and began one of those Cascade character-building sch’wacks traversing hard left over talus, brush, trees, creeks, and broken snow patches in the rain. Classic PNW experience.


4am: Regained winter route trail.


5:10am: At SnoPark lot and started drive to Timberline by 5:30am. 20 min nap for our driver halfway through kept the driving “safe”.


9:15am: Arrived Timberline parking lot. A fifth partner joined the fun and helped stir our stoke amidst the socked in and rainy conditions. It was windy enough to shut down the ski area, but thankfully the lodge still had large quantities of coffee for us to consume.


9:45am: Started up Hood in low viz and moderately wind conditions.


12noon: Ski depot just below the ‘shround. Viz remained low here and newly rhime’d snow (rather sn’icey) up top made this the only one we didn’t feel good about skiing from the summit.


12:20pm: Summited hood as a patch of blue opened up to greet us. Everybody happy to tag the third and finally have a bit of a vantage in to Hood River.


2pm’ish: At parking lot after skiing vertigo cloud soup conditions for the majority of the descend. Wonderfully humbling as many have skied from the summit to parking lot in 15-20 mins.


2:15pm: Off to meet up with more friends at the bachelor party and ten more hours of macho-hilarity.



•It’s possible this would go faster later in the season with a trail running approach, though arguably less fun as these are all such straight forward and great ski lines on moderate angles. This enchainment can easily be completed in 24 hours for a motivated team that has a low priority on sleep. 20 hours might be possible even if all goes perfectly on trailhead openings, conditions, and stoke.


• This enchainment has a significant chance of having been done before as the proximity of the three peaks. While we didn’t see any posting on CC or TAY, it’s likely other NW’ies thought: “Could ya do ‘em all in a day?”. I am hoping it was in the 60’s. With leather boots + pins. Dead of winter. Biking between all peaks. With only snafflehound jerky and PBR consumed for all meals.


• Given the more modern times, our GPS watch was crucial for our navigational errors in minimal visibility (snow storm during the night, and finding our way back to the palmer lift with 15-20’ of visibility).


• Adams’s SW “3-3-3” chutes is a much better ski, but adds time even if you nail how to exit the basin, you still have a more time intensive traverse getting out. If only interested in speed, it is likely this peak could be done in 5 hours car-to-car with even pacing, skiing the ascent line (Lunch Ledge), and not botch re-finding the trail as we did.


• Skipping the pizza stop would give take 20-30 mins off total time. But we were pretty stoked for warm carbs layered with lipids.


• Speaking of diet, this type of trip was stellar! We each could keep our bar/gu ratio fairly low while we tanked up on fresh food from the cooler while driving to the next summit.


• We chose to stick with driving pavement for the predictability, but a little later in the season, you might be able to cut across the gravel FS roads (#23 and #90) to possible drop a little time. Though it might be a wash.


• St Helen's is obviously much faster/easier this time of year from the climber's bivy than the winter route’s Madison SnoPark. Puzzling why it was not open as the snow levels were plenty high and this road generally opens around mid May on standard snowpack years. Perhaps the sequester (?) or a land management strategy I don’t understand. If done from the bivy parking lot in good viz (clear skies / full moon), it is likely this will take only half the time it took us (3.5 hours versus 7‘ish).


• Hood is a great hike and fantastic ski for a moderate line so long as both snow and visibility conditions are working for you. We easily lost an hour or more just due to slow navigation in our skiing. Or viewed another way, we gained an extra hour of fun adventuring.


Few Photos: (photo credit goes mostly to partners: Zanto, Robinson, Thompson)


White Salmon Pre-Stoke



Adams Summit



SW Chutes



St Helens Start



St Helens Summit



Above the Schroud



Summit of Hood



Summit Vista Opening



The awesome viz back at our skis!



Post-Trip Activities



Approach Notes:


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As the one who biked hood, I gotta say, this sounds pretty appealing. Certainly seems like you could lose several hours and come in under 24 easily w/o stopping for pizza etc, and better weather would maybe give you another 2 hours.


The one catch is that if you start timing yourself, ultimately the driving will become a factor, and that's iffy.


That said... love seeing some Vision & Action. Especially the Action.



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