Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Mt. Adams Recap
This weekend’s adventure proved to be a particularly spectacular one. Often one has a few niceties or worldly luxuries sprinkled in with an arduous trek like this. For example, on an ultra-run, you might revel in the momentary solace of some peanut M&M’s at an aid station or a hot cheeseburger that your crew brings you. Or maybe you’re on a weekend camping trip with friends and you suffer through the extra pounds of a few bottles of wine in your pack for enjoying a few glasses around the campfire that night... Let me just say that this excursion involved no such luxuries of any sort. Though the views were spectacular and the conditions ideal, this was a hard push in its most simplest form.
We headed out of Seattle late evening on Friday, opting to cram 4 fairly good sized men with a ton of gear into one very small car. Unable to move in the back seat, our adventure began by mistakenly getting on the express lanes and being forced north out of downtown (Mt. Adams is south…). We eventually got turned around and headed back south toward Portland. The trip was long and cramped, but the Pearl Jam was good. After about 5 hours we got in the vicinity of Mt Adams. Since our trip began in the wrong direction, it was only fitting that it ended with a missed turn and plenty of confusion amongst 4 very tired guys arguing over a map. After much back and forth, hunting for the right road, mistaken bear sightings, etc. we eventually found ourselves on the proper road for the summit route trail head. We had heard the snow level was so low that we’d have to stop about 3 miles short of the trailhead. The 2 ultrarunners in the car loved the idea of 6 bonus miles, while the 2 climbers were not so excited. The reality ended up being that we parked a good 5 miles short of the normal trailhead, making for a sweet 10 mile bonus.
We parked around 1 or 2am and decided to lay down for an hour or so to regroup. We just lay under the stars in the woods for about an hour, but no one actually slept. Then we were back up around 3 to get packed up and ready to roll. Brock cooked up some fresh Caffe Vita coffee to get us going (ok, our one luxury of the trip), and we shared some Red Bulls for an extra boost out of the gates. We hiked up the snowed in road all geared up and the first 5 or so miles to the trailhead proper went by relatively quickly by headlamp. The sun was up then and we made a few adjustments before heading up. Quigley, Dan, and Brock all put on their skis/skins, but I had no such gear (oops) and just bootpacked it up. It was a challenge keeping up with them to say the least, but it all worked out. The climb was long, fun, and tough, and eventually we got up to the headwall. There were a surprising number of folks out there, but it was by no means crowded. Up the headwall we went and onto the false summit. Dan was having a little altitude issue and I was moving slow with all the extra weight, so Quigley and Brock got a good bit ahead of us. They headed up for the short extra shot up to the true summit. As Dan and I sat on the false summit we knew the view would be the same from up there and decided our best bet was just to hang there and save what was left of our legs for the trip down. Eventually Brock and Quigley reappeared and we all strapped on our skis and took off down the headwall in picture perfect snow. The trip down was incredible and we managed to stay on course (fortunately) and eventually found ourselves skiing back down the snowed in road. We soon took off our skis though and hiked in the rest of the way. I was tired of banging my calves on my skis hanging too low off my ill-equipped pack though and opted to just carry my skis, etc. the rest of the way. We were a motley, haggard crew arriving back at the car, but we made it and it felt great. We loaded all the gear back in, wedged our bodies back into the sardine can, and headed back to Seattle. Again, the trip was long and had few stops and no luxuries, but the Pearl Jam was good and we eventually got back to town late on Saturday night. Our creaky bodies emerged from the car and all the suffering of the day was well worth it for a picture perfect blue bird Pac NW day on the mountain.