Ascent of Mount Adams-West Slope on 2019-08-30

Climber: Jeremy Fuerst

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Friday, August 30, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Adams-West Slope
    Elevation:8920 ft / 2718 m

Ascent Trip Report

From Divide Camp Trail #112. Any vehicle can make it here from the north or the west (I approached from Randle but drove to Ape Canyon after my hike for a MTB ride the following day).

It was a late start for me as I drove from Seattle in the morning. By 10 a.m. the Taklakh Lake campground already had a sign posting it was full. Granted this was Friday of Labor Day weekend, but no way did I anticipate this area would be so popular.

It was easy going up to the PCT. (Incidentally, I am curious if anyone knows the purpose of that steel pole just below the PCT junction. It baffled me.)

From the PCT I started off trail toward Pinnacle Glacier. Here too was little challenge, I simply followed the gully toward Adams Glacier until I broke out of the trees. No bushwhacking required; it is thin understory.

In short order I was rock-hopping in open terrain. At 6400' I was surprised to see a camp set up in a patch of trees. Likely it was a thru-hiker who wanted their space so I left them alone. I stuck to the left of a ridgeline or some bumps, and at 6900' I came across a moraine lake where some have clearly camped in the past, as there were some short bivouacs piled up. This moraine lake, I quickly discovered, was drained into by a stream from another lake just 100' higher.

From the upper lake I traversed the contours around the bump to the right in hope of gaining the base of the glacier. As I was solo, my initial plan was to skirt around the base of Pinnacle Glacier. Just the same I had my ice axe and crampons on me. I probably wasted some time and effort here, as once I was around the bump, I saw no glacier nor snow: just talus and choss as far as I could see.

From here I gained a ridge where it was a long series of ribs of talus on what used to be Pinnacle Glacier. It was countless ups and downs here as I tried to identify an efficient route. I was able to mitigate these ups and downs on the descent, but only a little; many of those valleys are filled with deep ponds of muddy meltwater. (That is a great name for a bluegrass band, I realized on the tedious descent: "Muddy Meltwater.")

As it was I did not hit the base of Pinnacle Glacier until 7500'. The crevasses here were readily identifiable; some were shallow and some were filled with meltwater. Not in the mood for a potential ice bath, I donned my crampons and ice axe and picked a line between two shallow crevasses. This ascent was short and uneventful before I was just under the rocky ridgeline. Although the glacier may have made for easier walking, I did not care to risk crossing over multiple crevasses while solo. I removed my crampons and ice axe, stashed them in my pack, and scrambled up to the ridge. 1000' to go.

From about 7000' on up the sound of rockfall was almost constant. Although most of it appeared to come from the gully adjacent to Adams Glacier -- at least those rockfalls I could see -- I was glad to have my helmet on. It is definitely mandatory here.

Walking/scrambling/struggling not to slip up the ridge sucked. All my effort was focused on keeping my feet. As with others, I passed by the likely "official" high point before I realized it. I was almost at 9000'. I plopped down for a snack, and while resting I am pretty sure I picked out the cairn below me, but I was in no mood to poke around. Anyway according to Gaia I was just past the county line, I had walked up the ridgeline, I am relatively sure I hit the highest point, and I think I deserve some friggin' slack. Anyway in hindsight, the dramatic recession of Pinnacle Glacier had gotten me down sufficiently by this point. (Speaking of dramatic...)

I would save this one for late spring / early summer. I admit I was too eager to check it off the list so I could move on. Go early in the morning and hope the temperatures have dropped enough to keep the snow solid. The ridgeline will probably be bare most times of the year no matter what, so enjoy (?).

In spite of all the chossy misery, the views of Rainier and Mt. St. Helens sticking out above the low clouds, as well as the stunning glimpses of Adams Glacier, salved the wounds some. Still, getting back to the trail was a relief, as was getting back to my vehicle. I did not waste time loading up and heading to the Ape Canyon trailhead, where I promptly cooked supper and crawled into the sack.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Ski Poles
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Partly Cloudy

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