Ascent to Mount Adams-Top of Lower Crescent Glacier on 2016-05-27

Climber: BMS 914

Others in Party:Rich Stephens <6649>; Brett H from UT
Date:Friday, May 27, 2016
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Hi-Clearance Vehicle
Point Reached:Mount Adams - Top of Lower Crescent Glacier
    Elevation:8454 ft / 2576 m
    Remaining Elevation:3822 ft / 1165 m (56% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

This was the big peak of 2016, and in spite of the fact I had done very little meaningful hiking and no mountaineering in nearly two years, I was going to be giving it a shot.

Brother Rich had contacted me out of the blue from Arizona in mid-February, wanting to take a shot at Adams. I agreed, aware of the awful shape I was in, but hoping to use it as motivation to get my butt going and start getting back in shape. In that respect, the trip was a partial success, but flare ups of my injured Achilles tendon, and life getting in the way hindered my conditioning. A succession of three easy local peaks, all of which were less than 5100' in elevation, were a pretty poor excuse for a build up to a peak of this size, even with the cardio work I had managed to get in during the weekday evenings.

I flew to Portland, rented a car, and drove along the Columbia River to the town of Hood River, Oregon, where I bought supplies. I got text messages from Rich - he and his buddy Brett H (who I had never met) were already in the town of Trout Lake, Washington, and were going to get climbing permits. He gave me instructions what to do once I got to Trout Lake, and where they would be camped.

I found the Mt Adams Ranger District Office in Trout Lake, picked up my permit, and doubled back to follow the directions to hit the Mt Adams Rd I had passed just before the Ranger Station, took that to National Forest Road 80 (paved, then graded dirt), then the branch to NF 8040 (graded dirt) and another to NF 500 (graded dirt) as things got increasingly rugged, bumpy, and steep. The 4WD vehicle the rental company (Hertz) was supposed to have for me turned out to be 2WD, but at least it had relatively hi-clearance, and I also knew Rich had gotten his Jetta up to the campsite so I was far more worried about getting lost than getting stuck. The roads all had actual highway signs and were pretty easy to follow, and I found Rich hiking down the road a few hundred meters from the campsite. He jumped in and guided me to a nice graded parking area with a number of vehicles, and one abandoned snowmobile.

I set up camp near Rich and his friend, who I liked immediately, and made some dinner. It was overcast, with a drizzle, and pretty cold, so once the sun went down we all went to bed, both to avoid the cold night and to get some sleep before our alpine start that we had set for 2:00 AM or thereabouts.

I didn't sleep too well that night. I wasn't cold, though the temperature outside had dropped to around 20 F/-6.67 C and it had begun to snow. We got up, but my rehydrated breakfast (Backpacker's Pantry Eggs of some sort) didn't sit well, and I felt like I was going to puke before we even left camp. We ended up heading up around 2:35 AM, which wasn't too bad.

I immediately started having trouble keeping up with Rich. He had assured me he was out of shape too, but I should have realized the relative nature of his conditioning vs mine. Making it worse, I had opted for hiking boots on the road since the miserable blisters on the similar stretch on Mt Rainier. This turned out to be a hindrance early as the road was covered in packed snow after probably half a mile of mild gain, and my worn hiking boots were slipping terribly compared to Rich and Brett's mountaineering boots. Worse, I was carrying by mountaineering boots in a bag in my hand (like an idiot). The nausea that had started with breakfast was back too, and my Achilles tendon was beginning to hurt as well. The good news was I had probably covered almost the first 700' vertical, and only had about 6000' vertical to go...

Getting my boots on helped a little, and I had ditched the old hiking boots in the bag. The temperature seemed to be getting colder, and it was still snowing, and very dark. I kept plodding ahead, trying to at least to not fall too far behind Brett. When they would get too far ahead, they would sit and wait patiently, probably freezing their asses off, and stand up when I approached and start heading up again. This meant little in the way of breaks for me, which further wore me out. I wanted to summit Adams, but I was slowing the others down. I told Rich I should turn back a couple of times, but he kept pushing me forward, as he didn't want us to split up.

The sun began to come up, and the views were of course spectacular. A wrack of clouds was assaulting the summit, and others had engulfed the areas below. My thermometer showed around 10 F/-17 C, with the wind blowing in our faces down off the Upper Crescent Glacier. It looked like more snow was going to come, maybe heavy snow. I kept pushing up the mountain, but I knew that the summit was just way beyond what I had in me on that day. I wanted to push on up to the Lunch Counter were we could all take a break. The potential for a pretty good snowstorm seemed to be getting worse, my ass was already kicked, and had been for probably two hours, and only reason I was still moving uphill at all was because I didn't want to let Rich down.

I began to realize that Rich and Brett's chances of reaching the summit were essentially zero with having to wait for me - I was already knackered and not even halfway up. It was time for me to head back to camp. Rich didn't want to split up the party; I was out of shape, but I hadn't lost my navigational skills in the mountains, and I did have a GPS track running since camp and spare batteries in my pack. But once he was convinced I could get back to camp on my own, he and Brett headed back up and I headed down.

The route down was slightly different than what we took up. It was dark going up for much of the way, and I wanted to figure it out without using the GPS as much as possible. I crossed a lava flow of rocks that weren't covered in snow or ice. Not sure if something was still heating them or whatever, but the little boulders were larger than they looked (cantaloupe-sized) and didn't play nice with my crampons as some were loose. I actually rolled my left ankle in my mountaineering boots a little, which I wouldn't have figured possible. It hurt, but I wasn't going to take the boot off to look. After walking on it for a while, it felt mostly better, though it was a bit sore for a couple days. Lots of people were skiing up the mountain, which looked way more fun than trudging uphill in crampons. Adams is known for awesome glissade runs, but only for those who summit - it was still pretty cold and the snow areas were icy, which made things too fast, steering sketchy, and braking an adventure. After two tries, one of which used a tree as a braking aid, I gave up on the foolishness, put my crampons back on, and resumed walking. I found the bag with my boots (waypointed on my GPS) and recovered them, this time tying them to my pack and leaving the mountaineering boots on the rest of the way.

At length I hit the snow covered road, and eventually camp, just before 11:00 AM. I was still feeling nauseous, so I took a nap for a couple of hours, and woke up feeling better. Our plan had been to break camp and head out, so I began disassembling my tent and putting everything back in my rental SUV.

Once finished, I waited a while, but neither Rich or Brett had returned. I thought about breaking down the tent they shared, rolling up their bags, etc., and getting things ready for them; but Rich is pretty particular with how he likes to do things and I wasn't certain he would feel like I had done him any favors messing with his gear, even if it saved us half an hour. In the end I decided to leave it alone.

Time went by, other climbers and skiers had come and left Cold Springs Campground, but no Rich and Brett. The snowstorm, which had threatened but not really hit, seemed to be darkening and likely to hit. At around 4:30 PM both of them arrived together, Brett looking exhausted and Rich looking tired but happy. Turned out Brett had not made it much past the Lunch Counter before he turned back, and ended up spending a good while feeling lousy in the tent of two climbers they had met at the Lunch Counter who were making a summit attempt from there (and had given him permission). Rich had made the summit, but said the last part over from Pikers Peak had been difficult.

Both immediately had decided they were too tired to break down camp or to drive, and were going to spend the night in camp, regardless of any weather that might blow in. I felt relieved I hadn't taken down their tents or carried their gear to the parking area earlier, having struggled with that decision. My gear was already packed and ready to go, and I was not going to drag it all back out and set it up again. So I hung out with the guys in camp for about forty minutes, discussed the trip, and Rich and Brett made dinner. The food was making me hungry. I hadn't eaten since the horrid eggs for breakfast at 1:30 AM, and it was now about 5:00 PM. My "fitbit" type device (actually a Garmin) showed nearly 10k calories burned (total was nearly 12k by the end of the day), which speaks to both bulk and heart rate. I said my goodbyes and began the drive back to Hood River, a motel, and the diner nearby seemed to have really good food - maybe I was just so hungry.

I didn't have much of an opportunity to take photos during the ascent (rushing, darkness), and kind of forgot to during the descent, so I stopped and took a few as the snow hit upper Adams about twenty minutes after I left camp. It was quite a scene, too bad by camera was packed away in the back and all I had was my cell phone, but they still looked pretty cool.
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
The snow hits the upper mountain as I drive away from camp (2016-05-27). Photo by BMS 914.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3020 ft / 920 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3020 ft / 920 m
    Round-Trip Distance:7.3 mi / 11.7 km
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Headlamp, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Snowing, Cold, Very Windy, Low Clouds
Cold and windy with snow
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2970 ft / 905 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 2920 ft / 890 m; Extra: 50 ft / 15m
    Loss on way in:50 ft / 15 m
    Distance:3.4 mi / 5.5 km
    Route:South Spur (winter route)
    Start Trailhead:Cold Springs Campground  5534 ft / 1686 m
    Time:5 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:2970 ft / 905 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 2920 ft / 890 m; Extra: 50 ft / 15m
    Gain on way out:50 ft / 15 m
    Distance:3.9 mi / 6.3 km
    Route:South Spur (winter route)
    End Trailhead:Cold Springs Campground  5534 ft / 1686 m
    Time:2 Hours 35 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by BMS 914
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