Friday, June 17, 2011

Attempting Mount Adams

There was not a good forecast for Mount Adams but we packed high hopes with our gear and set off for the long drive to the state’s third highest mountain at 12,276 feet.

A never-ending snow season meant the white powder had yet to melt and we had to add an additional four miles onto our approach. We parked the Range Rover on the side of the road and began pulling our stuff together. This was by far the heaviest pack I’d attempted to break my back but even the instant pain couldn’t damper my excitement.

The first four miles were relatively flat, winding through the forest and a meadow before we turned a corner and gasped at the massive snow-capped peak. The sky was a brilliant blue, the snow was crystal white and the air was crisp. We kept our fingers crossed that the weather would remain and kept pushing uphill on the South Spur route (the most common climbing route).

It was slow going since many members of our party kept different paces. Our goal was to reach the Lunch Counter to camp that night in a walled-off area of rock so we wouldn’t be as exposed to the whipping winds. But after about seven miles or so, democracy took over and all but two voted to stop early for the night rather than press on.

We threw up our tents just below the false summit and started melting water to replenish our dehydrated systems. Even from this lower elevation, the views were lovely. Several other famous peaks in the Cascades were easily spotted and Adams itself stood tall and proud.

The sun set early, stealing the brightness from the sky but adding pink and bluish hues on the horizon.

When our alarms beeped at 3 a.m., the winds had picked up significantly and a storm had settled squarely above us. To my great disappointment, the team leader’s sensibility reigned and we trudged back toward the car with our noses freezing, snow hiding our tracks and our pride just a little bruised.

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