Mount Adams is a soul-crushingly large mountain. Even giant Mount Shasta and towering Mount Rainier feel small compared to this massive volcano. Mount Adams: The Big Hurt | Unofficial Networks

Mount Adams: The Big Hurt

Matt watches lenticular clouds build on Mount Adam's Pinnacle above the Adams Glacier.

Mount Adams: The Big Hurt

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Mount Adams: The Big Hurt

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Matt watches lenticular clouds build on Mount Adam's Pinnacle above the Adams Glacier.

Matt watches lenticular clouds build on Mount Adam's Pinnacle above the Adams Glacier.

Mount Adams is a soul-crushingly large mountain.  Even giant Mount Shasta and towering Mount Rainier feel small compared to this massive volcano.  Or maybe it’s just the time of year.  Right now, the closest parking to the north side of the mountain is the Orr Creek Sno Park, elevation 3,000′.  Doing the math, that leaves 9,281′ left…ouch.

Nine grand is tough, but not soul crushing.  It’s not even the 17.5 miles it takes to get to the top that is soul crushing.  It’s the last 12 miles of skiing and walking on the flats back to the car that really gets you.  All the fun is over, but the road just keeps going.

Skinning miles of flat on the approach.

Early morning skinning on the miles of flat leading toward Killen Creek.

The difficulty is what made this mountain one of the best so far.  The remoteness, the constant push to get further and go faster and the ability to get something like this done in less than a day amazed me.  It was probably the hardest ski tour I’ve ever done.  I can’t seem to remember any being harder than this, but it’s funny how one’s brain diminishes the memory of pain.  Even a day later, this trip seems like it was a lot of fun.

Mount Adams hides in the clouds during the approach.

Mount Adams hides in the clouds during the approach.

These were some of the best turns we’ve had on our Cascades trip.  Starting on the coat tails of the last storm at 3:00am, we were getting snowed on as we walked up the dirt road toward the Killen Creek Trail.  A mile later we were skinning and kept on skinning the next 8 miles until we reached the so-called Killen Creek Trail.  This wasn’t so much a trail, as a sign pointing to a stand of thick trees and winding creeks.  It was navigation nightmare and took us longer than skinning the road or climbing in the alpine.

Nearing the base of the North Ridge.

Nearing the base of the North Ridge.

A mountain goat chillin at the bottom of the North Ridge.

A mountain goat chillin at the bottom of the North Ridge.

At 6,000 we finally made it out of the woods and got a glimpse of Mount Adams.  Now that we had the monolith in our sights it was game on.  We were excited to see a large mountain goat enjoying the scree at the base of the North Ridge.  The climbing on the ridge was good, ranging from hard alpine ice to nearly knee deep wind deposits.

Massive riming on the top of the North Ridge.

Massive riming on the top of the North Ridge.

Topping out on the North Ridge the slope angle and climbing quality went way down.  From here we were reduced to slogging the last half mile to the summit on rimed chicken heads.  We’d been climbing for over 13 hours, the wind was frigid and it was tough to motivate ourselves to slog over to the true summit in the chicken head.  But we got it done.

Matt nearing the top of the Pinnacle on Mount Adams.

Matt nearing the top of the Pinnacle on Mount Adams.

Putting on crampons again was the last thing we wanted to do at this point.  But our ski line was to be the North Face of the Northwest Ridge, skiers left of the Adams Glacier.  This meant we needed to descend the true summit to the col between it and ascend to the top of the Pinnacle where our ski line began.  Unfortunately,

When we topped out on the Pinnacle we found the upper portion of the face peppered with frozen rime horse heads (to call them chicken heads would be an understatement). We down-climbed this until the snow became skiable and from there down the skiing was great.  We played it a little cautiously as it was a bit slabby and there was a massive natural avalanche (around D2.5) from the Adams glacier during the storm cycle that ended that morning.  But after some snow pack tests and a few turns it felt pretty good.

Matt shows what the best turns of our Cascades tour look like.

Matt shows what the best turns of our Cascades tour look like.

Matt skis the North Face of the Northwest Ridge toward a large deposit of avalanche debris..

Matt skis the North Face of the Northwest Ridge toward a large deposit of avalanche debris.

Skiing off the Adams glacier. Can't complain about low angle pow turns in May.

Skiing off the Adams glacier. Can't complain about low angle pow turns in May.

The skiing all the way down the Adams glacier was great, but we were relieved to be off it and done with the technical part of the tour.  Now all that lay between us and our car was 12 miles of striding.  After 18 hours of climbing and skiing we were back at the car splitting a warm celebratory beer (a serious oversight on that one…).


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