Sunday, July 2, 2006

Mt Adams SW Chutes

Mt Adams, WA
12,276 feet
SW Chutes
July 2, 2006

Our objective this 4th of July was Mt Adams, the second highest volcano in Washington. We wanted to climb it not just for the sake of getting to the top, but because we had an equally strong interest in skiing the Southwest Chutes, which offer about 4,000 feet of 30-40° fall-line skiing! After the long drive down on Saturday, Marcus, Anastasia, Kirsten and I found a spot off the road below the trailhead to camp because the main campground was still snowed in. We left camp around 5am on Sunday, because we planned to attempt to climb it all in one day.

As we approached the trailhead, we stopped and talked to some search and rescue folks who were standing by their response vehicle. They told us a woman had slipped and broke her leg high up on the mountain the night before and her and her boyfriend were hypothermic and dehydrated, but the first responders had got them into a tent and they were doing okay. We offered to take something up for the rescuers who were on their way up, so they gave us some cheese sticks and chocolate.

The climb was pretty uneventful. After a mile of hiking on dirt trail, we reached consistent snow cover so we stashed our hiking shoes and started skinning. We made it up to the Lunch Counter after four hours or so, and stopped for, well, lunch. We found the rescuers and delivered the cheese and chocolate, then continued up the steep slog up to the false summit, Pikers Peak, arriving around 11am. The legs were getting a little tired at this point, so we had to decide whether we wanted to continue up to the true summit, or begin our delicious ski descent. The pull of the summit was strong, however, so we risked letting the Chutes get a little over-cooked and headed over. We started off on foot and when we reached the slope up to the summit, we started postholing really bad, so we put the skis back on and with our more efficient skinning, made it up to the summit pretty quickly, arriving around 12:30. 

After splitting one Rainier tall-boy between the four of us, we gave the other one away because the altitude and exertion of the day made just a few ounces of beer extremely effective. Around 1:00 we started down. The skiing from the summit was much better than had been recently reported. People were saying it was icy, but we were lucky and got a pretty nice layer of corn. We traversed to the top of the SW Chutes and then began the long descent. The snow in the Chutes was a little too baked -- about an inch or two of somewhat heavy and sticky corn -- but once we got used to it and found the better patches, it was quite enjoyable. And the line! The line is so incredible. So steep and continuous and free of obstacles. I have never been half-way down a perfect slope and thought, "It's too far!" Legs quivering from all the tele turns, we leap-frogged down the slope, watching each other ski in turn as an excuse to rest.

We ran into some folks from the WAC, Mike, Doerte, and Christy, near the bottom and joined them for the traverse out. The 7,000' traverse was a little tricky, with the snow interupted by a series of rock ribs, but after an hour or so and an extra 500 feet of climbing, we made it back over to the South Route around 3:30. The rest of the trail was a combination of fun luge-tube skiing and dirt trail hiking, and before long we arrived back at camp and began the triumphant sausage grilling. 

Monday morning we drove into Hood River and had a tasty breakfast, then on the way home we stopped at Beacon Rock and sort of inadvertantly hiked up it in our flip-flops. We only meant to go up a little ways and check it out, but the trail was so cool that we kept going and before we knew it we were at the top. Not quite as significant of a summit as Adams, but still pretty cool.

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