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Tips On Climbing Mt Adams

Mount Adams, situated in the eastern Cascade range, east of Mount St Helens and north of Mount Hood, is the second most massive and the third tallest volcano in the Cascade range. Popular among hikers, backpackers, mountain bikers, skiers, and outdoor enthusiasts in general, Mt Adams is accessible year round, and visited by folks from both states - Washington and Oregon.

During summer, Mt Adams becomes a huge attraction to many "wannabe" mountaineers and ski bums. There are several climbing routes on the mountain, ranging from the "non-technical" South Climb, to highly technical routes that require advance skill, experience, and special equipment.

Because  the South Spur Route (aka South Climb, South Side, or South Rib), which initially follows the South Climb Trail #183 is crevasse-free, it provides one of the easier climbing routes and nicest ski runs on any of the northern Cascade volcanoes.

Recently, I spent 3 gorgeous days exploring the mountain, and below I'd like to share a few tips that I couldn't find answers for when I was researching my trip :

-  Driving

12 mile dirt road to the trailhead is a killer. Though I managed to get there in my Geo Metro, I highly recommend to drive something more "outdoorsy" ( like Subaru or Jeep ). On the way up, the road gets pretty narrow and sketchy. Exposed slopes make it hard and dangerous for two vehicles to pass by.

- Summer Crowds

As mentioned above, Mt Adams is very popular among hikers/climbers/skiers. During the weekend I was there, a ranger told me there were close to 300 people at the trailhead. Though when I made it to the trailhead, I could easily find a spot right by the trail.
Which brings me to another tip - don't waste your time talking to the rangers at the station in Trout Lake. Instead, talk to people who just came down from the mountain. They will be able to provide the most updated information.

- Camping At The Trailhead

Just like at Mt St Helens, you can camp right by the trail. If it does get overcrowded, you can always find space/parking/camping at the bottom of the dirt road or at Morrison Creek trailhead.

- Navigation/Trail Finding

I don't provide the description of the trail ( cause you can easily find it online ), but can definitely say its easy to follow the trail all the way to the top. So you don't have to have any special navigation/backcountry skills to climb Mt Adams....


- Be Prepared

Weather on Mt Adams can change rapidly. Sudden snowstorms can occur above 6,000 feet elevation at any month of the year. Climbers should always prepare for bad weather and an extended stay on the mountain. I was blessed with two gorgeous sunny days on the mountain, when on the morning of my departure I woke up in pouring rain and complete whiteout.

- Stay Hydrated

Though I was told about a creek at Lunch Counter, I couldn't find one. I was glad I had my trusted JetBoil, and the old school "snow melting" was a breeze. If you would have to melt snow for a bigger group, you'd probably need a water filter as well.

- Gear

Crampons Or Micro-Spikes ? Ice axe Or Ski poles ? Rope ?

It was my second time trying out my basic ski mountaineering/ randonee gear ( skis with special bindings and skins ). I was concerned about the steep slopes, and wasn't sure I'd be able to skin up all the way to the top.
I ended up walking the majority of the route in my ski boots. But in reality, while crampons are highly recommended, you can use micro-spikes or a nice pair of hiking/mountaineering boots with aggressive treads.
You will need ice axe if you're planning chute glissading.
A rope can be very handy for a big group in case of a whiteout.

- To Ski Or Not To Ski

I was told Mt Adams was a great place for skiing in the summer. Honestly, it wasn't exactly what I experienced.
Late in the season ( I did it in late July ), a huge part of the mountain is snow free. And the portion from Lunch Counter to false summit ( (Piker's Peak) holds a consistent 25-30 degree pitch for over 2500 vertical ft. Which makes "skinning up" hard to impossible. So a big portion of the climb I did in my ski boots.

All in all, it was a great adventure ! Climbing/skiing Mt Adams has been on my Bucket List for a few years now. This post is another proof that goal setting is the way to make your dreams come true !

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