Sept/Oct Mt. Adams ski mountaineering

5:30 p.m. on October 21, 2010 (EDT)
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As a New England skier, I know that winter can be all too short. But this year I made turns into July in Mt Washington's Tuckerman Ravine. In August a family trip found me on Mt. Rainier, so of course I climbed and skied the classic Muir Snowfield. Having skied every month since November, I knew I had find a way to get on snow in September.

On September 28 I headed out to the Cascades to try to log my eleventh and twelfth consecutive months on snow. Unfortunately, my partner bailed out at the last minute, but with forecasts for stable weather and better-than usual snowpack for this time of year, I decided to make the trip solo. I arrived in Portland just as a high pressure ridge was settling in, and made my way toward Mt. Adams:

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My objectives on Adams were the south side snowfields (right of and below the false summit, on the right side of the photo), and the southwest chutes (left of the false summit).

I camped at Cold Springs (~5,600'), and in the morning set out on the standard South Climb route. After two hours of hiking, I switched over to skis and proceeded to skin up the low-angle snowfield above the Crescent Glacier:

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I skinned to about 10,000 feet, by which point my lack of acclimatization (and a couple nights of little sleep earlier in the week) became obvious, as my pace worsened and my legs got heavy. I slowly booted up the remainder of the snowfield, reaching the 11,500' false summit a bit after noon. The true summit was only 800' above, but the wind and snow both looked hard, and I was running short on energy. After a lunch break and a chat with two other climbers, it was time to ski.

On the ascent, I'd followed a fairly direct line, and had had to remove my skis to cross one short section of exposed rock. The view from the false summit revealed a more promising line that appeared to offer continuous snow cover down to the Crescent Glacier:

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The first turns from the false summit were excellent. Light snowfall from the previous week had filled in and smoothed over most of the larger sun cups and covered up the old, dirty snow above 10,000' or so. It was nicely corned up and made for some buttery smooth fall-line turns on the 30-degree pitch below the false summit.

Lower down, even the older snow surface skied reasonably well, between pockets of blown-in newer snow. Here's the view looking back up from around 9,000':

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The line I spotted from above did indeed connect, and I was able to make turns all the way onto the rapidly-melting Crescent Glacier, for a total continuous descent of 3,600'. Not bad for September:

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I hiked the couple miles back to camp, enjoyed a warm meal, and, with September turns in hand, resolved to get a good nights sleep and spend the morning recovering.

Keeping the first part of the resolution was no problem, but by 10 a.m. I was itching to get out of camp. I was also feeling strong, and a little bit disappointed that I hadn't gone for the summit. A plan quickly formed, and by noon I was headed back up the mountain, this time with my sleeping bag, bivy sack, and stove.

I hiked up the lower part of the mountain and camped the "lunch counter" at 9,000', where I was treated to a spectacular sunset over Mt. St. Helens:

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At 8 a.m. (October 1!) I hoofed it for the summit. With the firmer morning snow, I opted to climb in trails shoes and crampons instead of ski boots. That, and a couple days at altitude, made for a significantly easier ascent.

With continued clear skies, warm temperatures, and little wind, the snowpack had deteriorated significantly in the two days since I'd first climbed and skied:

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I climbed steadily and summitted a little before 11:00. The snow was still fairly hard, so I spent about an hour at the summit with several groups of climbers, including Cooper the wonder dog:

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By noon the snow on the summit cone had started to soften up, and it was time to ski. I descended in variable snow conditions back toward the false summit, traversing west and dropping into the westernmost of the South Chutes, where some of the blown-in new surface remained intact:

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Below 10,000' the snow got progressively worse, with numerous obstacles to deal with: suncups, runnels, and rocks:

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4,200' below the summit, the run, now on volcanic-ash Slurpee, reached its end:

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Mission accomplished, twelve months on snow. I hefted the ski gear on my back and basked in the sunshine. I picked my way through the moraines, down the mountain and back toward camp with just one thought in my head: it's good to ski.

9:51 a.m. on October 22, 2010 (EDT)
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OK, Dave, inquiring minds want to know about your gear:

Skis:Boots:Bindings:Helmet:Pack:Sleeping bag:Bivy:

 

10:10 a.m. on October 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Fantastic trip report, Dave! You are making me jealous, especially considereing I have never been skiing in my life. Sad, no?

I am glad you decided to go even though your friend bailed on you, it looks like it was a geat trip.

12:39 p.m. on October 22, 2010 (EDT)
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OK, Dave, inquiring minds want to know about your gear:

Skis:Boots:Bindings:Helmet:Pack:Sleeping bag:Bivy:

skis: Black Diamond Machine (174cm)

bindings: Fritchi Freeride Plus

boots: Scarpa Spirit 4

skins: BCA Low Fat Skins

helmet: Giro Fuse

Pack: Black Diamond Revelation

Sleeping Bag: Western Mountaineering UltraLite

Bivy: Black Diamond Winter Bivy

3:25 p.m. on October 22, 2010 (EDT)
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2 more questions:

How much does all the ski gear weigh? (ballpark)

How much of the time lost hauling all that weight uphill is recaptured on the ski descent?

6:58 p.m. on October 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Great trip, Dave! So why didn't you show me the photos when I stopped by your place at the end of September?

Getting time to get out on the skis for first turns of the winter. The higher elevations of the Sierra are already skiable.

8:13 p.m. on October 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Skis w/ bindings, skins, boots, and helmet add up to about 23 lbs.  I'm not sure how much that slows me down, but whatever it is, it's usually more than made up for on the descent. In this case, from the summit, skiing conservatively and stopping fairly often, I dropped 4,200' and 2+ miles in about 25 minutes. On foot that's probably 2-3 hours. (And much less fun.)

8:32 p.m. on October 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks, Bill. The pictures were yet to be taken. I headed west a couple days after you left New England.

6:08 a.m. on October 23, 2010 (EDT)
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One more question:

Crampons on trail shoes? How does that work?

8:26 a.m. on October 23, 2010 (EDT)
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I had strap-on crampons (Grivel G10) and somewhat stiffish shoes (Patagonia Drifter). It's not a particularly robust setup, but fine for the benign weather and snow conditions on this trip. And much lighter on the feet than ski boots.

12:47 p.m. on October 23, 2010 (EDT)
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Looks like a great trip, by the way. After a couple of months in town with only a lot of running, a family day hike, and one overnighter, I'm jealous!

4:50 p.m. on October 23, 2010 (EDT)
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Dave: thanks for the clarity on time/weight. I assumed fun was the main the idea but it did strike me that skiing down a mountain is way more efficient than walking, if the option is there.

4:52 a.m. on October 24, 2010 (EDT)
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Great shots Dave. I too am very jealous, all our snow (sth hemi) has gone so I'm forced to live vicariously through trip reports like yours for a few months. 

Is Cooper a regular summiteer? 

11:13 a.m. on October 24, 2010 (EDT)
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Nice looking place. Doessnow linger year round on Mt Adams? I have not been thru that part of the country since 1977.

8:23 a.m. on October 25, 2010 (EDT)
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Dave buried the hook of his trip report, in my opinion.

Skiing Adams in September and October means he's skied every one of the last 12 months (and counting).

1:33 p.m. on October 25, 2010 (EDT)
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Paully: Cooper's climbing partner/owner is a local to Mt. Adams, so I suspect this was not the dog's first trip to the summit.

Gary: Mt. Adams has a number of glaciers and permanent snowfields, but it does not usually hold this much snow so late into the year. The combination of heavy winter snowfall and a mild summer made for very unusual, but favorable, conditions for this time of year.

2:14 a.m. on November 5, 2010 (EDT)
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Bad-ass.  Jealous big time.

August 21, 2014
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