Mt. Adams (Washington Cascades; 12,276')

Mt. Adams is the second-highest peak in Washington State, and forms an impressive triangle together with Mt. Saint Helens and Mt. Hood. It is farther east and not quite as easily accessible as its two companions. It offers an easy walk-up on the SW side, and a somewhat more interesting and scenic route via Mazama Glacier on the SE side. There are many other routes, but many of them are plagued by avalanche danger or rock or ice fall, depending on the season. The Southwest Chutes are a classic ski descent.

Mt. Adams in early May from the south
Topo Map

Routes: Mazama Glacier (moderate snow climb)
South Side (easy snow climb)
SW Chutes (moderate snow climb, moderate ski descent)

References: Fred Beckey, Cascade Alpine Guide, Vol. 1 , The Mountainiers (Seattle, WA 1987)
Jeff Smoot, Summit Guide to the Cascade Volcanoes , Chockstone Press (Evergreen, CO 1992)

Date: September 3-4, 2011

Party: PB and DB

Route: South Side (up), SW Chutes (down)

Equipment: AT Skis

Time: Cold Springs Trail Head - Lunch Counter: 4 hrs
Lunch Counter - Summit: 4 hrs
Summit - Trail Head: 5 hrs

Comments: Still 4,000+ vertical feet of reasonable skiing in the chutes!

Trip report:

We had wanted to ski the SW Chutes on Adams for a long time. Labor Day weekend seemed to be pushing it with respect to the season, but 2011 was the best snow year in a very long time, Garry Petrie's web cam in Troutlake showed that the chutes still had continuous snow, and so we decided to give it a try. Paul flew up from San Diego on Friday night, and on Saturday around 11am we started from Portland. After having the rangers frown on our carrying skis, but neither crampons or ice axes (you can't ski this in September, man, and what's a whippet anyway?), buying some beef jerky to get the required $30 cash back (no, the government does not take credit cards, at least not in Trout Lake, WA) we secured our permits and at 2:30 we got going from the trailhead.

There were lots of people slogging up the trail, as was to be expected. The snow was very suncupped, which was good for hiking in sneakers but made us hope that the chutes would be a lot smoother. We made good time to the Lunch Counter and picked a bivy site. Paul did not feel well for some reason we never figured out, didn't eat, and almost instantly fell asleep. In the middle of the night the wind collapsed the Beta Light, he woke up, found that he was fine, went outside and secured our shelter while I solidly slept through the entire episode.

The next morning we took it easy since we figured we did not want to start down the chutes before 2pm anyway, and we never got going until 8:45. Paul was fine and actually much faster than me. On the South Summit we took a break, then we continued down into the saddle and over horribly suncupped snow to the true summit. The entrance to the chutes had looked pretty smooth, though, so we were hopeful. Skiing off of the summit was a huge mistake. The suncups made turns next to impossible, my bindings kept releasing, and we picked our way down mostly by means of kick turns. We should have walked down, that would have been much faster and easier!

After a short break Paul dropped in around 2:30pm. Conditions looked reasonable, so I followed and after a few turns we got to the steep part. The next 4,000 vertical feet required some attention, but in between the runnels we could always find smooth spots to make turns, and icy parts could be mostly avoided. It's a pretty amazing line, averaging 35 degrees for over 3,000' before it starts to flatten out. With two small portages we managed to ski down to about 7,500' before reaching the end of the snow.

After melting remarkable amounts of snow and drinking almost all of the resulting water on the spot we shouldered our skis again and started the hike out. There was a pretty good skiers/deer/whatever trail leading from the snow to the Round-The-Mountain Trail, which we reached surprisingly fast, only to find that the hike to the junction with Trail 183 took much longer than expected (and went annoyingly far uphill). Another half an hour later we were back at our car.

Very nice trip, reasonable skiing by any standards (okay, except from the summit to the south summit), and absolutely amazing skiing given that it was Labor Day Weekend! We should come back and do the chutes in July, though; with corn instead of runneled September snow the line must be out of this world!

Photo Gallery:

Click the thumbnails to see a higher resolution image

Mt. Adams from Trout Lake.

Paul ready to go.

The South Side and the Chutes from low on the trail.

Packing up to the Lunch Counter.

Sunset at the Lunch Counter.

Paul on the South Summit.

Paul and Dietrich on the true summit.

Paul drops in.

Dietrich contemplates his next move.

The Chutes from below.

Out of snow!

Date: September 9, 1996

Party: DB and Dave Cohen

Route: Mazama Glacier

Equipment: Crampons, ice axe, 50m rope



Trip report: