Last Wednesday morning Chad and I left for the Cold Springs campground just outside Trout Lake. Our plan was to hike to Lunch Counter and set camp by about 5:00p, then summit Mt. Adams with lighter packs and do the full descent on Thursday.
Our packs were heavy, with Chad’s at about 55 pounds and mine around 45 or 50 pounds. I had six liters of water and the tent poles and spikes, and he had seven liters of water and the tent. Oh, and he had a metal fork, while mine was plastic. The weather was much more cool than we expected, and we didn’t end up using but about half of our water. Man, I wish I’d known that before we reached Lunch Counter. The ascent was tough for me, being so out of shape, but we made it in about six hours, knowing we didn’t need to rush.
Just before we broke the treeline (8100 feet?), we ran into a couple with a teenage son who were coming back down. They told us Lunch Counter was terrible, with winds approaching 75mph, and they had decided not to attempt a summit. We continued, with the wind ever increasing as we rose and broke various ridges. Numerous times we had to quickly throw our poles out to the side to keep from falling over as wind gusts caught our packs.
We met a few other groups climbing, all of them planning to spend the night around Lunch Counter and then to summit in the morning. We crossed the only ice field in our path just below Lunch Counter, but didn’t need to use crampons since it was soft from the afternoon sun.
After starting at Cold Springs campground at 11:00a at 5600ft, we reached the very top of Lunch Counter at 5:15p and 9500ft. The wind was unbelievable, but the rock shelters were sufficient to allow us to pitch the tent. We ate some hot dinner and then turned in at about 7:30p.
The night was noisy and restless, with the wind snapping and howling non-stop. It didn’t freeze, but it was chilly, and the noise helped insure we achieved little more than catnaps for an hour or two at a time all night. By 6:00a we were tired and a bit frustrated, but were blessed with one of the most amazing sunrises either of us had ever seen.
It was pretty easy to decide not to attempt a summit, since the wind was difficult to stand in, and we couldn’t see even half way up Piker’s Peak (11,600ft). We munched down some Clif bars, packed the tent, inventoried lost items (just the tent stuff-sack, which I didn’t get pushed deep enough into my bag to hide it from the wind overnight), and headed back down the mountain.
On our way down, we encoutered at least two of the groups that we’d seen the day before, and both groups decided the summit attempt was not worth the risk. We ran into numerous other groups headed up, one of which was attempting to summit for the third time this year after having been turned back twice already because of the weather. Another group had been up two weeks prior and was unable to summit because of the weather.
While we did feel a bit better that no one was attempting to summit, we were still a bit disappointed. Compounding the disappointment was the fact that our only opportunity to glissade, just below Lunch Counter, was lost because of the incredibly painful, pants-shredding patches of ice.
Regardless, the scenery was fabulous, and the opportunity to spend time away from work and responsibility for a couple of days with a Christian brother as encouraging and uplifting as Chad was a true blessing. And thanks, Chad, for slowing up your descent enough to let me feel like I could almost keep up.
Here are some of the pictures I captured with our little Panasonic (no way I was bringing the 40d). You can view the entire set on Flickr (with captions).