Trip Report    

Alpine Scramble - Mount Adams/South Spur

We experienced winter-like conditions on Mount Adams despite it being June. We turned around at 10,592'. Despite the lack of a summit, we learned a lot, had a good time, and most importantly, made it back to our cars safely.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • High clearance vehicles can make it to the Cold Springs Campground, which is still partially snow-covered. We got to the trailhead at around 11:30 AM and a small vehicle had gotten stuck, blocking the entrance to the campground, forcing us to find parking alongside the road. 

    Snow was fairly continuous from the trailhead, with maybe .5 miles total of bare trail.

    We brought snowshoes but stashed them in a tree well about 1 mile into our trip, when we realized the snow was firm enough that they were not necessary. We were able to boot up to Lunch Counter and wore crampons above Lunch Counter.

A team of 8 arrived at the South Climb trailhead at around 10:30 AM. Since we had to park somewhat far apart along the road, it took a while for us to organize our gear and we did not depart the trailhead until around noon. There were patches of bare trail, but we hit continuous snow fairly quickly. We moved at a very slow pace for the first hour, only gaining about 800'. The snow was firm so we decided to stash our snowshoes in a tree well, hoping that shaving a few pounds would quicken our pace somewhat. It didn't help a lot; this was some peoples' first experience walking on this much snow with overnight pack. At around 5:30 PM, we found a flat area at around 9,100' to create a campsite. It took us 5.5 hours to ascend 3,300', well below the goal ascent rate of 1,000'/hr. 

It is still very much winter conditions on Mount Adams. Streams are still covered, so we had to melt snow for our drinking water and dinners. When we got to camp, everyone worked together to make sure that our tents wouldn't blow away in the wind and that we had sufficient water for the next day. The temperatures fell and we experienced a combination of snow and sleet, but it was not particularly windy. It got very cold very quickly after dinner, so we retreated to our tents very early, at around 7:30 PM. The overnight temperature was likely in the teens.

We woke up to gorgeous but frigid weather. 7 of us took off from our campsite toward the summit at 6:20 AM, with one party member opting to stay at camp due to cramping the day prior. We were unable to move together as a team continuously, even at a very slow pace. At around 8:30 AM, we had only ascended 1,500', and our pace continued to slow down. I recognized that we would not make the summit before our set turnaround time, so I made the call to turn us all around at that time rather than go higher and risk injuries due to exhaustion. We slowly returned to camp, unable to make use of any glissading due to the icy conditions. Taking down our tents was a challenge; we had really buried our tent stakes and the snow was so icy that it took over an hour to dig everything out. We left camp at around 11 AM and got to enjoy several glissades down to the treeline, which kept the mood very light and fun. We returned to our cars just before 2 and stopped in Hood River for celebratory food and drinks before the long drive home.

I always try to learn something from every trip I lead. This trip was full of learning opportunities. My first ever scramble with the Mountaineers was on Mount Adams, over a decade ago. It was such an amazing experience that I wanted to share it with others. However, I ended up with not the right balance of students to more experienced folks on this trip, and as a result, nobody got to summit. If I had asked for an assistant leader who was also a scramble leader to join this trip, I could have let the other scramble leader go to the summit with the faster folks while I took the people who were struggling back down to camp.

This trip was full of amazing people. I really appreciate each of them for their willingness to turn around when I made the call, and keep really positive attitudes the entire time, whether they were struggling, or cold, or going at a slower pace than they would have preferred. Everyone worked together to make this trip a success in that we all had fun, learned something, and got home safely.