Trip Report    

Alpine Scramble - Mount Adams/South Spur

Late summer conditions - be aware!

  • Road recommended for high clearance only
  • I have climbed Pahto/Mt. Adams 7 times since 2011, between late June and mid-August each time, and this is the barest I have seen the route up from Lunch Counter. It looked like photos I've seen of late August, early September climbs. 

    There is, what I call "the hourglass," though it's not much of an hourglass anymore, where the snow is a thin band between rocks, at about 10,900ft. Mostly now it is loose boulders with a couple of braided sandy trails between the 2 bands of snow. There is snow up from Lunch Counter to this point, and then from about 11,000 to the top of Piker's Peak, that is pretty sun-cupped, but has a boot pack in. 

    From Pikers to the summit is mostly scree now, except for the flat snowfield across and a bit of snow from 11,800 to the summit. Be ware of the top of the snow route near the summit; there is a running river (good if you need water) below some very thin snow bridges. Much of this will be melted by the coming weekend. Still, it would be easy - and dangerous - to punch or fall through right now, as some of the water is running 5ft below the snow crust.

    The glissade chute off the summit block goes over this river and is melted out at the top with water running 5ft below. You can still glissade 50ft or so, and then another 300 down to the flat part back to Pikers. We started below Pikers; glissading was fine (standard icy and bumpy luge tunnel), to the "hourglass" and then after the hourglass back to camp. There was no real glissading below Lunch Counter, and the snowline was 8000ft. Below was all rock.  Part of our group went ahead and lost the trail, came back up and found us, and we found the trail down together. There are lots of social trails, so be sure to use a map app/track. There is water at Lunch Counter.

We had some really shifty weather on summit day - Loowit/Mount St. Helens and Wy'east/Hood were in and out of thunder clouds, we could see rain and thunderheads over the Yakima Rez, we could hear thunder, but we seemed to be in a fairly sheltered bowl. We stopped for 40min at 10,200 and pulled weather reports, texted family members, watched the clouds and felt fairly confident we could continue. As it was, we got a good window. As we were leaving Lunch Counter, there was a huge black cloud forming over the summit and Piker's Peak (see photo above). We saw some skiers coming down through it, and we knew there were still 3 climbers up there; hope they got out OK!

We also stopped at 10,800ft for a woman who was experiencing moderate to severe AMS, gave her some homeopathics (mint, ginger) and helped her in the glissade chute. Our co-leader, Nate, glissaded with her for 50ft until she got the hang of it, and a member of her party came back up for her. She needed to get down fast, and glissading was the best way to achieve that. Her friend took over and we continued to the summit.

We lost a lot of time for those 2 holds, and the day ended up being a 12hr summit day - my longest on this mountain. 

I experienced some moderate AMS (headache, nausea, loss of appetite, general blahs) at camp Saturday night, but rallied with a small dose of Diamox, and one other participant had a bit of tachycardia, headache and light-headedness at 8000ft going up, but also rallied on summit day.

My personal opinion is that between avalanches, funky snow conditions and Mount Rainier closures this winter and spring, many people did not have chances to get up to 10,000ft or higher. It showed in my own altitude fitness. 

We had a great group and one of our Kitsap scramble students got his graduation scramble on this one - yay!