Trip Report    

Intermediate Alpine Climb - Mount Adams/Adams Glacier

An intense alpine climb under perfect weather.

  • Road rough but passable
  • Some potholes on the drive to the trailhead. Trail is dry and dusty to about 6000 ft. We encountered one climbing party on the way in and one during the climb, along with maybe 3 parties of skiers, compared to maybe hundreds on the south side. It's a shame this route isn't climbed more often.

  • Sat 0800: Meet in Tacoma
  • Sat 1200: Killen Creek TH
  • Sat 1600: Lake 7505 camp
  • Sun 0200: Wake up
  • Sun 0315: Roll out of camp
  • Sun 0430: Base of climb 
  • Sun 1100: Top of climb
  • Sun 1200: Descend North Cleaver
  • Sun 1600: Back to camp
  • Sun 1745: Leave camp
  • Sun 2000: Back to cars
  • Mon 0130: Back to Tacoma
  • Mon 0230: Back to Seattle
The forecast called for clear skies, decent temperature (2C, a bit on the warmer side), and almost no wind. We left Tacoma at 830, stopping for coffee at McDs/Starbucks (the pillars of modern society). We reached the Killen creek TH before noon where we were instantly assaulted by a hail of bugs. We moved quickly through the swarm and sandy and dusty tail before hitting consistent snow at 6000 ft.

Mt Rainier in the distance

 Mt Rainier in the distance

After a bit of routefinding we made it to high camp at 7000 ft. Spoke to some climbers on their way down from Adams Glacier. The route was supposed to be in prime condition with good snow bridges and an easy exit heading left at the top. Afterwards we made it to camp at Lake 7505 where we set up camp on a dusty patch above the snow. 
To Camp.jpg
On the approach to high camp

Sleep came slow as the sun didn't go down until 10pm. 



We woke up at 2am to the harsh light of a full moon. Another party had passed us an hour earlier and we saw their headlights moving up the glacier. We roped up as 2-man glacier teams and made it to the base of the climb in short time. Somewhere along the way to the base I dropped my phone. It is now a part of the mountain.
We kept to the right portion of the glacier almost the entire way. The lower icefall was composed on three ice steps, each about 45 degrees that ran for a full pitch each. It was mostly steep snow with some crumbly ice in places and solid glacial ice in others. We didn't place protection here and needed only a few overhead swings. We simulclimbed this section up to the elevation of the exit ramp to the North Face of Northwest Ridge. 
Lower pitch 1.jpg
First ice step

Lower Seracs.jpg

 Lower seracs

On the middle icefall we came across a few snow bridges over small crevasses. The bridges were still solid but they may collapse in the coming weeks. We protected these with a running belay of deadman pickets and screws where the ice was bare. This section was straightforward. By now we were in the sunlight and were near the base of the upper seracs.
A snowbridge
At the upper icefall we elected not to cut left to the top of the North Cleaver, but followed another team (one of whose members had done this before) into the maze of seracs.

Upper Seracs 2.jpg

 Upper seracs

Navigating the seracs was three pitches of climbing on solid ice which we pitched out.

Upper pitch 1.jpg

Upper pitch 1

Upper pitch 2.jpg

Upper pitch 2
This took us to one more snowbridge across a small crevasse, then a slog up to the summit plateau. Chase and Krzys headed for the summit while Jeff and I made water and coiled ropes.
The Pinnacle
The descent of the north cleaver was a nightmare. Sometimes we sunk down our hips, other times we couldn't break through the hard layer just below the top. The lower portion was unending choss. More than a few times we had routefinding issues due to the lack of cairns. When in doubt we kept to the right and eventually made it to the switchbacks right above the lake. I would suggest not descending this line unless it was completely covered in snow, or ever. Carrying over to the south side would have been more tolerable.


End of the descent
At this point we were probably the last ones on the mountain. We slogged back to the cars without stop. The mosquitoes were just as vicious. The traffic jam between Olympia and Tacoma didn't help.


Route overlay by Krzysztof Ostrowski

Photo credits: Jeff Wirtz