Adams Summit Success - Actual Climb Not So Much

Mount Adams: a Leader bailing at camp, creative route-finding, getting a late start, summit, trashed foot ligaments, overdue return, search & rescue, and a meeting with a Sheriff's Deputy at the trailhead...
David Shema David Shema
June 06, 2014

[Mountaineer Emergency Responder]

The climb leader called the Mountaineer Emergency number early in the morning (0207 to be exact) about his Adams Glacier climb. He said he didn’t feel good so the other 3 climbers continued while he remained in camp. At some point (he wasn’t clear, and we had a bad connection) he decided there was a problem, hiked out, hitchhiked to Randall and called Skamania County to launch a Search & Rescue. His wife came to Randall, picked him up and drove him back to Seattle, then he called me (the Mountaineer Emergency Responder).

The missing climbers were found by a Skamania County Sheriff deputy at the trailhead about 11pm.

The official climb leader told the others on the climb to go on without him rather than cancel the climb. All were at least 2nd year intermediate students, but none of them were climb leaders. It is not clear how much ice climbing experience these climbers had. 

[Acting Leader]

Yes, we indeed had a successful summit via the Adams Glacier route the weekend of 6/10, but with more time than any of us certainly had anticipated. Our party was comprised of all Int. students (2nd year), or Int. grads, all of us in solid climbing shape, and generally a brisk moving party. The delay came from a few following circumstances and conditions:

  1. We started at the lower camp which was farther from the base of the route than we anticipated. We didn’t reach the route start point until about 5-5:30am.
  2. We made great time up to the ice fall / ice portion of the route. The issue came when we got to the ice pitches. The "fast/easy" way had melted out, or was obstructed. We had to get a bit creative and improvisational for sure to get through this part. This consumed some time because we were protecting and building anchors through this portion of the route. I think we had to ascend 4-5 short pitches of ice the way we went, 2 of which were over crevasses, or soft ice bridges.
  3. By the time we cleared the ice portion and made it up to the open glacier it was about 1pm, not the time we wanted to be here. It was warm, we had burned through more water than we would have liked by this point, and now the snow was soft because it was mid day. Because of this we were placing pickets as we ascended to protect the team from open exposure in case of a fall. The soft snow and pickets placement slowed this whole portion down. We summited around 5pm.
  4. We took the North ridgeline down. Other than taking a little bit of time to ensure that we were on the correct descent route this went smoothly. We descended in about 3 hours, and arrived in camp about 8pm.
  5. About mid-way down on our descent we attempted to send text messages to both the official climb leader and our families to let them know we were running later than expected and not to worry if we were home late. That text did not go through. We sent that same text again when we got down to camp at 8pm and had some better reception. This is when we received notice from a text that S&R had been notified.
  6. We broke down camp and decided to use our GPS log and head out at dusk to return to the car. We got back to the car about 1 pm. The trek back to the car took a little longer due to it being obviously dark.

Also, although I did not know this at the time, at some point on the climb I had ruptured the main tendon on my right foot, and shredded a bunch of ligaments, so I was dragging it a little bit. I've been on crutches the past couple weeks since the climb, but other than that; there were no injuries to speak of, and no incidents concerning safety or health while on climb. No surgery was needed.

Originally we anticipated being back around 1-2pm at camp, and we got back at 8pm. That gives us a delta of about 6-7 hours in the plus. Half of that was easily a miss assessment of the route climb time from our starting point, the other was simply delay from being on the route too late in the day and the extra time needed to get through the ice pitches.


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