“Great things are done when men and mountains meet,” wrote William Blake in 1807. “However, it is unclear what happens when wookies and mountains meet, but we assume it’s off the hook,” continued Blake from an unverified source.
Now, I’m not saying that we cured cancer but Wanderlusthiker did manage to place several finely dressed young men, an aerial drone, and a wookie on the summit of Mount Adams. When is the last time you put a wookie on anything?
Mount Adams sits at 12,280’ and is the second highest mountain in Washington state, trailing Mount Rainier (14,409’). The first ascent was recorded in 1854 by some people with names. It last erupted in 950 AD, which gave native Americans plenty of time to create fantastical stories of love and strife in which the mountain played a star role.
According to the Bridge of the Gods legend, Pahto (Mt. Adams) and his brother Wy’east (Mt. Hood, 11,250’) were locked in a fierce competition for the love of Loowit (Mt. St. Helens, 8,366’). When Loowit chose Pahto, Wy’east became furious and struck his brother in the head, causing the mountain to have a squat appearance that remains to this day. Other versions of the story state that losing Loowit caused Pahto such grief that he dropped his head in shame. Other versions of the story also state Pahto was a woman.
Some say that when Mt. St. Helens erupted in 1980 it was due to internal issues brought about in part by a deteriorating relationship with the dastardly Hood.
In 1980, Rainier was on record as having made a snide remark about women and shaking his head.
Point your Google machine at Mt Adams and you will discover that it sits in a fairly remote region of the state. Lush forests surround the mountain along with the entire Yakima Nation Reservation to the east. To the south is Trout Lake, Washington. For most folks this is the last pit stop before entering the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
It’s important to take care of a few items in Trout Lake before venturing up to the mountain:
Shortly after leaving Trout Lake, the road splits in to NF-8040 heading right and NF-8031 heading left. Going left leads to Indian Heaven Wilderness and ultimately the town of Randal. Going right leads to Cold Springs Campground (5,538′) which is the trailhead that a majority of climbers use for attempting a 12.0 mile round trip south side summit.
Warning: The road to Cold Springs does not require high clearance vehicles, but it certainly makes the trip smoother.
There is an adequate amount of parking at Cold Springs. For those looking to set up a trailhead base camp, dozens of campsites hug the gravel road. Beware of the weekend crowd, as there have been verbal reports of at least a hundred or more eager climbers camped at the trailhead preparing to ascend the following morning.
Our summit expedition extended over 2 nights and 3 days. This was squeezed into a clear, sunny weekend in June. Our summit party consisted of Cheval and myself, guided by two experienced backpackers: Slug and Rabbit.
For Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood we tried to provide guidance on what gear to bring when attempting the summits of each respective mountain. Alpine backpacking requires more gear than a standard overnight hiking trip. We boiled it down to two categories of gear that are critical to a smooth, successful summit attempt:
Even on a warm day in June the wind can chill your body straight to the bone, or worse. Never assume that you will have ideal weather on a mountain. Insulated, waterproof boots, wool socks insulated pants, gloves, hat, and base/outer/shell multi-core layers are required and should be on your person, even if you don’t wear these items for the entire duration of the climb.
You can’t reach the summit if you don’t have traction. Rock, scree, snow, and ice are common obstacles on Mt. Adams. Scree and rocks require sturdy shoes, but snow and ice require insulated, waterproof boots with either crampons or shoe spikes. Crampons are recommended during extremely cold conditions for walking on ice. Gaiters aren’t required, but they help significantly to keep debris out of your boots and protect your lower leg from debris, dust, and snow melt. Finally, trekking poles will go a long way towards maintaining energy, stability, and momentum.
This is the bare minimum for a day hike. Overnight gear is required in order to withstand the elements comfortably. And if you want to keep consistent energy levels you will need food and water.
Blake, and the great English romantic poets after him, often used mountains as a symbol of transcendence into nature and the sublime landscape. It’s no wonder, then, that alpine backpacking represents a special variation of hiking. The feelings invoked are much more vivid – anxiousness, optimism, fatigue, and accomplishment.
Epic trips can be defined by the audacity to challenge the norm, but they present a distinct and clear realization that whatever you’re doing is right.
Taking a step away from civilization doesn’t mean devolution; it means lateral ascendance. True growth comes from the parallels that you can’t yet see, not the immediate path that seems so clearly defined. The things that you thought mattered fade away in the face of so much natural grandeur.
Mount Adams was the next plateau; the next achievement. We all leveled up on this trip. It had been a long time since I felt on top of the world.
Mount Adams, Washington
Trout Lake, Washington