Mount Adams is the second-highest mountain in the U.S. state of Washington. As such, we at Destination360 thought we would give a go and try to climb it. We left Seattle at 8 a.m. on Thursday June 27, 2013 and were on our way. You can read more about our trip below and also get information on Mount Adams and Mount Adams climbing in general.
Mount Adams, or Mt. Adams for short, is a member of the Cascade Volcanic Arc. Found approximately 40 miles west of another famous Washington peak – Mount St. Helens – it rises to an elevation of 12,276 feet above sea level. In 1805, the earliest recorded sighting of Mt. Adams by European explorers occurred. It was the Lewis and Clark Expedition that documented this sighting of the peak. Funny enough, they misidentified it as Mount St. Helens, which had already been discovered and named. Today, Mt. Adams and the surrounding Mt. Adams Wilderness Area is a popular recreation destination. Hiking is among the most popular pursuits, thanks in part to the fact that the Pacific Coast Trail traverses the western flank of Mt. Adams. Climbing, which was the chosen activity for our trip, is also something that Mount Adams visitors like to do. Each year, hundreds of people attempt to summit the lofty peak. Thankfully, we count ourselves among those who succeeded.
Mount Adams Trip Report
Mt Adams Ranger Station
After leaving Seattle on the morning of June 27, 2013, we made a few stops before arriving at the Mt. Adams Ranger station at Trout Lake. There, we purchased a Climbers Permit ( $10 weekdays, $15 weekend) before getting back on the road and driving to the Cold Springs Trailhead. To get from the ranger station to the trailhead, you drive north from the town of Trout Lake on Road #23 (Mt. Adams Area Recreational Road) for about a mile-and-a-half. Where this road splits into a “Y,” you follow right to merge onto Road #80 and drive about another half mile before turning left to stay on Road #80. A quick right turn onto Road #8040 is next. Travel about 10 miles on this gravel road past the Morrison Creek Campground and turn right on Road #500. It is along Road #500 that you will find the Cold Springs Trailhead.
Cold Springs Trailhead
We arrived at the Cold Springs Trailhead at about 2 p.m. and began our climb to our overnight camp -- Lunch Counter. Many people set up base camp overnight at the tree line instead of climbing all the way up to Lunch Counter, which is more exposed to wind. This, however, makes for a longer climb on summit day, in which case we chose to overnight at Lunch Counter.
Fullscreen virtual tour
Lunch Counter Camp
Once at camp, we had sufficient time to set up, melt some water, and eat dinner. Sunset was at around 9 p.m., and we settled in for the night at 10:30. The alarm was set for 3:30 a.m.. Getting an early start is a good idea if you want to avoid slogging through snow melt once the sun comes up, especially in the summer.
The morning of our ascent to the top of Mt. Adams brought cloudy weather that made for difficult trail finding. We circled back and ran into a pair of climbers who knew the trail to some degree.
Finally getting vertical views
Following them, we ended up catching the trail right about the same time that the clouds broke. We could now enjoy our first vertical views up the mountain.
False Summit or Pikers Peak
Fullscreen virtual tour
We arrived at the false summit of Mt. Adams at around 8:00 a.m.. This false summit is set at roughly 11,500 feet above sea level on the south side of the mountain. By the time we reached the false summit the sun was out and warming up, as was the snow. The snow began to soften considerably as a result. The wind was blowing consistently at 20-30 mph with gusts as high as 40 mph. During our climb we could see Mt St Helens and Mt Hood.
Fullscreen virtual tour
The final leg was the climb to the true summit. We reached the top of Mt. Adams at around 9:15 a.m. and savored the entire 360-degree panoramic views. Mt Hood, Mount Jefferson, Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier all came into view. The wind on the exposed summit ledge was 40-50 mph. We stayed at the top for photos, a quick snack, and hydration.
Glissading down Mt. Adams
Afterwards, it was back down to Lunch Counter. Perhaps the best part was glissading down the mountain, which made for quick work of the descent. Leisurely packing of our gear ensued, and we made it back to the car by approximately 2pm.
Leaving Mount Adams
Double Mountain Brewery
Hood River is a great little town on the banks of the Columbia River and is most famous for windsurfing, kiteboarding, and its numerous lodging opportunities. We found a great brewery called the Double Mountain Brewery to hang with locals and extend our vacation.
Mount Adams Climbing
Walking to the summit
Most people who attempt to climb to the summit of Mount Adams go up the south side, as this is the easiest route. That’s not to say that it is exactly easy to summit Mt. Adams. Crampons and ice axes are often required, even during the peak mid-summer to early fall hiking and climbing season. If the conditions are really good in the summer, just boots and ski poles might be all that is required to summit. Among the main dangers of summer climbing on Mt. Adams is loose rocks and boulders. Once dislodged, these missiles of sorts present a considerable danger to those below. From early winter to early summer, the trails on Mt. Adams are mostly covered in snow, so this is not the ideal climbing season.
South Climb Trail
The total distance from the South Trail trailhead to the summit of Mt. Adams is a little more than 12 miles. The total elevation gained is 6,740 feet. Mount Adams and the surrounding wilderness area is open to backpackers and can get crowded, especially on summer weekends. Also, anyone who is thinking of summiting Mt. Adams should properly prepare for their adventure. With any dangerous activities, such as mountain climbing, it is best to be informed about the current conditions and to get advice from people who know the terrain well. Signing up for a professionally guided trip is arguably the best idea if you have major concerns.
Rick Figel and Dan Taylor
Climbers: Rick Figel and Dan Taylor