Ranking: 3.5/5 Hey, it’s a peak bagging trip! As far as mountains go, this is one of the easier ones to do, it’s considered a walk-up, so as long as you’re in good shape, and have some previous experience at this sort of thing, its a great way to get the second highest peak in the state under your belt. No glacier travel or roping up is required on this route, the South Summit spur. The views are spectacular, and on a clear day, from the summit, you can see all the surrounding volcanoes in the South/Central Cascades.
Difficulty: 8/10 It has some elevation gain, and if you do it from the Cold Springs Campground, it’s a long day, with over 6600ft of elevation gain, and over 12 miles of climbing/hiking. Its a non technical route, and you won’t need to be roped up to do it, just in good shape for the one day trip. Or, you can break it into 2 days, by camping at Lunch Counter.
Permits: Must stop at the Trout Lake Ranger Station to pick up a permit, between June 1 to September 30, will need the Cascades Volcano Pass. $15 on weekends, and $10 during the week. For latest climbing information, and phone numbers, check the USFS website for the area, current conditions climbing report,
Also, need to have a Northwest Forest pass to park at Cold Springs campground and don’t forget that you need a blue bag to carry out human waste. These are also available at the Ranger Station.
Maps: The Ranger station provides many for the area, as handouts, making it easier to find your way to the campground. Other than that, I used on line resources gleaned from Summitpost.org, and this websitehttp://danielarndt.com/article/49/Mount_Adams_climb_via_South_Spur had a trail route to follow…Of course, there are several ways up depending on conditions, so this one got me in the ballpark. However, my GPS data will allow you to follow the path that I took, and I strongly suggest the way that goes further east down Suksdorf ridge, when there isn’t any snow…
This trip is in two pieces not because that’s how long it took me to finally reach the top, but because the first attempt was unsuccessful…You just never know until you try how the weather is going to cooperate.
For my first attempt on the 3rd and 4th, I wanted to try something that I had never done before, and that was spend the night on the side of a mountain, and get up early for an alpine start. Not only would it be something different, but I also thought of it as training for future mountains. That and it would help to break up the total elevation gain for one day since the gain from the parking lot to the top is 6600 ft…
So, I packed up, and prepared myself as we had for climbing Mt. Rainier, again, not knowing what to expect. It was a 3.5 hour drive over some pretty rough roads, (11 of them on gravel, over FSR 23) to get to Trout Lake, the town that sits at the base of Mt. Adams, and where the ranger station is.
After stopping at the ranger station, and getting my Cascades Volcano climbing permit, a “blue bag”, and last minute maps and information, I headed for the South Summit climb trail head, at Cold Springs Camp. By the time I drove to the trailhead from Trout Lake, it was already 3:30pm, and I was concerned that I would not have enough time to get up to Lunch Counter, a flat spot on the side of Mt. Adams, around the 9000ft mark, a popular staging area for climbers that wanted to get an alpine start only 3000ft below the summit.
After parking, I began the gradual switch backs on a trail that looked as if at one time it was a road, for it was wide with a dual set of ruts. It climbed gradually through the trees, and at about the 2.08 mile mark, the trees give way to volcanic rock and sand, highlighted occasionally by scrub trees hanging on tenaciously to what little ground they can root in. It’s here that the trail drops down into a wash, crosses little Morrison Creek (that only flows if there is glacier melt) and then begins its uphill in earnest, the trail connects large rock cairns with a post sticking out of the top to mark the way.
…Once you clear the last of the trees, you begin to see little parapets of stone, in a crescent moon shape, to create a wind block for tent sites…
The climbers trail is faint, but traceable, as it weaves its way constantly upward, and at the 2.7 mile mark, and 7400ft, you start up a ridgeline, through the last of the scrub trees, towards the snout of Crescent Glacier, which you can now see cascading down through the volcanic rock, water trickling from the very end. Once you clear the last of the trees, you begin to see little parapets of stone, in a crescent moon shape, to create a wind block for tent sites.
All the time, the views are spectacular; you can see Mt Hood and Mt St. Helens in the distance, as well as miles and miles of forest and hills. On this day, there was also a forest fire burning far below me in the tree line, and it was marked by a huge plume of smoke, rising lazily into the calm air. I’m keeping an eye on my watch, for it seems that I am quickly going to run out of daylight, and with the heavy pack, I’m not making the time that I was hoping for.
The late start is now starting to work against me, and I fear that I’m not going to make Lunch Counter. If only I had gotten an earlier start! I can’t worry about it now, and my biggest concern is to find a good spot with access to either snowfields, or if I’m lucky, a stream created by the melting snow. I keep passing the small stone castles that people have erected to block the wind, and hope that when it’s time for me to stop, I’ll find a good one to use.
As I get higher in elevation, I notice that the wind is now blowing, and it’s getting colder. Now it’s 6:00pm, and I feel I can go no further without risking having to set up camp in the dark. I don’t want to do that, as I need to filter water for dinner. I’ve travelled about 3.15 miles up the side of the mountain, and find a good spot at the 8000ft mark, there are several stone walls with nice sandy flat areas behind them to set up camp, and I see a small stream still running from the heat of the day. By early morning, this little stream will be dried up, as the Crescent Glacier that feeds it freezes again during the night. This will be camp, and there is no one else around.
…blowing it around like a discarded candy wrapper that the wind chases across an empty playground…
The wind is now blowing steadily, and it fights me as I try to erect the tent, blowing it around like a discarded candy wrapper that the wind chases across an empty playground. I have to use rocks to secure the ground tarp, and after several minutes of struggling with the flapping shelter, I manage to get it put up. With that out of the way, I hurry to get water, enough for tonight and tomorrow, which means I have to fill the Camelbak as well.
By the time I get all of that done, and cook my meal, its well after 7:00pm, and the sun is going down. From my vantage point here on the mountain, I get treated to a beautiful sunset, and a rainbow affect caused by the burning fire below. Once the night begins its turn, I can see distant lights twinkling below me; no doubt some of the pinpoints of light come from Trout Lake.
…the wind whips against the sidewalls, and causes the rainfly to beat against the sides like a tarp on a truck going 60 down the freeway…
I wonder if they know how lucky they are right now, to have a warm bed to go to, and I find myself strangely jealous of their cozy homes and sheltered, warm beds… The wind has now become more forceful, and I have all of my gear on to keep me warm, gloves included. At nine, I decide to get to bed, wanting an early start in the morning. I hope for better weather tomorrow…Inside the tent, the wind whips against the sidewalls, and causes the rainfly to beat against the sides like a tarp on a truck going 60 down the freeway.
…All night, the wind beats at my little shelter, and even with my Zune planted in my ears, I never really get any sleep, because of the ruckus created by the wind…
No matter what I did, I could not guy out the fly to keep it from its incessant flapping. This is a new tent, that I had purchased specifically for this trip, and I can tell you, once I get down from here, this is going straight back to the store. Not happy. All night, the wind beats at my little shelter, and even with my Zune planted in my ears, I never really get any sleep, because of the ruckus created by the wind.