Month 9 of Turns All Year
Rather than camping on the Lewis River with a bunch of drunks, I decided to make the most of my weekend by absconding to Mt. Adams for a quiver of June turns, month nine in my recent year-round quest to ski every month of the year. (Never Summer!) Mt. Adams is a volcano, part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, and at 12,281 feet is the second-highest peak in Washington state.
After a stop off in White Salmon, Washington, for an Everybody’s Brewing Goodwill IPA and a bowl of amazing Mac and Cheese, I set off for the the trailhead at Cold Springs. Thanks to cascadeclimbers.com and the US Forest Service website, I knew in advance that I would be able to drive the entire distance, unlike last year where we were suckered into pulling a sled uphill over three miles of gravel road. Due to the forest fire that occurred last summer, the lower slopes melted off earlier than usual. The good news, no hiking or skiing up the road that has plagued me in years past, the bad news? The snow had already retreated a mile or two above the trailhead.
No stranger to carrying my skis, I slowly trudged up what is now a soot-and-ash-covered trail. Again, good news, you can see Mt. Adams from the trailhead, bad news? Lots of ash and dirt to wash out of your gear. About an hour up the trail I finally hit skinable snow. Here I donned my skis, making my trip much easier by simply shushing up the trail instead of laboring under the weight of my skis on my back.
After a couple hours I managed to reach a prominent ridge that I recognized from previous trips, most notably from June of 2003 when Doug Ferraro and I climbed Adams for the first time. Lucky for me I had studied photos from that trip, so I recognized the rest stop ahead which I aimed for. Recognizing the same rocky windbreak from a decade earlier, I took off my backpack and rested in the nostalgia.
Usually at this point in a climb we are all eager to get going, to meet a pre-determined deadline for a pre-determined point on the mountain, be it the summit, base camp, or trailhead, however, since I was solo and didn’t have anywhere to be, I reveled in the solitude and stress-free environment. One of the things that I have always loved about the mountains is the solace they afford, however, it usually takes so long to get into the alpine environment, that time is typically short. This would not be one of those days.
I relaxed at this point for three hours, probably the longest break I’ve ever taken in the hills. I slept for an entire hour. It was so beautiful, so calm, so warm, and so unlike most of my trips over the last 18 years of mountain climbing. It was absolute peace. Wonderful. No deadlines, no real goals, just a wonderful, beautiful day in the hills. Eventually I was ready to mosey onward.
I picked an arbitrary point on the Crescent Glacier as my day’s goal, and skinned towards it, seemingly effortlessly. On the way, I met my first Washington marmot, whom I stopped and studied, as he studied me, for some time, snapping a few photos in the process (I took the photos, not the marmot). It was early enough in the season that he was still changing color to his summer coat, half white and half brown. Cool! I’ve seen plenty of marmots in the intermountain west, but this was my first “west coast” marmot. Nice marmot!
At my highpoint on the glacier, I wasted no time switching over and began my descent back to snowline. No, naysayers, it wasn’t the best time of day to get turns, but I’ll take crappy turns over no turns any day. Firing up the GoPro, I filmed my less-than-awesome descent back to treeline. Although I didn’t see the silver fox from 2010, I managed to see a sweet mule deer on the way down. What a great day in the mountains!!
Click on the photos to see the captions!