Mount Adams ski descent

Mt. Adams


6700′ gain

I’ve done Adams twice before and its outstanding south ski slopes have turned it into what I hope is an annual pilgrimage for me. Both times I chose to climb/ski it in a day instead of camping over – both of these are brutal due to the long drive from Seattle and the very large amount of gain. This time we elected to camp and I think it was a good variation.

David and I arrived at Cold Springs campground in the early afternoon on a Saturday and struggled to find parking, per usual. I think backcountry skiing has gotten more popular even in the short time I’ve been doing it myself. We lifted our heavy packs and started out walking on dry ground, for around an hour until we hit the around the mountain trail. We transitioned shortly after and started skinning up Suksdorf Ridge (the winter route, skiers right). We gained, gained gained elevation  and I could tell my conditioning wasn’t what it was last year – thankful that we were breaking up the climb into two days. However, my new Dynafit Denali touring skis and bindings were a huge weight improvement over my old set. It was especially apparent on such a long ascent.

After a few hours we made it to our campsite at around 9000′ on Suksdorf Ridge, among rocks overlooking the ‘lunch counter’ area. We could see the massive south slopes that we would ascend the following day. We also considered descending the Southwest Chutes route, but that would involve carrying over our overnight gear and the high snow level made the traverse back to the trailhead a bit of an unknown.

The campsite was gloriously scenic as the sun set that night.

St. Helens:

Hood, Jefferson:

Mt. Adam’s shadow projected down onto the low haze:

The following morning we got up (at a REASONABLE hour for once on Adams) and headed up with skis on packs and crampons on our feet. Some were skinning but booting was much more efficient for us.

The traverse over to the summit was a little bit icy but we could tell the snow was already starting to soften up in time for our descent. The Adams summit is rounded but offers typical stratospheric volcano views, including of Mount Rainier on this very clear day:

This is definitely the furthest south I’ve been able to see on my volcano trips – Hood, Jefferson, North/South sister, and (I think) Mt. Bachelor. That’s over 150 miles!

There were globules of ice on the descent from the true summit to the false summit, but we skied it anyway and skated the last little uphill bit to Piker’s Peak. I appreciated the sharp machined edges on my new Denali’s.

We decided for sure not to do the chutes (would have to climb back up to retrieve our gear from camp) and shredded the south face instead (see video). It was fantastic, with perfect, smooth corn conditions on the face. The Denali’s were playful and fun in these conditions.

David arcing high speed turns on a 3000′ groomer:

We talked to some intrepid SW chute skiers on the way down and they reported excellent conditions and an easy traverse out. I guess there’s always next year…

Our shoulders hurt for the last hour’s walk on dry ground back to the car, but I have to say I’ve never been less wiped after tackling Adams. If only the drive wasn’t 5 hours or more…

Brought and used:

Boot crampons

Ski crampons

Whippet (ice axe grip ski pole)

Didn’t use:

Ice axe


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