Mt. Adams, Washington Elev. 12,276 ft.

Date climbed: October 5, 1998

The Karma Climb

The Karma Climb. For some strange reason, everything came together for this climb like it usually never does. Don't get me wrong, there is lots of good in my life, but things just seem to sometimes screw up along the way. This is especially true when one is dealing with the logistics of putting a climb together on the other side of the Continent.  One example was getting to Paradise for our Rainier climb, pulling out the tent, finding the poles missing, thinking the poles were left at home, calling a friend to Fed-Ex the poles to the Paradise Lodge, receiving the wrong set, and then finally realizing the tent poles were left back at the airport, a 200-mile round-trip drive.  Ouch.

Anyway, old Murphy and his law never could find a foothold on this climb.  Anything that appeared to even hint of being bad, turned to our advantage.

The Adams climb goes like this...

...Tuesday.   I check my e-mail and read through my Continental Airlines deals for the week, which I never took advantage of in a year of getting their weekly updates, and there it was: Newark to Seattle for $250. The catch was we had to leave on Saturday and come back on Monday or Tuesday. Some catch.  It was perfect.  The good Karma kicks in.  That afternoon I left a message on Ab's answering machine informing him of the great deal and opportunity to be had. Later that evening, before even hearing the message, Abner dropped in after having broke fast (which I'm sure he cheated on in the first place anyway).  The climb was proposed with none of the usual sales pitch I had to give him. It was decided, we'll take Continental up on their offer and attempt Mt. Adams.  I had been laid up for two weeks with an e. coli infection and Abner was just recovering from a separated shoulder and sprained wrist from a mountain biking accident.  Trying to do tricks at 38...not good.

Saturday, 7 a.m. We take off from Newark, without a hitch, and I scored a First Class seat (more good Karma), and land in Seattle with what the rest of the country perceives as normal weather for Seattleites: RAIN. Neither of us experiences any weather fears as we make our way to the town of Hood River, OR.  Hood River is the nearest town to Mt. Adams to provision-up for a couple of days on the mountain. Hood River, what a cool little town. Windsurfing mecca, and it has that aura: Great little coffee shops on every other corner, with windsurfing and outdoor apparel shops filling in the blanks. For good eats you have to check out the taco stand near the Safeway. It's in a modest little run-down trailer in front of a trailer park.  We bumped into the owner stocking up with fresh, high quality meat while we were doing our own shopping.  Abner said it was the best burrito he's ever had. And safely, I'll say it was one of the best I've ever had.

After procuring the necessary supplies, we made our way up to the mountain. We checked in at the ranger station in Trout Lake, then headed up to the Cold Springs Campground. By the time we reached about the 5,000 ft. mark, the rain, which had persisted all day, turned to snow. And, just as this was happening, the rough road we were on turned rougher. No fear, this was the Karma climb and our Chevy Malibu (who knew they were back) got us to the campground.

The first thing we realized upon arrival was that there is no water source at Cold Springs. One would think, with a name like "Cold Springs," they would be serving up the best damn, cold spring water on the planet. Well, needless to say, we had plenty of Becks beer but no bottled water. So, we got the tent up, cracked a cold one, and proceeded to make water with the prodigious amounts of snow that good Karma surrounded us with.

After a great night sleep, we had a leisurely, sunshine filled morning, broke camp and began our climb up the mountain, with our goal being as high as we could possibly get that day. After about four hours and a 2,000 ft. elevation gain, we set up camp about 500' below the designated campsite that sat at about 7,900 ft. After a short nap, we made about making more water and cooking up dinner. After enjoying an amazing Harvest Moon moonrise that absolutely lit the place up with its steel blue light, I set my Avocet altimeter watch alarm for 3 a.m....

At 4:30 a.m. Ab woke me up and asked what happened to the alarm clock. It went off and we never heard it. Anyway, we hit the trail at 5:00 a.m. equipped with all the essentials for a good day on the mountain, including 150 ft. of 9mm climbing rope and all the accouterments that go with climbing rope: harness, ascenders and carabiners. All told, about 20 extra pounds. At about 6 a.m. we ran into two guys from Anchorage, Bruce and Tom, who were also making the climb. Bruce, who had already climbed Adams, informed us that the rope was not necessary today. A mixed blessing, in that I hoofed the rope up 2,000 feet already and Abner carried it 500 feet up this morning. Nonetheless, we stashed the rope and the good Karma prevailed once again offering up a lighter load for us this time.

At about 7:30 we ditched the ski poles at Lunch Counter (elev. 9,090') and donned our crampons. It's at this point that the real climbing finally begins. From the Lunch Counter up to Piker's Peak at elev. 11,600', it's steep and long. And add to that about a foot of fresh snow that had fallen in the previous two days. Breaking trail was arduous and it slowed Ab and me down, to the point where we were passed up by three others making the climb. Mr. Yellow (Yellow, one-peice North Face Gore-Tex climbing suit) proceeded to break trail for all of us all the way up to Piker's Peak, which is the false summit of Mt. Adams. It was still arduous.  Up until you get to Piker's, climbers never actually see the summit of Mt. Adams. Anyway, good Karma, in the personage of Mr. Yellow, helped us tremendously.

Upon cresting Piker's, we were blasted with a cold, knock-down wind that persisted until we made our way across a low-lying, two to three hundred yard saddle that leads to the foot of a series of steep, windswept switchbacks, and a final moderate-grade snowfield that bring climbers to the summit.  We made it to the top at 1 p.m.. As good Karma would dictate, we experienced an incredibly clear summit day which allowed sweeping panoramic views of Rainier, Hood, St. Helens, Jefferson and the Three Sisters. One could not have asked for a better summit day. And sharing the top with the two Alaskans and the three Christians -- that's how they formally introduced themselves to us; they are guides for a Christian adventure travel company -- offered lively, jocular banter.  Tom, who is 64 years young proudly let us know he's been climbing for a while. His first mountain was Lassen Peak in California in 1948.  The guy's strength was inspiring to all who might be brainwashed into thinking that 64 is old.  Footnote: his handshake was as firm as the indomitable Phil Ershler's.

After two hours on the summit (we had to make more water) we proceeded back down to our camp.  The descent after Piker's Peak got really fun.  GLISSADING!!  In our first experience with real glissading, we rode the mountain on three separate runs that devoured about 2,000'.  What took us hours to climb, we descended in minutes.  What a rush!  We pulled back into camp at 5:30 p.m., rested for about an hour, then packed up shop and headed down to the parking lot, getting to the car, packing up and driving out at about 9:20 p.m.  What a day.  It began in moonlight and ended in moonlight.

Mt. Adams Photos

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