Mount Adams, Elevation 12,276ft
Adams Glacier, 45 degrees
June 19-21, 2001
Ben, Jason, Josh
Ski descent of the Adams Glacier. Day three.
Typical three day trip:
So far our trip had been pretty typical except for a few minor details. Most people don't leave the trailhead at 5pm on the first day. Most people don't climb a 12,000ft volcano in tennis shoes. Most people don't descend a 40-45 degree face onto a heavily crevassed glacier for 5000 vertical feet on skis without a rope. Ok, so our trip was a little out of the ordinary.
The Adams Glacier looked to be in excellent shape (at least better than it has in the past 3 years) so we decided to take advantage of our situation. The weather was excellent and we had plenty of food and sunscreen. It didn't take long to come up with a plan.
Day three -- climb the North Ridge, ski the Adams Glacier, and hike out with whatever energy we had left.
The majority of day two was spent resting and nesting. We climbed the North Ridge in the morning and skied the North Face of the Northwest Ridge but we were back at camp by 2pm. Jason and I wandered around camp for several hours while Josh nested in his tent. I don't know how he managed to sleep because it must have been nearly 100 degrees inside those dark walls. The thermometer on my pack read 80 degrees. I didn't dare get inside my bivy sack until the sun went down. Outside, the ants made resting difficult. We were all in bed by 9pm.
I slept much better the second night. The Adams Glacier looked fairly straightforward so I was able to relax my fear. I figured the hardest skiing was over although I had no idea as to what was in store. I woke up just before my alarm rang at 5:30am. I noticed that two climbers were headed directly towards the Adams Glacier. It looked like we might have company.
It didn't take long for us to get ready. We knew our routine from the previous morning. The weather was similar and our legs were refreshed. The only difference was that we left our crampons and ice axes behind. We were pretty confident that we could ski the entire glacier. Less weight would make it more enjoyable.
Morning. Day three.
We left camp just before 7am. My legs were a little stiff but we continued at our usual pace. We reached the North Ridge in less than an hour but didn't bother stopping until we were about halfway up.
The two climbers that I saw earlier had made their way to the base of the Adams Glacier and proceeded to climb about 500 vertical feet to the edge of a presumable crevasse. We scoped them with binoculars to find that they were carrying skis but they didn't appear to have a rope. They were obviously having second thoughts about crossing a snowbridge. We skied across it the day before without even thinking. I'm sure they saw our tracks. We watched for several minutes as they made their way back and forth to try and find someway around. The way seemed pretty obvious from where we were standing. It looked like you could cross it just about anywhere you wanted. Then again, we weren't postholing in the middle of a glacier without a rope. They ended up turning around.
Jason nearing the North Ridge.
Josh and Jason climbing the North Ridge.
Josh resting about halfway up the North Ridge. If you follow the rockband up from the bottom right corner of the photo and traverse onto the Adams Glacier you can see the crevasse where the two climbers turned around. Skiing across it was not a problem.
The climb got easier the higher we got. The upper ridge is mostly solid rock and the firm snow on the summit plateau provided a good footing for tennis shoes. I took a couple of photos while Josh struggle to beat my previous day's time. He made it to the top in 4 hours 10 minutes. Not bad. Jason and I came in a few minutes behind but spared ourselves the headache.
Jason and Josh on the upper North Ridge.
Jason on the summit plateau.
There were a few climbers and skiers from the South Spur so we chatted for a bit. We put on our boots and skis and headed north around noon. The starting point on the glacier is pretty obvious -- left or right of the large crevasses in the center. We actually found some boot tracks to follow on skiers left. Another nice thing about skiing the Adams Glacier is that you don't have to climb any extra. To ski the NFNWR you have to climb an extra 500 vertical feet to reach the starting point -- the West Peak.
I was caught off guard skiing parallel to a narrow but deep crevasse on the summit plateau. I did my best to shake it off. There was much more to come.