Mt. Adams South Spur Route

After practicing my glissading a few weeks ago, I wanted to hike more snow! Yes, snow in July! Our friends Julie and Thaddée invited us to climb Mt Adams with them. Since the South Spur route does not have any glacier crossings, I decided to give it a try to see if mountaineering was really for me.

Mt. St. Helens with a view of Mt. Adams

View of Mt. Adams from Mt. St. Helens in January

Day 1

With roughly a four hour drive from Seattle, we left early Saturday morning to get to the trailhead to start our climb. We stopped at the ranger station in Trout Lake to register for permits before driving the rough dirt road to Cold Springs Campground, where the trailhead is located.

Mt Adams

The first part of the climb was through the burned forest from last fall, which occurred naturally due to a lightening strike. We had views of charcoal trees with a dry, dusty trail. The snow level was at 6700 feet according to the park ranger, but it was only patches up until roughly 7000. Once reaching the snow fields, the cool wind gusts were refreshing. There was an awesome boot pack, which was basically ladder up the mountain.

South Spur Route

Below snow level.

Andy Climbing

Andy hiking on Crescent Glacier.

We climbed the first day with our gear and camped just below Lunch Counter, where we found a two bedroom campsite with St. Helens in the background. Since we were not camping on snow, Julie and Thaddée had spare sleeping foam pads that served as our “couch.” We treated water found in a puddle for dinner and replenished our camel-backs.

Camp with Views of Helens

Campsite near lunch counter

Dining Area

Andy and Thaddée resting on the couch.

I set up my camera for a time lapse of the sunset. We ate dinner on the rocks while the sun set behind the horizon with views of both Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood. The rolling foothills of St Helens were mystic and pictures did not reflect the beauty.

Mt Hood

View of Mt. Hood near campsite.


Sun setting behind Mt. St. Helens

We went to bed around 10 pm with alarms set for 4 am. I tossed and turned all night a little nervous for the alpine start.

Day 2

We woke up, finished packing our day packs, strapped on our crampons, and started our hike as the sun rose to the East. The vibrant warm colors lighting up the snow and landscapes below forced me to stop climbing and snap a few pictures. Adams had a mountain shadow was visible, and something I have never seen before in person.

Adams Mountain Shadow

Mt. Adams’ mountain shadow.

Up we went, climbing 30° angles at times. I was definitely more comfortable with the crampons compared to climbing Mt. St. Helens (even with blisters on both my heels from the day before). Feeling a little light-headed and nauseous, I tried to replenish my energy with small snacks and water throughout the strenuous climb with only the False Summit in view.

False Summit Adams

Taking a break at the False Summit.

Deep suncups covered the mountain surface as we tried to find decent a boot pack to ease the climb. Andy was finally happy that he did not carry his skis up. At last, we reached the summit. My first volcano summit! I took some pictures and had another snack. After making a group decision to glissade down the chutes, we packed up our crampons.

View of Rainier

Andy and I on the summit with Mt. Rainier in the background.

View of Helens from Summit

Julie and Thaddée on the summit with Mt. St. Helens in the background.

Waiting to glissade down the chutes reminded me of summer at home when my dad would take us to the water parks. Without anyone sitting at the top signalling for the next person to go, I waited a couple of minutes before jumping into the chute and sliding down. The best sled ride of my life with my bottom being the sled. The chutes had some sections that curved, which really made me feel like I was on a water slide twisting down to the pool beneath.

Mt Adams Glissade Chutes

Glissade chute with view of Mt. Hood.

Mt Adams Glissade Chutes

Glissade chute down Mt. Adams

It only took us an hour to get back to camp! I was exhausted and wanted to lay in the tent on my sleeping pad instead of packing it up. After packing up, we continued down and found some more chutes. These ones were not as fun because they were less steep, but it was much easier than hiking! We also had our big packs on, which slowed us down.

Our Campsite with Helens

Andy packing up camp.

We made it back to the car around 2 pm and started the drive back down the dirt road into town to claim our climbing certificates! After some refreshing smoothies in Trout Lake, we were on our way back to Seattle.

Mt Adams Climbing Certificate

Summary of the route:

  • Miles (km): 16 miles round trip (25.75 km)
  • Elevation gain: 6700 ft (2042 m)
  • Max angle: ~30°
  • Length of time: ~ 12 hours

Have you ever considered climbing a volcano?

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