Our first true Summit (or I should say his, but more on that later) was thrilling, scary, breathtaking, both mentally and physically challenging, and we owe it all to the magnificent Mount Adams. We started the day a little anxious because we had yet to rent all the gear we needed for this hike which are crampons, an ice axe, and poles, and YES they are absolutely necessary and made all the difference between life or a slippery death in my opinion. We arrived at Next Adventure at 10am which is an amazing outdoor sporting goods shop in Portland, OR where you can find everything you could possibly need for any backpacking trip including a basement floor filled with used clothing and gear for amazing prices. We grabbed all our stuff plus some delicious Mac and Cheese from the food brand Backpacker's pantry (10/10 would recommend) and finally began the 2.5 hour trip from Portland to the South Climb Trail. Mt. Adams is one of five volcanoes located in Washington state and with an elevation of 12,280 feet it's the state's second tallest mountain behind Mt. Rainier. Because the South Climb route requires the least amount of technical expertise you can count on a full parking lot throughout the warmer months and many dozens of tents once you reach Lunch Counter base camp. Most people complete this Summit in two days, on day one you hike to Lunch Counter where you can pitch your tent behind rock walls built by past explorers to help block strong winds, and on day two you complete the summit and head on down the mountain, the total trip is 12 miles long. As we began trekking through South Climb I noticed the warning signs for avalanches, getting lost do to fields of snow with no point of reference, and making sure you take your crampons off before you do any glissading (just picture what would happen if you were sliding down icy snow at an almost vertical angle and one of the big spikes currently on your shoe gets caught, bye bye leg!). I'm not going to lie, I was definitely spooked but I just shoved all those nervous feelings to the very back of my brain, I mean there are people who summit this mountain with their children and dogs, surely I'll be fine right? The hike to Lunch Counter took us about four hours, during which I got to experience what "thin air" feels like, well it feels like every step you take is a mile and you can't seem to fill your lungs with enough air for the next one, I actually found this pretty fascinating and loved the challenge! We set up camp and just hung out for the rest of the afternoon, melting snow for water, eating lots of snacks, and taking in the views of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens. We called it a night pretty early because we wanted to be up at 4am to begin the summit. My night was not the best (it was awful) you hear a lot of whooshing sounds when you sleep near the top of a mountain which also happens to be the same sound that those avalanche warnings said to look out for. There was also a helicopter hovering over the area all night, like is someone being rescued? Are we all going to die?? A little dramatic but that's me by nature. After I finally got a couple hours of sleep our alarm went off and we sprung out of our sleeping bags, anticipating the day ahead. After lots of coffee and breakfast we strapped our crampons on and started walking, I was feeling optimistic, determined and just so happy to be here. We reached the first steep incline, because it was so early the snow was still pretty much ice which apparently is better for crampons than slush which would make it harder for your crampons to get a grip. I started kicking my feet into the ground the more and more nervous that I got, making sure that those little spikes kept me on the side of this mountain, my head began telling me to NOT look down, but looking up wasn't really helping either with the mountain looking more like wall of ice at this point. Then it happened, I froze. I was panicking. My entire body started shaking, I shouted to Josh who was waiting for me on a rock pile a few feet across from me, he told me to walk across and come to him so we can regroup, taking those few steps across to meet him was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I told him there was no way I could continue, we still had about a mile left to go and I was so, so scared. I knew how much Josh had always wanted to do this climb and could not stand the thought of holding him back, but also how the heck am I supposed to get back down alone? A lady next to us, or I should say an angel sent from heaven to save me, offered to go back down with me, she said this was as far as she was going too. I told Josh to go on without me and how proud of him I was, I also told him to be careful but I knew that he would absolutely crush this just as he crushes anything else he puts his mind to. He continues on while me and lady angel waited an hour for the icy snow to melt a bit (ice is good going up, not coming back down). There is an option for glissading all the way down from the summit but never having used an ice axe before I chose to slowly, step by step, come down at a diagonal. I made it back to Lunch Counter and never felt happier to see our tent. I packed everything up and explored around a bit while I anxiously waited for Josh. About 2 hours later he showed up to our site, I was so happy to see him and beaming with pride at what he had just accomplished. As he told me every detail about the remainder of his journey I felt even more sure about my decision to turn back around, because as lady angel told me "you don't always have to go all the way to the top". Our way back down was so fun, I even mustered up the courage to glissade down a steep, long hill at a lower elevation which I'm so glad I did, it wasn't scary at all! I even got to use my ice axe to control my speed on the way down. Because hikers have the option to slide down, the descent can take half the time that the ascent did, we made it back to the car with so many new lessons learned and memories made. Would I ever attempt to summit Mt. Adams again? I'm going to have to say no to that. Would I ever summit any mountain? If it requires crampons, I can't really say. But I would be more than happy hanging out at base camp cheering on Josh any day.
MT. ADAMS - A PNW FIRST