After plans for The North Ridge of Baker fell through due to some unstable and possibly hazardous weather in the northern cascades, Damien and I decided to go south. Saturday called for some precip, but Sunday called for 100% sunny skies. On our agenda was Mt Adams via Mazama Glacier (with the Mazama Headwall Variation if we could figure it out). Adams was the last summit Damien needed to complete summits of the WA Cascade Volcanoes. And I wanted to return to the route since the last time I climbed it a crevasse forced us to move to the Lunch Counter and finish the climb on the South Spur.

It’s a very long 6 hour drive to Cold Springs TH which is also the start of The South Spur Route up Adams. A very late season snow of several inches had fallen the night making it feel more like October with green grass peeking through the white powder. We got on the trail at 11am, rather late for us. The going was easy at first as we simply followed the well traveled South Spur Route for 1.3 miles. At the Junction with Round Mountain Trail we turned right and began to make our way through the forest trying as best we could to find the trail hidden beneath both old and fresh snow. We strayed a few times, but found our way back to the track with the help of our GPS. The route finding did seem to eat up time though. Finally we crossed in the Yakima Indian Reservation. We turned off the trail and traveled cross country to our left a few yards away from the border through an opening in the forest revealing the distant moraines. This was a shortcut, as normally the route to high camp follows Round the Mountain Trail for another mile before cutting off toward the moraines. With the ground covered in snow it was very easy for us to travel diagonally to cut off some mileage.

Sunrise camp in described as a pass in notch in the moraines and there is very little detail as to where this pass is within the moraines. We identified a snow slope on the headwall of the moraines and decided to venture upward. As it turned out we chose the moraine that had a cairn on the top indicated me with on route for Sunrise Camp. However, now we had a new issue to contend with. The partly sunny skies that had graced us all day suddenly changed. Thick, low white clouds rolled in and a hail/snow fell fro, the sky. With reduced visibility we were 100% relying on a map, compass and GPS to find out way. Luckily, navigation is one of Damien’s strengths, and though tedious at times, he lead us directly to camp without getting turned around once! Some tent sites were melted and on black pumice while others were still under snow. We first set up our tent in the pumice, but when we discovered how messy that black gravel was, we moved it to the snow.

After lingering in the tent for 30 minutes the precipitation dissipated and the clouds parted. A world of black pumice and white ice surrounded us and Mt Hood glowed pink in the light of the setting sun. We had a full view of the Mazama Glacier in front of us in the fading light and wavering fog. From our perspective we could see crevasses on the left of the glacier and thus we decided our best bet was to stay more to the right as we ascended.

We woke up at 2:45am to brilliantly shinning stars and a shimmering moon. We almost didn’t need headlamps it was so bright. By the time we were roped up and moving up the glacier it was 3:38am. We made our way up the ice keeping an eye out for crevasses. Luckily the line we chose did not run into any crack until sunrise at the very top of the slope where Damien found himself with a huge bergshund blocking the way. We turned around and I led further right to the lip of two gaping crevasses. Wow, i am always awestruck when i have  the opportunity to look into the depths of the ice. The wind was blowing hard and snow swirled around us and bounced in and out of the crevasses. Everything glowed with hues of pink, orange and yellow in the morning light. It was simply stunning.

I probed the snow and managed to safety maneuver between the two crevasses and to the safety of a rocky moraine notch.  From here Damien took the lead again. We followed a broad gentle slope in another wall of snow, rock and ice. A tall steep wall. We cut around to the far right of the slope where the grade was slightly gentler…. but only slightly. From here we tediously ascended for what seemed like eons. We did finally make it to the top of the endless hill. From here we found ourselves a bit confused as to where the Mazama Headwall actually was as the beta on it was pretty scarce so we opted to carry on with the Mazama Standard route. We ascended diagonally left through bands of moraines until we joined up the circus that the South Spur. I was shocked at how many people brought their dogs and more surprised at how well the dogs were doing!

We climbed very slowly to the crest of Piker’s Peak, the false summit. It is always kind of a sinking feeling when you reach the top and  are greeting with the final slope looming high above you on the other side of the .5 mile plateau. But we pressed on, ominous as the final climb seemed from that distance. the final 800ft of climbing passed much more quickly that I recalled and once again I stood on top of Adams, the first volcano I ever climbed in WA and the final WA volcano on Damien’s list. No clouds obscured the view and we could see Rainier, Helens, Hood, Sister, Broken Top and Jeffereson. We hung out just below the summit block with other climbers and their canine companions. Damien fell fast asleep! Then we got to our feet and began the descent.

We found that our crampons were gathering snow and turning into High Heels. After some discussion during roping back up at the start of the glacier we decided it would be safer to descend without them since we were slipping everywhere. We descended the first steep hill using a roped glissade since no crevasses or evidences of hidden ones were visible. Then we once again crossed the broad slope and began to descend the final 1500ft. It was only now, in the daylight that we fully realized how many crevasses there were on the ice. We hadn’t seen them in the dark and the evening before the ski was dim enough and the mist present enough to hide of cracks. On the way up we had picked an almost perfect line up and bypassed them all mostly by shear luck! Now as I led down staying to the right i found myself barely planning passage around the endless indentations in the ice and probing carefully especially in the fresh snow. Damien made the mistake of taking a step in a area just on the outer edge of where i probed and his foot sunk in and didn’t stop.. he jumped back quickly confused. Then took another stop and it happened again before realizing what had happened. he had stepped in a narrow crevasse. Luckily, it ended up being funny and not troublesome and we completed the descent back to camp with incident.

After a brief break we packed up camp and began the walk back just as the heat of the day began to fade. It was rather pleasant walking across the moraines again. It was like walking through a totally different area since it was clear this time around and we were in great spirits. We were actually able to follow our footprints back to Bird Creek Meadows. From there the tracks faded in and our, but we did manage to stay more on trail than on the way in ironically and arrived back at the car at 7:30…a 15 hour day. We were exhausted, hungry, thirst and achy, but mostly we were ecstatic. How could we not be after a climb?

Now as for the 6 hour drive home… we were not so ecstatic about that!