Volcano Dreams: Mt. Adams Summit

Mt adams sunset-1.jpg

Alex and I spent the first weekend of June climbing Mt. Adams and skiing from its summit with our good friend Nate. While it is possible to climb Mt. Adams in one day, we opted to take two days. The extra time would allow us to enjoy a sunset, sunrise, and a starry night from the Lunch Counter campsite.

At 12,280’, Mt. Adams it the second highest peak in Washington. The hike to its summit is 6 miles with 6,700’ of elevation gain. By breaking the hike into two days our first day ended up being 3 miles with 3,700’ of gain. That hike seems short by looking at its numbers alone, but in reality it was a dismal slog. Our packs were heavy—mine tipped the scales at 49lbs!—and we left the car at 2pm, with nary a cloud in the sky, so we were being cooked from above and below as the sun was reflected back by the snow. I was more than relieved when the camps at Lunch Counter finally came into view after 5 hours of exhausting hiking. We quickly set up camp, made dinner, and waited for sunset.

The sunset from camp was spectacular. We had views of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, and, of course, Mt. Adams. The clouds turned orange and pink and the snow glowed in the golden hour light. It was the perfect reward after a long hike with heavy packs. Finally, the last light of day had faded and we turned in early to rest up before our summit hike the following day.

The hike to the summit was easier for me than the hike to camp. My pack weighed about 30lbs less and we had acclimatized by sleeping on the mountain. The hike was still a challenge but we made it to the summit of Mt. Adams after 4 hours of hiking. The views from the summit were incredible. Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood and even Mt. Jefferson were all out. After a summit snack and a few photos we stripped the skins off of our skis and began the long, but enjoyable, descent.

In just under an hour we made it back to camp and packed up. We spent 25 hours on the mountain that flew by in a whirlwind of pain and elation. There are always moments on the ascents of tough hikes that I question why I put myself through these challenges, but any doubts I have evaporate as I stand on a summit or stand in awe of a beautiful landscape. This is why I do it, I think to myself with a smile from ear to ear!