Sunday, September 17, 2006

Mt Adams with questionable weather

I spent a mid-September weekend in the Pacific Northwest attempting to reach the summit of 12,276 ft Mt Adams in southern Washington. This was my first big mountain that I climbed three years ago, so I was excited at the opportunity to return.

My first climb was in mid-June of 2003, and we had abundant snow from about 7,000 feet up. The first thing I noticed when I got my first full view of the mountain on this trip was how bare and rocky the mountain appeared this late in the season. She almost appeared naked.

The weather forecast for the weekend was a little iffy. We were likely to see lots of clouds with some rain/sleet/snow around the mountain, but there was potential for some clear periods as well. For all of the above, the forecast was pretty much right on.

Our group of four started hiking up on Saturday around 2:00 PM from the Cold Springs Campground at 5,600 ft. When the wind started blowing and the falling snow was sticking to our clothing and packs in near white-out conditions, we opted to set up camp and get an early start the next morning. Of course, within an hour of setting up camp, the skies cleared and we cooked dinner in the warmth of the sun. Then we ate dinner under cloudy skies. We woke up in our camp at 8,600 feet at 2:00 AM to mostly clear skies, intending to start for the top, but saw heavy clouds rolling in and opted to wait. After the sun rose, there were intermittent periods of clear skies and thick clouds. I took three pictures in the direction of the summit within a half-hour that illustrate how quickly things were changing.

We started climbing up in fair conditions around 9:00 AM, but turned around at 10,600 feet at noon as clouds piled up around us... realizing we would not reach the top before our designated turn-around time of 1:00. We navigated back to our camp in mostly white-out conditions, stopping briefly to help a disoriented climber find his way back to his camp. It was good practice navigating in white-out conditions! After packing up camp, we hiked back to the trailhead. It was clear below, but the top of the mountain remained shrouded behind the clouds.