Mt. Adams-An Exercise in Perseverance
Mt. Adams framed between Little Horn Peak (right) and Little Baldy Mountain (left)
13er Rank in CO:13 of 584
Climb Date: 05 May, 2012
Crew: globreal (Britt), mountainjam (Nick), SpringsHiker (Scott)
Mileage: 12 miles, (ummm, 18 miles for us. Really!)
Vertical Feet: 4,800 (plus an extra 1,100.)
Total Climb Time: 15 hours (doh!)
Trailhead: Horn Creek TH at 9,120 feet (next to Horn Creek Ranch)
This climb happened as part of the 2012 Spring Gathering.
Nick, Scott, and I, planned a 6am start time since we were all up kinda late at the Gathering Friday night. We met at the trailhead which is right beside the Forest Services’ bathroom at the parking area. That’s the trail at the right of the frame.
The reason our stats are a little “whacked” is because WE TOOK A WRONG TURN. Yep, I admit it. I had read Gerry Roach’s directions the day before and I though this would be a no-brainer. Ah…no….since I hadn’t been to this area before.
Roach’s book says: Hike 0.3 mile southwest on the Horn Lake Trail, cross the Rainbow Trail and continue 4.7 miles southwest up Horn Creek to Horn Lake at 11,820. (Does that sound like you make any turns?)
So here we are hiking southwest on a trail and there is Mt. Adams off the direction we are heading. Looks good.
About 2 miles in, I say to Nick & Scott, “this doesn’t look right.” I study my GPS and sure enough, we are in the Macey Creek drainage not the Horn Creek drainage. However, it looked as if we continued on a bit further, we can contour over to the correct drainage. We later found out that those contour lines are a friggin’ mountain range! And so 3 miles in Scott says something like, “When I’ve dug myself into a ditch, I usually don’t get out by continuing to dig.” Doh! So now we turn around and backtrack on the Rainbow Trail.
So, anyone doing this route for the first time, the trails on the ArcGIS US topo map are wrong. (You can prove it by looking at Google Aerial views.) Here is what you want to do. From the trailhead by the bathroom, hike 0.3 mile southwest. When you reach this sign, TURN RIGHT, don’t continue southwest. You don’t “cross the Rainbow Trail,” you turn right/north ON the Rainbow Trail.
This little missed turn added 6.3 miles/1,110 vertical feet to our stats. Now we are actually starting our climb...just 3 hours later than planned. Because of this, I was really discouraged and was having doubts about making a summit on Adams today.
After hiking north on the Rainbow Trail for about 0.1 mile, you will reach a second junction. There is a sign here that says TR. NO. 1342/Horn CR. LKS. 5 miles. Turn left at this sign. NOW you will be heading southwest up the Horn Creek drainage!
When we started our hike, it was really deceiving at the TH as it looked so warm and dry. After a mile or a mile and a half, we started getting into snow and it was time to don the snowshoes. Luckily, we had them! I had just climbed Mt. Hope a few days prior and so I figured we would have similar snow conditions in the trees & therefore we all packed the shoes. So glad we did!
I didn’t take hardly any pictures in this snow laden area in the forest but I can tell you, this was some work busting trail through here!
Time and again we would drop through a “trap door” and be up to our waists. It was such a pain that I would look for downed trees to walk on top of. Walking on all of those log planks in snowshoes were actually a relief compared to sinking into deep snow! This was some slow going. It took us almost 3 hours to go one mile. Again, very discouraging and I was thinking a summit may not be possible today.
I've done several hikes/climbs with a mountaineer who has become a good friend, Steve Gladbach. When it comes to breaking trail, Steve is amazing...he just keeps going. I thought of him often today, which was an encouragement for me...to just keep going.
And then it finally happened about 12:30pm…we broke free of the snow holding trees. Nick looks up at Point 13,325. The summit of Mt. Adams is hiding back behind this point.
We continue hiking back into the basin, and now the snow is holding us on top, we aren’t breaking through anymore. Yea! At that point, that alone was an encouragement for us to just keep going. The back of this basin is a huge wall....a mass of steep cliffs which is pretty inspiring to look at.
And then there it was….the peak we wanted. Scott checks it out.
While Mt. Adams looked so awesome, it was daunting to believe that after so much hard work to get to where we were, we are only at 11,800 feet. This view was discouraging because we still had 2,100 vertical feet to go!
In Roach’s guide book, his route shows going all the way to the furthest and largest of the Horn Lakes. Nick and Scott wanted to climb Point 13,325, so we actually started up sooner than what Roach's route shows.
After several hundred feet higher up, this is looking back southwest, at the largest lake in the back of the basin.
At approximately 13,000 feet, this is the view of Adams. With all that snow up there, again I was asking doubting questions, "Are we going to be stopped because we didn't bring our crampons?" And, “What about that cornice, is that a knife edge?”
Nick & Scott went to summit 13,325 which is up and to the right out of this picture, and I aimed straight for that saddle just above 13,200 in the upper right corner of the picture.
As Nick approaches, you can see the slope angle off the side of Point 13,325. It’s a nice place to climb due to all of the tundra but does have a bit of a pitch to it. It reminded me of the east slope of Maroon Peak.
After leaving the 13,200 saddle, the fun begins.
Nick makes his way on up the ridge.
Now I must admit, looking up this ridge at times would bring back the doubts. It really looked like this was much more than what it is claimed to be…a 2+ scramble. However, when you would run into a steep vertical pitch, there was always an easier way around to either the left or the right with good handholds all over.
And at times the ridge would mellow out and again be a hike. Scott is making his way up while Nick peers over at the Crestones.
There is this point where you get this amazing view at the final summit cone. It was at this point where again I had more doubtful thoughts… “what is the ‘grass covered ledge’ that Roach describes going to be like?” and “that final 100 feet looks daunting in that gulley,” and “what is that snow going to be like in there… is it an ice sheet or can we kick steps?” And what about this next section of ridge, “is it even passable?”
The ridge before the summit cone turned out to be wonderfully easy with no snow on the west side. Nick follows as Scott crests from behind.
Now it’s time for the “grass covered ledge.” While the ledge itself wasn’t bad, the snow made us all pay attention! This was a shot of Scott during our return trip.
This is why we needed to pay attention in this “no fall zone.”
After turning the corner to go up the final 100 foot gully, it turned out that we had a snowless strip to walk up! It was right next to the rock where most likely the southern sun reflected off of the rock and melted us a narrow path. It was steep, but holding on to the rock wall we could make it up without crampons. I’ve got to tell you, turning that corner and seeing that removed all doubt...we were going to summit!
Our doubts were replaced with our hopes coming true. We made the summit just before 4pm…10 hours after we started. You can see it Nick’s face…..like “wow, we actually did it!”
Scott is all smiles with Horn Peak off in the distance.
Even I was elated. I am most grateful to have a mountaineering friend in Steve Gladbach who has shown me what it means to “just keeps going!”
All three of us made this summit, which turned out to be a true exercise in perseverance. Here is our summit shot with Kit Carson and Challenger Point behind us.
And this was our reward! This magnificent view of the Crestones and the Kit Carson Massive. From l to r, Crestone Needle, Crestone Peak, Columbia Point (Kat Carson), Kit Carson, and Challenger Point.
And this is where we came from….the Wet Mountain Valley, and the Horn Creek drainage…AND from down in between those two ridgelines on the right. Argh!
And back to my friend Steve….he took me to climb Phoenix Peak back in February.
That climb turned out to be a 19 hour day. It’s not so much about speed as it is about safety and success, and to just keep going! With all of the doubts I had today, I doubt we would have been successful if I hadn’t done that 19 hour Phoenix Peak climb with Steve and learned a little bit about perseverance.
Nick and Scott...I enjoyed climbing with you both today. It’s excellent to climb with partners who stick together and who have such upbeat attitudes. And before we started that morning remember, we prayed for safety and success?
Romans 5:3 NIV
Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):