Snowmobiling near Mt Adams and A.G. Aiken Lava Bed

Katie and I pulled the snowmobiles over to Mt Adams on Saturday for an exploratory trip. I wanted to see how much snow was around and maybe get up onto the A.G. Aiken Lava Bed on the South side of Mt Adams near the boundary of the Yakima Indian Reservation. The A.G. Aiken Lava Bed is just over one mile East of the popular South climb trailhead at Cold Springs campground. The weather forecast was not stellar, with high winds and snow showers predicted, but we hoped to at least find some fresh snow to ride on.

Mount Adams, a stratovolcano, is the second highest peak in Washington, standing at 12,276 feet tall. I have climbed it a few times, but this was my first time snowmobiling on the South side. We planned to unload the sleds at Snow King Sno-Park which is about 6 miles Northeast of Trout Lake, Washington off forest road 82.

We left our home in Portland around 6 AM, but had to turn around nearly 45 minutes down the road because we had forgotten a key piece of gear. Not our best start, but we made it safely to Snow King Sno-Park just before 10 AM. It was deserted and for good reason. There was no snow except for a light dusting left overnight. Forest road 82 gets plowed up to SnowKing Sno-Park, so there was a little snow still left just above the sno-park, but lots of bare road as well. We decided to unload the snowmobiles anyway and ride on the patchy road, hopeful we would find more snow higher up.

No Snow at Snow King Sno-Park, Washington     Snowmobiling on Almost Bare Road out of Snow King Sno-Park

We started to hit more consistent snow just before Smith Butte Sno-Park. It wasn't a lot, but enough to keep the snowmobiles off the gravel (maybe a foot of snow left).

A Little Snow Near Smith Butte Sno-Park     Smith Butte Sno-Park

From Smith Butte Sno-Park we rode over to the Gotchen Creek Guard Station. We found more bare stretches of road here except for a light dusting of snow that was gone by the afternoon. Just before the guard station we had found stretches of road covered by 2-3 feet of snow which was nice.

Snowmobiling to Gotchen Creek Guard Station     Gotchen Creek Guard Station Entrance
Gotchen Creek Guard Station     Mt Adams Wilderness Guard Station Sign

We walked around the Gotchen Creek Guard Station taking pictures and exploring the site. It appeared as though someone had removed some of the shutters in an attempt to gain entry. Near the back door a shutter was partially open with the window screen torn or cut. We closed it back up the best we could to keep critters out.

Inside the Gotchen Creek Guard Station     Katie Posing on a Chair Cut Out of a Tree

We continued riding up the road toward the A.G. Aiken Lava Bed. We soon had our first glimpse of the massive lava flow. As we continued to slowly climb in elevation the snow became deeper and more enjoyable to ride on.

Snowmobiling at the Foot of the A.G. Aiken Lava Bed     Jason Enjoying the Fresh Snow

The road ends right about where the old burned forest begins. We stopped to take a break and look around. While we were walking around three other snowmobilers rode up beside us. We chatted for a little while and learned they were also planning to snowmobile up onto the A.G. Aiken lava bed. They were familiar with the area, so we said we'd probably follow their trail for awhile.

End of the Road, Beginning of Off Trail Riding     Sun Trying to Creep Out Between Snow Showers

As we weaved our way in and out of the trees, we could see the lava bed getting closer and closer. It looked like there might be a decent climb to actually get onto the lava bed. Just as we were getting close Katie slid into a tree well on a precarious traverse. Luckily she was okay and also kept the snowmobile from crashing into the tree. I wish I would have taken a photo of her wedged between the snowmobile and the tree, but I was more concerned with helping her. I got her out and then proceeded to dig out the high side of the hill in order to pull the snowmobile out of the tree well. About 20 minutes later I was able to ride the sled out. By then the weather was starting to get worse with windy conditions and decreasing visibility. We decided that was far enough for the day and headed back down to the Gotchen Creek Guard Station to eat lunch.

Weather Coming in Towards the A.G. Aiken Lava Bed     Katie Ready to Ride Back Down out of the Worsening Weather

Despite the lack of snow and poor weather, we still had a fun time exploring the Mt Adams area. Hopefully I'll get back there again sometime with someone who is more familiar with the terrain and get higher up the mountain.

Gear List

'02 Polaris 500 RMK Snowmobiles
HMK Summit V16 Pack
Deuter Futura 32 Pack
GMAX GM76X Helmets
Smith Phenom Turbo Fan Goggles
Columbia Men’s Bugaboot Max Electric Boots
Merrell Women's Whiteout 8 Winter Boots
Columbia Men's Echochrome Ski Pants
Columbia Titanium Hightail II Softshell Jacket
Columbia Sportswear Men's Peak 2 Peak Jacket
Columbia Powerfly Down Puff Jacket
Columbia Sportswear Women's Alpine Alliance Parka
Head Digital Sport Liner Gloves
Outdoor Research Ambit Gloves
Columbia Men's Fast Trek Fleece Hat
Petzl TIKKA XP 2 Headlamp
Olympus Tough TG-1 Camera
Lifeline Aluminum Sport Utility Snow Shovel
First Aid Kit
iPhone w/NeoTreksGPS
Suunto A-10 Compass


1 comment

Chris, Mon, 02/08/2016 - 11:13

I'm looking for a ride up into the mid-elevations of Mt Adams to do some skiing with a partner. If you are interested in skiing or if you can offer a ride on your sled in exchange for gas money, lunch, beer, etc., let me know! I don't need a ride back down. I am not sure how this would work, e.g., if I can ride on your sled or if I have to tow behind. Either way let me know if you or someone you know are interested.

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