Mount Adams, Washington Summit Attempt

We headed to Washington state this weekend for a summit attempt on Mount Adams. The weather forecast was not stellar, but we were hopeful that a weather break would allow us to make a push for the summit. Mount Adams is the second highest peak in Washington, standing at 12,276 feet. We opted for the easiest and most popular South Climb Route, which begins near Cold Springs Campground on the South Climb Trail # 183. This route gains over 6,600 feet in elevation over approximately 5.7 miles. Our goal was to start around 7 AM on Saturday morning and climb up to the "Lunch Counter" (approximately 3.7 miles) where we would spend the night. Then Sunday we would hopefully summit and descend the mountain back to the trailhead.

Mount Adams Elevation Profile

When we arrived at Cold Springs campground, we were greeted by a steady rain. Unwilling to get soaked during our ascent to the lunch counter, we waited in the car for over three hours before the rain finally stopped. We began hiking just before 11AM under cloudy skys. The few people we saw returning to their cars were soaking wet from their morning climb down. Thankful for a break in the rain, we set out for the lunch counter. The trail had a few bare patches, but within 1/2 mile, it was completely snow covered. As we continued, we met a few soaked climbers retreating from the bad weather. We heard of only one pair who summited on Saturday, but they reported visibility of 5-10 feet and relied heavily on a GPS during their ascent. Continuing up the mountain, the clouds followed. We were unable to see the gorge below or the summit above.

Mt Adams South Climb Trailhead     Mount Adams Wilderness Boundry
Katie and Kara Climbing Mount Adams     Poor Weather on Mount Adams (Looking South Down the Mountain)

Climbing above South Butte, the clouds became thicker. We stopped for lunch on a rocky slope and met up with Paul, a newer climbing partner of Matt's. As he pushed slightly higher, we noticed that it became more difficult to see and the wind was picking up to a steady 20-30 mph. At approximately 8600 feet (a little over half mile shy of the lunch counter), we decided to set up camp. Though we had not yet reached the lunch counter, the wind was gusting 40+ mph and it began to hail. Luckily, our chosen spot had rock wind breaks constructed by past climbers that made it a little more bearable to set up camp. We were happy to try out our new Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2 tent, hopeful that its large rain fly and vestibules would keep us and our gear dry. The clouds and visibility did not improve until 8 PM that evening. Around sunset, Jason, Matt, and Paul hiked off to the East exploring and were able to see the gorge below and Pikers Peak above. Kara and I chose to remain in our tents due to the driving winds and biting cold. As we went to sleep that night, the temperature dropped below freezing.

Our Big Agnes Copper Spur Tent Below Lunch Counter on Mount Adams     Group of Tents on Mount Adams
Looking Down Towards South Butte in the Clouds     Looking Down Towards South Butte

When the alarm went off at 5:30 AM Sunday, it was raining and hailing again with a temperature around 35°F. Peeking out the vestibule of our tent, I could see very little because of the fog and low clouds. Waiting for the rain to stop inside our tents, we heard a couple people who had set out around 2:30AM to summit. They too turned back near 11,000 feet elevation due to white out conditions. When the rain stopped around 8AM, we decided to break camp and descend rather than make a push for the summit in poor conditions. We arrived back at the trailhead in about an hour and a half. The clouds continued to envelope the mountain above 6500 feet. Though we were unable to summit Mount Adams this weekend, we still had a good trip and enjoyed a few glissade runs while descending.

Jason on Sunday Morning After Breaking Camp     Poor Visibility on Mount Adams


Jonathan Berkompas, Mon, 07/18/2011 - 10:47

Hi Jason,

Thanks for posting this report! How close to the Cold Springs campground were you able to drive? The FS website says the road is still closed about 2 miles before the campground but your report seemed to imply you were able to drive all the way to it.


jloomis, Mon, 07/18/2011 - 11:10

Yes, the road is open to the entrance of Cold Springs Campground. You can't drive around the loop, but you can park within about 100 yards of the trailhead. I suspect the loop will completely open up in the next week.

Sunke, Tue, 07/19/2011 - 14:12

Hi Jason,

I was just looking for trip reports from the same date that we were up there! And found by chance your blog! We made a late push at 6am to the summit, in hope to poke out of the clouds soon - no chance whiteout all the way, we returned just below the false summit!
Anyway we had our camp about 300ft above you guys and I took several photos with your tents and your group on the ridge to Monzana Glacier during sunset. If interested contact me, I hope you as website provider can see my email.

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