Mt Adams (car to car)

Monday, August 17th, 2020

I try to find time to climb Mt Adams each year. It is a beautiful mountain and the climbing route offers majestic views and a reasonable challenge without being too technical.

In past years, I always opted for a standard two-day climb. During the first day you haul a heavy pack up the “lunch counter” at 7000-9000′ and camp for the night. The next morning, you’re up to the summit – then a nice glacade back to lunch counter and a long hike down to the car.

This year, I decided to try a single day, car-to-car climb.

The climb

Trail sign at night

Leaving Portland after work, I didn’t arrive a the trailhead until well after dark. I crashed in the back of my truck, but there is plenty of room to set up a tent if needed. Before falling asleep, I had the chance to catch a few meteors from the tail of the perseids.

At 3am, I woke up and headed out. It was cold and calm. With the light pack, I made quick time up the first few miles. At 4:30am, I was treated to a view of the starlink satellite train streaming across the sky. Honestly, it made me stop in my tracks… I had never seen anything like it before and each satellite stood out brightly in the clear skies.

Dawn at the "lunch counter"

By dawn, I had reached the foot of the glacier at 9000′ and was treated to a beautiful sunrise. At this point, I met up with the climbers who had camped overnight at the lunch counter. Fortunately, the lower glacier is large and everybody was able to spread out.

View from pikers peak

Unfortunately, conditions higher up were not optimal. The glacier had melted out and everyone had to transition to the rock for the upper 1/3 of the climb. This was also true of the final push up to the summit above Pikers peak – which was all sand and gravel.

View from the top including the shack

The summit itself was lovely – though, quite windy and cold. As normal, there was a group of climbers huddled out of the wind behind the old mining shack. Introducing myself, one of the climbers immediately asked: “So, did you see the UFO last night?”

Scrambling back down the upper rock was unfortunate, but there was still a good glacade for the lower 2/3rds. This is the highlight of any trip up Adams. If you want to experience the full slide, I would recommend climbing a bit earlier in the year. From the base of the glacier, I had a long and hot hike back to the car.

The good

  • Minimal pack weight: No need to haul a tent or sleeping bag up to the lunch counter. My pack was just over 15lbs.
  • Better glacier conditions: On a two-day hike I often find myself on the summit at dawn. This is beautiful, but means that the glacier ice is rock solid making for an uncomfortable slide back down.

The bad

  • It’s a long day: 12 miles, 7000′ of elevation gain and loss… not to mention the long drive home.
  • Summit crowds: Unless you start even earlier, you are likely to meet up with all the other climbers at the summit.
  • Altitude sickness: Without the overnight to acclimate, I did start to feel the altitude. Luckily, it was minor for me; just a headache.

2 Responses to “Mt Adams (car to car)”


  1. Porch Says:

    Nice pics! I haven’t seen the satellite train yet, but I did just watch SpaceX launch another batch from KSC this morning. The newer satellites are supposed to be painted with a non-reflective surface. I wonder if you saw the early satellites or the painted version.

    Anyway, kudos on the hike. Looks amazing.


  2. nagmay Says:

    Good to hear from you – it was nice to get out for a climb.

    I love the idea of high-speed satellite available everywhere, but I do hope they can tone down the reflectiveness. The current ones are extremely bright – a solid string of these constantly circling would drastically change the night sky.

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