Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Defeat on Mt. Adams/Victory on Piker's Peak

On Tuesday I attempted to reach the summit of 12,256 ft. Mt. Adams for the 12th time in the last 11 years. Climbing Mt. Adams began as a tradition for me my senior year of high school when I climbed it with my younger brother Joey and my friend from Germany, Alex Jaeger. Since 1998 I've made it up every summer, doing a two-day hike up the mountain. The South Climb, the easiest way up the mountain, starts at Cold Springs Campground at about 5600 ft. and ends at the summit. After climbing this mountain 11 times in a variety of conditions, I thought I knew it well but on Tuesday I was proved wrong. I have always climbed between late June and the first weekend of August. This year was almost a month later than my latest ever climb and in that month this mountain morphed into a beast I could hardy recognize. On the way up to Piker's Peak, the false summit, the metamorphosis was caused by the lack of snow which normally gives a climber a nice, 2000 ft stairway of deep icy footprints from the Lunch Counter up to the top of Piker's. Instead of the stairway, I had an assent up a couple of thousand feet of loose rock. It was pretty miserable but I was determined not to let the mountain beat me. My determination to summit for the twelfth time was strongest when I reached the false summit, Piker's Peak, at about 1:45PM. It was extremely windy and quite cold up there but the summit was in sight and most certainly in reach, or so I thought. After a short break and some pictures at the false summit I headed toward the snowfield that one must cross to begin the last ascent up the summit. With my first step on the snowfield, I was flat on my back. I was afraid I might keep sliding on what had always been a field of deep snow before but was now a sheet of 2 inch thick ice. I did some walking around up there but the snow field was impassible. I have never taken crampons with me on Adams but this is the first year they might have come in handy. I think even with crampons though, the hike across the snowfield would have been a bit perilous. Even with the apparent defeat of not making the summit, I was still able to view the day as a victory. We normally do the climb in two days but this time we attempted it in one. I had an elevation gain of around 6,000 ft from Cold Springs Camp to above the false summit in six hours. I can certainly see that as a victory. It was a miserable day but I always enjoy a good test of endurance and for that I am thankful. Being home in Washington for this month has been made all the more wonderful by the amazing backpacking/camping/climbing adventures of which I have been able to partake. It's going to be hard to go back to California in two days.
Marker stone at Piker's Peak. Reads: (Aug. 27, 1923) You are a Piker if you stop on this summit. Don't crab, the Mountain was here first. Arthur Jones. Well, I guess that makes me a Piker.

1 comment:

Bill Craft said...

Mike, enjoyed reading about Mt. Adams. Can see it from our living room window in Columbia City, OR. Am 64 yrs. old and have wanted to climb it but never got someone to go. Think I'm going to try it next summer. Not a technical climber though... just a hiker. (Been to top of South Sister, Eagle Cap and the like.) Have been reading other's info too. Having been to the top many times, do you think it's doable from south slope in a day? Or do you recommend 2 days?

BTW, I noticed you list Living Hope. I go there every Wednesday for a networking luncheon. Great people there. I'm a Christian also
It's great you want to be a doctor in the Army. How long you been in? Spent 8 yrs in the Navy (Nuc subs).

Anyone you'd recommend getting hold of locally to get some advice/support re. climbing Adams?

Anyway, just thought I'd drop you a line and let you know I was at your blog. Have a great day and God bless.

Bill Craft