Place Name: Yakima County
Place Description: State: Washington
Elevation: 12,276 Feet
Prominence: 8,116 Feet
Elevation Gain: 6,712 Feet
Lists: Ultras of the Lower 48, Washington Top 100, Smoot's, Mazamas Guardian, Washington Bulger List
One Giant Volcano
Mount Adams is a massive volcano located in southern Washington’s Mount Adam’s Wilderness. Climbing is semi-technical, but not as steep as Oregon’s Mount Hood. The views from the top are exceptional!
- Moderate snowy slopes
- Amazing experience
- Views are unreal
- Long slog hike
Mount Adams is the second highest peak in Washington and the second largest Cascade volcano by volume. This mountain is massive in size.
Despite that, it’s not the most difficult volcano to climb. The mileage is long and the gain is much, however, a lot of it is on a standard trail.
Mount Adams lies in the southern part of Washington near the town of Trout Lake. This is just north of the Columbia River.
Driving into Mount Adams takes you through series of forest roads towards Cold Springs Campground. The road is heavily wash boarded in places and narrow in others. There are a few signs telling you the way.
The road ends at a very large parking area that is equipped with toilets. I had booked this trip with Northwest Mountain School and we would set out with six climbers and two guides up the south spur route.
After arriving at the trail head, doing a gear check and packing around 50 pound of gear, we set off up the trail.
The Pacific Northwest was mired in a heatwave and it was hot on the lower mountain. The first few miles of the hike are basic trail. Very easy walking through a burned up forest with nice views of Mount Hood to the south.
After a few miles, we finally started climbing up trail through mixed snow and volcanic talus. We had an extended snow field that led us all the way up to where we would camp, just below the Lunch Counter area.
We arrived at camp around 2 p.m. For me, this is something new. We weren’t far from the summit and it was killing me that we had to waste time sitting here for so long. It had be guessing why I hired a guide service for this one. I would have rather gone for the summit.
Regardless, the camp was nice and we were treated to an unreal sunset over a sea of clouds surrounding Mount Saint Helens.
After a freeze dried meal dinner, we went to bed early and would be waking up around 2 a.m. to start our summit bid.
After a quick breakfast, we were on the trail by 3 a.m. The weather wasn’t very cold, but was enough to wear a light weight jacket. The snow firmed up and we donned crampons for the first time.
We climbed the first snow field which was very gradual up to the official Lunch Counter area. After reaching this, we started up the next steeper snow bank with our ice axes out, however, this was nowhere near the steepness of Mount Hood.
Just below Pikers Peak, there is a slightly steeper climb which could have been bypassed to the left on solid ground. Our guides instead had us put on a harness and roped us up in teams of four to climb this pitch up to Pikers. There were a lot of people on the mountain by this point, and we were the only ones using ropes. I’m sure it was overkill, however, it was good practice.
We made quick work of this section and found ourselves on an upper ridge looking towards the peak shadow and the actual summit.
At this point, looking at the mild snow field and the dirt climb to the top, it was inevitable that we would be summitting!
The final climb was easy and all on dirt. Some of the team was lagging as the air got thinner. If you can tell, I’m not a fan of such a slow pace!
The summit was snow free and an old structure came into view. Once we hit the top, the views were phenomenal with Mount Rainier being the focal point!
I walked down the summit plateau over to the benchmark and soaked in the beautiful views. The weather was absolutely perfect too. No wind and mild temps.
After our photos, we started back down and did everything in reverse including the ropes. I would have rather descended on the trail 50 feet away.
We packed up camp and started our walk back out. The descent was an absolute slog and the group was very quiet. Kind of an odd feeling for having just summitted an significant mountain.
The Final Word
Mount Adams is a cool mountain. Would I do it again? Probably not. Honestly, after bagging Mount Hood three weeks prior, this was a slight let down. Had I have done this one first, I probably would have had a different level of excitement.
The lower trail is such a slog and if I ever did it again, I would day hike this with a smaller pack. I would also not use a guide service. Nothing against the service, they did a nice job, although it was not needed if you have any kind of hiking and mountaineering experience under these conditions.
That said, I did really enjoy this mountain and was a great experience with beautiful views!